Etiquette & superstition: onions

Benny and I have a funny story about the time I made potato and leek soup out of some things I found in the garden that I was sure were leeks. They turned out to be ornamental onions, not leeks, and the story is really much better the way Benny tells it, but suffice it to say you should not make soup out of ornamental onions.

ETIQUETTE: Onions are not mentioned in a lot of early 20th century etiquette books. Vogue’s Book of Etiquette does broach the subject, but only to note that “A rule of formal dinners is that onions cannot be served, even in a garniture. There are some elaborately concealed exceptions to this, but it is a rule.”

As for non-formal dining of onions, I was able to find one source online regarding the placement of onions on a burger served in a “sit-down” (not fast food, not formal) restaurant, but the recommendation seemed incongruous to the eating of a burger – lots of business about not picking up the bun with one’s hands, eating the burger with knife and fork, and so on. I can’t endorse this course of action, however; it seems to break an important rule of etiquette, that of being overly precious and unnatural.

I’m going to go out on a limb and provide my own advice here: a burger is by nature a casual food. If you wish to garnish it with the lettuce and onion provided, add those items to the burger with your fork, but don’t worry about removing the bun with some complicated fork-and-knife action, and feel free to eat the burger with your hands if it is not unreasonably messy to do so. A burger served open-face or with no bun at all should, of course, be eaten with a knife and fork.

SUPERSTITION: A girl who wishes to know the identity of her true love should take a bunch of onions and name each one after a young man she knows. Gary Onion, Billy Onion, Emmett Onion, etc. She should then put the onions in a safe, dark place. The onion named after her future suitor will be the one that sprouts first. If she only has one onion, she should put it under her pillow and pray to St. Thomas, and in the night she will dream of her true love.

Onions are not only good for love predictions, but they cure dog bite, headache, toothache and fever. If you are going to be beaten with a cane, try to rub an onion over the cane first (or if you can’t do this, rub the part of your body that is to be beaten with the onion). You will not feel any pain, and the cane will break.

Etiquette & superstition: marigolds

It’s interesting to me that only some flower names are popular as girls’ names. Poppy, Rose, Lily, Daisy, Violet – yes. Marigold, Snapdragon, Black-Eyed Susan – no.

ETIQUETTE: Suitors should probably stay away from ladies wearing marigolds upon their person, as a marigold worn on a lady’s bosom signifies indifference and one worn in the hair indicates mental anguish. Marigolds are appropriate flowers to place at a gravesite, which I find strange because many in the gardening field consider marigolds to be somewhat tacky and cheap.

SUPERSTITION: If you take a marigold and mix it in some water, rubbing the water over your eyelids will give you the ability to see fairies, but perhaps this is because picking marigolds will turn  you into a drunkard. Marigolds may get you all messed up, but they can fix you right up too – they cure headache, toothaches, depression, smallpox and snakebites.

Photo by THE Holy Hand Grenade! on Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: champagne

Go ahead; celebrate. It’s been a tough couple of weeks.

ETIQUETTE: The appropriate wine to serve with Chinese food is champagne. Clearly there should be more champagne delivery services, but maybe somebody is working on that. When opening a bottle of champagne, unless you’re a football player you don’t pop the cork out with the intention of maximum velocity and fizz. Twist the cork out carefully and pour the champagne into the glass at an angle to avoid a big foaming head (champagne people call the foam “mousse”) and a waste of bubble gas. And the glass you’re supposed to use? Unfortunately, it seems that the current preferred glass is the long and skinny flute. I find that a shame because I prefer the more old fashioned coupe-style glass pictured above. One reason is because you can’t use flutes to make a champagne tower and champagne towers are hilarious, and the other reason is I like the legend that the coupe was shaped in the form of Marie Antoinette’s left breast. I hope the champagne flute’s form does not mimick the shape of anyone’s breast.

SUPERSTITION: A new ship is supposed to be christened with the breaking of a wine bottle (preferably champagne bottle) against its bow. Supposedly it is a very bad omen if the bottle does not break, but considering the glass thickness of a champagne bottle, it seems a miracle that any ships are sailing at all. If you’re at the christening of a baby instead of a ship, or at a wedding, or some other celebratory event, you should make a slit in the cork after you’ve opened the bottle and put a coin in the slit. This will ensure good fortune for the people being celebrated. Some people put a gold piece into their champagne glass in the hopes of gaining wealth, but this seems to be more of a choking hazard than anything. Maybe some opportunistic ass somewhere choked on the gold piece and successfully sued the treasury for making a dangerous gold piece that someone could choke on, but that sounds like a pretty iffy gamble to take, and you don’t want to be that person anyway.

Photo by Maverick Liew on Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: hat purchases

Maybe I should have waited until Mad Hatter Day to post this, but I might not be near a computer on Sunday. Happy Mad Hatter Day Eve Eve Eve.

ETIQUETTE: According to Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette, ladies really don’t need to worry about having a lot of hats anymore, especially if they live in the country. A country lady’s hat collection may be limited to some berets, a hunting cap, a duck snap brim, a good dress hat or two for each season, a fur hat, a straw hat, and something for weddings and funerals. According to me, a lady needs to purchase a hat each time she visits Disneyland.

SUPERSTITION: If the first customer of the day at a hat shop tries on a hat but does not purchase it, it portends a poor day of hat sales for the shop. In order to remove this bad sales curse, the milliner or salesperson should spit into the hat the first customer tried on. From An Encyclopedia of Superstitions (compiled by Claudia DeLys): “… since evil doers are believed to reside in hair, (the customer) may have transferred them from her head into the hat, so the saliva acts as a cleanser of this evil.”

Photo by Mammaoca2008 on Flickr
Published in: on October 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Etiquette & superstition: juniper berries

Last shot of the day, boys.

ETIQUETTE: The martini is a cocktail that people seem to get really upset about. It’s a cocktail made with gin (a spirit infused with juniper berries) and vermouth. At a certain point some people started acting like vermouth was horrible, and then we started hearing all of these “perfect martini” recipes that involved instructions like swirling the vermouth in the glass and then dumping it out, or merely whispering the word “vermouth” into the glass. Then came James Bond with his “shaken, not stirred” line, which confused the hell out of every dumb kid who was trying to be debonair like James Bond, because what was that whole thing about bruising the gin? Oh wait – James Bond was drinking vodka martinis. Which some people say aren’t martinis at all.

Whatever. There is no one way to make a martini. It’s like a hamburger. If you are at a bar, specify to the waiter what kind of spirit you would like, and if you have a preference, go further with the brand of spirit, the shaking or the stirring, and whether you’d like an olive or lemon peel. Just don’t make any of these “dry whispered cloudy Bombay Sapphire in a tumbler” instructions in someone’s home if they ask if you would like a martini and they already have a pitcherful sitting there. You wouldn’t go to this person’s cookout and start barking orders about how much fat content the meat in your burger needs to be and when the cheese needs to be put on the patty, would you? No, you would not.

SUPERSTITION: As you may have learned from the fairy tale “The Juniper Tree,” you should treat the juniper tree as a friend. A juniper tree or bush by the front door of your home will repel thieves. If you cut down a juniper tree, you will die within the year. It’s okay, however, to make a fire with juniper wood if you need to cure your sick cattle. I suppose you could just trick somebody you hate into cutting down the juniper tree, or maybe you would just find the juniper wood somewhere? I don’t know; this sounds kind of tricky and maybe I would just try to give the cattle some chicken soup or something.

Oh, you say you came here to find out about a superstition regarding juniper berries and not just juniper trees? Dreaming of juniper berries prophesies the birth of a first male child. You can also take some dried berries and string them up in your home if you need more love in your life.

Photo by CocteauBoy on Flickr

Whee? Gee…

I’m going to a seance tonight. What dead person should I try to talk to? I was thinking that I’d like to talk to my dad, but he never approved of seances and ouija boards and that sort of thing, so if I try to contact him is he just going to be mad at me? I’m a little confounded.

Branded a fool

The US National Archives recently spotlighted a few educational films made for WACs in the 1970′s, and I spent the earlier part of the day watching them. The three girls featured in the films are Sandy, Marilyn and Susan. Sandy is a sad sack of potatoes, Marilyn sounds like one of the groupies in that old Alan Lorber recording, and Susan is perfect and boring.

Now, I understand that you may not have time to watch all of these films, so allow me to break them down by Sandy,  Marilyn and Susan content, and you can watch according to your girl preference.

Pleasure of Your Company:

  • Sandy: is she ever going to get to eat her salad with Russian dressing? And what happened to the roasted potatoes? Maybe she should have gone with the Andy Warhol “I only eat candy” excuse
  • Marilyn: dances and models groovy fashions, calls Captain York a swinger, writes on her hand
  • Susan: kind of makes me seasick around the seven-minute mark; boyfriend Tom is a jerk

Look Like a Winner:

  • Sandy: not enough Sandy in this one for my taste. Gets points for Sandy thinking she’s all great for waking up early. I especially love her at the 7:50 mark.
  • Marilyn: more dancing from Marilyn. Also excellent pajamas. I wonder what she was up to prior to her entrance at 11:24.
  • Susan: wakes up late, takes a long walk, isn’t used to showering. Bill Clinton styles her hair. Gets points for playing badminton, though.
  • Bonus points for featuring non-actor WACs bagging on Susan and having trouble figuring out which way to part their hair. At 8:21 there is a wig that probably has a name.

Mind Your Military Manners:

  • Sandy: All Sandy does in this one is hog the mirror and gossip and bray a little at the beginning.
  • Marilyn: Hides in the bushes and hikes up her skirt. Her hair is fascinating. Guys like having her around.
  • Susan: Not as good a worker as Carol, but she’s more feminine so she’s going to get to go to Belgium.

Phew. I don’t know about you, but I’m all WAC’ed out.

via Metafilter and the National Archives’ Media Matters blog

Etiquette & superstition: college

I will be going back to school in a couple of weeks, in the attempts of completing a long-dormant degree. It’s been a while since I’ve been in school; I’m not sure if the kids still wear raccoon coats and straw hats or what the deal is. Maybe I’ll bring my ukelele along just in case somebody invites me on a joyride in their Huppmobile.

ETIQUETTE: My first clue that I have been somewhat out of the loop in terms of college etiquette was the information I’ve found online indicating that laptops are not universally accepted in the classroom and that the instructor will indicate his/her preference regarding same on the first day. When I first went to college, there was no such thing as a laptop computer, but I had assumed that in this day and age they were what one used to take notes; in the recent film Spring Breakers, the one scene in the classroom showed everybody with a laptop. I guess I shouldn’t be looking to Spring Breakers for tips on proper behavior.

SUPERSTITION: Though for the life of me I can’t remember one associated with my alma mater, most every college or university has at least one campus superstition. Avoid that cupola, kiss that shoe, or look for that albino squirrel if you want to graduate or just get a good grade on that test. My favorite so far, however, is the elusive glittery “disco tray” found in the cafeteria of Hendrix University. If one of these shows up when it’s your turn in line, you are in for some good fortune. This good fortune, however, doesn’t seem to be specified; maybe it means you’ll make the Dean’s List, maybe you’ll just find some pistachio pudding in the dessert area. Lucky day!

Photo by The Happy Rower on Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: cake

I did wind up making my own birthday cake last week, and while there was a lot of yelling and swearing and burnt fingers and ruined pots and problems with this one little section, it wound up tasting pretty good. It wasn’t very pretty, though. Maybe next year I’ll try the popcorn cake.

ETIQUETTE: Oh, dear. Do you remember the whole thing when you were a kid about who got to have the icing roses or pressed sugar decorations on their slice of birthday cake? That was a whole thing, and I can’t seem to remember how parents ever resolved that. There was no way that every kid could have a decoration, was there? Or was there? Miss Manners recommends that if you are at a party where there are both kids and adults, and there is a large cake being served, the decorations should be given solely to the children, not for purposes of catering to their whims but rather as a lesson. If you recall, the decorations actually taste terrible. Miss Manners explains that “… this is a perfect way of teaching (children) that some of the most beautiful things they see will turn out to be disgusting inside.”

SUPERSTITION: A good way to figure out if a woman is a witch is to take some of her urine and put it into your cake mix. Bake the cake, feed a slice to the dog, and if the dog starts acting funny, your suspect is indeed a witch.

Etiquette & superstition: pouring wine

Well, down in New Orleans where everything’s fine, all them cats is sippin’ that wine. Drinkin’ that mess is sure delight, soon to be fightin’ and fussin’ all night. Whine, whine, whine.

ETIQUETTE: Unless you are at my home, wine glasses should be filled about two-thirds full. According to our old friend Millicent Fenwick from Vogue’s Book of Etiquette, this is done so the glass is “full enough not to look niggardly, not so full as to spill easily.” The solution in my home is to fill the glass up to the rim, but serve it in a highball glass. Highball glasses don’t easily tip over. Millicent goes on to note that very fine wines are frequently only poured up to the halfway mark of the wineglass. This is another thing we don’t have to worry about in our home.

To make sure that wine does not fall on the table or dribble down the side of the bottle, you may want to employ a slight twisting motion when you are finishing the pour.

SUPERSTITION: It’s good luck for someone to spill wine on you. Really. Well, not in Rome. It’s really bad luck in Rome. If you are in Rome and you spill some wine, put some of it behind your ears and everything will be okay. If you aren’t in Rome, congratulations! Also, if someone spills salt and it falls in your direction, you are going to have bad luck until someone pours wine into your lap. Congratulations!

Photo of Beale Street Wine Race (which is in Memphis, not New Orleans) by ilovememphis on Flickr

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