Its my party and I’ll cook if I want to

7 01 2008

I wouldn’t classify myself as a serial party thrower, but we do have people over to our house several times a year for birthday parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the occasional social gathering. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am certainly not a chef, but I love to cook and it gives me great satisfaction to see people enjoy what I’ve made.

Most of the time, I have a theme for my meal. It may be Latin inspired, or tacos, or gourmet burgers, etc. Nevertheless, from the aperitif and appetizers, and on through the entrée and dessert, everything is tied in together either by the general theme, or with a certain ingredient. Now, many of my well-intentioned friends and family ask if they can bring something. I think that’s great. There are many times that I could use a few extra things, or maybe I’ve forgotten to buy plasticware and can’t get out of the house. I totally appreciate this kind of help.

But allow me to propose a bit of etiquette here. As I mentioned, I am nowhere near Nigella, nor do I even pretend to come close to an Iron Chef. However, “I DO HAVE A THEME HERE PEOPLE!” Okay, let me calm down (breathe in 5 seconds, out 5 seconds).

What I’m getting at is this: If you have been invited to a get-together and are the type of person that likes to pitch in, ask first. Good questions to ask might be (but certainly not limited to):

  • Is there something you would like me to bring?
  • Can I bring a bottle of wine / 6-pack of beer / etc.?
  • Can I pick anything up you might be missing?
  • Can I come over early and help out?

What I have a little difficulty with are the loving yet well-intentioned guests who tell me they will bring something (or worse – gasp! – they just show up with it) but it does not go with my theme. For example, I might decide to serve sushi at the birthday party this weekend and my next door neighbor tells me he’s bringing Mexican tamales. You might agree with me that this is very presumptuous and inappropriate on my neighbor’s behalf. But it happens. Or again, I have prepared a Latin inspired dinner, replete with cocktails and a Mexican Tres Leches cake for dessert, and one of my guests shows up with an apple pie. Thanks, but no-thanks – it just doesn’t go with what I’ve made.

On the other hand, I hold a lot of parties where bringing something is appreciated greatly. For example, I might be having a hamburger cookout where I will ask my guests to pitch in (thus making these soirées affordable): an appetizer; veggies; paper plates; soda; etc. I still maintain a little control over what is brought so that everyone doesn’t bring a dessert (which will happen at every potluck if the host does not provide direction), but there is enough flexibility to allow the guest to bring their [not-quite-so] “world famous” cheese dip, or the peanut butter cookies whose recipe has been handed down since the Civil War.

So, how do I as a host, handle the two situations above, for example? In the case of my neighbor I have to tell him that I have a theme and that all the food is taken care of. But, “Would you care to bring a bottle of wine, or bring a few tamales anyway since I’d like to try them?” With the apple pie, I am forced to “accidentally” drop it face down as my guest hands it over to me. I will exaggerate the mea culpa and secretly grin with satisfaction on the inside (just kidding. What I would really do is stick it in the oven to “keep it warm” at 520° and then blame my dyslexia when it burns – I’m not dyslexic).

All I ask, for my sake and the sake of other theme party throwers, is to ask your host what you can bring. This gives the host the ability to graciously decline, or make a request that is in line with what is being served. If you still prefer to be hard-headed and “bless” me with your surprise, expect that I will swiftly stab a lighted sign in your casserole dish indicting you as the malevolent miscreant and subject of all scorn. Then I’ll drop your dish.

I’d like to hear from you. If you are a host, have you had this problem before and how do you deal with it? If you are a guest and like to bring things to parties, how do you go about deciding what to bring? Let me know.



4 responses

7 01 2008
Ordwoven.Com » Its my party and I’ll cook if I want to

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7 01 2008

Hee! 😀

You’re as anal-retentive as I am. My husband tries to get me to see that it’s no big deal if someone is gracious enough to want to provide a dish for our get-together, but I’m a planner and if it doesn’t fit into my plan, I don’t really no what to do with it. Usually, what I do is say, “How nice of you! I wasn’t expecting this at all! I’ll just stick this in the fridge real quick so that it stays fresh…” and then go on about my hostess business.

I honestly don’t know why people (a) go out of their way and (b) bring something that hasn’t been requested of them. I guess they’re just trying to be good guests, sort of how my mother always taught me that you never show up to a party empty-handed. But I always bring a bottle of wine or flowers, not a casserole. Hmm…

14 01 2008

I have the same problem, but more annoying to me is the opposite issue with this: being expected to bring a dish as a guest at someone else’s event! I like to host my parties (completely!) and expect others to do the same (so that I can actually relax and be a proper guest sometimes!) I don’t know when the concept took hold that every party is now supposed to be some communal, potluck thing where no one can never properly just relax and be hosted! Not showing up emptly handed to me means bringing a small token of thanks, such as a bottle of wine, not preparing the hosts meal for them.

15 01 2008

k, Terri: thanks! Although I would personally enjoy the wine or flowers (yes, I’m a man that likes flowers, okay?), I don’t even expect that. Like Terri says, just show up and enjoy being hosted.

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