Wine-Tasting Etiquette

 

wine glasses and spittoon

 

Wine-Tasting Etiquette

Wine is one of the oldest and most storied alcoholic beverages:  The ancient Egyptian nobility imbibed it at lavish banquets; it was so important to the Greco-Roman world that there was a god of wine; and according to the Christian faith, Jesus transformed life-giving water into precious wine in his first recorded miracle. But despite the prominence of wine throughout much of human history, many men remain intimidated by it.  And of all the activities pertaining to “the beautiful liquid,” official wine-tastings arguably cause the most trepidation.

But a gentleman of the world must know the ways of the world. And since he is almost certain to be invited to an official wine-tasting at least once in his lifetime, he should know the etiquette associated therewith.

The senses of smell and taste are so intertwined that something can smell as it tastes and taste as it smells.  At a wine-tasting, of the five senses, the senses of smell and taste are of paramount importance (with the sense of sight coming a close third). As such, rule number one at a wine- tasting is that extraneous scents and flavors are to be avoided.

Wearing perfumes and colognes to a wine-tasting is an absolute no-no for olfactorily obvious reasons. Even scented body lotions or garments laundered with fragrant detergents should be avoided (Perhaps one day wine-tastings will be conducted in-the-nude, but until then…). Likewise, perfumed hair conditioners—especially because of the proximity of hair to the nose and mouth—are considered particularly egregious. Also, a taster’s palate should be as neutral as possible:  Consuming smoked or heavily spiced foods shortly before a wine-tasting can adversely impact the appreciation of a wine.  Some purists even insist that a taster should not brush his teeth for several hours preceding a tasting—not even if the tasting occurs in the morning! And attempting to circumvent the no-brushing rule by chewing gum or eating breath mints is a sure prescription for a disaster of gastronomical proportions.

Generally, a wine-tasting will be presided-over, whether by a sommelier, a wine merchant, or a knowledgeable pourer.  While more casual tastings may take place at a bar, more formal tastings are typically conducted with tasters seated at a long banquet table.

When multiple wines are being tasted, the general approach is to begin with whites before reds, young wines before old wines, delicate wines before robust wines, dry wines before sweet wines, etc.

The typical “equipment” for a wine-tasting is wine glasses, a linen napkin (for pat-drying one’s lips after spitting into the spittoon—but more on that later), individual spittoons (thank God for that courtesy!), and, on occasion, offerings of water crackers, plain bread, or mild cheese to “reboot” the palate when “palate fatigue” sets in after so many wines have been tasted that the taster’s ability to distinguish the characteristics of one wine from another becomes blurred.

To rid a wine glass of any trace of the detergent with which it was washed, the person conducting the tasting will pour a little wine into each taster’s glass, then, holding the glass by its stem, tilt the glass while rotating it, thereby allowing the wine to coat the entire interior surface of the bowl of the glass. Then, of course, that rinsing-wine, no matter how precious, is discarded into the spittoon. (Drinking the rinsing-wine would be like drinking the water in a fingerbowl!)

Once the glasses have been prepped as described above, whether by the pourer or by the tasters themselves, the tasting begins, the operative term being “tasting” (as opposed to drinking!).  As a wise Italian once said, “We taste with our mouths, not with our stomachs.”

Bottle by bottle, a mouthful-quantity of wine will be poured into each taster’s glass. Whether white wine or red wine, the taster holds the wine glass upright by its stem (whether elevated off the table or with the base of the glass upon the tabletop), and swirls the wine for two or three seconds so as to aerate it, thereby releasing its aromas and flavors. Then, holding the wine glass about one inch from the nose, the opening of the bowl tilted towards the nose, the aromas of the wine are gently inhaled via the nostrils and slightly parted lips, thereby heightening the perception of the wine’s flavor since both the senses of smell and taste are engaged.

After the fragrances of the wine have been explored and appreciated, it is then time to taste the wine primarily with the mouth: A small amount of wine is taken into mouth and allowed to “set” for a second or two before it is swallowed so as to ascertain its drinkability.  Immediately thereafter, a more complex tasting occurs:  In a process called “aspiration,” more wine is taken into the mouth then gently swished around the closed mouth while simultaneously being aerated by gently clenching the teeth, slightly parting-pouting the lips, then inhaling through the nostrils and slightly parted pouted lips. [For some tasters—quite understandably—the aspiration process looks too ridiculous and sounds too disgusting to be entertained, regardless of its alleged efficacy.] Once the wine’s qualities have been determined, it is released from the mouth into the spittoon; the mouth is pat-dried with the provided napkin; and the remaining wine in the glass is also discarded into the spittoon.  (Incidentally, spitting into the spittoon should be done as elegantly and uneventfully as possible. It should, for example, never rise to the level of animation with which one would hawk and spit upon an archrival’s grave!) The wine glass is then placed onto the table in preparation for the next wine. If only one or two wines are being presented for tasting, the remaining contents in the glass may be drunk rather than discarded into the spittoon. But if many wines are being tasted, the tasters must be mindful to do their work with their mouths, not with their stomachs, for multiple glasses of wine, especially whilst not eating, will leave many a man in a drunken stupor.

Fresh glasses are not generally provided for each wine to be tasted.  Instead, the pourer will “rinse,” as described above, the tasting-glass with the wine to be served, thereafter pouring fresh wine from the bottle or decanter into the prepped glass.  If multiple wines are being tasted, glasses will be changed when switching from white wines to red, or from dry to sweet, for example.   Rinsing glasses with water is highly disfavored since even miniscule quantities of residual water can adversely alter the profile of a wine.

At the end of the tasting, the specialist is thanked.  When the tasting is conducted at a bar by a bartender, he or she is generously tipped.

Finally, a gentleman who participates in a wine-tasting should always arrange for a designated driver.

 

Wine glasses

Wine-Tasting within the context of Wine-and-Food Pairings

Wine-tastings are sometimes conducted as wine-and-food pairings, where dishes are presented as complements to the featured wines.  At pairings, each course, typically from appetizer to dessert, is presented with a different wine that is poured into its designated wine glass.At a wine-and-food pairing, the wine is expected to be drunk, not merely tasted.  So spittoons, thank God, are not provided, for to have them would make for a most unappetizing occasion. Also, thank God, no aspiration antics are indulged in. Instead, the wine is savored with the meal, just as would be the case at a dinner table or in a restaurant. Only the desired portion of each wine need be drunk. At the end of a particular course, its corresponding wine glass is removed when the dishes for the course are being cleared from the table.

Generally, a wine-and-food pairing is conducted in a restaurant, with a sommelier or wine merchant officiating.  Under such circumstances, the waiters and waitresses are tipped and the officiant is thanked.

And as is the case whenever alcoholic beverages are being consumed, designated drivers should be employed to safely transport tasters to and from the event.

 

 

 

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Lardo di Colonnata I.G.P. (Fatback Aged in Marble Vats)– one of the all-time gastronomical luxuries of Italy

 

Lardo di Colonnata I.G.P.

Lardo di Colonnata is one of the great gastronomical traditions of Italy. Simply put, it is aged fatback. But what delicious fatback it is!

Colonnata, its earliest recorded history dating to around 40 B.C.E., is a hamlet with a present-day population of about 300 residents, nestled in the Apuan Alps, the mountain range that is home to world-famous Carrara, situated on the Carrione River, about 100 kilometers west-northwest of Florence. Carrara is where the quarries from which Michelangelo obtained his marble are situated; and Colonnata—its name believed to have derived from the Latin word “columna,” meaning column, since many of the marble columns that decorated the Roman Empire were of marble from the area—is a subdivision of the city and commune of Carrara, in the Province of Massa Carrara, in the Region of Tuscany. But while Carrara is, in general, famous for its white and blue-gray marble, Colonnata is, in particular, famous for its pearl-white lardo—aged in precious marble!

How and when it first occurred to people to cure fatback in “conche,” hollowed-out, sarcophagus-looking (sans decorative carvings) blocks of white marble from the Canaloni marble beds, has been lost to history. (Whereas some deposits of marble in Carrara proper make for excellent sculpture material, the marble from the Canaloni Basin is more suitable for columns and other architectural elements. The marble is hard, dry, and glassy. Today, it is known that the porous, calcium carbonate surface of the marble absorbs some of the fat’s cholesterol that is not naturally reduced during the long aging process and also helps to create the salty, brownish brine, “salamora” in Italian, a byproduct of the aging process. And university studies have confirmed that the final product is bacteria-free—after all, very few things can live in a vat filled with salt). Any or all of the area’s primary inhabitant-cultures could have initiated or contributed to the tradition of lardo di Colonnata. The Romans were very much aware of the importance of pig fat in their diet, especially for people engaged in strenuous work and activities—so much so that the Justinian Code stipulated that Roman soldiers were to receive a ration of pork fat every three days. The historical record indicates that the processing of pigmeat increased considerably during the Lombard occupation. (Master masons during the Lombard period would receive 10 pounds of pork fat as a condition precedent to their beginning a newly assigned project). And in the medieval period, there were significant advancements in the techniques for processing and conserving pork. Discovered in the area are marble basins, each hollowed-out from single, solid blocks, dating from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, that were used for curing pig fat. Also noteworthy is the fact that several of Colonnata’s 19th -century edifices depict, in low-relief, images of St. Anthony, the hermit who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries and by the 11th century had become known for his work in curing persons inflicted with shingles (popularly known as “holy fire” or “Saint Anthony’s fire”) by applying pig fat to the skin of the inflicted, the saint oftentimes depicted in those reliefs accompanied by a pig. Additionally, of note is the fact that Colonnata’s parish church is dedicated to St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of butchers, and that for many years on St. Bartholomew’s Day, there was an annual pig fat festival held in the village, attracting a large number of Italian and international connoisseurs. Clearly, the urge to preserve fat as a source of food, especially for sustenance during the harsh winter months, was the result of experienced scarcity. And with the Colonnatese being a quarrying people, marble would have been a readily available material that could be put to collateral use to protect the aging fat from scavenging animals and to conceal it from marauding and invading humans. What is known for sure is that with the decline of Rome in the 5th century, the “Barbarians,” most famously the Lombards, who ruled Italy from 568 to 774, took up residence in the area, joining the remaining quarry workers (who were typically people from across the known world, enslaved by the Romans and brought to the region to toil in the marble quarries), and the focus of the area shifted from quarrying impeccable marble for statutes and monuments and buildings to raising swine and producing the items derived therefrom, lardo perhaps being one of them. (Today, the Colonnatese do not raise their own pigs for lardo production since only the fatback is used and the region is not conducive to the production of the other traditional pork products of Italy. So the producers of lardo purchase suitable fatbacks from swine farms). What is also known is that from time immemorial, the aging of lard has been part and parcel to Colonnatese culture. But however the tradition of lardo di Colonnata emerged, it eventually became apparent that there is something particular about the Colonnata microclimate that makes the mountainside village perhaps the best place on Earth for aging fatback: high altitude (average height of 1,800 feet above sea level); high precipitation; high humidity; moderate summer temperatures; and small or modest daily temperature fluctuations throughout the year. The cold, white marble basins used for curing the fat promote the condensation of the humidity in the air, converting the salt into brine. And all the foregoing factors become even more pronounced in the marble cellars and workrooms where the fat is aged.

The method of producing lardo di Colonnata is at once simple, beautiful, noble, unique. Prior to being packed tight with slabs of fatback, the marble vat is “prepped”: A fist of garlic is halved at its “equator,” then the open face of the fist is rubbed onto the entire interior surface of the marble vat, the garlic serving as a natural antibiotic. Fresh (trimmed within 72 hours of slaughter and never having been subjected to freezing since freezing would seal the pores, thereby adversely affecting the infusion of the salt and flavorings and the release of the moisture of the fat), quadrangular slabs of fatback, at least 1.25 inches thick, but usually about 2.5 inches thick, are cut from the back of pig—the section from immediately behind the head to about midway down its center-back or even all the way to the rump—washed with cool water, then pat-dried. The slabs of fresh pork are then generously rub-covered with coarse sea salt and placed skin-down into the marble conche, the bottom of which has been covered with a layer of sea salt then a layer of seasonings comprised primarily of black pepper, with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, and a blend of herbs such as fresh rosemary (which, besides adding flavor, also serves as an antioxidant), sage, and oregano, as well as chopped garlic cloves. (The various ingredients and their proportions vary from producer to producer). The salt-rubbed slabs of fatback are snugly arranged so as to occupy the entire bottom of the marble box. A layer of coarse sea salt, then a layer of herbs and spices, is evenly distributed over the fat before the stacking process of skin-down fatback, followed by salt and seasonings, then followed by another layer of fatback, etc., is repeated until the marble container is filled, a layer of salt and spices being the uppermost layer. The marble container is then sealed with a snug-fitting marble lid, and the pork is allowed to age for a minimum of six months, but typically for an average of nine to 12 months, and possibly for as many as four years, in the ideal Colonnata climate. The aging of the product must take place in a site with little ventilation and no artificial air-conditioning. At the end of an aging cycle, the cured fat is extracted and packaged, and the remaining brine is vacuum-removed from the conche, the vat thereafter washed clean with a solution of hot water and vinegar and allowed to air-dry. Immediately prior to receiving a new batch of fatback for aging, the interior surface of the vat is again rubbed with fresh garlic as described above.

Per production rules, the slaughtering of the pigs and processing of the fat occurs only in the colder months of the year, September to May, inclusive. (In the past, the pigs were slaughtered and the fatback processed only in the coldest months—January and February—in order to safeguard the natural character of the production process). The result, at the end of the aging process, is a moist, fragrant, buttery-soft, melt-in-the-mouth, sweet-savory, exquisitely seasoned fat that is traditionally sliced paper-thin and laid atop slices of crisp bread and garnished with freshly chopped tomatoes to be eaten as antipasti. Lardo di Colonnata is also traditionally served as a complement to fresh onions and salted anchovies. (In the olden days, whenever meat was scarce, laborers would sustain themselves with lardo sandwiches—thin slices of lardo di Colonnato between two hefty slices of homemade bread and nothing more).

Lardo di Colonnata received I.G.P. (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) (Protected Geographical Indication) status in 2004, meaning that only lardo made within the specified geographical region—per established production standards—may bear the designation, “Lardo di Colonnata I.G.P.”

Today, with the mechanization of quarrying, most of Colonnata’s population has emigrated in search of other work opportunities, leaving a native population numbering only in the hundreds. But the hands-on, cottage-industry nature of the production of lardo di Colonnata has ensured its survival as a labor-intensive delicacy. And today, the product constitutes the principal economic resource of the village. Perhaps the most celebrated producer of lardo di Colonnata is the firm of Larderia Fausto Guadagni, www.larderiafaustoguadagni.com , whose family has been producing the delicacy for generations. The commercial enterprise was established in 1949. And since the 1950s, the product has been receiving national and international acclaim as one of the culinary luxuries of the world.

But all lardos are not from Colonnata. A buyer must therefore be aware of what to look for if what he desires is “the real McCoy.” Lardo di Colonnata I.G.P. is typically sold in slab-form in vacuum-packed plastic (or some other suitable) packaging, weighing between 250 and 5,000 grams. The product may also be sold sliced or diced and packaged accordingly. The label on the packaging must bear clear and of legible characters; the logo of village of Colonnata must be on the package; the words “Lardo di Colonnata,” followed by the designation I.G.P. or “Indicazione Geografica Protteta” must be the most prominent lettering on the packaging; and there must be a non-reusable product seal affixed to the rind of the product, among other labeling requirements.

(A similar high-quality product, Valle d’Aosta’s lardo d’Arnad, is made in the Aosta Valley).

 

The History of Men’s Pajamas

Sleepwear/Loungewear

It is said that the great Marilyn Monroe, when asked what she wears to bed, responded, “Chanel No. 5.” Like Monroe, some men sleep in-the-nude. But perhaps even more sleep in nothing but their underwear, whether in just underpants, or underpants plus undershirt. And then there are those men—albeit only a few these days—who insist upon sleeping in pajamas. For the most part, the rules of etiquette are silent on what a gentleman should wear to bed, leaving such an intimate matter to personal taste and whatever is most conducive to achieving restful sleep. But when visiting the home of another person, or when entertaining guests in shared accommodations, it is imperative that a gentleman sleep in pajamas (and wear appropriate loungewear when going about the home prior to dressing for the day—after all, no one needs to encounter a scantily clad host or house guest with an early morning “woody” in a narrow hallway). Even a gentleman hosting or visiting a friend with whom he enjoys an intimate relationship should wear (or be prepared to wear) pajamas—in the event the proverbial “headache” exception is invoked.

Classic men’s pajamas (spelled pyjamas in British English), with the unconstructed jacket and loose-fitting pants, are actually a British adaptation of an East Indian garment—another prime example of Eastern culture influencing Western fashion. The word “pajama” derives from the Persian word “payjama,” meaning “leg garment.” And the first known reference to Westerners wearing pajamas occurs in a 1611 publication by French navigator François Pyrard de Laval, who was held captive on Malé, Maldives from 1602-1607. In his book, The Voyage of François Pyrard de Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas, and Brazil, he describes how the Portuguese living in the East Indies would do as the East Indians did: wear loose-fitting cotton trousers to bed. But until the end of the 19th century, most Europeans living in Europe would wear nightshirts, rather than pajamas, to bed. Around 1898, however, English merchants began advertising pajamas as the new fashion. And by the early 1920s, pajamas had become commonplace in the United States. When first embraced by Westerners, pajamas were made of luxurious silks and linens. But with the garment’s rise in popularity in the late 1800s came the use of less expensive fabrics: cotton and wool flannel.

Today, “formal” pajamas still feature the unconstructed jacket styling. But many modern men prefer a more casual design: drawstring trousers or shorts with Henley-styled tops or T-shirts in both long- and short-sleeve variations.

Since their introduction to the Western World more than a century ago, pajamas have also, from time to time, served to inspire overall fashion trends. The proliferation of drawstring trousers as resort wear is one prime example.

The type of man who wears pajamas is also typically the type of man who wears a robe when lounging about the house in the morning. Very few men today do as a proper Victorian gentleman would have done: return home from the office; remove his jacket and tie; take off his shoes; slip on a pair of fine leather slippers; don a lounging robe (also called a “dressing gown”) of hand-embroidered silk; then sit in an overstuffed wing chair in front of the fireplace to enjoy a smoke and a drink—legs crossed and dog by his side, or course. Today, a man uses a robe to cover himself prior to getting dressed for his day, or (especially the terrycloth type, called a “bathrobe”) as a garment to cover himself upon exiting the bath or shower. To a large extent, climate, personal taste, lifestyle, and Christmas and Fathers’ Day gifts determine the type of lounge robe a gentleman will wear. And also to a large extent, the type of robe a gentleman wears will determine the type of slippers he selects. A man who wears a silk dressing gown will oftentimes be the type of man who wears leather slippers, while the type of man who wears a terrycloth bathrobe will likely wear it with rubber flip-flops. But regardless of personal preference, every gentleman—especially one who visits or hosts friends—should have at least one set of pajamas, a lounge robe, and a complementary pair of lounge slippers.

Like pajamas, men’s dressing gowns were also influenced by Eastern culture. And like pajamas, dressing gowns have also served to influence fashion in general. The presence of the dressing gown in Western fashion dates back to at least the 17th century when European gentlemen would wear what was then called “Persian gowns” and “Indian gowns” because of the garments’ Eastern origins and oriental, kimono-style design. By the 1860s, the dressing gown had achieved the design which remains popular today: shawl collar; button-less, wrap design secured by a sash-belt; one chest pocket and two front-hip pockets; long sleeves; and of a length ranging from mid-thigh to as far down as the ankles. In the 19th century, lounge robes were worn twice per day: during a gentleman’s morning toilette, and in the evening after work (but before getting dressed for dinner). Today, they are worn primarily in the morning—or until a gentleman decides to get dressed for his day.

Perhaps the greatest trans-fashion influence of the lounge robe occurs in men’s formal wear and outerwear, where the shawl collar design of some tuxedo (“smoking”) jackets and winter coats, and the sash-belt closures of some topcoats, are directly inspired by dressing gowns.

The Correct Way To Use A Dinner Napkin

The Napkin

A formal private dinner officially begins when the person presiding over the meal places his napkin onto his lap and unfolds it. It is only then that each guest places his napkin onto his lap and unfolds it—never before. (At formal public events such as banquets, large receptions, etc., where there is no one person officially presiding over the meal, as well as in restaurants and in informal settings, the napkin may be placed onto the lap and unfolded immediately preceding the serving of the first item—food or drink. If bread and/or some beverage is already on the table, the napkin may be unfolded once a person has taken his seat). Dinner-sized napkins, usually about 18” squared (46 cm. squared), should be opened halfway, with the fold towards the knee. Smaller napkins, usually referred to as lunch-sized napkins, should be opened completely and placed flat onto the lap. Some men have a habit of shaking open a napkin as if about to throw down a gauntlet to signal a duel, but such theatrics are more appropriate for the stage than for the elegant dining table.

Only when eating shellfish such as lobster, served in the shell, is it acceptable for adults to tuck their napkins into their necklines—if bibs are not specifically provided for the course. (And on airlines that provide cloth napkins with meals—these days a rarity—such napkins are usually appointed with a buttonhole in one corner so that the diner may button the napkin onto one of his upper-level shirt buttons in order to securely cover his chest area since, because of the way airplane seats and their meal trays are designed and configurated, one’s lap is covered by the service tray itself, while one’s torso is especially exposed to food spillage on account of being thrust against the food tray due to relatively confined personal space on airlines—even in the luxury classes).

The primary purpose of a napkin is to clean the lips of oily residue and food particles—especially before drinking (Floating “grease islands” are unappetizing!)—and to protect a diner’s garments by intercepting food that accidentally falls into the lap. The proper way to wipe one’s lips with a napkin is with a press-wipe motion as opposed to a swipe-wipe motion. The appropriate motion should be more akin to dabbing or patting than rubbing or pushing. Any food particle that falls onto the napkin should be picked up with the fingers and placed onto the upper left side of the plate from which one is eating. (The napkin is not the place to conceal bones or grains of rice, for example, that have fallen from the fork).

At most elegant dining tables, the tablecloth and napkins will be made of fine, white linen; and during the course of a dinner—especially one where food with prominently colored sauces is being presented—a napkin is likely to become food-stained. The conscientious gentleman, so as not to present a significantly food-stained napkin to his lips—for all to see and some to shun—will first discretely turn his napkin over in his lap when the stains appear sufficiently unsightly, then inside-out—again discretely in his lap—as the dinner progresses. For an experienced gentleman, then, a napkin has four “fresh” sides, and he utilizes all four during the course of his dinner if necessary. Out of consideration for the host and the person who does his laundry, most ladies of society know to wear a minimal amount of lipstick to the dinner table so as not to add yet another dimension of color to the napkin; and those who do not know that little, considerate rule quickly learn it.

On occasion, one’s napkin will fall from one’s lap onto the floor. But unlike the falling of a knife or a fork, which tends to call attention to itself, thereby alerting the host to request that a replacement be provided, a napkin, because it is made of fabric and generally obstructed from plain view by the tabletop, may fall to the floor unbeknownst even to its user. Upon discovering that one’s napkin has fallen to the floor, the most delicate way of handling the matter is to simply lean sideways, uneventfully reach down to pick up the napkin, and restore it to its proper place. The exceedingly fastidious gentleman, considering that the napkin has fallen onto the floor, will reverse its fold, thereby turning the napkin inside-out, and proceed with his meal. Requesting or expecting a replacement of a fallen napkin is not typical though a conscientious host will usually have a few extra matching napkins ready in case of any major mishaps. Of course, if one is dining alfresco and the napkin falls to the ground, a replacement may be requested. Care should be taken, therefore, to place a napkin securely upon the lap such that it is unlikely to fall. If dining in a restaurant, where extra napkins are usually readily available, a gentleman should feel no hesitation to request a replacement. Under such circumstances, he does not reach down to retrieve the napkin (unless, of course, it has fallen into an area where if left unattended might result in an accident). In a restaurant, a competent table attendant will not only provide a replacement as requested, but also retrieve the one in need of replacement.

During the course of the dinner, if a gentleman must take leave of the dining table for whatever reason, or if he must rise as a lady takes leave of or returns to the table, he places his napkin—not neatly folded, but drawn together in loose folds—to the left of his plate, returning it to his lap upon reoccupying his seat.

A gentleman’s personal handkerchief or tissue should be used to cover his mouth and nose if he must sneeze or cough at the table. If none is available, or if it cannot be retrieved in time, he is allowed to use his napkin. When he has been afforded little forewarning, however, he may use his bare hand, thereafter politely saying, “excuse me,” which should be audible only to those in his immediate vicinity. Of course, if the sneezing or coughing persists, the gentleman should temporarily excuse himself from the table, returning when his proper condition has been restored. Blowing one’s nose at the table, however, is an entirely different matter: it is completely unacceptable. To blow his nose, a gentleman should excuse himself from the dinner table, clearing his sinus and nostrils in the nearest powder room, where there will certainly be the benefit of a mirror to ensure that his face is presentable upon his return to the table.

At the end of the meal, the napkin, gathered up loosely—but not folded—as if to be slipped through a hoop, is placed at the left side of the plate. If the plate has been removed, the napkin should be placed in the center of the space previously occupied by the plate.

In some homes, the napkins to be used by members of the family and guests on extended visits are presented in napkin rings—rather than folded and laid onto a plate—when the table has been set for the meal. In such homes, at the end of the meal, the used napkin should be re-folded and tucked into its designated napkin ring. In such homes, each member of the family has a personalized napkin ring so that he may reuse his personal napkin at a subsequent meal. The custom of reusing napkins twice or thrice is ill-advised, however—especially in this day and age of washing machines. Simply put, a frugal host or hostess should find some other means of economizing than by reusing napkins since no one, not even members of the family, find the practice appetizing.

The History of Jeans: One of the essentials of a gentleman’s wardrobe

Jeans

What rice and corn and potatoes are to food, jeans are to fashion: A 21st-century gentleman can wear jeans to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all the while being well-dressed. Regarded—perhaps alongside the T-shirt—as the quintessential American garment, jeans actually have their origins in the Old World. Genoa, Italy, long known for its production of corduroy, also produced an indigo-dyed, sturdy, corduroy-like fabric which, by the 1500s, was being used by Genoese sailors to make their pants as well as to protectively wrap cargo for shipment. The French, who admired the fabric, referred to it as “Gênes,” the French word for Genoa, and it is believed that the word “jeans” derives therefrom. Eventually, French fabric mills in the city of Nimes tried, unsuccessfully, to copy the Italian fabric, creating instead a twilled fabric that was called “serge de Nimes.” Over time, that fabric would come to be referred to as simply “de Nimes” (“of Nimes”) then, finally, “denim,” the word used today to describe both the fabric and garments made therefrom (though whenever used to describe garments other than pants, the name of the specific garment follows the word “jeans,” such as in the case of “jeans jacket” or “jeans skirt”). Dungaree, a twill fabric originally from the Dungri section of Bombay (present-day Mombai) and also used to make jeans, is the same as denim, except that traditionally, denim was dyed after being woven, whereas the yarns used to produce dungaree were dyed before being woven. Today, the word “dungaree” refers both to the fabric and garments made therefrom, especially pants.

But “jeans,” “denims,” and “dungarees” as they are known today—those sturdy cotton pants with copper rivets—are as American as fast-food, hip-hop, and no-fault divorce. And it all started when Levi Strauss, a German immigrant, moved to San Francisco from New York in 1853 in the height of the gold rush in order to establish a dry goods store. As legend has it, Strauss met a gold prospector who was interested in purchasing ultra-durable work pants for his miners (rather than the canvas for tents and wagons covers that Strauss was selling). So Strauss used some of his canvas to construct work pants (called “waist overalls”), only to discover that while the miners liked the pants for their durability, they found them too rough on the skin. In response, Strauss substituted the coarse canvas with the softer, but durable, serge de Nimes. And all was well. Then in 1872, a Latvian immigrant named Jacob Davis wrote to Strauss suggesting that they apply jointly for a patent for pants rivets that would make pants stronger at their high-stress areas such as the corners of pockets. (Davis had established a San Francisco-based business making horse blankets and canvas tents, both of which utilized rivets). In 1873, both men were awarded the patent, and jeans were born, though they would be referred to as “waist overalls” until 1960 when the name “jeans” was attached to the pants by baby boomers. Long associated with laborers’ clothing and cowboys, jeans became mainstream—amongst young people, males and females, in the 1950s when Hollywood actors James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Elvis Presley popularized denim in their films of that decade. By the 1960s jeans had come to symbolize youthful rebelliousness and disillusionment and as such became a cornerstone of the dress code of the Hippie Movement. By the late 1970s, fashion designers were marketing their own “designer jeans”; and by the early 1980s, jeans had become a staple garment the world over. Fifteen-year-old Brooke Sheilds queried and answered in the unabashedly provocative TV ad, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” And Sasson jeans evoked oohs and ahhs with its catchy “Ooh La La” campaign. Banned in many schools and restaurants in the 1950s, today jeans have become almost obligatory in some casual settings. And when paired with sport coats or blazers, jeans may be worn to practically any event that is not specifically designated “formal.” Indigo (with all the faded and diluted shades thereof) remains the most popular color for jeans, but black is also commonly worn, and white jeans make for a fresh option in the spring and summer months as well as throughout the year in the tropical and arid regions of the world.

A Smile Is Worth A Thousand KIND Words

The Power of a Smile

If there is one expression that opens hearts, souls, and the doors of opportunity, it is the smile. Without saying a word, a smile communicates volumes; it is worth not just a thousand words, but a thousand kind words. In times of despair, it can bring joy and uplift the spirit; it can inspire courage in moments of fear; and it can warm the soul—especially when it emerges unexpectedly from the face of a total stranger. Some young men, however, usually because of cultural misinterpretations of the definitions of masculinity, rarely smile, believing that smiling is a sign of weakness. So rather than smiling, thereby inviting people into their world, they put on stoical faces or, worse yet, frowns, which repel people. But anyone who understands the nuances and subtleties of human behavior understands that smiling is arguably mankind’s most powerful unspoken expression. And it is internationally recognized and accepted as such. A genuine smile is well received anywhere in the world (even in the places where it is supposedly a sign of weakness). So as a young man traverses life, he should cultivate a happy disposition such that smiles emerge naturally and genuinely from his countenance, for a winning smile will oftentimes attach a face to a resume, make a conversation indelible, or “break the ice” that sometimes impedes human connectivity.

About Wayne James–continued….

The summer my father departed St. Croix for Copenhagen in order to continue his studies in Denmark and Sweden, he was just a few months shy of his seventeenth birth date. Packed away in his valise was a copy of the 1935 edition of William O. Stevens’ The Correct Thing: A Guide Book of Etiquette for Young Men. The little blue book had been given to him as a bon voyage gift by his father, Isaac Gateword James (1893-1978), who knew from personal experience that the information contained in the book’s 156 pages would prove invaluable for his eldest son as he interacted with members of some of Scandinavia’s finest families during his four-year stay with the Hagemann family at their 16th-century castle, Bjersjӧholm, which overlooks the Baltic Sea at Sweden’s southern coastline. The year was 1936; young Gustav was already a very conspicuous six feet, four inches tall; and he was a black boy from a picturesque Caribbean island en route to a faraway country where even dark-haired white people were a curiosity. Isaac knew, firsthand, the social challenges his son would face because thirty years earlier, in 1907, he had journeyed to Denmark as a 14-year-old to further his education, living with the same Hagemann family at one of their other castles, Borupgaard, in Helsingør, and at their mansion in Copenhagen on fashionable Bredgade. Isaac’s mother, Marguerite “Roxcelina” John James (1863-1951), had given him the 1892 edition of Edward John Hardy’s Manners Makyth Man as his bon voyage gift, she being very much aware that a tall, slender, beautiful black boy living amongst European elites would be carefully observed, not only by the masters of the house, but also by the household staff as well as guests. So by 1979, when it was time for me to embark upon my path of higher education, I had been long-groomed in the intricacies of polite society, and books on etiquette were as referred to in my household at La Grange as were cookbooks. So packed away in my carry-on were two books on comportment: a 1950s’ edition of The Correct Thing, and Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette. Both books would serve me well throughout my undergraduate years at Bradley University—so much so that at some point in my early 40s, I decided that I should write a book that would help young men navigate society the way the books I had been privileged to read had guided me. But having cast aside my Georgetown University law degree immediately upon graduating in order to embark upon a career as a designer of upscale women’s fashion, I knew—despite the arguably superficial nature of garments—that even clothes have to be as beautifully constructed on the inside as on the outside—if they are to endure. So it was only fitting that I would approach the arguably superficial subject of etiquette in the same manner—building beautiful behavior from the inside out, thereby adding intellectual substance to the age-old form.

When I decided that I would make my contribution to the field of etiquette via a book written specifically for young men, my natural inclination was to look carefully at the great books on men’s manners that had guided me—with the aim of significantly improving upon them, not only by updating them so as to account for the changing times, customs, and realities of 21st-century society, but also to add substantive content and to chart new territory, in some instances addressing topics that would have been regarded as taboo by previous generations.

The first step was to place myself in an intellectually stimulating environment where I could brainstorm. So I boarded a jet for New York City, arrived at a friend’s apartment, and immediately went to work jotting down—sometimes frantically—all the things I would want a younger brother, son, nephew, company representative, or student, for example, to know about etiquette. Ten days later, chapter outlines began taking form. Then the following month, I flew to Rio de Janeiro, rented an apartment located a stone’s throw from the beach in Ipanema, and began the process of thinking about my approaches to the various chapters—with the aid of caipirinhas, the city’s dramatic beauty, and the rhythms of the samba as catalysts, of course. It was in Brazil, after fully reviewing the scope of the various chapters and writing the argument for the book, that its specific format assumed form: A two-part book, Part I being devoted to chapters which address the inner, spiritual characteristics of a gentleman; and Part II, which presents the more traditional, social aspects of gentlemanly behavior.

After two scintillating months in Rio, I dashed off to Italy and settled into a beautiful apartment at a friend’s Palladian villa, situated commandingly atop a Tuscan hill. There, I remained for one glorious year, writing, writing, writing. The end of each day of writing would be punctuated by a long walk amidst the estate’s grapevines and olive trees, inhaling the salubrious Italian countryside and reaping its inspiration.

The result of that most peaceful of years is a book founded on the premise that there is little point in teaching etiquette without first teaching ethics—that a man who possesses all the trappings of correct behavior but lacks correct sentiments at the foundation of his behavior is but a mere façade of a gentleman. Perhaps more poignantly put, teaching manners without morals is almost meaningless. And while Manly Manners: lifestyle & Modern Etiquette for the Young Man of the 21st Century does not intend to preach—for that is better done by books on religion or by the men and women who tote them—it, unlike the traditional approach of its counterparts, endeavors to groom whole men, not shadows of men.

Also unique to this book is that its argument, which would traditionally be incorporated in an introduction, is presented instead as Chapter One, primarily because introductions are oftentimes not read or are read perfunctorily—especially by younger readers. In lieu of an introduction, then, is Chapter One, which provides the map of the global journey on which the reader will be taken as he reads and digests the subsequent chapters of this book. Chapter One also unabashedly addresses a very real issue for modern-day young men: Why a book on etiquette in this day and age where social “requirements” are oftentimes relaxed away into nonexistence? Initially written to entice potential publishers, the argument-turned-Chapter One also presents a cogent case to any young man who wants to advance himself spiritually, emotionally, and socially.

And, commendably, Manly Manners departs from the traditional, decidedly snobbish approach to books on etiquette by purposefully avoiding, whenever possible, exclusionary terms and phrases such as “good breeding,” “station in life,” “aristocratic sensibilities,” “of high birth,” “privileged class” and “good families,” for example. To the contrary, the aim of the book is to demonstrate that any man is capable of transforming himself into a true gentleman, and that there is nothing “fuddy-duddy” or staid about being a gentleman. To the contrary, the book argues, etiquette can be quite exciting!

Finally, the traditional approach to tackling a book on etiquette is for the reader to first consult its Table of Contents, then select the area of interest, reading only that section. Then, with time, as additional information is sought, the entire book is perhaps read, albeit in a haphazard manner. It is my hope, however, that readers of Manly Manners will read it from cover to cover since the chapters are strategically presented such that they take the reader from an overview of modern-day gentlemanly behavior in the first chapter, through a spiritual journey in the remaining chapters of Part I, before continuing on to practical matters such as personal hygiene in Part II, to manners in public places within one’s community, before, at the end, presenting a much-needed discussion on the different customs of some of the world’s great cultures. The book, because of its international applicability, effortlessly and matter-of-factly demonstrates that the people of the world are much more alike than they are different.

So “Bon Voyage!” And like this author and his forefathers, be sure to pack a good book on manners for men—in your case, Manly Manners: Lifestyle & Modern Etiquette for the Young Man of the 21st Century.