I was just thinking about…how to guest a party
By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
I do not either host or guest a whole lot of parties, but I’ve had a whole lot of years to observe. I have been the recipient of (unintended, I’m sure) unfortunate guestly behavior, and I have probably unwittingly perpetrated some myself.
Let’s assume a dinner party.
On receiving the invitation, ask the hostess if she would like you to bring something. If she says no, don’t. She has carefully planned her menu and the amounts, or she prefers to serve her own creations, or maybe she’s too polite to say she doesn’t like your cooking.
If she says yes, ask her what to bring. If she’s vague, suggest something. This is a delicate negotiation. You want your offering to be truly enjoyed, but not to be so much work for you that you might as well be hosting the party yourself.
If you agree to take a cooked dish, cook it first. Don’t say you’ll provide butternut squash and show up half an hour before dinner with an uncooked squash under your arm. The hostess has planned the (cooked) dish as part of the menu. It takes at least a half an hour to peel the darn squash, never mind cook it.
If you take a cooked dish that you have dutifully cooked ahead of time, take a dish to serve it in and a utensil to serve it with. The hostess has probably already used up her serving dishes and spoons. If she’s a real stickler to have everything match (I do not, however, know such people), she probably has extras and can make a switch. If you can figure out how to take a dish that’s already hot, and can keep it hot, you will be a Star Guest, because the oven and microwave are already full.
If you take homemade bread, take it sliced. Slicing bread requires the hostess to locate the cutting board and the bread knife, and it creates a big crumbly mess for her to whisk away.
When the dinner is over, offer to help clean up. If the hostess says no, don’t. She can probably do it more efficiently herself, or there’s not a lot of room in the kitchen, or maybe she doesn’t like other people handling her nice dishes, or maybe (guests rarely think of this) she’s too polite to say she needs a few quiet moments alone.
If she says yes to your offer, ask what, specifically, she would like you to do. Collect drinking glasses? Wrap leftovers? Scrape plates? Do only that, until she gives further instructions.
Following are some preliminaries to consider before you attend a gathering.
Show up on time. Don’t arrive two hours late while the turkey stuffing in the warming oven turns to minced hockey puck.
If you have accepted an invitation, you’ve tacitly agreed to contribute to the overall conviviality of the event and the enjoyment of the other guests. This means generic, inclusive, pleasant conversation. No monologues, no contentious or distasteful subjects, no sulking, no fights.
Know when to leave. We once had a cat who, when it got past her bedtime, sat in the middle of the living room and stared at lingering guests who were keeping her up.
If the cat is staring at you, go home.
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