Ask Arlene…About Food at The Milonga

Dear Arlene

I often get a bit peckish during the milongas and I really wish that someone could come round selling those delicious Argentinian pasties known as Empanadas. I have tried the tea and cakes at the crypt and I find it’s all a bit WI – a bit at odds with the exociticsm of the dance and more in tune with pensioners Old Time dancing on a Thursday afternoon. I have looked up the recipe for beef empanadas on the internet and theres a great one on the bbc website. Could you organise this Arlene ? (sssh! A woman called Tina who helps out at the Crypt knows how to make them)

Todo Bien

Dear Todo Bien,

If you haven’t already, I suggest you read my first post on Personal Hygiene.

We are not in Buenos Aires where you can order a meal and have a dance.

I personally have never found the dance to be exotic and at odds with cake.  I love cake and am particularly fond of the tea and cakes at The Crypt.  On the El Once nights, Paul’s bakes the cakes himself and they are very yummy, a good source of carbs for all the dancing, and most importantly, they don’t give you bad breath like an empanada would.  You all know how I feel about BB and smells!

Every once in awhile the organisers of the Milongas have food for a special event, which I think is great.  I always pack my toothbrush anyway so if I am eating something I wouldn’t normally eat on a Milonga night, I make sure I use the facilities to clean my teeth and have the breath mints or chewing gum at the ready, but I still worry about being offensive.  My big issue is when the organisers leave flavoured crisps on the tables.  Why can’t they use plain, salted crisps?  I think I may have unintentionally insulted someone a couple of years ago when I asked him if he tucked into the crisps, as all I could smell was cheese and onion!  He hasn’t danced with me since.

So, the answer to your question is ‘no’.

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Ask Arlene…About Personal Hygiene Issues

The Tango Christmas Party Season kicks off this weekend and I thought it would be nice to remind everyone about the true meaning of holiday spirit.  People will be going to parties for work and for Tango – some may experience both in the same day – and before you venture out to have a good time, I would like you to think about how you would like to be remembered on the night.  Think about the impression that you will be making on others.   After all, it isn’t just your party – other people will be there too – so be thoughtful and considerate.

I’ve been approached personally and via e-mail and have been asked  to raise the importantce of good personal hygiene – a topic dear to my heart.  Some people have recently had unpleasant experiences and really didn’t know how to discuss it with the offending parties.   I have set up a check list of sorts to make things easier for everyone – and if this still doesn’t do the trick, you can print off a copy and hand it to the repeat offender and avoid dancing with them until they make a better impression.

Basic Personal Hygiene: Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and if you want to be a Tango God or Goddess, please have a shower or bath before you go out – and think about your hair too, it absorbs smells.  Use deodorant.  Brush your teeth and tongue and use mouthwash.  These are the basics.  If you have issues with foot smells, use a spray on your feet and in your shoes.  Use the scent sparingly.  It is very distracting dancing with a partner who has overdosed on the perfume, cologne, or Lynxx.  A little goes a long way.

If you are already out or coming straight from work, be prepared and bring a wash bag and freshen up in the facilities at the Milonga.  And I don’t mean just change your clothes, spray on more deodorant and brush your teeth.  Wash first – baby wipes are really useful.  People can tell when smells are just being covered up when they are up close.

You can buy mini items for travel – so there is no reason why you can’t be clean and fresh smelling at all times.  There are people who are prepared and carry a kit bag of some sorts with them.  I always carry a bag of makeup, deodorant, mints/gum, toothbrush, toothpaste and a few other essential items if needed.  It is a habit I have from working in an office – keeping spare items in my desk for emergencies or going out in the evening at short notice.  If  you honestly think you won’t need to freshen up, brush your teeth or use mints in a 3-4 hour dance session after eating the crisps, nuts, cake, drinking coffee (makes really bad breath), tea or wine or smoking – think again.   And if you have forgotten or need something ask someone.  You now know at least one person you can ask.

Dress: For those of you who think that you should be able to wear whatever you want, as it is the dancing that really matters – well think again.  How one is presented is really important and may be what gets you the dances in the first place.  Our vision is our first sense that we use in deciding with whom to dance   We use  our eyes to see who is in the room.  Who do we know?  How are people dancing?  Oh, that one looks nice, interesting, etc.

It is the party season.  That means make an effort in your attire.  I have noticed that the ladies generally make a considerable effort in this area compared to the men regardless of the time of year.  There is no excuse not to look your best – after all, you are part of someone else’s scenery.  It is not fair to the woman who has been waiting all week for what may be her one night out and who may have spent a considerable amount of time doing her hair, nails, make-up, paying for the baby-sitter, etc. for this event.  So if you do decide to go casual, don’t expect the glamour puss to be overjoyed with your request for a dance if you don’t look the part.  If you don’t have any smart clothes, invest in some.  There are nice clothes for every budget.   I have found some great bargains in charity shops – it is amazing what some people give away.  Don’t forget to make sure your clothes are clean and pressed.  There is no point in making all that effort being clean and groomed in order to wear something even a little stinky or stained.

The same goes for the women – if you don’t normally make an effort, try it.  There are men who like to dress up and no doubt would like to have a well presented lady in his arms to complement him on the dance floor.  Another thing – even though it is thought that Tango may have originated in the ‘brothels’ of Buenos Aires – there is no need to look like a ‘lady of the night’.  Keep your private bits private.  A bit of cleavage is nice to show off if you have it, but keep it contained.  Same goes for a nice pair of legs, we just don’t need to see where the top of your leg meets your backside and the rest.  The men might like it, but you will never make many lady friends – and since there are more of us than them…

Perspiration:  There is a perpetual problem with effective ventilation in most of the London venues – and combined with the body heat and breath of all of the people attending a Milonga, things tend to heat up.  We all have a tendency to perspire – and some people perspire more than others.  So rather than going into how to avoid it, I think it is better to work out the best way to deal with it when it happens.  It is really unpleasant dancing with someone who is soaking wet unless you are both dancing in the rain.  Keep it dry.

Men:  If you know that you have a tendency to perspire when you get hot, please wear a light T-shirt with a loose shirt over it.  Now I know that you might think that will make you perspire even more, but I can assure you that you will be doing the ladies a big favour.  Firstly, the perspiration will be soaked up by the T-shirt leaving the shirt relatively dry, and then you can just replace the T-shirt a couple of times before you may need to change your shirt.   I fail to understand the men that know they perspire a lot and still do not bring enough clean shirts, if any, to a Milonga to change in.  A towel is not enough.  Even if you need to bring in your whole wardrobe, you will be doing us ladies a favour, as we like to be dry and the smell of perspiration rubs off on our clothes.  Primark sell really cheap white T-shirts.  They are not a fashion statement – they are to be worn under your shirt where no-one will see it.

Ladies:  If you know you have the same problem as above, then maybe wearing a dress isn’t an option for you.  It might be better to wear a really nice skirt and bring along a few extra tops to change into.  Wearing backless dresses or tops are a no-no.  I have heard a few men describe the icky factor of touching a woman’s sweaty back.   It is a real turn-off.

So, if perspiration is a real issue for anyone, please bring extra clothes and a towel.  There is no reason why you can’t use the facilities in the Milongas to tidy up and cool down.

Bad Breath:  My sense of smell is extremely sensitive – even more so now I need to use my glasses more.  Considering that dancers of Tango usually dance very close together, this is one area that needs particular attention and delicate handling.  How do you tell someone that they have BB?  Well firstly, the men would be doing everyone a favor if they carried a packet of Smints, Tic-Tacs, gum, etc.  in their pockets – ladies don’t usually have pockets.  If their dancing partner had BB, they could have a mint and offer their partner one as well – and all offers of mints or gum should be accepted whether you think you need it or not.  If a lady asks for a mint, it could be a subtle hint that the man has BB – then they could both have one and no-one would be offended.  Win-win.  I know a few men who regularly carry a supply in case I run out and need to score some.  One of my friends even carries Cardamom seeds that he chews on – he always smells good.

Food and Drink to Avoid: What is obvious to me may not be for others – anything with garlic or onions.  You cannot get rid of the smell by brushing your teeth or using mouthwash.  It is a repeat offender and the smell keeps coming back.  So if you are tempted to have a curry, kebab or anything else with garlic or onions in it before you go out – think twice and don’t give into temptation.  That also goes for anything else that you know might make a repeat entrance.  For the weak-willed, I then recommend that you follow the suggestions in Basic Personal Hygiene and hope for the best.

Drink:  Unless you have personal issues with alcohol, there really isn’t much to avoid apart from coffee.  It may be hot and keep you awake, but it doesn’t do your breath any favours – stick to the tea – or better yet, herbal or water.  We all know that alcohol should be drunk in moderation regardless of the occasion and it is particularly pertinent for dancing.  You are not a good dancer when you are inebriated, even slightly, no matter what you may think.  Also beer and wine give you a sour breath smell, so maybe after having a couple of glasses, you may want to excuse yourself and give your teeth and tongue a good brushing as the breath mints and gum do only so much.

So, if you are still not getting any dances or forming social bonds with others after doing all of the above, Ask Arlene and we will try to sort it out.

Happy Dancing!