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Thursday, November 12, 2009

"What Can I Bring?" Successful Dinner Party Part I

Okay, as it seems I have the floor, I am going to expound upon my least favorite dinner party question..."What can I bring?"

Where did this come from? I was raised to bring a hostess gift when invited to someone's home, but unless the occasion was expressly labeled a potluck, I do not remember my mother ever bringing a dish to someone's home or vice versa.

Thus I felt ill prepared about a decade ago when I fell in with a crowd where this was the norm. I found it so strange and disturbing. There were several occasions where I showed up at an event with a hostess gift and everyone else had brought a dish...but it was not a potluck. weird. I also didn't know how to respond when I extended an invitation, planned a meal and everyone wanted to bring something. What the hell was going on here? It was like bizarro superman world. It took me a long time to become acclimmated and still it sticks in my craw (obviously).

As a guest, you should assume that the host(ess) who extended the invitation has the means and the inclination to serve you an entire meal. If you as the guest must ask this question and the answer is some form of "I think I'm all set" THEN YOU SHOULD RESPECT THAT. Bring a pretty dishtowel, bottle of wine, pound of coffee, box of tea, bottle of liquor, candle, flowers or some other suitable hostess gift.

I'd bet my boiling water canner that if you look this topic up in an etiquette book, it would back me up.

There are women (and I know quite a few) who are incapable of coming to your house without bringing a dish (or several). You have to let them fly their freak flag and be done with it.

Now, I have to admit, I have been infected with the virus. It is hard for me to come to someone's house and not bring a dish. I satisfy my need to bring something by bringing something I've canned. I'm still bringing food and yet not intruding on the hostess' turf. If you make candy, cookies, etc. and can package them prettily, then this is a good way to wean you off the crack of having to bring something to someone's else's thoughtfully planned dinner party (or brunch or lunch or whatever).

ALL of that said, your primary job as the hostess is to put your guests at ease and do what you can to ensure that everyone has a good time and feels welcome.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow...

5 comments:

  1. This is hilariously written and spot on - love it!

    On a more theraputic note, why is that people cannot just 'show up' when invited? I am occasionally guilty of this myself, but eventually get it when I hear the "nope, I'm good, just come for the fun".

    You might be able to write a few articles for various newspapers or periodicals on this one. Seriously, it is an epidemic.

    As someone who loves to host gatherings, color me oh-so-happy when friends do just actually show up. It's such a gift!

    Thanks for the laugh and future permission to just show-up :)

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  2. how long have you been waiting to get this off your chest? :)

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  3. I am so guilty of doing the "WhatCanIBring" and I was raised the same way. You show up with flowers, wine for the host to enjoy later, etc. Thank you for the reminder... And the chuckle.

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  4. For me its a 'southern' thing. It is impolite in the south not to bring a dish,or at least that's the way it was when I was 'coming up'. Now I do not get why people would be offended if they bring wine and you do not open it....this happened to me once and they said something about it!!! Holy crap. I was so taken aback I've never invited 'those people' to my house again. I view it that if I'm planning the meal I am also planning what beverage should accompany it.

    Hang in there and if you ever invite me to your house again you can be assured of a hostess gift and no question of 'what can I bring' but I do have a 'wag more bark less' sticker that I can't take off my car.

    Enjoy quilt club tomorrow.

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  5. I have to agree with Noelle - I guess its a 'southern' thing. I cannot be invited to a dinner party without asking "What can I bring" and even if I host the party, I somewhat expect people to ask me that question... I would respond with "nothing" but still... its simple courtesy where I was raised. Now, a hostess gift or whatever... THAT was not part of our deal. Maybe because we always brought a dish. Now that I'm back in the 'south'. It seems more acceptable than it did in the PNW - I am not looked at as if I have grown a second head when I ask 'that question'.

    Now that I think about, perhaps the offer was made because many families couldn't really afford to host large dinner parties so it was just a courtesy to help them out... At least in our neck of the woods.

    Loved your story though... you should try to write for a periodical of some sort!

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