There's a Mr. Manners"One of the lamentable casualties of...


November 01, 1992|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

There's a Mr. Manners

"One of the lamentable casualties of the recent social revolution is the daily practice of etiquette," Craig Claiborne mourns in the introduction to his latest book, "Elements of Etiquette: A Guide to Table Manners in an Imperfect World" (William Morrow, 1992, $15).

Alas, Mr. Claiborne, the noted New York food critic and writer, sees much that is amiss at the nation's tables: lazy R.S.V.P.s; a shortage of chairs; heavy canapes; aggressive behavior; food that is too cold or too hot; restaurant diners in sunglasses who clean their fingernails with the cutlery; surprise guests; broken objects; awkward exits; blank-outs at introduction time. . . . And, well, let's face it, all of us have had some experience with these travesties at one time or another.

So, much that Mr. Claiborne says has merit, and it is spared any tinge of insufferability by his grace and humor in the saying of it. For instance, on the proper way to eat pasta in company: "If the RTC pasta is too long to handle comfortably, you can cut it into smaller pieces as needed; there is no need to stuff something that resembles a spool full of BX cable into your mouth."

If it seems at times that he is advocating a code of behavior last current in 1952, the unstuffy conclusion makes it all seem eternally appropriate: "Good manners are nothing more than genuine common sense and consideration for others. . . . After all, a dinner party should ultimately be remembered for its company, food, graciousness, and fun, not for its rules of etiquette."

Now take those sunglasses off your head and don't cross your legs under the table. And don't you dare pick up that cellular phone. Thank you. You're welcome.

"This has been a busy summer and fall in Baltimore because it has been the center of political storm. . . . We hear talk of 'Van, Van, the used-up man -- candidate of champagne and rich

living.' Well, he's the Democrats' man, so let them worry about the re-election of Martin Van Buren; I'll concentrate my energies on the election of the Whig choice, William Henry Harrison."

Thus wrote Hannah Fearson, of 32 Albemarle St., on November 1, 1840. For all that has changed since, much has remained the same. A novel look at the customs of the last century is being offered today at the Baltimore City Life Museums' 1840 House, where foodways specialist Sue Latini will be demonstrating the preparation of Election Day cake and Mustering Day gingerbread, and talking about the customs of the time.

The demonstrations are part of the regular tours at the 1840 House, at 800 E. Lombard St. Admission to the demonstrations is free with admission to the museum. Ms. Latini's programs begin at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

It's all Greek, all fun

It's a festival that celebrates almost every aspect of Greek life and culture: The 21st Athenian Agora, presented by the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, takes place this coming weekend at the cathedral, at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Preston Street.

Among the multitude of features are gifts and crafts, cultural activities including cathedral and chapel tours, photo displays, Greek dancing and a "taverna" with live music. Items for sale will include jewelry, gifts, books, tapes, records, food and crafts.

All proceeds of the event benefit church programs. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The Taverna Room, at the Annunciation Orthodox Center across the street from the church, will be open Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Among the most sought-after items at this annual event are the pastries baked by members of the church. Here's the recipe for a special cookie that's among the most popular sweets sold. The Greek name for the cookies is koulourakia.

Buttertwist cookies

Makes 15 dozen.


1 pound butter

1 pound solid shortening, such as Crisco

6 eggs

3 cups sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

about 5 pounds of flour

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 cup orange juice

1 ounce whiskey


milk or egg

sesame seeds

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter with the shortening. Set aside to cool. When cool, add sugar and beat well.

Sift 4 pounds of flour with 2 tablespoons baking powder. Reserve last pound of flour for use as needed.

Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 cup of orange juice.

Gradually mix all ingredients by alternating flour mixture with orange juice-soda mixture; whiskey; and vanilla.

Dough must be right consistency to shape; add flour in small increments until dough is consistency of bread dough. Knead for several minutes.

Form dough into walnut-size balls and roll into a rope about 3 inches long. Form into tiny twist or wreath shapes.

Brush each cookie with milk or beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Health-conscious consumers who've been passing up the snacks aisle in the grocery now have an alternative to popular but high-fat cookies and crackers. It's a new line of fat-free and reduced-fat items from Nabisco called Snackwell's, and it includes reduced-fat chocolate chip cookies, reduced-fat cheese crackers, reduced-fat oatmeal raisin cookies, fat-free wheat crackers, fat-free devil's food cookie cakes and fat-free cinnamon graham snacks.

All have either 50 or 60 calories per serving; serving sizes range from nine pieces (graham snacks) to one cookie (oatmeal raisin), people who are watching their diet will still have to exercise caution. Suggested retail price is $1.99.

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