# Etiquette # How to Live Well

Sir David Tang and Only Using the Best Things You Have

I must share this with you. As you know we subscribe to the Financial Times out of London. It’s really an excellent newspaper and their weekend edition is superb- particularly their Life & Style section, the House & Home section and their magazine How to Spend It. There are always thought provoking articles on art, food, fashion and a rather interesting column called Lunch with FT where they interview some person of note over lunch and also provide what was ordered. (I love knowing what people have for lunch and things like that. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes when standing in line at the grocery store is to observe what other people buy- it is very telling!). But I digress.

The first place I go to each weekend is David Tang’s column in House & Home. Sir David Tang is a business man (behind the famed Shanghai Tang stores, among other endeavors) that divides his time between Hong Kong, London and China. He runs an advice column on the subjects of “property, interiors, etiquette, home, parties and anything else that might be bothering you”. Not only does Mr. Tang possess a rapier wit, but his first class opinions on the above subjects are refreshing and unparalleled. I ran across the below question one week and found his answer to encapsulate everything I’ve ever expressed regarding only using the best things you have. Regard:

A reader writes:

In our household, Saturday breakfast is the sacred meal of the week, enjoyed at home around the kitchen table. My girlfriend makes an effort arranging the glassware in a certain order. I then have to rearrange the order of the glasses. This upsets my girlfriend, as she argues that caring about such trivial things at our own breakfast table, with no other company present, is petit bourgeois. Please advise.

Mr. Tang’s response:

One definition of a gentleman is that he uses his butter knife when dining alone. I tend to agree. I always succumb to my pair of ivory chopsticks and my best crockery and cutlery and linen whenever eating alone. Caring about how things look only when there is an audience is precisely to be petit bourgeois. I am very much from middle-class stock but I hate most of its ingredients. So you should insist on getting your breakfast table right, and observe to your girlfriend that by practicing the best, you won’t become phoney when you are joined by the Joneses and the Smiths.

I really couldn’t have said it better myself! When you use the best things you have and 'practice your best' on a regular basis, you slowly train your habits and your palate to appreciate quality. Those that save their best things for company are missing out on living a quality life and are, it has to be said, petit bourgeois.

I would love to know... are you using the best you have on a daily basis? Or are you saving your best for later?

I recently visited the Getty villa in Malibu and took some photos of Greek and Roman antiquities. The Greek wine vessels and implements pictured above are in silver and date back to 350- 300 B.C. It looks like the ancient Greeks appreciated fine tableware as well...

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yoga teacher said...

I am lucky enough to have my grandmother's sterling from the early 1900's, and we use it every day, though I've had to dive into the garbage and the compost to recover the occasional errant piece! And we used Beatrix Potter china when my daughter was a toddler. Only one plate survived, but we all enjoyed them and the connection to the person who gave them to us, and we learned that accidents happen.
I'm with you. Use them and enjoy them!

Anonymous said...

Actually, one of my new year's resolutions this year was to use my "best" things.

I like the idea of "practicing your best" also. I love the idea of living elegantly and having it be a natural routine rather than something we do only for special occasions because we "have to."

Merveilleux said...

You can't take any material possessions when you go so you may as well use it now.
What's more intriguing about this article is that a man wrote in about his girlfriend rather than the girlfriend about the boyfriend. You can tell he's not American. I've witnessed too many American men eating fast food out of their laps so the idea of a man wanting the table set just so really has me excited. lol

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Yoga Teacher- You are so lucky to have such a treasure and to be able to use it everyday. I love the idea of Beatrix Potter china for my little girl... I might as well teach her to use the best things she has while she's young!

Mrs. M- Absolutely. I work on practicing my best everyday. It does not come naturally to me! I find this challenge faces me everyday at almost every minute... the choice between whether I will do something properly and give it my full attention, or whether I will rush though it unconsciously...

Merveilleux- I know! If I weren't already married I think I would hunt this person down. He sounds like my dream man! Haha ;)

Anonymous said...

I loved this article, and I'm also surprised that it was a middle-class man reproaching his girlfriend's haphazzard setting of the breakfast table.

I have done a pretty good job of purging my non-quality items, so the only choice is to use the best items in my household. I enjoy the port a friend gave me in my crystal glasses I found in Russia, and regularly use linen napkins when my husband and I have dinner or a special breakfast.

But I confess there are occassions where I don't set the table properly - even though the plates, cutlery and napkins are of nice quality. Thank you for the reminder that our lives are lived in the everyday, non-momentous occasions and that we deserve to live them luxuriously.

Oh, another publication you may enjoy is the Wall Street Journal weekend edition. It's very similar to the FT's daliance in style.

Lacey R said...

What a great Q & A! Do you have an online link to his column? Thx!

Lacey R said...

p.s. I do the same thing when at grocery stores - check out what people are buying...especially at places like Costco with the bulk items!

Anonymous said...

I love using and do use my "best" every day. Why wait? If I am not using it, it is only taking up space and collecting dust. Share the beauty!!

Pug1 said...

I'm guilty!!! For saving my best for a special time....well that's going to CHANGE! CHEERS! Michele

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Rebekah- One weekend my newspaper delivery service accidentally delivered the WSJ instead of the Financial Times and you're right- it is great! And very similar to the FT. And port enjoyed in crystal glasses from Russia... how luxurious.

Lacey- Here is a link to this last week's column:



Bliss- Share the beauty indeed- what a beautiful expression xx

Michele- Haha! You make me smile. Don't worry I am guilty too- I work on it everyday. xx

FloridaBird said...

This post was a good reminder!

My new year's resolution was to wear my best jewelry very day. My mother's silver flatware is now in everyday use. Next are the two sets of good china. I've been dragging my feet on the china because they aren't dishwasher safe. I need to put it in the cabinet so it's handy and use it anyway.

C.H. said...

My youngest daughter, now 13, still uses her wedgwood Jemima Puddleduck plate for her toast in the morning. None of the other pieces are left. But this is a great idea. Today, I will replace my everyday dinner set with my "for good use only" wedwood Queen's Plain set in the cupboard :) I will also spend the day cleaning my silver cutlery that my parents gave me as wedding present nearly 20 years ago and use that - I love the feel of heavier cutlery.

Great post.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

FloridaBird- Love your new years resolution... I wear my best jewelry every day too- it brings a specialness to whatever I'm wearing- even if it is only a casual outfit...

Me- That is really touching- I love that your daughter still uses her china plate from when she was little... I want to invest in similar plates for my little girl... I just read an article in FT Weekend about how people are dusting off their silver candlesticks (or buying them) and using them everyday. This whole idea seems to be catching!

Parisbreakfasts said...

Oh dear
Count me in as very PB.
My house is a total wreck unless someone shows up.
Being an artist may excuse my constant disorder and somewhat dyslexic (at least with telephone numbers). Plus a touch of attention deficit doesn't help.