Dear Alma: Men Who Don’t Help Clean Up, Diners Who Pick Their Teeth

Dear Alma,

I make a few dishes really well. How bad is it if I always serve these 3 or 4 dishes when I entertain? I know I can always count on them coming out good. It bums me out to no end when I work all day on a meal and it just isn’t “great.”  Maybe my ego is in the way. I’m not cooking to simply impress although I must admit I love to hear compliments. I’m interested in being with my friends first and foremost, and feeding them well. I know that I love it when they make certain dishes. What’s the etiquette?

Thanks,
Boring But Delicious

Dear Boring But Delicious,

You have answered the question yourself. You are really cooking to be with friends, to enjoy their company and to feed them well. Since your dishes are delicious, I would say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

A word of caution, however. To paraphrase the famous Peg Bracken who wrote The I hate To Cook Cookbook decades ago, “change your guests, not your dishes”. That is, make an effort to mix it up a bit so that you don’t always serve those same guests the same meals. Unless of course they request it.

Enjoy those compliments!

Dear Alma,

I hate when my male guests don’t get up to help me clean. I think it’s chauvinistic. Am I right?

Signed,
Pissed at lazy asses


Dear Pissed at Lazy Asses,

I understand your feeling annoyed, especially if you want and need the help but
as I always say, entertaining is more about making your guests feel comfortable and having fun than it is about anything else. You did not invite the men to work your party.

If you are overwhelmed when you entertain it would be a good idea to hire someone to help. I’m not just talking about a catering company that will charge you a fortune; hire your kids or their friends or bribe them to help. When I was in high school I was a hired hand at a party and I saved the family’s apartment from burning down by catching a candle setting a curtain on fire in a bedroom. Just saying that the host/ess can’t always be on top of everything.

That being said, it’s always polite for a guest to offer to help, whatever their gender. Sometimes there are guests who offer to help to be polite and really would prefer not to, but there are also those who feel more comfortable pitching in. There’s also nothing wrong with a friendly, “would you mind helping me clear these?”

If you really need the help, accept it but try not to judge too much if your guests are having such a great time that they forget their manners. That means your party is a success!

Dear Alma,

What do you do when a dinner guest picks her teeth at your table with one of of those individual plastic dental floss tooth pickers?

Signed,
Grossed Out

Dear Grossed Out,

Excuse me while I dry heave before I answer your query.

This is an atrocious thing to do in public and also unsanitary. Unless your guest is your beloved 98 year old grandmother who has advanced gum disease, necessitating flossing after meals and can’t make it to the privacy of your bathroom because of her unstable knees, I would question how important this person is in your life and consider whether or not to invite them again. Ever.

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