Thursday, October 6, 2016

Cultural Insight: The Navajo

Who Are the Navajo of Arizona?

My Three Days in the Navajo Nation

I recently had the extraordinary opportunity to teach a few business etiquette workshops at Dine' College in Arizona, which is deep in the heart of the Navajo Nation. Upon hearing about my workshops -- and where -- many contributed their impressions of what type of people the Navajo would be. Many also shared stories about driving on the reservation--beware the reservation police. After spending a few days with the lovely students and staff of Dine', I found most of what I heard to be untrue. Therefore, I would like to share my experiences with you.

Navajos ride skateboards and play hacky sack too!

Stereotyping is common and I found it rampant when others commented about who the Navajo are. Many had mentioned that the Navajo are an isolated people, distant, quiet, and reserved. Some suggested that they do not typically partake in most things current, like today's music, television shows, and fashion.

Yes, it is true that they honor their traditions and are very family oriented, but they are still people living in this time period. For example, while walking on Dine' campus, I found young people playing hacky sack while plugged into their iPods. Young men rode their skateboard to class and young women discussed fashion. Two students passed me as one was slowly riding a skateboard while the other was recording him using an iPad. Most likely, the video is on YouTube right now. This is not much different from most other campuses I've traversed.
When approaching students with questions, every one of them was open, helpful, and most polite. In fact, politeness is one of the most common characteristic I found of the Navajo--on and off campus.

Were my workshops a success?

One of my biggest concerns while planning a workshop is if the audience will "get me". Typically, I intersperse silly little jokes throughout my presentations. After all, if I'm not having fun, my audience probably will not enjoy it either. However, my humor is...somewhat quirky. Most appreciate it, but some do not get it at all. Therefore, understanding my audience in the planning stage is extremely important and I wasn't quite sure if this audience would laugh or consider me odd.
Again, the Navajo proved to be just like most audiences. They laughed at all my quirky jokes, they asked interesting questions, and they appeared to follow all my material. One difference between these students and some others is how appreciative they were. They truly appreciated me and my lessons--a teacher's dream come true.
Navajo police and driving on the reservation

Countless times, people warned me that the police on the reservation were sticklers for the speed limit and hand out tickets like a hot dog vendor at a baseball game. This was not my experience at all. Speeding wasn't on my agenda, so I didn't press the issue in the first place. However, I did not witness officers handing out tickets or setting up speed traps. I found the police to be similar to all others I've seen. They are there to help.

My visit with those at Dine' College demonstrates -- to me at least -- that none of us are very different from each other. We may be separated by tradition and location, but we are all very similar.

Product Review: Brookside Crunchy Clusters

So Glad I Took the Challenge to #DiscoverBrookside

I recently received a package of Brookside Crunchy Clusters to sample.  I wasn't too sure if I'd like them since I'm not a huge fan of "berry flavors".  Many times these tend to taste fake and too sweet.  However, the word "chocolate" did it for me.  So, I agreed. 

Once I received my package, I didn't have it in my hands for long.  My husband laughingly pulled it away reminding me of my distaste for berry flavoring.  Nevertheless, he relinquished the package long enough for me to grab a nibble.

One word describes the Brookside Crunchy Clusters, "Yum!"  There were no off or fake flavorings.  There was just a nice crunchy, chocolaty, natural berry flavor.  I was very impressed. 

Will I purchase this brand in the future?  Oh yes!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Q & A: Wine & Food

Wine and Food Pairing 

Q & A From a Visitor From Bulgaria

As an etiquette professional for well over twenty years, I have been asked thousands of questions.  Obviously, the majority are etiquette related and some are relationship based. However, as we see here, some concern entertaining, which makes it perfect for posting here. 


Dear Polite One, 

Can you please tell me what kind of dishes are best for serving with red wine? 

Best regards, 

Visitor from Sofia, Bulgaria 


Dear Visitor from Sofia, Bulgaria, 

There are many styles of wine, so this question is a bit difficult.  First, the darker the wine, typically the fuller the body.  The body style is the texture and weight of the wine, think skim milk, to heavy cream. Some lighter reds (Chianti or Beaujolais) have more acid which would pair with more food--heavier wines (Cabernet) usually don't.   

Look for some fruit or pepper flavor because that would match with many dishes, such as a Pino Noir or a Cabernet Franc.  I just had a lighter style Syrah, very much a Rhone style, and it had a blackberry flavor that went very well with a lightly seasoned prime rib, asparagus and roasted potatoes.  However, an Australian, or Rhone style Syrah would go with just about anything that didn't have acidic tomato sauce--sautéed chicken, with dry tomatoes, (a few) capers, and cream.  

Be careful about a wine that has a lot of oak flavor because it is difficult to pair; it would be like pairing two dishes with heavy seasonings. Heavy oak tastes like vanilla and butterscotch. 

Start with something you already know, trust yourself.  If you think that the wine would be good in a sauce to cover it, generally it would taste good alongside it.  I like to add a generous amount of wine into stews and marinara and I drink the same wine with the dish--usually a Cabernet with many stews and Chianti or Sangiovese with Italian.  Be brave:  I recently had a piece of grilled tuna, with sautéed onions, on top of a grilled Portobello mushroom, paired with a nice Sangiovese.  The fruit in the wine made it a match made in heaven.  

Mushrooms have an earthy flavor that can help you pair heavier wines to a dish.

Mirror flavors and weight.  Match heavy to heavy, light to light, like a heavy Cabernet with a roast or stew, or a broiled salmon fillet with a nice Pino Noir. Or, you could contrast.  Choose a Gamay Beaujolais to serve with a fried fish, as long as the spices don't conflict. Speaking of spices, consider them.  Also, sauces matter, you can bridge the wine and the food through a sauce made with the wine.   

Bottom line, a Pino Noir, Gamay, Beaujolais (it is made with the Gamay grape), or a Sangiovese, in my opinion, will be your most versatile red wines.  Perhaps use the wine in cooking the dish or choose seasonings that help pair the two.  Rosemary tastes like pine and sometimes helps bridge wine with food.  Of course, salt helps bring all of it together. 

Most of the wines I mentioned are from America because that is what I am most used to.  I am not a wine expert.  I just teach Wine Etiquette--everything about sharing wine.  I have been teaching my students how to learn more about pairing, which is what I have shared with you.  I sincerely hope this helps you.


The Polite One

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

History of Labor Day

What is Labor Day and Why do we Celebrate it?

Labor Day is More Than Just Hot Dogs on the Grill

Learn why we celebrate Labor Day, who created it, and when began by reading this article! 

Americans love to celebrate Labor Day as our last summer hurrah, with many heading outdoor with our favorite refreshments.  However, how many people actually consider why we celebrate this one day above all others in September?  The teacher in me wants to know, I'm in research mode and taking you with me.  Let's find the reason behind this holiday.  

Why do we celebrate? 

According to DOL (U.S. Department of Labor), our day of picnics, barbecues, and parades was created over a century ago to celebrate American laborers.   I think you will agree that a national holiday is a much better tribute to our workers than a statue in some park--much better.   

Nevertheless, why would we create a national holiday just to celebrate people doing a job and receiving a paycheck?  The premise seems a bit odd since many of us are just happy to find a job that offers pay.  To find out, lets' take a look back in history.   

What were the historical events that led to creating Labor Day? 

Back in the day -- late 1800s -- the US was deep into our Industrial Revolution.  These were the days that most everyone worked 12-hour days everyday for very little pay in unsafe environments.  Most everyone included children, some as young as five-years-old--earning much less than their older counterparts.   

A pendulum can only swing one way for so long before it must return to equilibrium.  In this case, the swing back required the power of joined forces.  Consequently, unions were born.  This type of organized group had much more power to affect change, but change came slowly and with great pain.  In order to flex this new muscle, unions organized protests and marches.  Some spawned ugly outbursts like the Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which many people died.  However, one march sparked the idea of Labor Day. 

It was September of 1882 and thousands of workers marched in New York City in what they called a "Labor Day Parade".  The idea took hold and some states adopted the holiday.  It took another 12 years for Congress to designate it as a national holiday. 

Who was the genius who gave us the day off work?

The answer to the question about the responsible party isn't quite clear.  There's somewhat of a historical tug of war between two important characters.  Many had thought it was Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor.  However, many now believe it was Matthew Maguire, machinist and the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J. It very well could have been Mr. Maguire, because he did serve as secretary of   the Central Labor Union in New York in 1882 when they approved a proposal for the holiday and organized the first historic Labor Day Parade -- more of a march -- in New York. 

What do we do now? 

With all my questions answered, I'm done here.  Off to the barbie!  Enjoy your holiday!  

More posts of interest: 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Recipe: Preserved Lemon Pasta

String Pasta With Preserved Lemons and Asparagus

What to do with an overabundance of lemons?  Try making preserved lemons.  It is very easy, although there are a variety of recipes out there.  In reality, all one needs to do is to quarter the lemon, sprinkle each piece heavily with Kosher salt, and pack all of it into a container with lemon juice covering the sour, salty mixture.  I don’t formally can mine.  I just set the containers on the kitchen counter for about a month and then freeze them.   
What to do with the preserved lemons?  That’s the fun part.  Since the flavor is very similar to lemony capers, I chose to make a simple pasta with them.  Super yummy choice.
List of Ingredients—amounts are a personal choice
  • Roughly ¼ cup of preserved lemons cut into thin half-inch long pieces
  • A bunch of asparagus sliced into one-inch pieces
  • 2 cups of cooked string pasta of choice (I used vermicelli)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Chiffonade of basil (I used ¼ cup)
While drinking a glass of your favorite Prosecco, sauté the chopped asparagus in olive oil until nearly tender.  Toss in the garlic and sauté until asparagus is tender.  When pasta is al dente, add to the asparagus with about a half cup of pasta water.  Add the preserved lemon slices and toss.  Continue to cook marrying the flavors together for a few minutes while you pour more Prosecco.  Remove from heat.  Sip your Prosecco while tossing the pasta with the basil.  Serve and enjoy!
I often sauté 2 tablespoons of finely chopped Soppressata (a spicy hard salami) with your veggie of choice and garlic. 

How do you use your preserved lemons?  What's your favorite Prosecco?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Product Review: “Harry Potter” Clothing—a Gryffindor Sweatshirt

Are the “Harry Potter” Branded Sweatshirts Worth the Price?

A Close Look at a Gryffindor Sweatshirt 

I recently visited Universal Orlando Resort to celebrate a benchmark birthday.  My husband and I specifically chose this park because Diagon Alley had finally opened and I’m an avid Harry Potter fan.  It’s a must see for fans.  
One of our four days at the park was unseasonably cold.  I had brought a windbreaker for the occasional rain Orlando delivers, but wasn’t prepared for goose bumps.  I could have purchased a sweatshirt or sweater at any of the multitude of gift shops in the park (s).  Nevertheless, what’s the fun in that for a true Potter Head?  Warmth had to come from within a Harry Potter themed piece of apparel.  

Luckily, the first shop in Diagon Alley is Quality Quidditch Supplies.  It’s jam packed with—obviously—Quidditch gear of all kinds, like quaffle balls.  However, the store also carries apparel.  Since this isn’t typically a cold season, there weren’t many choices within a price range I’m comfortable.  The jackets and sweaters ($85) were especially pricy, but of very good quality. 
A welcoming young lady eases us into a purchase.

The associate we latched onto was a lovely young lady named Alyssa S.  We chatted for quite some time even though the store was busy.  There were plenty of other associates to assist other shoppers, so no one was waiting unnecessarily.  We felt quite welcome and comfortable due to Alyssa’s warm demeanor.  Therefore, even though the prices were a bit excessive, I decided to purchase a sweatshirt--I typically live in them during the winter.  
Alyssa and American Express saves us money. 
Not to imply that Alyssa pressured us into a purchase.  No.  Actually, she saved us money.  She informed us of an American Express discount.  Those who have the card and mention “American Express mobile app” can receive a 10% off purchases of $50 or more. 

Because of Alyssa’s demeanor and kindness, we will shop at Quality Quidditch Supplies each time we visit this park.

Was it worth the price? 
This sweatshirt is medium quality, made of 60% cotton and 40% polyester—very warm and appears as if it is fleece lined.  I typically pay around $25-$30 for this quality.  However, this isn’t just a sweatshirt.  It is also memorabilia.  It is something to help me remember my trip every time I wear it.  In my opinion, the Gryffindor patch and embroidered letters are beautiful and well applied, making this sweatshirt a meaningful purchase.  I love it and will wear it all winter. 

Previously published on our sister blog Etiquette Now Insights.

What are your experiences?  Did you purchase anything at Universal Orlando?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Food Review: Trader Joe’s Animal Crackers

Tub of Fun Found in Trader Joe's Animal Crackers 

If you are like me, every time I see a box of animal crackers, I relive my childhood years of drooling over a box decorated as if it is a red circus boxcar filled with exotic animals.   My favorite cookie/cracker was the elephant.  Therefore, when I noticed a tub--yes an entire tub--of animal cookies on a Trader Joe’s shelf, I squealed like a little girl and promptly tossed one in my cart.

As a fan of simple English style cookies, Trader Joe’s Organic Animal Crackers are a perfect fit for me.  They are crunchy, light, great with hot beverages and shaped like animals.  What could be better?  Right? 

The real surprise with these cookies is that these are not your typical guilty-pleasure snacks.  Oh no.  These puppies—or should I say camels--are low in fat and sodium, vegan, organic and only 120 for 17 delicious cookies!  There are even tigers in the tub.  It just gets more and more exciting as I eat my way through an entire tub in no time.  Luckily, these babies are reasonably priced at $3.49 for roughly 255 cookies.  I guess it’s time for another Trader Joe’s run! 

What is your favorite Trader Joe’s product??