Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dinner Guests and the Art of Being a Good One

When Megan Gordon wrote her five ways to be a great dinner guest on The Kitchn blog I had an emotional reaction that made me sit up and take notice. I think about manners and considerations between guests and hosts quite a bit, so when Megan put up her preferences, I thought I might as well throw mine into the ring.

At the bottom of this posting is a list of several web pages about dinner party manners - there is some overlap, but some of these things bear repeating.

Here are my opinions about being a good guest when someone invites you for dinner:

Feasting together is an ancient tradition that is a celebration of life - bring a whole hearted attitude; this is a time to celebrate being together, so if it's possible let go of life's common irritations, or the trouble you're having at work, and try to be joyful for the duration of dinner.  This will not only spare your fellow guests from having to bear your burdens but will also be good for you. A good dinner party nourishes everyone's soul and that's why we ask our friends to join us for dinner.

If you want to boil it down to one principle so that you don't go crazy being self-conscious about your behavior: Be Considerate. Your consideration should be for your fellow guests and your host/hostess.

Show up when you say you will - making the host/hostess hold dinner and having everyone waiting around until you arrive isn't chic - it's extremely bad manners and a drag. If you're really hung up with something, text  or call the host/hostess and tell them what is going on. Expect them to start without you.

Take something interesting that is either a discussion topic or an actual thing. If it's a discussion topic, try your very very best to make it something to talk about while eating.  This means excretions, blood, gore, guts and veins in your teeth are not good.  Save this for beers and movie night.

Make it clear that you're enjoying the food -  a lot of silence at the table might be nerve wracking.

Be gracious! This is a time to show your best manners.  See below for more tips on taking a gift, sending a thanks text and other behaviors that tell your hosts that you liked being invited and enjoyed the dinner. Don't make them guess! Be kind and considerate of their efforts. They're trying to make a little oasis of happiness - tell them they succeeded. It's a way to extend the jolly feelings.

This is not the time to get sloppy drunk, but a time to enjoy the company of others while having a great supper. Stay coherent and able to manage a knife and fork - giggly is great, slobbery and knocking over the crystal or dropping the meat platter is very, very bad.

Unless your host/hostess has arranged for entertainments that go into the wee hours, leave. They have been working on making this a great DINNER party all day - don't keep them up all night.

If you really like doing the former two activities - invite people over to your place and let 'er rip.

* * *
Zena, Goddess of Fire, let fly on her opinions regarding potluck manners:

WARNING FROM ZENA: This is a rant!!!

I think some of these blogs on being a good guest are well worth summarizing and sharing on AlbanyDish. Thank you Foodie Friend. When asked for my worthless opinion on the subject, I just had to twist the scene a little bit, since when I host a party, it's usually, at least in part, a potluck. Friends LIKE to bring a dish of their own (most of the time) and really LIKE to contribute somehow to the feast.  
When I throw a potluck I usually say “bring anything” but sometimes I have suggestions – very general ones: salad, dessert, appetizers. I don’t think these gatherings should be orchestrated – that misses the point. I clean the house, I set up a bar, I arrange the table/house for sit down or buffet depending on how many are coming, and I expect (and look forward to) a meal that is a bit more casual. Usually I prepare several dishes, including the main course/s. I do as much as I can in advance so I can enjoy my company. The point is to get together with friends and talk and laugh and share for a few hours. The eating thing is a bonus. A good potluck hostess helps guests get their own dishes together and ready for service. 


Please bring your own damn serving dishes and utensils. I hate when people show up with a grocery bag full of stuff and no way to put it out. And if your contribution requires some last minute prep please do it yourself. Don’t give me directions!!! Oh, also, unless I know you for who you are, and love you anyway, I expect guests to bring something more than a bag of chips. If you aren’t a cook that’s no excuse not to bring something delicious for the table. And seriously, if you’re picky about what you will and won’t eat, please eat before you come. At least bring a dish to share that you WILL eat. Kindly keep your restrictions to yourself unless you are going to keel over and die from a peanut or something.

Oh, and if you are coming late for some reason don’t bring a stupid appetizer. That was two hours ago, and so are you.

A few other things about etiquette for ANY party or gathering:
  • Take off your shoes if its wet or mucky outside. Bring “indoor” shoes if you need to, ones that won't scuff up or mark or scratch my immaculate as always floors.  
  • No one should get wasted. Exceptions if your host/ess is a goddess or something.  (:
  • Everyone needs to respect the furniture/surroundings.
  • Please discreetly tell the host if something needs attention, like there’s no TP or we’re out of ice.
  • Please don’t stay too late. If I’m cleaning and packing up, you should too. Note that I always appreciate some help in the kitchen, and I like when I can go to bed (because I might be trashed) without the kitchen being trashed (as well).
  • Put your f&#*@%g phone away. Thank you.
My question to you, good reader, is this: What makes a good POTLUCK??? We'd love to hear your comments here on Albany Dish!

Love to all, 
Zena, Goddess of Fire

Short list of web articles on dinner party manners;


Basic Essentials of Dinner Table Etiquette

Modern manners: the dinner party guest Felicity Cloake

Should I bring a hostess gift?

Party manners 101

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