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BLOG – Restaurant Etiquette, or not

….Seems to be an oxymoron these days, as one sees less and less etiquette being practiced, only extraordinarily bad manners and a distinct show of dis-respect to other restaurant goers and the staff.

Who doesn’t like to eat out?! A new location to discover, new type of cuisine, and often, new people.
It used to be that people would put on their finest and go out with their best friends for a meal. It was an event. Today, groups of people who barely know one another will go out for an evening, where they plan on going to several locations over the course of the evening, so they treat the establishment as if it is only there for their own personal enjoyment. The other patrons ignored. As they get louder and more intoxicated, the discomfort in the room becomes increasingly unpalatable , then, off to the next venue with utter disregard for those whose evening they ruined.

In the past, table etiquette was not only taught, but heavily enforced at home. Elbows off the table, Chew with your mouth closed, speak to the person at your right, at your left, across the table from you with full eye contact, and you were to SMILE!!

There were no phones allowed, no distractions. A meal was an event to be shared with the others at the table. Conversation other than religion or politics was encouraged.

No one knows this better than the Chinese, who went as far as to create DIM SUM, which is basically little tastes. The idea being that one can sit in a restaurant and socialize with friends over an extended period of time, and share their nibbles with friends. Food is a huge part of their social life, and great food is very important.

One does not get the feeling today that many people understand the concept of dining. Today it is about eating and running off to the next event, although to be fair, there are some restaurants who are looking to turn the table as many times as they can in an evening, and are not exactly encouraging people to stay. If I ever go to a restaurant and am told they need the table, it is unlikely I will ever return. The only time this is acceptable, is if it was established prior to going. Good restaurant management however, will try and allow you to keep the table if you are continuing to dine.Sitting for an hour over a cheap coffee does not count.

Restaurant no-no’s include, but are not limited to:

CHILDREN

You may think your child is adorable. I do not. Keep it seated. Keep it quiet, or leave it at home. It is not cute to have it’s dirty fingers in my food, standing at my table asking questions and interrupting, or running around the restaurant screaming. Do NOT lecture me that it is only a child. The Chinese bring their children to restaurants from the time they are born, and they are QUIET. It is disrespectful to the other diners. We are paying for the privilege of eating there. You are not paying for us. If a BILLION Chinese have figured it out, so can you.

SNAPPING FINGERS AT THE WAIT STAFF

Really??? Do you actually think you are that important? Unless you advised the staff you were in a hurry at the outset, and they abandoned you, if you must get someone’s attention, quietly go see the Maitre’D and request assistance. PERIOD.
LOUD TALKING

Your conversation is YOUR conversation. The rest of us are do not need to hear it, nor do we find it entertaining. We came to be with the people at OUR table, not yours.
MOBILE PHONES

Turn them OFF, or go outside to have your conversation. If you are expecting an urgent call, announce it to the guests at your table, apologize for the impending interruption, then excuse yourself when it happens. Once again, the rest of us do not need to hear your side of a conversation.
TABLE HOPPING

The absolutely rudest most disrespectful thing anyone can do. It suggests that the people at your table are unimportant. If you came with them, STAY with them. If you absolutely must speak to someone at another table, wait until everyone has finished their meal, excuse yourself, briefly confer with the individual at the other table and return. If seeing them was so important, you should have gone to dinner with THEM and not your table mates.
PLAYING WITH FOOD

A very wealthy and generous gentleman I know entertains a great deal, and always orders sufficient food and drink for the table, and plenty to spare. On numerous occasions I have witnessed selfish guests ordering extra plates, then playing with the food. Why?? Because they felt they could, certainly not because there was lack of either food or choice. It is rude to the host and the chef. On several occasions the table was absolutely groaning with the weight of the food. Why on earth be so arrogant and wasteful as to order more?! Particularly as a non-paying guest. It is the height of bad manners.
SENDING PLATES BACK

Unless the eggs or chicken is raw, be quiet and eat it.
In my case, I stress that I have severe food allergies, which could be lethal. BLUE Cheese tops the list, and I have no tolerance for raw garlic or onions, or MSG. They render me totally nauseous.
If the dish comes dripping with onions or garlic, you can be sure it will go back.

Some people however, make it a power game, and send things back because they want to be noticed. Unless it is grotesquely undercooked, overcooked, or just plain disastrous, shut up and eat it. You ordered it.
DIETARY PREFERENCES – ALLERGIES

See above.
For some it is just being fussy. Please do NOT say you have allergies if you simply have dietary preferences, otherwise the other guests will be fearful throughout the meal. If you are going to be difficult, then just go to a vegan or vegetarian restaurant.
RESERVATIONS

If you make them, KEEP THEM. If you can’t, then cancel in a respectful amount of time so that the restaurant can offer the table to other patrons. It is totally disrespectful to not cancel if you will not be going. The restaurant has provisioned food and staff on your behalf which costs them money.
CUTLERY

If you do not know how to use a knife or fork properly, BUY A BOOK ON TABLE ETIQUETTE. It is extremely unpleasant to watch someone spearing their food, using their knife as a spoon, or holding their fork as a spear.
FOOD ON YOUR CLOTHES

They made napkins for a reason. Accidents do happen, but there are some people who simply do not pay attention and end up with half the meal on their shirts. It is extremely unattractive.
CHEWING WITH AN OPEN MOUTH

CLOSE IT. We don’t want to watch you masticate your food, nor do we want to hear you smacking your lips.
TALKING WITH A MOUTH FULL OF FOOD

See above.
USING YOUR FINGERS

Asparagus
Chicken wings
Ribs.

PERIOD.
ELBOWS ON THE TABLE

Are you so bored with the company that you need to hold up your head? No?!! Then leave the elbows off the table.
STICKING YOUR FORK INTO OTHER”S PLATES

Unless you are with your significant other and are trying new dishes and have agreed to share, then LEAVE IT ALONE.
If you are with a group of friends and everyone offers a taste to everyone, that is another story. I have been out where it was understood we were all going to share so we could try it.
That is perfectly fine.
Most people however, order a meal with the intention of eating it by themselves.
If you are absolutely determined to taste something because it just looks to good to be true, then a polite, “Oh my, does that taste as amazing as it smells?” may prompt a small taste. If not, then KEEP OFF.
TEMPER TANTRUMS

Oh my, where to start.

I was at NOBU several years ago, and a wealthy Montrealer was also there with a group at another table. He is rich, loud and exceedingly vulgar.
He did not receive several of the items he ordered, which is to be expected in a SUSHI restaurant, things come at the pace of the chef, and in a specific order. He wanted them immediately, and created a scene.
I was actually with the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Hotel having dinner. He excused himself, and went over to the other table to calm down the loud patron, and explain the reason for the delays. There was a period of calm, then another outburst. Obviously too much sake and too much self importance.
End result??!! He is now barred from the Hotel and the Restaurant. Apparently this was not the first outburst, nor was it the first time that the tablecloth with all its contents had found the floor, but it was certainly the last.
I was later informed that this same person has a reputation in Montreal, New York and London, and has been barred from numerous establishments.
Well, that explains the fact he now has a private chef.

Another aspiring Montreal Socialite has been barred from several restaurants for creating a scene and constantly complaining about her bill, even though she did order what was charged.
In one Japanese Restaurant, the owner told her never to come to her restaurant again, then ran after her and threw salt on her and the entrance to her restaurant to eliminate the bad Karma.
Ouch!!
How incredibly embarrassing.

I could go on, but I think those were enough to make the point.
If you absolutely positively must throw a tantrum, do it at home and don’t humiliate yourself in public. We are watching, and we WILL remember.!!

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And Democracy for all…..not…….and no freedom of speech……..

It is less than one week before the Provincial Elections in Quebec, the three parties traveling around the Province to sell their platform to whomever will come and listen to them.

Closer to home, we are once again being disturbed by a group of selfish, rowdy students who are covering their faces with bandana’s and their eyes with sunglasses so they are not recognized. They have been once again disturbing classes in Universities to such an extent that most of the classes at Universite de Montreal had to be cancelled. Students who voted to go back to class, who paid their tuition fees in good faith, are being deprived of their right to their education by a small group of thugs……the same ones who have been disturbing private business, public streets, ostensibly to protest fee hikes and the right to what has come down to civil disobedience. They have been seen pulling down the political posters of the opposing parties (not Parti Quebecois_ ) which, I may add, is strictly illegal, but somehow they are under the impression that their right to protest is more important than those of the other students and the general public at large.

Anyone even hoping to argue in their favour should take heed that they are being financed by both the unions and the PQ, …….and this is not what it appears.

On another note, many Anglo’s have posted comments IN ENGLISH on Pauline Marois’ Facebook site. I am one of them. Within minutes it will be removed. THE PQ DOES NOT ALLOW ANY ENGLISH POSTINGS WHATSOEVER on this site.
If you were under any illusion whatsoever as to the sentiments of the PQ towards Anglophones or Allophones, this is a clear indication. English is NOT TOLERATED.

Be careful with your vote.

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Green Hypocrisy

Yesterday on my way home, I stopped into a large multi-national grocery store to pick up Lebanese cucumbers, tomatoes and cooked chicken. The chicken was in a large plastic container, the tomatoes were in a clean plastic container, the cucumbers were on styrofoam wrapped with plastic. The cashier made a big deal of wanting to charge me 5 cents each for bags to carry my plastic containers. When I made a comment I was given a lecture by a 19 year old with attitude that the 5  cent charge was to save the ecology, and we should all do our part. Seriously, where do they come up with this rhetoric???  Have you looked in a grocery store lately? EVERYTHING is in plastic or cardboard with plastic inside, some to keep things from being damaged, others to prevent people from stealing.

Go to an ‘Organic’ grocery store, which in real terms is often an oxymoron at best  – as produce is organic, it comes from the ground. Has the produce been grown in true organic, chemical free soil?  That is open to debate today, as often what is sold as organic is actually hydroponic, which is fertilized by fish by-products, and many people are allergic to it.

We are living in very strange times – the young are always carrying on about being ‘green’ yet they are the same people having larger families than we have seen in decades.  For the most part, my peers had on average one or two children, and a great many of us chose to have none at all – yet the youth, who are pushing this ridiculous ‘green’ movement, are having 4 – 5 and even 6 children, and actually bragging about it.

To my mind, being green means having NO children, or one  at the very most, as what we truly need is to reverse the population growth. We can’t continue to have huge families, the planet can’t support what we have. There is a huge problem with potable water, the disappearance of may type of wildlife, the oceans have been over-fished and are polluted – the problems are too numerous to mention.

So, charging me for a plastic bag is utter hypocrisy. Lecturing me is offensive.

Just because it is your right to have children, doesn’t mean you have to exercise it . Try some restrain. Try to actually act out what you are preaching.

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The Travesty of Conrad Black’s Incarceration

Conrad Black is a pompous puffed-up man who speaks in a supercillious manner using no end of words which are virtually incomprehensible to the average person. If one is well educated and listens attentively, he can actually be extremely funny in a rather dark sort of a way.

I have encountered the man on a few occasions at events in Montreal, Toronto and London, he is not the warmest of individuals, but one cannot take away the fact that he is extremely well read, and not in the least stupid.

We are living in interesting times, so far in the 21st century, we have experienced 2 recessions, this current one being of a magnitude that no one could have possibly imagined. To even conceive that we would have bank failures in the billions of dollars, and a mortgage crisis in the United States in the trillions of dollars, is beyond the imagination of most people . Not that many years ago, the concept of being a millionaire was beyond the dreams of the majority of the population. Today we hears of millions of millionaires, and now the new yardstick is being a billionaire.

We now read the newspapers with headlines screaming out about crisis in the billions and trillions of dollars. What on earth happened? Yet this week, another trader was arrested in London for losing 2 billion dollars, and potentially bringing down a financial powerhouse. Was no one watching? How is this possible? What happened to monitoring? Are there no guidelines? Any poor soul going to the bank today for a loan or to open a simple bank account is treated like the worse thief, and is required to provide endless proof of identification, and proof of the source of funds. Yet simultaneously in the financial sector, a trader under 30 can be manipulating the market, trading other people’s money and bringing down a huge financial corporation and potentially losing the funds of thousands of investors. Executives at the failing banks and investment firms have lost billions of dollars of the investor’s money, living large on massive expense accounts, flying on private jets, staying in majestic suites for thousands of dollars in only the best hotels, eating the finest food, and drinking only the finest wines, sometimes for thousands of dollars per bottle, then paying themselves massive bonuses. Yet to date, with the failures and subsequent bail-outs of some of these institutions, NOT ONE CENT has been recovered by the Board of Director’s to be returned to the corporate capital fund for the behalf of the investors.

The executives have walked with hundreds of millions and billions of both the investors and taxpayers money. The argument can be made that they weren’t brought up on charges, or indicted, so they are guiltless. But where is the morality in all of this?

Conrad Black built up Hollinger to a world class international company, along the way he created a lot of jobs, paid a lot of tax, and created wealth for his investors, which has for the most part been destroyed over the last 7 years. The magnitude of his sins are infinitesimally small compared to the executives plundering the banks and investment firms which they neither created or really invested in. So what real value did they bring?

Conrad Black is back in prison, much poorer, and slightly more humble. He will never be a poor man, or for that matter a humble one, but he certainly does not deserve what has been served to him.

Is there actually anyone out there paying attention?

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