Eating gold? Ask McArdle

Burning questions, answered.

(Illustration: Peter Arkle)

How much gold can a human being actually eat?
If I’ve had only a salad for lunch, I can manage an ingot before I feel bloated. But you weren’t asking about my personal fortitude, were you? Average consumers can, in theory, gobble pure gold until their stomachs are full and their wallets are empty. The precious metal is inert, meaning it will traverse the digestive tract without being absorbed. (Indeed, one edible gold vendor promises on its website that its product will “pass out of the body after about 24 hours unchanged.” Huzzah?) Legions of chefs have capitalized on gold’s consumable nature by creating gilded novelty items. To wit, a New York food truck this summer introduced the US$666 “Douche Burger,” which wrapped lobster, caviar and a beef patty in six sheets of gold leaf.

More recently, the United Kingdom’s famed Fat Duck restaurant introduced a £300 Christmas lunch menu featuring a “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” dish. Diners receive a gold-wrapped cube of jellied stock that they drop into a teapot containing infusions of frankincense and myrrh. (Incidentally, both frankincense and myrrh are edible resins, leading one to postulate the Wise Men were simply delivering a deli platter to the baby Jesus.) Gold fever reached such a pitch in 2008 that the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi served US$500,000 in gold flakes—roughly five kilograms—to its guests on top of desserts and in cocktails. None of this explains why a diner would want to shove metal down his gullet. Not only is it expensive—100 mg of edible gold flakes cost nearly forty bucks—but it tastes awful. One can achieve the same effect by chewing a piece of gum in its foil, yet I suspect few chefs would consider adding that to their tasting menus.

I quit my job last summer and now think it was a huge mistake. How do I ask for it back without losing leverage?

My lad and I recently attempted to remove an unsightly stump from our garden using nothing but a shovel and Wee McArdle’s tremendous toddler strength. The ex-tree would not budge. That is, until I jammed a spittoon beneath the shovel’s shank, creating a fulcrum and ousting the stump from its hole. The lesson? Leverage is not given, it is created. In your case, humility is required, but begging is not the remedy you’re after. “You lose leverage if you come back grovelling,” advises Jennifer Chandler, a Vancouver-based career consultant. While it’s safe to admit that an error was made, don’t dwell on it. Instead, your challenge is to demonstrate why the company should “make a reinvestment in you,” Chandler explains. This is your chance to tell them about courses taken, credentials earned and personal skills honed since they first employed you. But perhaps most important, you’ll need to take steps to prove another departure isn’t imminent. “Emphasize you are committed to the company’s success, not just your own success,” suggests Bruce Sandy, principal of Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting, also in Vancouver. How do you do this? You can start by researching what the firm’s accomplished in your absence. “Be able to speak about a new project or a noteworthy merger. It will show you’re invested,” says Chandler. As I’ve learned trying to woo scorned lovers, the bouquet must be twice as big the second time around.

The slits on the back of my new blazer are stitched shut. Should I cut them open?

Slits? Kind sir, these openings are correctly called “vents,” sewn shut to facilitate manufacture and shipping. They should be cut—never torn—open at the first opportunity. And certainly before wearing.

How much would it cost to buy all the items mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? About US$24,000, according to PNC Financial Services’ annual Christmas Price Index

Need advice? Want to settle a debate? Go ahead, ask McArdle anything:

McArdle is our resident expert in many things. He believes himself expert in all things.