Tag Archives: eating

Man relaxes on a Croatian sidestreet, photo by zolakoma on Flickr. (Creative Commons.)

Here Yet So Far Away: Dreaming of Distances

I vacillate. Often. Back and forth, back and forth.

“Why wait?” I ask. “Why stay? Why keep banging my head on this wall?”

A part of me wants to cut and run tomorrow. Today. Now. Zippity-doo-dah, gone like the wind.

But the pragmatic part of me clears her throat and says no, we stay. We see the summer through. Turn 42. Celebrate Thanksgiving with my whole family together. Vote out Stephen Harper. Leave two days later, either in victory or defeat. That’s the ideal situation. See another shoulder season, enjoy another summer. Ensure I’ve laid solid freelance ground beneath my feet before I plunge.

Then, poof, off to Europe and chase the dream.

Prague's celebrated St. Charles Bridge, by Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

By Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

The Nutshell

Five years abroad. 89 days or less per country. Working my way through — keeping my job, my writing, all of it. Writing books. Photographing. Plodding the land, meeting the folk, noshing the foods. Write it from a first-person living-the-dream perspective. A literary treatment given with my voice.

The world through my eyes. Not travel guides, not tips. You want that shit, go read Lonely Planet. My journey will read as a mashup of Elizabeth Gilbert and Anthony Bourdain — a weird lovechild / hybrid of edgy, insightful writing set in the here-and-now of someone trying to figure out where in the world she belongs.

[INSERT DREAM HERE]

When I go to bed, I don’t know where to dream of. Should I dream of two weeks on the hills in Tuscany, a writing/reading/eating retreat, growing fat(ter) on cheese and wine as I trudge the verdant slopes?

Maybe I should dream of working on a new ebook in a seaside port on a lesser-seen part of Portugal’s coast, where fishermen persuade me to get over my fear of seafood and eat fresh-from-the-sea local specialties, laughing at my timid ways and shoving wine at me to wash it down with?

Perhaps I should instead fall asleep imagining a bucket-list check-off of shooting Prague’s St. Charles Bridge in early autumn morning fog as steam rises from the river below, hatching a plan for eggs in some underground cellar joint for breakfast as warmth returns to my chilled photographer’s fingers?

Tonight, it’ll likely be dreaming of dining on Croatia’s Pag Island, drinking local wine to accompany the famous island cheese made from the milk of sheep who spend their lives roaming seaside cliffs eating salt-dusted wild herbs daily.

I’ll do all of these things, and many more. Someday. One day in the next six years, I will.

My dreams, they’re not outlandish. No five-star hotels or crazy excess. Not my style, never has been. My dreams are like people I favour — a good way to spend a little time. Filled with intrigue and wonder, appreciation and simplicity, lively and fun. That’s how I roll.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

You Gotta Ask Yourself One Question…

Waiting for these times ahead, so hard. Especially knowing I can do this lifestyle less than I pay now. I can improve my quality of life while living my dream, and yet it’s on ice ten more months. The idea of the wait is killing me already. I’m not sure I’ll last that long.

Just weeks ago I asked myself: Can I be this person? Am I cut out to spend five years abroad? Am I willing to just up and sell my belongings to do this? Have I got the guts?

At that time, I had to convince myself. The part that said I can wasn’t as loud as the part that scoffed at the notion.

Now, it’s not about if I can do it — it’s that I have to do it. I have to take this chance. I need to sell everything. I need to get the fuck out, live the dream. I need to know I tried. And one country isn’t enough. Five countries isn’t enough. Five years, that may be enough.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The Little Traveller Who Could

When I took this apartment, I increased my monthly rent by 25% in one jump. It was a risk. Only a year before, I sold my bike just to buy groceries. Could I hack the increased expenditure? Was I capable of working that hard, seeking out opportunity? Could I up my game? Could I commit?

I decided I could. Sure, I doubted myself and had a lot of fear, but I decided I wanted to make it work. So I would do just that.

I’ve done better than I hoped. I’ve really led the good life in this apartment. My standard of living is better, my dreams are bigger, my confidence higher, my focus sharper. A year ago, I didn’t have the guts to tell folks about this travel dream of mine. Now I can’t shut the hell up.

That’s not to say I’m fearless with this adventure. I have a lot of fear. Lots. And I should. There’s so much unknown. There’s new cultures, places, risks, threats, adventures, mistakes — all just sitting there, waiting for me. I know that.

But I also know of what I’ve toughed out — all the misadventure and adversity of my thirties. And I kicked its ass.

I don’t know what gauntlets await me, what struggles might come. I just know they’re there. They’re always there. But so is the knowledge that whatever else I might be, I’m a survivor. I make it through, and I come out better. And sometimes I have fun during the mindfuck of it all. Because that’s who I am.

So, yes. Just weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this. If I had it in me. Now I know I do. The more I learn about the places, the more I know I can hack it. Besides that, I’m smart enough, savvy enough, and I’m good with strangers. I have rarely-fallible intuition on folks that will serve me well.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

To Dream a Vivid Dream

I may not know what specifically to dream about when I lay myself down, but I’ve inklings of experiences I want. I want this craving I have right now, coupled with the heart-exploding anticipation of being amidst the travel zeitgeist. The brighter-than-bright saturation of moving fast or slow through worlds previously unknown to me. The kaleidoscope of color, places, and people swirling together around me. The feeling one gets from stopping to just be of a moment, in some strange great place. “I’ll never be here, like this, again.” And knowing it.

I dream of being confused by things like trying to buy vitamins and toothpaste in local shops, never knowing the same bed for longer than two months, shaking my head in confusion at foreign-language street directions, wheezing from running to catch planes/buses/trains, and always finding a new spot to see a sunset.

I long for the day when the boredom and routine of me being a hermit in my character apartment here/now seems like a great and distant fantasy. I think of the people I might meet who’ll indulge just a moment, or maybe for a stolen hour over coffees, to teach me their language.

I don’t need to dream of specifics. I dream of moments. Tiny moments I’ll remember for a lifetime. These vague and fleeting seconds will fuel me. I don’t want planned travels, just organic and whimsical detours. Dreamlike and surreal. Fed by impulse.

And with that, I have some wine that needs some drinking, and more travel shows to get lost in, as I tab through AirBNB listings and cost-of-living comparisons. Because this is what I do, these days. Haphazardly living in the present while stuck in the future.

I’ll be writing ebooks about these journeys. Sign up for my mailing list. I won’t be spamming you.

Is Happiness a Place?

photo 1I’ve watched three episodes of Bourdain’s Parts Unknown since last night and now my thoughts are consumed by food and culture.

It surprises me how much I’ve been thinking about food, culture, and the next phase of my life — in which I sell most everything I own and take up the wanderer’s lifestyle for hopefully the next five years.

I had to write a foreword for my cookbook last week and it made me more contemplative than I expected. What did I value in life? Why? What did I want more of? And I found myself echoing in the words I was writing. I too was lost “in the whizz-whizz/whoosh-whoosh pace of city life” I’d been writing about. I work too much, live too little. But I have a goal in mind: Five years abroad, and a year to go before I want it underway. The clock is ticking. The end is in sight. The race is on. Yada, yada.

Watching Bourdain wax poetic about the timeless lifestyles of Granada, Spain, or Ecuador, or Peru, or Croatia, or… It all makes me realize how far off the mark life is here in North America, or where I’ve been living. Or how I’ve been living. Life here, though, is all about the Benjamins. Or would be, if we had American currency.

With one of the most costly lifestyles in the English-speaking world, Vancouver (and therefore Victoria, where it’s only marginally cheaper) has suddenly become a struggle to live on a budget. A lot of people I know, if they can work from home and aren’t tied down, are taking the risk of living abroad. Some have made permanent ventures of it. And why not? If one can tap into a different lifestyle in a place that, after so long hamstrung in Vancouver, where life feels like a vacation because everything feels new and shiny for a year or more — well, why not? And if it’s 30-60% cheaper? Fuck, yeah.

I understand that we have it pretty good in Canada, and that’s where our money goes, but I also think it’s pretty ethnocentric to make bold claims like “best place on Earth.” After all, there’s a lifestyle in places like Spain and Ecuador and other fantastic places where they do have long vacations every year, and they focus on life first/work last, and they celebrate real food and wine and nature, and they do it all for cheaper than we do here, while still having a nice social safety net for the citizens.

We don’t have a monopoly on lifestyles. In many places, living really is pretty good, and they’re honestly too busy living life to bother trying to sell an image of it. Here, it feels like it’s so fast-paced and distracted that we’re constantly being reminded of just how GREAT everything is and how WOW SPIFFY our world is so we don’t start questioning how ridiculous it is that we have among the least amount of vacation time in the world, with the longest hours.

It’s like that time a friend read The Secret and told me what a powerful thing it was, and I should read it, blah blah blah. And I said, “Dude. You’re not happy with your job, where you live, and your relationship is in tatters. Prove to me that The Secret works by fixing your fucked-up life and oozing happy-happy/joy-joy, and then maybe I’ll buy the book.”

If life here was so sensational and happiness was the natural byproduct of it, do you think we’d be selling Xanax and Prozac like it was going out of style? Do you think self-help books would be so endemic? If life’s so amazing here, why do we need to keep being reminded about it?

When I was living in Vancouver, I kept telling people I wasn’t happy there anymore. Everyone said I was nuts, it’s the best place on the planet. Well, I can tell you wholeheartedly that selling the dream ain’t the same as delivering the dream, and for me, Lotusland just wasn’t delivering.

photo 2But maybe I’ve just got a restless heart. This time and place, it’s not right for me. I don’t know where is, but it ain’t here, not now. Not today. I think, for me, the joy will come from looking. From going to one place and being blown away and thinking “Nothing can ever top this,” and then, boom, next town, next country — “Nothing can ever top this.”

What if there is no place better than where I am today? What if, for the rest of my life I remember about the magical two years I lived in a magical neighbourhood?

Well, that could happen. Sure. But it’s a pretty big planet packed with a lot of wow, and I’m pretty sure things get amazing anywhere there’s mountains, trees, ocean, good wine, beautiful food, and kind people.

Happiness, for me, is a state of being. Having the time to be in the moment, not distracted, not paying a ton of money for an experience. A quiet place, a few kind people, the ability to speak my mind (or stay silent), a great glass of wine or a tall lemonade or strong coffee, some nature near me or surrounding me. Usually many of these criteria get met when I get to feel “happy”. It’s the recipe for happiness we hear so much about. Or my recipe, anyhow.

But to get there, to have that, I need to spend another year working like a dog to set my plan in play. Taking moments like this to think about the what-ifs of living abroad, the potential that life might hold, it makes knowing I’m working through another Saturday and Sunday all worthwhile.

That balance will come. For a little while, it means I have to prove how much I want it. And so I shall. With that, it’s time to do some work.

Eat Good Food! Buy My Book!

late summer nightsHEY, MINIONS.

The day is here! I’ve released my first-ever book and it’s a cookbook. I’ve been cooking since I was 5 years old. I’ve taught cooking camps to kids from ages 8 to 17, and I’ve been paid by folks to teach them one-on-one too, so I’m not your normal “hobby” chef.

In fact, I’m really political about cooking. I believe cooking is the most valuable skill you can learn and it’s one of the biggest acts of rebellion you can make. I believe your purchasing choices for local foods, quality ingredients, and the shunning of big-food processed products is as political as you can get on a day-to-day basis. The food industry is a giant now, and the more we little people do at home with real ingredients grown or craft-made by local artisanal foods folks, the more we can shake the foundation of Big Agriculture.

My goal when I wrote this cookbook was to INSPIRE you, not just give you recipes. I want to empower you to see that recipes can be infinitely adjusted and personalized to suit your taste. I want you to see that cooking simply doesn’t mean being boring. I want you to feel like you can spend $10 to make a meal you’d bleed $40 to eat in a restaurant.

Eat Yummy Things and Live Better

Cooking isn’t about eating — it’s about having a creative outlet, taking a little time out to reflect on your day while you chop and simmer and stew. It’s about telling yourself you’re worth the time it takes to make something nice — whether you live alone or have a a slew of people in your household. It’s about feeding yourself food that’s from the land you live on and going to bed with that happy, full feeling that comes from eating well. This relates to the idea of the Qi of food — that which is grown on the land you live upon will provide you the energy you need to live and be there.

If I change a few people from being the kind of folks who think “eating well” means getting food from restaurants and instead make them into people who think they can do it better at home, then I’m gonna feel like I’ve met my goal.

All That and Just Plain Good Writin’

But in the end, all of this matters jack-shit if my writing isn’t engaging, funny, or clear. From early response, my first readers are indicating I’m meeting those standards — and more! Please check it out. Support me by spending a measly $5, and help me inspire a small-scale revolution that starts in your kitchen. With over 25 recipes and at 63 pages, I think it’s worth the price of a coffee. (You’ll receive free updates in the future, too!)

If you’d like to give it as a gift, you can do that too — just click the little “present” icon in the purchase box.

BUY MY BOOK HERE.

Early Readers are Raving

My friend, Steffani Cameron has just launched her new e-book. It is a cookbook. A no nonsense, everyone can do it, get your grill out and eat good food kinda book. Possibly the best $5 you will ever spend. Get one & good things will happen.” — My friend Angie Quaale, who is a celebrity chef, BBQ champion, and owner of Langley’s Well Seasoned store.

“Your humor is priceless. Enjoying the reading, as much as the recipes. Never laughed so much (in a)  long time.” — A new Twitter follower who received it as a gift, @ddsnorth

 

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3 photo 4

A Carnivore Ruminates: Thoughts About Balance

Food. Some eat to live, others live to eat. Either way, it’s the source of life.

The Chinese believe in the Chi of food. Eat food from the place you’re from, and you get Earth-drawn energy to live upon the place you’re in. It’s a circle-of-life thing.

Me, I clearly live to eat. Lately, too indulgently and without balance. Sproing goes the waistline this summer, I’m afraid. And that’s no good.

Living to eat and doing it badly is an ironic way to embrace death. I’m certainly better than I’ve likely ever been as an eater, but it’s a constant act of re-education, and the more I learn and deprogram myself on the white-food-rules upbringing I had, the further I’ve yet to go.

I had a bit of a Twitter spanking as I tongue-in-cheek suggested I get great pleasure from seeing former Vegan/Vegetarian people going back to meat. I explained that it vindicates my belief that vegetarianism and veganism are somewhat unnatural.

Then again, entire cultures, like the Hindu, go their whole lives without food that comes of taking a life.

I get that. But I’m Irish and French. It’s just never gonna happen chez Steff. I mean, really. If we weren’t supposed to eat meat, it wouldn’t be so tasty.

It’s that simple.

But it’s good meat that’s tasty. Meat raised under ethical conditions, raised eating real food, not stuffed with commercial feed, who have access to pastures, live naturally, and are slaughtered compassionately, then processed with care by people who value the product and the life given to provide it.

Give me a steak by a grow-factory, slaughtered en masse without empathy, processed on a conveyor belt, versus a local farm-raised product, slaughtered the old-school way, and hand-trimmed, with both prepared and cooked the same, and I’ll tell you on the first bite which is which. Easy. Done. It’s right there. That je ne sais quoi of having been raised ethically and killed compassionately.

There are lamb in Spain who get walked — WALKED! — on a 650+ kilometre trek across the mountains, feeding on grass as they go, birthing, mating, living like they should, being sight-seers for many weeks before they meet their end. That’s something you taste. Real grass grown from valley to valley, by river and stream, under olive trees and by grapevines. It’s all there in that lamb.

The French believe in terroir and how it applies to not just wine like most people think, but to everything from meat through to oysters. You taste the land that the food comes from. Like where you’re born imprints you, so too does it to the meat and seafood and everything else we consume. Like those Spanish lamb I think would surpass any I’ve ever had.

Yum.

It’s a beautiful thought, that this interconnectivity runs through everything around us, and that we can choose to focus on more seasonal, local produce and it’ll not only be of better quality, but also of better Chi, of better terroir, and even just better for the environment, and ultimately more fulfilling for our soul.

As I reflect on food and what it means to me this week, I know where I’m going wrong with my diet is simply too many carbs and too much meat. I won’t go paleo or Zone or Atkins or any of those faddish diets. I just want to find a balance that works for me — ethically, tastefully, healthily, and financially.

I will never eat what I don’t enjoy, and I’ll never omit things like juicy steaks, cheeses, or other great food-of-love things that transport me when I eat them. Life’s meant to be lived, not survived.

There’s a perfect balance of finding flavour yet eating a diet that makes your body happy, and that’s the balance I’ve lost.

I’ll be eating less meat, less cheese, but when I have them, having far better quality. At the same time, I want to explore vegetarian dishes from around the world, particularly from places where they manage to go entire lives without meat, because clearly they’re doing it properly.

I’ve known people who’ve been extreme vegetarians, who did it balanced as best as one can, but who ultimately returned to the Meat Side when they ran into energy problems when being more active (like a boxer I knew, and a hardcore mountain cyclist). I don’t believe one needs to omit anything completely (except when allergic, obviously) to live an “ethical food” life.

Yet we as a society in the West eat meat to excess and a compromise would be good. I’ll attempt a 50% vegetarian week. I’m sure there’ll be weeks I fail, but I’m probably meat-eatin’ 6 days a week now, if not 7. That ain’t no good.

There’s one thing I can’t argue. That’s the issue that raising meat, farm or factory, creates a lot of methane, which is hugely responsible for global warming. If the world went vegetarian tomorrow and commercial meat production ended, we’d probably see a drastic difference in climate change quickly. This is true. Irrefutable.

So, mandate methane capture and conversion. Let’s solve that problem. Let’s have our cake steak and eat it too.

Because, to me, every cow is sacred, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it salted and grilled.

Etiquette for Restaurants: Part 2

This is part two of the basic etiquette for restaurant dates. It began with a rant here, and continued with part one here.

First, a couple addendums raised in part one’s comments:

A. As mentioned by an anonymous commenter after the first posting, if you’re picking your date up, do not call her and tell her to be outside. Do not honk. Do not wait in the car. Go the hell in and get her. Yes, it’s nice to bring flowers if you want to, but try to avoid the clichéd dozen roses, and do not bring carnations. A single rose, or gerbera, or orchid, whatever, is always a nice touch. I could be wrong on this, but I feel corsages are dated and behind the times, and often plain unpractical. I’d stick with flowers for the table. What’s more, if it’s a nice date, she’ll enjoy the flowers more the next day.

B. It’s totally cool and actually good to help a date with a coat. Help take it off, help her get it on. It’s just a nice touch. Unnecessary, but certainly nice. Hand it to the waiter or give it to her to put on the back of her chair, if coatcheck isn’t an option.

Back to bizness. You’ve got wine, you’ve got food, and now you’re dining.

1. How you eat is important. Eat small bites. Use cutlery as much as possible. Cut your food precisely and delicately while being relatively strong and assertive about it. (Press harder with your knife, do controlled movements.) Try to not make noises with the cutlery or against the china. If you’re responding to her question or statement as you cut, make sure you at least glance up to make eye-contact as you’re talking. Always, always show you’re aware she’s present when you’re speaking. And hello? Small bites, please? Chew? With your mouth closed. Do not speak with food in your mouth. Remember in grade two when they said to chew every bite 17 times? Please do that on dates. BONUS: It will reduce the chance you’ll get gas later!

2. If you want a refill of coffee or something, inch the drinking vessel nearer to the edge of the table closest to where the waiting staff will pass it by. An industry professional knows this is the sign for a refill, so you shouldn’t need to shout for them.

3. Never take the last roll, butter, or bit of wine without asking her if she’d like it first. She’ll almost always say no (it’s a date thing) and give it to you, but give her the chance to do so. If she offers to split it with you, say no if you just can’t handle more, & say something like “I’d love to, but I’m set to burst.” Sharing’s nice though. It’s sexy and intimate, and feel free to take her up on the offer.

4. Tear off bits of bread as opposed to gnoshing on an entire piece. Tear it over the plate, so the crumbs don’t pile up on the tablecloth. Butter it as you go to prevent yourself from getting thumbs into greasy badness. If you’re dipping in oil and vinegar, please, don’t double dip, tear bite-size pieces for dipping.

5. If you’re still eating your meal, you rest your knife and fork at 4:00 and 8:00 on your plate, respectively, between bites. Don’t hold your cutlery through the whole meal. Keeping it in your hand all the time – especially for women – tends to look aggressive. Take moments where you focus on your companion. (Goes for both sexes.) When you’re finished and want them to take it away, you set your knives, forks, and spoons used thus far at the 5:00 position.

6. If your server is stupid and tries to take your plate before your companion has finished, then they have clearly missed the basic training course. Tell them you’re not through, and gesture at your companion’s plate. If they succeed and take the plate away, she’ll be left feeling awkward eating in front of you. This goes both ways, so be a man and say something.

7. If she’s getting up to go to the bathroom – it’s not necessary, but it’s extra special classy and will probably get a small grin from her as she walks away from you – you can always push your chair back and stand as she leaves the table. When she returns, you can stand upon her arrival, wait for her to sit, then give her the napkin, or better yet, lay it on her lap. (You can be sexy about it and “accidentally” brush a finger down her thigh as you return to your seat, departing-like.) As I say, this is a real throwback, and is probably a little over the top for most evenings, but if you’re having a more special dinner experience in celebration of something, then yes, go ahead. It’s quite formal.

8. After dinner, your napkin gets folded (casually, in a tidy bunch, whatever, just not tossed down in a heap) and placed BESIDE the plate, not on it.

9. Paying! All the guys want to know this. Going Dutch is fine, but really, if you make more than her – she’s a student, you’re working in an office – then it ought to be on you. If you asked her out and chose the location, then it ought to be on you. If she asked you out, then it should rightly be dutch, unless she’s making your salary look comical. But if you want to feel like your balls are intact at the evening’s end, you probably shouldn’t let her pay, not entirely, but that’s your call. Some women will judge you for not paying. You know I’m right, as much as it galls you. A good move is always to pay, especially if you like her, and playfully ask if she takes trades for a home cooked meal, or tell her she can get coffees later or something. (If she balks at paying anything ever, then she’s a money-hungry minx and you need to be wary, in my humble opinion. Anytime a woman or man feels entitled to something, it’s time to be wary. Me, I like a man to pay, but I’ll always insist next time I do some cooking, and the way I cook, it’s a win.)

10. If it’s old-school car locks and we’re driving for the night and we let you into the car first, lean over and open our lock and let us in. Women, if a guy lets you in first, you don’t have to lean over and let him in, but it’s the kind of small gesture a guy really digs. Ever seen that old Cameron Crowe film Singles, when Keira Sedgwick lets Cameron Scott into his car? He’s bowled right over and is in love from then on. It shows you can not only graciously accept his chivalry, but that you’re woman enough to not feel threatened by reciprocating. Me, I’d always let the guy in. It’s just the right way to act. [Ed. Note: Do people even have these locks anymore? Lots has changed in the four years since this first was posted!]

11. When you’re dropping her off, and this is for anyone dropping a woman off – date or not – always, always wait until she’s gotten inside before you drive away. It’s a sign that you’re concerned about her safety, and honestly, our entrances aren’t always as safe as we’d like.

12. Not related to restaurants, but time to be said. Can we, for once and for all, move past the “don’t call the next day” bullshit? Call. Tell us it was a good time. Even easier and just as good, in the age of email, send her a quick note. “Wow. I had a great time. I’ll call you later in the week. Looking forwards to more with you.” That’s it. “Ooh,” we’ll think, “a guy who doesn’t play games.” You’ll get laid sooner, you know. Drop the bullshit head games. Keep it casual, light, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Call her later in the week, don’t mention a specific day, but you’ve bought yourself time now. Just a note! A text! A quick email! It’s a lovely way to play.

If there are other dating scenarios you want the etiquette for, let me know via comments or emails. Happy dining this weekend, kids.

Etiquette for Restaurants: Part 1

This is part one of two for restaurant etiquette. It was preluded with a rant yesterday. Yes, I’ll answer questions about going dutch, etc, but that’s next time. Tried to put this in the order it transpires on a date, but I’m sick and my head’s fuzzy.

I have had men saying women don’t respond to chivalry, and the chicks are just confused. I’ll write something about that in the next week or so, since it’s an important part of this topic, and maybe I’ll try to wrap my head around why that’s still happening and how to defuse it.

Anyhow, this is largely addressed at men, but there are women-related comments throughout, and a lot of it is knowledge both sexes ought to have about the dining scene.

Feel free to make comments about other areas of dining dates you’re not sure about how to behave during, and I’ll amend my part two posting if anything’s missing. Thanks!

Another thing? If you’re under the delusion that “manners” & “etiquette” mean the same thing, not true. Etiquette is about behaviour, social conventions, and even tradition. Manners have far less scope. This is Etiquette 101.

1. If you’re picking her up at her place and you’re seeing her pad for the first time, then find something positive to say about it. If you honestly love it, then flatter her tastes, tell her it’s very revealing. If it’s pretty uninspired, find a photo of her or something you can relate to. “Hey, I read that book. What’d you think?” Or “That’s a great photo of you. Was that in college?” Be interested. If you want us to care about sleeping with you, kissing you, or even just being with you, then be very, very interested in us. Women are like houseplants – give us a little attention, and watch us thrive. This’ll help you break the ice and give you a conversational direction to head in. It’s helpful on many levels.

2. Hold the door open. If I reach it first, I’ll hold it open for you – as any person ought to do for another. (Hear me, women?) When you’re holding it, look me in my eye. Don’t look at the ground like you’re sorry to be old-fashioned. Be proud, god damn it, and look at me as if I should know it’s that you respect me that’s spurring you to do it. It’s the kind of sexy thing Bogart would do. Be like Bogey. Smile, even.

3. Do I need to say this? Turn off your damned cell phone. Do not text message. Do not talk. Do not even acknowledge the thing in her presence. If it rings and is audible, shame on you. And women? Double for you! Jesus Christ, people. Put the fucking phones away on dates. I always do. Can we for five minutes pretend to be rapt in attention of those whose presences we’re in? Is it so hard?

4. When you’re seated at the restaurant, if the waiter doesn’t do it for you, put your napkin on your lap immediately. This signifies that you have class and upbringing. It also tells the service that they’re dealing with a well-trained patron, and they will give you better service (most of the time) if they see you know how to behave in such an environment. Believe it or not, I’ve read stories where waiting staff confess that a patron’s tendency to put their napkin on their lap influences whether the waiter thinks a good tip is coming or not — and you know what that conclusion means.

5. Your order will never get taken if you have your menu open. When she’s done and has decided and has closed her menu, casually pick it up and place it atop yours, the edge of them protruding slightly off the table, so the staff see you’re ready to order. Well-trained waiting staff understand this to mean “take our order, please.”

6. It’s all right to order for your date. It’s sexy. Don’t be a pompous ass and do it without her approval or input, though. Ask her what she’s leaning towards, and then casually mention that you’ll be happy to place the order for you both. If she smiles, you’re on. If you’re doing the ordering after she’s consented and the waiter asks you what you’ll be having, look him in the eye, then meet your date’s eyes, nod at her and smile, and look back at the waiter and state simply that your companion is having X, and you’ll be having Y. There are reasons she would decline you ordering for her, particularly if she’s a Meg Ryan type from When Harry Met Sally. I’ll have the dressing on the side, and your face in my lap, thank you.

7. Don’t order your drinks without asking the woman what she wants, either. Women know more about wine and drinks than they ever have, and you need to respect that. Ask her what she’d like. When the waiter comes over with a wine that you’ve mutually selected and you know your date knows wine, if the waiter extends the cork for you to inspect and pours a taster’s sample, tell him you’re deferring to the lady. Let her make the call. It’s sexy and shows you’re confident in yourself, and that you trust her judgment, and you don’t feel threatened. Hold her gaze as she sniffs the wine, tastes, and gives her verdict. Nod in agreement to whatever she says. Taste the wine, and hopefully you agree with her verdict. If you don’t, just keep quiet. Taste is subjective, and if you disagree, such is life. Next time, you can just make the move to order some for yourself. Or, you can cover your ass and ask the waiter to recommend something that complements both your meals. (Obviously, if the wine’s turned bad, it goes back.) And, DUDE, sniff your wine, not the cork. You sniff the cork, you’re smelling cork, not wine. Duh.

8. If you’re pouring the wine, never, ever pour it more than one-third to a half full, depending on glass type/size. Wine drinking is a subtle art, and science proves that 40% of our taste experience comes from our sense of smell. By filling a glass too full, you reduce the amount of aroma that “cups” in the wine, since it’s in swilling the wine around the glass that you cause the smell to rise & improve the taste. You’re throwing out flavour if you have a full glass. It’s uncouth. What’s more, it flies in the face of science!

9. When drinking, always hold your glass by the stem, particularly with white wines (less important with red). The more of your hand to cup the glass, the more heat transfers to the glass, thus elevating the temperature of the wine, thus doing bad things to taste. Common perception is that “room temperature” means whatever the hell the yuppies have their thermostats set to. Um, no, kids. “Room temperature” speaks to an era before central heating, to hundreds of years ago, to the temperature of natural caves and cellars. Somewhere around 14-16 Celsius, maybe 55-65 Fahrenheit. (Bad wine form irks me.)

More tomorrow. Sounds snobby? Hey, I come from relatively low-income heritage — farmers, fishermen, that kind of thing. We never had a lot of money growing up, but my mother taught me that just because I didn’t have money didn’t mean I couldn’t behave like I did. So, yes, class and etiquette instilled from a young age, and I’m grateful for it. It’s taken me far, in some regards, from my roots. Not an entirely bad thing, so long as your memory’s good. ;)