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Spy School: Live and Act like a Double O

Etiquette, manners, and food customs for lavish & sophisticated settings.

 

Remember Oddjob, the giant Japanese professional wrestler turned actor in the 1964 hit Goldfinger? He’d take his hat off and fling it like a discus … except his hat doubled as a weapon that’d leave you headless. When Oddjob encountered Bond and Pussy Galore, Sean Connery famously said, “Manners, Oddjob. I thought you always took your hat off to a lady.”

In 1964, when men wore hats, it was polite to tip or remove your hat when meeting a lady. But times have changed. No one wears hats anymore, especially not the bowler Oddjob wore. Certain manners have become antiquated, such as standing when a woman excuses herself from the table. Back in the day, men stood so that women weren’t the odd ones out—the only ones standing.

Along with keeping your elbows off the table, that old-fashioned bit of etiquette is no longer expected, especially if you’re dining at your local pub. But if you’re splurging at Spago and you and your date are decked out, standing when she excuses herself is a little move you might want to keep in your back pocket to prove that when duty calls, you can be an upstanding gentleman.

While some women appreciate a little chivalry, others abhor it. So you, as a gentleman, need to test the waters, pay attention to detail (you’re like Bond already!) and adapt quickly to avoid appearing pushy, insistent, or assertive (I couldn’t decide which word to use). Start small and open the car door for your date. If she laughs it off and says she can manage, then you know to keep the old school chivalry at bay.

But good manners aren’t just about how you treat your date.

We were taught the basics as kids. Please and thank you. Offer to help clear the table when dining at a friend’s house. Put the toilet seat down after you pee. Good manners reveal a lot about your upbringing and how you carry yourself as an adult. Without manners, you’d be Larry The Cable Guy.

People always notice a gentleman. Especially the pretty woman on the bus who saw you give up your seat for that elderly lady. That’s why we don’t speak with a mouth full of caviar.

Your manners are never more on display than when you’re sharing a meal.

Top 007 Most Important Table Manners

  • When nature calls, don’t advertise that you’re going to the bathroom. You’re not six. Just say, “Excuse me.”

  • The napkin that’s been on your lap should be placed discreetly on the table when you excuse yourself.

  • Bread and butter time? Place a small pat of butter from the butter dish on your bread plate. Use your butter, as you need it, instead of repeatedly reaching for the butter dish.

  • Speaking of reaching, don’t reach over someone else’s plate for the salt. If you do, say, “Excuse my reach.”

  • Having steak? Cut the piece you’re about to eat, and your next bite, and no more.

  • If you’re still eating, place your fork and knife at five and seven o’clock on your plate. When finished eating, place your fork and knife together at 5 o’clock hour. Your server will know you’re done (although he shouldn’t clear your plate until your date has finished her meal. You do not want her to feel rushed).

  • bond7

    bond7

    Time to pay up. If your date offers to contribute, politely refuse. You’re a gentleman, not Auric Goldfinger. You can’t insist on anything. If she seems intent on splitting the bill, accept it and move on.

Some of these polite manners may be unnecessary when hanging out with your buddies as opposed to trying to impress the future Mrs. Whatever-Your-Last-Name-Is-Assuming-She’s-Willing-To-Take-Your-Name. And it’s not Bond. It’s probably something normal, like Smith. Joe Smith.

Now That You’re a Gentleman

Okay, now that we’ve gotten our manners down pat, know how to treat our dates, and have established fine dining etiquette, there’s another important Bond category: Food.

Some people look down on the word foodie. People think “foodies” are snobs who disparage pedestrian foods. While food snobs and regular foodies probably agree that the Olive Garden totally sucks, a true foodie doesn’t only enjoy lobster thermidor and locally grown mesculin, but can also happily devour a Shack Burger from Shake Shack.

If you find yourself in Japan, like Bond did in You Only Live Twice, don’t be the guy who heads over to McDonald’s because the local cuisine seems daunting. Part of being a well spoken, well educated, and mannered gentleman is to break out of your comfort zone and try new things.

Let’s focus on some of Bond’s favorite epicurean delights and a few things a world traveler might encounter.

Caviar

If you’ve never had caviar, I can’t blame you. Fish eggs are mighty expensive and I’d sooner recommend you spend a night with Baron Samedi than eat the cheap stuff.

Here are a few things you need to know to enhance your caviar experience …

Caviar is served with toast points or blinis  (buh-lee-ni, a mini pancake).

Served with crème fraiche. You spread a little on the toast point and then top with the black gold. True caviar fans might forgo the crème fraiche, as Daniel Craig famously does in Casino Royale moments before Vesper is kidnapped.

Can be served, occasionally, with diced hardboiled egg, diced red onion, crème fraiche, and chives. Spread some crème fraiche on your toast point, top with the hardboiled egg, onion, chives, and then, of course, caviar.

Never ever use metal utensils to serve caviar. Metal ruins the caviar’s taste. Use those Mother of Pearl spoons you have lyin’ around. If you don’t have these (I’m assuming you don’t), use plastic utensils or even chopsticks.

Serve caviar in a dish over crushed ice. An ounce of the good stuff will run you around one hundred bucks and chances are, there won’t be any leftovers. (I’m tempted to quote You’ve Got Mail here, but it’s the Month of Bond series, so I won’t. Oh, screw it. Meg Ryan/Kathleen Kelly: “What is that? What is that? What are you doing? You’re taking all the caviar? That caviar is a garnish!”)  

Foie Gras

Fatty duck or goose liver. It’s delicious. You take a bite, and then you die and pray that you’ve got one of those automatic defibrillators that Bond has in his Aston Martin DBS.

How does the duck or goose get so fat? Well, animal rights lovers will want to skip this, because it’s a little like torture. Actually, it is torture.

Roger Moore thought he had it bad in Moonraker when he cheated death in a centrifuge chamber! The farmer forces a metal rod down the goose’s throat to force-feed it corn. The goose isn’t allowed to move, so its unused energy converts to fat, which is deposited on the liver. Bad for the goose, good for your taste buds. It’s so controversial that the production of foie gras has been outlawed in several countries.

Photo by Charles Haynes

Now that you know what the deal is, it’s your choice if you want to eat this delicious buttery goodness. It’s usually served warm with lots of toasted bread and sometimes a sweet jam. Spread the jam, and then spread the foie gras—whoa! Hold up. Real food snobs say don’t spread it! Top a slice of toast. I say screw that. Spread away. If you’ve never had foie gras before, your best bet is to try a little spread on toast. Then try it with jam to see which you prefer.

Like caviar, foie gras is expensive and should be served on special occasions, unless you’re rich and you don’t worry about your health. In that case, eat it every day for all I care.

Photo by Suguri F

Fugu Fish

You’re probably familiar with the fugu fish thanks to The Simpsons episode when Homer thinks he’s accidentally eaten the poisonous part of this deadly fish. But if you haven’t, the fish actually sounds like it could be part of a Bond film where the villain tries to force feed Bond a piece of the organs or ovaries, chock full of the deadly Tetrodotoxin. Take a bite outta’ the poisonous meat and enjoy a little paralysis followed by death via asphyxiation.

Nowadays, sushi chefs who prepare fugu must go through intense training to make sure they know how to prepare the meat so that it is 100% safe for the consumer. In other words … don’t try this at home.

Worst Pies in London?

Bond is a world traveler, but he calls England home. Not too long ago, people practically vomited at the mention of British cuisine, but thanks to folks like Gordon Ramsay, it’s become less appetite killing and more appetite whetting.

Following a long excursion of kicking ass in Shanghai or Spain, you, the licensed 007, want nothing more than to come home and enjoy a little homestyle cookin’. Today, most British fare is the stuff served to American tourists. That whole baked beans, fried bread, mushrooms, bacon, eggs and sausage clusterfuck of a breakfast meal is a pretty old school breakfast. The same is largely true for their famous Sunday dinners.

No longer a plate of grey looking meat and an assortment of blanched vegetables— most Brits actually prefer a curry for dinner. You don’t say, “Hey, I heard there’s a good curry place down the street. Wanna try it?” You say, “I’m in the mood for a curry,” much like you’d say you’re in the mood for a burger.

Curry ranges in flavors and temperatures, but the best description is meat and veggies in a thick sauce. Sort of like a stew, but actually nothing like a stew. It’s full of herbs and spices and if you’ve never had a “curry,” you should. Daniel Craig is probably eating some right now.

Photo by David Silver

But what about the standard British fare? Well, they’re big on meat pies, tasty and delicious. Steak and kidney pie, lamb and rosemary pie. My favorite is Shepard’s Pie (or Cottage Pie). Here’s Gordon Ramysay’s recipe. It’s as easy as he makes it look.

A Few Quick Tips

You’re sitting at your cubicle, when suddenly, M, er, uh, your boss, comes in and says you’ve got an assignment in Tokyo.

Before this trip, the extent of your Japanese food knowledge was sushi from Whole Foods and chicken teriyaki from that questionable strip mall establishment. Once settled in Tokyo, order a bowl of noodles and eat like a local. Hold the bowl in one hand directly under your mouth and shovel them delicious udon noodles into your pie hole with your chopsticks. Slurping is expected. Turns out slurping your noodles allow for flavor maximization, much like a wine connoisseur gurgling.

Photo by Hannah D

Stranded in Ethiopia? You might have learned this from The Simpsons (two Simpsons references in one article? Don’t have a cow, man!) but there is no silverware in Ethiopia. Well, maybe there is, but when you’re eating traditional Ethiopian fare, the bread—injera—is the only utensil you need. Rip off a portion of the injera, and use it to scoop up whatever you want to eat. Can’t go wrong with gored gored (pronounced: gore-ed). So nice, you gotta’ say it twice.

Be Like Bond

Keep your adventurous spirit when dining out. Stray from your comfort zones. It will make you a more experienced diner, which in a sense will make you a more interesting person. Whether you’ve actually traveled to Afghanistan or not is irrelevant (unless you fought there, in which case, thank you for your service) if you know of a local Afghani restaurant that serves up the best mantoo (steamed meat dumplings covered in a delicious garlic yogurt sauce) around.

You’re now a proper gentleman who knows your table manners. And you know how to chow down on some of the world’s most prestigious or unique foods.

“I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink. It comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details. It’s very persnickety and old-maidish really, but then when I’m working I generally have to eat my meals alone and it makes them more interesting when one takes trouble.”

– Casino Royale, Ian Fleming

About

Kenneth Suna is a writer and full time, self-employed stock trader who lives in Washington, D.C. His first novel, Roman, was recently published. Follow him @KennethSuna.

 
  • Rob

    Ah man, I can’t imagine being of adult age and never having even tried a curry – sad times! Are there many curry houses in America?

    • jacobcrim

      They are everywhere. 

    • James V

      Indian and Thai restaurants very commonly include curries in their menus. You should try it, they’re incredibly good.

      Curry became such a popular dish in Britain primarily because of their long history with India and their large immigrant population.

  • Joshua

    I beleive a napkin you have been using should be placed on your chair. Leaving a soiled napkin on the table is not advisable.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Joshua,

      This one is actually debated quite a bit. The pro of leaving it on the chair is obvious, but the con is that you may end up getting something that was once on your napkin on your clothes. Perhaps it makes sense to drudge it by the situation.

  • jacobcrim

    I have always wanted to try caviar, because of James Bond no less. 

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  • Joeng

    I always fold my napkin and put it on the back of my seat. Seems very convinent, any thought on it?

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