Archive for the 'Food & Drink' Category

Tomato Ketchup Etiquette

Following on from our last post on barbecue etiquette., here is our guide to eating tomato ketchup correctly.

Tomato Ketchup is an accompaniment to food and so, by definition, is a condiment.  The key to condiment etiquette is to take small portions on to your plate, and never to smear it all over a burger or a roll direct from the bottle or knife!

When entertaining, never allow the bottle of tomato ketchup anywhere near the table, no matter how ‘posh’ the manufacturer – Heinz is probably still the best and easiest to get out of the bottle!  Shake the bottle well, holding the cap, and then tip or spoon into a small pot.  For a chic barbeque or supper, serve guests with individual tiny pots (ramekins) and small spoons so they can take their own.

Always spoon ketchup directly on to the plate, as one would with a sauce or jelly.  At a formal meal, never ask for it unless it is already on the table, and never dip anything into the bowl.  If you do find a bottle on a table at a supper party, never squirt it all over food, don’t mix it with salt and pepper and don’t eat it with your fingers!

 

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner 

Barbecue Etiquette

BarbecueThe British summer is well underway and this can only mean one thing – the barbecues have been wheeled out from storage and are taking pride of place in we Brits’ gardens. I shall be honest now and say that I loathe a barbecue and think they should be outlawed in Britain, or other countries where the weather is not regularly conducive to outdoor dining.

The only type of barbecue I can just about tolerate is a sit-down with cutlery affair. If there’s proper napkins to hand then all the better. Barbecues where you have to stand up and wolf a hot dog or chicken kebab down are ghastly affairs. I like food and wish to enjoy it at leisure.

My parents have lovely barbecues (if indeed that is not an oxymoron). We all sit on the terrace at their Gloster outdoor furniture (that has been properly washed down before use), under the often-superfluous parasol, food is placed in serving dishes down the middle of the table, and we all sit with blue gingham napkins on our laps to protect the chinos. It’s very civilized and we all look like we’ve been lifted off the page from the John Lewis catalogue. It has much more relaxed atmosphere than an indoor meal in a dining room, yet one can enjoy the breeze and gentle heat. These ordeals where you have to stand up and find an unclaimed piece of patio in which to stand are so tense. You have to worry about whether you have salsa running down your chin, focus on making sure your burger doesn’t fly out the other side, and then find where you left your glass so you can have a much needed drink.

The secret of successful dining (indoor or out) is to think about your guests’ every need. I have found with stand-up barbecues that hosts are much more laid back about everything and often overlook the most basic of details. It’s only good manners to think about your fellow diners when you are hosting.

Here are our tips for ensuring that whatever style of barbecue you do this summer you get the etiquette right. (The cooking is down to you.)

Barbecue dos and don’ts…

- If you opt for a stand-up affair, consider a service table where you can place the dishes of food as well as cutlery, glasses, jugs of water, juice and the like, as well as napkins…

- …Ensure that you have put out sufficient napkins for your guests. Even if they are paper ones, make sure that they have something to wipe those sticky hands

- Men: however good you think your barbecue skills are, don’t start giving the cook unwanted advice

- Beer should always be served in glasses and not drunk from the bottle. The last time I drank out of a bottle I was 18 months old

- If knives and forks are not put out you have permission to use your fingers

- Kebabs: if eating sitting down with cutlery then hold the top of the kebab stick and using your fork slide each chunk of meat onto the plate. If eating with the fingers then hold both ends and gnaw away (inelegant but acceptable)

- Burgers: watch how much sauce you put in the middle of your burger as when picking up and biting in to it the sauce could shoot out and give your fellow diners a nasty squirt

- Peas: often seen at barbecues and quite hard to eat at the best of times. Hopefully a host would only serve these at a sit-down affair. Don’t turn your fork over in the right hand, keep it in the left and push the peas onto the tines. Or, use some of the other food as ‘glue’ (mashed potato is excellent for this)

- Whilst the men traditionally will cook the meat and often taken all of the credit, don’t forget to thank the ladies or those who prepared the salad, vegetables or puddings!


William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner 

The Etiquette of Valentine’s Day

Getting Valentine’s day right isn’t hard – it just takes a little bit of forethought and planning to ensure that the 14th February is a properly romantic affair rather than a tacky experiment.

Rules for Men

Red rosesGood old-fashioned chivalry may well be becoming a thing of the past, and some would argue it’s long dead and buried, but its survival has not been helped by feminism – which has caught men between a rock and a hard place over how they should treat the opposite sex. Yet, men are also to blame somewhat for letting it become so much of a tightrope.

It’s fair to say that even though there are some women who would recoil if a gentleman held a door open for her, in 2011, a lot of ladies have realized that they actually do like a bit of chivalry, even if they won’t necessarily admit it out-loud.

So if you are in the market for a bit of courtly love, here are the basics!

- Have an umbrella handy so you can shield your date from the rain, if needs be

- Hold doors open for women and let them go through first. (There is an etiquette for revolving doors, which, I think is a little long-winded: the man enters the revolving door first, pushes it round for the woman but emerges after her, thus going round twice!)

- Offer your coat if it gets cold

- The gentleman always pays the bill on the first date

That’ll be the dahlia

Giving flowers can be something of a minefield. People have definite opinions about flowers – some hate chrysanthemums, others think carnations are cheap. Whichever bloom you choose, it’s probably best to find out before which flowers your loved one actually likes, and stick to that.

When buying flowers, do remember the following.

- Make sure your chose a good florist – ideally once you choose your florist you should stay with them as this will ensure a relationship is built up and they will learn what suits you best

- The cost of the bouquet will vary on how generous you feel and how deeply you are in love. £40 is the average a typical man would spend on flowers for Valentine’s Day, but remember that a beautiful hand-tired posy may mean just as much as a grand, no-expense-spared display

- If your lover is at work, it would be thoughtful to send them to her place of work – others will spy her carrying the bunch and she’ll get the chance to show off how much she’s loved by her admirer

- If you sent flowers last year, make sure you match your previous gift this year – if the bunch looks cheaper than last time then brace yourself for a bumpy ride

- For all things floral, The English Manner suggests Pulbrook and Gould in central London, or Judith Blacklock Flower Designs.  For those out of town, take a look at John Lewis and M&S – always great value and innovative designs.

Suits You

No one wants to be courted by someone with bad breath or dirty nails – your image and persona is vital for success. You don’t have to be dressed from top to toe in Savile Row, but cleanliness and style will pay dividends. When dressing yourself, remember there are sartorial rules for a reason. Break them at your peril!

Food of Love

Going out for a romantic meal for two, however unimaginative, is also a good step. There are plenty of excellent restaurants but eating out will mean that you share your special moments with the other diners.

It’s worth remembering that 14th February is one of the busiest nights of the year for the restaurant trade; make sure you get a good table by booking in advance at a restaurant she likes and be prepared for two sittings and indifferent service.

However delicious food in a high-class restaurant may be, nothing will impress your date more than a home-cooked meal. It speaks volumes if you can cook and take the time to make something special.

Rules for Ladies

The most important thing to remember is that men are different from women. Give men some space so they can reflect on what a catch you are. Relationships where you spend every second together don’t tend to last. In general, men may be more laid back whilst the girls have a tendency to worry. Celebrate the differences rather then fretting over them.

Remember to keep in mind what your dress says about your intentions – people can dress to reflection their mood subconsciously (i.e. – a black low-cut neck means you’re interested; a black nun’s habit means anything but!).

If your partner starts to flirt with another woman – let him! You’ll look better for not reacting to it and he’ll probably realize you’re more attractive. A lot of men (and women) like to hear compliments about themselves; it makes us feel good.

If your partner does over-step the mark with another lady then don’t make a scene in public. Arguing about anything for all to see is the height of bad form. Have your argument behind closed doors – don’t ruin other people’s night.

Dress to Impress

When going out with your partner, whether it be to an event or just out-and-about, try to co-ordinate what you’re wearing. The earring rule is generally short earrings during the day, and longer at night.

One final point to remember is that the man’s dress should never out-shine the woman’s.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Picnic in style at Royal Ascot

Whilst the last few days have seen us enjoying some early summer warmth and sunshine, our thoughts will be turning to the Season and the annual Royal Ascot Meeting in June.

For those who will arrive at the Racecourse by car and want to follow the traditions of this world famous fixture, a picnic, preferably in Number 1 car park, is a must!  But what to eat, let alone what to wear?

There is something very special about a picnic, although in this country the weather can put a serious dampener on the spirits.  Not many of us are lucky enough to have a Butler who will lay everything out, prepared by Cook in advance, but there is much one can do to tailor this to location, guests and budget.

I always advocate keeping it stylish but simple, and they key is always good organisation.  Prepare as much as possible in advance and look for the varied accessories to make the day – both stylish and practical.  John Lewis have some fabulous ideas, as do The White Company and Ikea.

The great thing about a picnic is the informality they impart.  Picnics were the first ‘rule-free’ meals remembered by generations of children.  A relief from constraint, but not entirely free from the essentials of table manners.

Whatever your budget, make sure your guests have plenty to eat and drink, but ensure what you have on offer is easy to eat too.  The last thing one wants to worry about with a pretty silk dress and floaty hat is drips of mayonnaise or squirting peach juice!

A rather nice summer menu could comprise of seasonal asparagus (just coming to the end but should still be nice in mid June) steamed and served at room temperature with a softly boiled shelled egg (quails eggs work too but are a nuisance to shell), snipped garden chives and a drizzle of vinaigrette, with shavings of good English cheese such as Caerphilly or Cheshire.  Serve with good unsalted butter and fabulous bread and you have a wonderful first course. An alternative might be roasted peaches or nectarines (easy to do in the oven with a little water and a dot of butter and sugar), served with slices of top quality prosciutto and slivers of creamy goats cheese.

For main course, you cannot beat a rare cold fillet of beef with horseradish mayonnaise, and a new potato red onion and flat leafed parsley salad, served with rocket leaves, pea shoots and seasonal lettuce.  For the vegetarian, perhaps a good frittata.

Try your hand at a vanilla pannacotta made with greek yoghurt, served with the freshest of English strawberries in individual moulds, or perhaps a timeless favourite, a flourless rich chocolate cake with crème fraiche or clotted cream.  All easy to transport, and serve – essential if you do not have a bank of staff to help you!

Ensure some lovely crisp napkins, tablecloths and comfortable cushions on folding chairs and tables, with perhaps a Bellini made with fresh peach puree and a good Prosecco to set the scene and you have the makings of a perfect day!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

Afternoon Tea: A Very British Past Time

In our busy, time-poor lives, what is nicer than momentarily stopping for a scone and a pot of tea? Afternoon tea gives us a break in the rush of modern life. It does so now, just like it did back in the nineteenth century, when it was invented.

In 1840, Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, asked for a tea tray and cakes at four o’clock, as she found she was hungry at this time and also had nothing to do. She found this new pastime hard to break and soon invited other ladies in society to join her. The Duchess’s guests went back to their houses and instigated the ritual, thus spreading the new custom.

Queen Victoria liked the idea so much she started Garden Parties – the first of which was in 1868 and are still held to this day.

In the 1880s, ladies began to wear tea-gowns, which were soft dresses with a lot of lace, which came in at the middle. Edwardian society altered the time that Afternoon tea was taken: it moved back an hour to five o’clock.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

The middle and lower classes soon heard about this new ‘meal’ in the day and so the teashop flourished, offering people the chance to break with their day for tea and cakes. For the first time, respectable women could eat out unaccompanied.

Actor and writer Noel Coward commented that it be “dreadful to live in a country without tea”. The Royal Family today will pause at five o’clock for their helping: they always drink Earl Grey Tea.

As with everything, there comes etiquette with Afternoon tea.

Scones are always broken; never cut. They should be served with jam and clotted cream, or butter. Crumpets should be buttered whole and then cut. Cakes and pastries should be made so the use of a pastry fork is not needed, although if that is not the case, the use of such an implement is perfectly acceptable.

If you take milk with your tea, then this is poured in after the tea itself. This is because in the Victorian era when Afternoon tea was introduced, the best households would have fine bone china cups, which could withstand high temperatures: milk could be poured in after the scalding water, whereas the lower echelons of the household would have pottery cups and mugs and milk poured in first would prevent the cups from cracking.

Afternoon tea continues to carry on in 2010 the world over, with The Ritz hotel and Claridges, both in London, offering one of the best.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Customs of Chopsticks

Later in the week it is Chinese New Year (14th February). This year it is the year of the tiger. As such, we thought now may be a good time to enlighten you on some of the etiquette and background that surrounds chopsticks.

The word ‘chopsticks’ is thought to have been discovered in the 1800s, when foreigners heard Chinese boatmen referring to cooking utensils as ‘kuai-tzu’. Pidgin English transformed this into ‘chop-chop’.

Chopsticks are thought to improve dexterity and memory. This is especially good for wannabe painters, apparently.

In Chinese cuisine, chopsticks are used to eat everything except: soup (a porcelain spoon is used), Peking duck (the hands are employed here), and puddings (which uses either the hands or a spoon).

Hold your chopsticks a third of the way down, leaving the thicker ends clean. This is because the top of the chopsticks are used to take food from communal serving dishes to your bowl, whereas the narrower ends are used to bring food from your bowl to your mouth. In China the higher you hold your chopsticks, the more sophisticated you supposedly are.

It is considered the height of rudeness to beat the side of your bowl with chopsticks: this is what beggars used to do. It is also ill advised to drop your sticks as this is thought to bring bad luck; similarly, leaving your chopstick upright in rice evokes death.

Chopsticks are more than just eating utensils. During the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) chopsticks were made from gold and silver. Silver was thought to detect poison: but, as a lot of diners found out, this was not the case.

Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Happy Chinese New Year!)

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Etiquette of the New Year Diet

As we start the year, many of us are considering how on earth to get rid of the mountains of mince pies, chocolates and brandy that have passed from lips to hips over the last few weeks.

Every newspaper and magazine is full of top tips on how to lose pounds fast, and we find it easy to get swept away in the euphoria of becoming a sylph or Adonis in ten days.  Beware, however!  If you are like this household, there will still be outstanding invitations to shooting, supper or drinks parties lingering over January and early February, and whilst you will be keen to stay on the wagon, you must not impose your new fad diet of cabbage tea and pine kernel wraps on an unwitting hostess.

As a host, it is always politic to ask your guests if they have any special dietary requirements by way of ‘is there anything you cannot eat?’, but it would be taking it far too far if a guest responded with a long list of the diet menu components, or even mentioned that they were following any form of regime whatsoever.

The only exception is for breakfast, where if you are staying in someone’s home and they ask what you like for breakfast, it is perfectly acceptable at that stage to mention one or two options, as long as they are easily obtainable and likely breakfast foods, and you do not get your hostess to start trawling the shelves of Selfridges Food Hall for Himalayan ‘yugi’ berries or the like!

If your hostess forgets to ask, or worse, you do not inform of any genuine dietary issues, then you must eat what is put in front of you.  It is acceptable not to finish, and if the items on your plate are going to make you mentally quake, then you can push them around a bit and have a few mouthfuls, but remember:  never over-burden a hostess, friend or a lover with details of your dieting regime.  Never inflict your diets on others, and save your new-found ways to skeletal happiness for conversations over coffee with your best friend.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner


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