Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Building a Gentleman's Wardrobe - Part 1

Building a wardrobe that spells success is an obvious challenge for most men today. The subtle art of making a good first impression depends to a large degree on how one dresses. Why this sartorial skill has all but disappeared is puzzling. Let’s have a look at where to begin building a reliable and affordable wardrobe that you can feel confident represents you and your company in a professional light.

A professional businessman should wear a dark suit, either gray or navy blue. Black is a color to avoid, as it is too severe and usually reserved for formal occasions or funerals. Brown is a color best worn in the country and is considered informal. Off the rack suits generally hang sloppily and need altering. One can use a local drycleaner for some basic alterations, but nothing beats the eye of a seasoned tailor to know how to make a suit fit properly. Buying a suit at a high end men’s shop will cost you a bit more, but is well worth the investment. The ultimate suit is made-to-order and can cost upwards of $2000, again worth every penny. Nothing states confidence or feels better than a beautifully tailored suit. A top end men’s haberdasher generally has much finer materials to choose from and is a relationship that will pay you untold dividends.
Note: a top tailor will ask what you normally carry in your pockets and fit you accordingly. No one should have bulging or jingling pockets.

A clean fresh white shirt is appropriate for any businessperson. Dressing for success leads to success. Shirts should be cotton, not polyester and should have a pointed collar, either button down or plain. To decide which is best for you is trial and error. One’s personal style depends to a large extent on one’s body style and facial shape and on one’s taste. If you don’t claim a particular style yet, rely on the advice of a style and image consultant. A good clothier can also come to your rescue! I avoid colored shirts for formal business situations as they are less formal

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Ready or not, it's that time of year again when we pop that oversized turkey into the oven and hope for the best and that it's moist and delicious! Perhaps it's time to shine the silver and polish the wine glasses reserved for special occasions. It is most certainly a time for families to get together and give thanks for the bounty provided by the good earth and for the many blessings of our lives. Although gratitude is an expression of thanks which we hopefully develop as a habit, even in our busy lives, Thanksgiving Day has rituals and customs which are special. For one thing, it is a time when families and close friends gather to share in a feast. In many cases, guests are asked to help out by either providing a part of the meal, such as a vegetable dish, a dessert, an hors d'oeuvres or even by performing a task such as carving the turkey.

I am often asked to carve the bird or roast wherever I go for reasons, which still elude me. I imagine if a host is not acquainted with carving it will be left to someone like me or another guest. And there are those times when speed and precision do come in handy if the host is not adept at carving. Perhaps the art of carving which is an intricate part of the Thanksgiving holiday and a tradition ought to be part of an etiquette lesson. As with any skill, if it is taught properly and practiced it will make a perfect addition to any holiday. Whoever is carving, be sure that there is a sharp knife available and all the other tools necessary to make carving and serving the all-important bird on Thanksgiving. There are many ways of carving just as there are many recipes for cooking the perfect turkey. All methods work when executed properly.
This celebration comes at the end of the fall harvest. This year's bounty was especially plentiful and therefore there is a lot for which to be thankful. Expressing our thanks is an important tradition to pass on to our children and grandchildren. Instilling the virtues of feeling thanks and giving thanks are customs which permeate human societies everywhere. It is what makes societies healthy and able to thrive.
In the seemingly busy lives which we lead, sometimes we not only forget to give thanks but we also are guilty of not feeling gratitude in the first place. Such occasions as Thanksgiving afford us the opportunity to take the time to both feel and express our gratitude for the lives with which we are blessed. Perhaps focusing on only that for which are grateful gives us a chance to see some of our hardships and challenges as opportunities. Even family squabbles can be put into perspective and viewed in a different light if we were to stop and count our blessings of even having a family with whom to celebrate in the first place.
As I have discussed in previous columns, I am not a fan of putting people on the spot at the dinner table. However, there is no better place for people to be given the opportunity to express what they are feeling thankful for than at the table. If offered as a voluntary chance to speak, those who are in the mood and feel so moved can show others how easy it is, and by their example encourage more shy people to at least consider giving it a try. Who knows, with any luck, one day everyone sitting around the table will feel not only grateful but moved to express their feelings.
Of all meals, the Thanksgiving dinner is one where almost all of us stop to give thanks to the source of all of our bounty, no matter what that source may be. We give thanks for the food, our shelter, our health, the many opportunities set before us and our friendships and love for our families, friends, neighbors and others who make our lives complete.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope the gratitude we feel at this time of year is expressed freely and continues throughout this and every year!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eating Difficult Foods: Artichokes and Spare Ribs

Continuing from last week's blog on eating difficult foods, this week let's focus on artichokes and spare ribs!

Artichokes are a fantastic multipurpose food. You can serve them hot with some melted lemon butter; you can serve them cold with a little vinaigrette; or you can buy artichoke hearts in a can and use them in salads or delicious Italian dishes. The difficulty arises when we face an entire artichoke for the first time. Once we make the decision to give it a try, it is actually a very simple matter. The leaves peel off one or two at a time, and your teeth scrape off the tender meat about half way down to the bottom of the leaf. A little practice and you’re hooked. Once most of the leaves are neatly stacked along the side of your plate, you need to remove the prickly inedible choke. Simply insert a sharp knife at a downward angle rotating it around the top of the heart and lift it off and discard. The tender heart can then be eaten easily. To kick artichokes up a notch, serve them hot with Hollandaise sauce.

Barbequed spare ribs are best eaten outdoors at a picnic using your hands and lots or napkins or hand wipes. Occasionally we decide that eating ribs in February indoors by a crackling fire is just what we need. Ribs can be successfully eaten with a fork and knife. After most of the meat has been consumed, it is perfectly acceptable to pick up the bones, which are so finger lickin’ good. This is also true for lamb chops, but not for pork chops or chicken.

This kind of meal provides an opportunity to blend the centuries because what could come in handier than a good old finger bowl? If you do use a finger bowl, dip in the fingers of one hand a time, drying your fingers with your napkin with the minimum of movement. If you need to have a good hand wash, excuse yourself and go to the washroom to wash your hands thoroughly.

With a little practice these methods will quickly become second nature. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Eating Difficult Foods: Spaghetti and Peas

Facing a dinner plate filled with unfamiliar foods can be unnerving especially during a formal dinner or business lunch.  Equally challenging are those foods we eat frequently but are known to squirt, spray, or splatter. Knowing how to eat these difficult foods can really make all the difference between having a miserable time or a fabulous one.

Seldom are we faced with peeling an orange using only a fork and knife, a skill that can be quickly acquired with a bit of practice. But we do encounter other foods that can be challenging. Today I address spaghetti and peas.

When eating spaghetti, unless you are a child, do not cut the pasta. Likewise, do not snap it in half before cooking it. This delightful food is meant to be twirled. Though some people will correctly argue that Italians would never twirl spaghetti on a spoon, it is a method used widely especially in North America. Capturing a few strands with your fork tines and twirling them near the inner rim of your plate also ensures a safe journey to the mouth. If the spaghetti is in a broth like sauce, no one should wince if you use a spoon for twirling. The objective is to avoid splattering yourself or your neighbors.

Peas roll. They can seem to come alive on your plate and roll around as if to escape capture. Similar to not cutting your spaghetti, do not mash your peas on your plate. There are other far less barbaric and successful methods. Spearing for example is perfectly acceptable. Incorporating peas with other foods simultaneously on your fork is always helpful. Americans though can mount quite a pile on their forks with the aid of either a knife or small piece of bread, a wonderful edible pusher. I find they attach handily to mashed potatoes or almost anything with a bit of sauce. Do not fall prey to the practical trap of using a spoon to eat peas, unless you are a small child.