Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Traditional Dinner Protocol at The White House

Our Mothers say to us as children: "Mind your table manners, for one day, you may be invited to the White House for dinner." Well, what if you are invited to the White House for dinner? What is the Protocol? The following are a few tips:
  • Of course, put the rest of your life on hold. Immediately accept the invitation. Being invited for a meal at the White House is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
  • Hand write your response in fine black ink on a fine stationery, folded once. Hand deliver or have delivered by messenger your acceptance as follows: 
Mr. and Mrs. William Wordly
have the honor to accept
the kind invitation of
the President and Mrs. Washington
for dinner on Thursday the twenty-sixth of April
at eight o'clock

  • Study up on the following forms of service. Each President chooses what type of service to use in his White House. Forms of service include:
  •  Service a la russe (1860's style) was whole food paraded around the dining room on decorated platters, then taken into the kitchen, cut up and served. Women are served first. 
  • Service a la russe (Modern style) is a 'gueridon' with a side burner 'rechaud' brought to the table and the dish is prepared in front of the guest. Women are served first. (The Homestead in Virginia still uses this service). 
  • Service a la anglaise  Server presents the arranged platter from left and serves the guests, Women are served first. (This style service allows the host to control the portions offered).
  • Service a la francaise  Guests serve themselves from the presented platter. Women are presented the platter first. (The Dominican Republic uses this style of service).    
  • Service American Style  Food served already on plate.
  • Buffet style service has been recently added to the forms of service used at the White House (former President Clinton added this style of service).
  •  Arrive at least a few minutes early, and quickly assemble in the Blue Room. Do not linger around in the Foyer or Drawing Room. Exactly like a European court, the President and the First Lady of the Land will descend the Blue Room stairs promptly at eight o'clock.
  • When spoken to, one must refer to the President as "Mr. President." One may vary one's answers with "Sir."
  • In conversation, always refer to the President as "President Washington", never just plain "Washington," as this practice is considered bad form and is disrespectful of the office. 
  •  Refer to the wife of the President as Mrs. Washington, and treat her as you would any formal hostess. 
  • Do not sit down until the President and First Lady are seated.
  • Touch nothing (not even your napkin) until the President and First Lady place their own napkins on their laps. 
  • Place cards will dictate where one sits. If the place card is on top of your plate, place it first to your right, then later, to your left. This way, you will be sure to talk to the person on your right and on your left during your meal. 
  • No one gets up during the meal. Not even to the "Powder Room."
  • No alcohol is served during the meal.
  • The menu is simple and neutral due to many food allergies.
  • Most meals are 4 courses. Each course lasts about 20 minutes. Pace yourself to finish your course neither first nor last.
  • There is no bread and butter plate and no bread or butter served (messy).
  • Sauces served on foods, if at all, are kept to a minimum (drippy).
  • Garlic is never used (lingering bad breath).
  • Never leave the table until the President and First Lady have withdrawn from the room.
  • After the meal, there may be a different venue such as music in the Music Room, and one may have the chance to have your photograph made with the President. Thanks to the thoughtfully planned menu, one can be sure to have decent breath, and no bread-crumbs or sauce on your clothing.
  • Clean or nearly clean your plate, so the chef knows you enjoyed your meal. Roland Mesnier, the Executive Chef for the White House for the past 26 years says: "Plates don't lie." : 
These tips were collected and adapted from:

The Richmond Times Dispatch, September 14, 2011, article: "Savor The White House" by Holly Prestidge, and the book: "Etiquette" by Emily Post, 1937.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

White Dinner Jacket and Tuxedo Etiquette Tips

Going to a Black Tie party this summer in Tuxedo Park, New York? Going to an evening wedding in Newport or Long Island? Maybe just a simple, lovely dinner with your spouse on a special date night. The following are a few practical tips and a few fun tips you may enjoy:))

"Of course, if you want to be very smart, you must not say anything but "dinner coat" --which is quite all right if those you say it to, know what you mean! At all events, the tuxedo is merely the English dinner coat, which was first introduced in this country at the Tuxedo Club to provide something less formal than the swallowtail, and the nickname has clung ever since."

Tuxedo or White Dinner Jacket (Memorial Day through Labor Day only), should be worn to a Formal Black Tie wedding or party from 6:00 p.m. on, although, I have read that Tux may be worn during daylight hours if, and only if, the daylight goes on into an evening wedding reception or party. So, wearing Tux to a 5:00 p.m. or a 5:30 p.m. wedding or party can be done. Best also, as a precaution, to call and ask what the Father of the Bride, Groom and Groomsmen are wearing.
**  My husband and I once attended a Virginia wedding in which a formal thermographed, yet as most would consider now to be old fashioned, wedding invitation was sent without a "Reply Card", so the R.s.v.p. had to be hand written. This traditional summer wedding was at 5:00 p.m. at a small church in the country, and the outdoor reception followed at the country home. The Father of the Bride was in White Tie, the Groom and Groomsmen wore Black Tie. 95% of the male wedding guests wore Black Tie. One person showed up in a White Dinner Jacket (more of an eggshell with a shawl collar - very 'Great Gatsby'). The Bridesmaids were in long dresses, and 90% of all the women showed up in thin, silk, short, knee length, day dresses as opposed to Cocktail Suits, or dressy Tea Length dress of which there were few, as the reception was outside and still 90 degrees at night. My husband was properly dressed in a handsome navy summer wool suit with a silk tie, yet felt like a duck out of water, because only about 5% of the other men had on a suit. It was the strangest wedding I have ever been to as far as fashion. Usually, the women are the ones who overdress. Again, best to check out what the wedding party is wearing.

"The shawl collar is supposed to be less formal than lapels."

"The reason for the turned up cuff is to keep clear of mud." 

"A butterfly bow shape is correct in plain black silk or satin. Fancy evening ties are bad form."

"The most practical hat for town wear in winter, both for full-dress and dinner coat, is an opera hat which collapses, instead of the regular high silk one."

"In summer a straw or gray soft hat is proper, whether in town or country."

The tips in italics are from the 1937 book: "Etiquette" by Emily Post, pages 726 and 727.
**Cautionary tale of woe from the author.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who Are You Hungry For As Your Saviour: God or The Government?

   As a teenager, how many times did you hear the expression: "As long as you live under our roof, you must abide by our rules." As an adult, you may say to yourself: "Life is what we make it." In the Science Fiction book and movie: "The Hunger Games," we hear the citizens in this post-apocalyptic society repeating in unison, Gandhi's quote: "You be the change you want to see in the world."
   My 12 year old grand-daughter's favorite part of the book was the heroine's ability to live and survive in the woods, hunting her own food with bow and arrow and knowing which berries, nuts, mushrooms and leaves to eat and which were poisonous. In our book club, we discussed why 30 million copies of this youth book were sold and decided teens liked this story for its protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. We follow alongside Katniss in this topical thriller, witness to her transformation from a strong, self-sufficient teenager just wanting to survive the 'Games', to a virtuous, giving woman, willing to sacrifice her own life for the life of another.
   The story unveils the vices of the government worshiping, game playing, game makers: the citizens of District I. The Capitol, called Panem, after the Latin for 'bread' is supposed to be equal to the other 11 Districts, but clearly it is not. In any equal society, someone has to run it, right? Panem's circus-like citizens look like Lilly Pulitzer gone wild in South Beach. These corrupt citizens unknowingly live out the Hellish Seven Deadly Sins in an Orwellian style, Godless, grand scale Reality TV world. The citizens are rich, and sumptuous buffets of food are always present, yet wasted. These privileged government workers are thin because they are so vein, unlike in the other 11 Districts where food is scarce. Government rations are available, but for a price...your life. Every time you take a government ration of food to feed your family and oil to heat your house, your name is entered into the lottery for another chance to be forced into participation as a "Tribute" for "The Hunger Games." Meanwhile, the pampered citizens of Panem are are overdone on plastic surgery, narcissistic, gluttonous in their appetite for greed, wrathful, envious, and brutally shallow craving constant entertainment.
   The President of the 12 Districts, is dignified, charismatic, and TV ready, yet underneath the surface, is a hypocrite, cruel and divisive. Divide and conquer. He says he shows his citizens a little bit of hope by requiring the 'Games" be viewed by every citizen, but thinks too much hope is dangerous. He sounds like Lenin who referred to his citizens as: "Useful idiots." Too much hope may lead to another uprising against the government and undermine their total control. Those in the Capitol, need the plentiful natural resources of the other 11 dirt poor districts to live their luxurious lives, so control is crucial to their survival.    
   This adventure story shows the physiological 'fight or flight' stress reaction. It delves deep into the woods where wild animals are hunted, whether they be man or beast. It explores hatred for those one does not know, hatred for those in the know, and hatred for the government.
   On a different level, this tale tells a tender story of sacrifice, unrequited love, a love of family and friends, and an acceptance of self.
    In our book club discussion, the subject of why suicide never occurred to any one teen as they struggled for survival during the 'Games' was raised. The conclusion was that there was not enough hope and no faith in any type of afterlife within this secular society. The greatest sin was any sin against the all mighty government. A government that cradled you and initially meant to take care of you from birth to death. Ironically, 74 years later, it controlled uncontrollable things like the weather, the sunrise, and the stars.  
   The Capitol district, called Panem, or the Latin for "bread," sacrifice one boy and girl called "Careers" each year for the games. One of these "Careers" usually win as they each train their entire lives for what they call "their honor" to compete. Like a corporate culture, they all drink the Capitol Kool-aid and eat their cake. These sinful citizens of the capital with their fancy fashion and expensive plastic surgery, look like they should be contestants in their own Reality TV show.
   Ironically, it will be one virtuous boy and girl from the other 11 Districts who will be chosen in a lottery and forced to be the real players of "The Hunger Games." This 74th annual competition, a fight to the death, was conceived by the government and serves as punishment for a past rebellion. It also serves as a reminder the government is in control.
  Throughout this moving story, we hear different characters repeating what becomes a familiar line stated annually by a game official: "May the odds be ever in your favour", as though luck is even an option in any government controlled decision about your life. Unlike Reality TV, the ultimate dirty little secret of any "equal" society totally controlled and ultimately corrupted by any one entity ends up eventually to resemble the familiar Darwinian philosophy: "Live and let live."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Labels - Are We Done Yet?

Letter To The Editor
Elle Magazine 
300 West 57th Street
New York, NY  10019

Re: Randall Slavin's article: "She'll Take Manhattan"

Dear Madame,
   As a young woman living in New York during the Reagan 80's when Mayor Koch was mayor, I adored reading Randall Slavin's article about the amazing, rising up and shooting star of the "Big Apple", Christine Quinn.
   Ms. Quinn is accomplished and polished. She seems to be forthright, upright, not uptight, sharp as a nail and tough as a tack. She is also kind. Kind under pressure to hostile strangers who suddenly approach her on the streets of New York, because deep down, she knows these are New Yorkers. She seems to honestly love New York and all its citizens, just like the extraordinarily popular Mayor Koch.
   So, imagine my surprise when the author of the article, Randall Stavin, stated: "It took a man tweeting a picture of his penis to young lovelies from coast to coast to pave the way for the first possible woman mayor of New York, who just happens to be a lesbian." After reading this mess, I thought either I must still be in 4th grade, or it is still 1956.
   I disagree with Mr. Slavin on two points. First of all, eventually, the cream rises to the top on its own, female or male, along with, or without, the falling star, Mr. Anthony Weiner. Second of all, why did Mr. Slavin mention Ms. Quinn's sexual orientation?
   In 2012, why is the press still printing labels on people? Is it still for the sensation of the shock? Mr. Slavin states New Yorkers don't care what goes on in Ms. Quinn's bedroom, "New Yorkers just want their trash picked up and their streets plowed," so why does he keep continually, over and over again using the "L" label throughout his three page piece?
   By the by, distracting and even more annoying were Mr. Slavin's use of curse words. Beautifully educated columnists should have a broader and more creative command of the King's English.
   Bottom line, by labeling people for shock value, the cool factor, for rebellious reasons, attention, or for whatever reason, the press proliferates "isims." The first woman mayor, the second gay mayor, the third whatever, the forth whomever. When does it end? When are they done? Are they done yet?
   If Ms. Quinn becomes the next mayor of New York, she will stand as a success because of her own tenacity, accomplishments, patience, kindnesses, and because of her love for "The City" and its citizens. The latter quality counts the most because people can always smell sincerity, regardless of labels.      

Respectfully Submitted,

Katherine Barrett Baker
1451 Amber Lake Road
Manakin-Sabot, Virginia USA