Dinner with Peter Siviglia will not cost you an arm and a leg (he insists on picking up the tab)—unless you happen to be the waiter or waitress, in which case your limbs might be endangered because Mr. Siviglia feigns gnawing at them every time a plate or a glass of water (or more often, a glass of wine) passes before him. Surprised serving staff (and fellow diners) must also contend with a relentless barrage of puns, many of which have clearly already achieved iconic catchphrase status in the annals of Siviglian family lore; to wit, every time Mr. Siviglia is referred to as ‘sir’—as in, “Would you like fries with your burger, sir?”—he responds with mock indignation, “Don’t call me surly!” These traits—the Marx Brothers-esque antics, the inability to pass up any opportunity for a pun—are telltale signs of the inveterate aphorist.
Mr. Siviglia’s aphorisms, which he calls Recipes from the Top of the Food Chain, mix political and moral musings with Ambrose Bierce’s (Geary’s Guide, pp. 356–358) brand of acerbic wit. Like Bierce, Mr. Siviglia writes one of the oldest forms of aphorism—the definition, e.g.
Responsibility: the rejection of excuses.
But he often takes the definition one step further, by adding several layers of philosophical exposition in what might be called the Siviglian syllogism, e.g.
Most people view the world in a mirror and see only themselves. Hence, the Platinum Rule: Do not do unto others as they would not have you do unto them. Corollary to the Platinum Rule: Do not do that which places others in danger.
“I think philosophical wisdom often repeats itself from age to age in different forms,” he says, “but repetition of good is good.” In Recipes from the Top of the Food Chain, Mr. Siviglia serves up fresh takes on age-old philosophical dishes that will definitely keep you coming back for more. Just don’t call him surly…
Truth: the most powerful and disarming of weapons. To believe that you can deceive without detection is self-deception. To admit error is to treat acid with a base.
The two certainties in life: Death and Taxes. Well, it’s time to add a third: Mistakes. Work, therefore, must be checked, rechecked, and checked again. Even then, some mistakes, like pests, will persist; but by then, those that remain, hopefully, will be harmless.
The street cleaner who does his or her job well deserves the same admiration and respect as the PhD who does his or her job well.
Conduct yourself so that everyone can rely on you; be wary in choosing those on whom you rely.
Luck begins and ends when the sperm hits the egg. It is a word for losers and for those few who are both successful and modest. Therefore, take an extended vacation from “if only”, “might have”, “could have”, “would have”, and their colleagues.
When you care what someone thinks of you, you are hostage to that person. Be hostage first—and preferably only—to yourself.
Success: achieving one’s goals. Wealth is a measure of success only if wealth is the goal. Too often people judge the success of others by their own goals.
Three people never to trust: cowards, the greedy, and the desperate.
Sometimes enemies are preferable to friends: you will never turn your back to an enemy. (Consult Julius Caesar.)
But for a moment, money will not buy happiness; yet happiness without money is in jeopardy of lasting little longer than a moment.
Life is too long and too difficult not to (a) fish for trout as often as possible, (b) specify your preference as often as possible.
Even the top of the food chain worries.