Miserly Hosts Make Guests Miserable

by admin on April 19, 2012

My sister is the real author of this story but allowed me to repeat it here. Her friends, let’s call them Sam and Julie invited a group of friends they all socialize with regularly to their home to watch a hockey game. Nothing was said specifically about refreshments either one way or another.

As it happened, Julie and Sam provided absolutely no food at all at the get together. There wasn’t so much as a bowl of chips on the table. My sister brought over chocolate chip cookies that she made thinking that this could help with the food – but there wasn’t any. Julie took the box of cookies into the kitchen and left them there and came out eating one of them herself. She didn’t offer the cookies to anyone else. Somewhere into the middle of the game Sam & Julie thought it would be a good idea to order pizza. They ordered 2 pies for the group of people and asked them all to chip in to help pay for it. The pizza was enough for everyone to have a single slice.

So I was thinking this through and I wanted to get everyone’s opinion. Is it a breach of etiquette NOT to offer refreshments at a “get together” at your home? The invite was only to come over and watch the game. In my world, I would have put out a little spread – chips, appetizers etc. If I was providing something more substantial and ordered pizza I certainly would not have asked anyone to help with the cost and I would have ordered more than enough. To be fair to Sam & Julie – are they under any obligation to provide anything in the way of food/drink if they invite people over and absorb the cost?

In the middle of the game, though, Julie told everyone that they were talking too much and were too loud so she went into another room to watch the rest of the game alone. 0416-12

The bare minimum of hospitality every guest should expect from their host is the offer of something to drink.  To offer nothing at all is inhospitable.   If the “get together” occurs during a meal time, guest rightfully have an expectation that food of some sort will be provided by the hosts.

I think your sister should lead by example and host her own get together to watch some sporting event while providing drinks and nibbles such as cheese and crackers, chips and dip, cookies, etc.   If Julie and Sam don’t get it and continue with their niggardly hospitality, they will eventually wonder why no one RSVPs or comes to their get togethers.

{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

--Lia April 20, 2012 at 10:20 am

Thanks for the reminder that inhospitality is not a cultural trait in third world nations. I’d say that that only reinforces what we’ve all been saying and makes me wonder again where Cami’s story takes place.

We can all imagine individual people or families who are weirdly stingy.

We can all imagine cultural differences as to what constitutes hospitality. That is, we know that there can be misunderstandings as to whether one must offer alcohol or soft drinks or dessert, or whether one must offer food in the afternoon between lunch and dinner, or whether it’s appropriate to ask guests to chip in for pizza or to throw a pot luck. We can imagine awkward spots as to not having enough or people inviting themselves over or confusions about who was invited. I have opinions on all of these as I’m sure every reader does.

What we can’t imagine is an entire culture where never offering food is considered the norm, so normal, in fact, that the person who does offer food is berated as abnormal. That’s why I asked about these strange, exotic people where food is not shared in homes. I can’t imagine it outside of some extreme circumstance (I mentioned a war zone or famine) or maybe in a science fiction story. Even when I stretch my imagination to places I’d like to travel to some day, everything I’ve read tells me that the cultural values are towards hospitality to strangers.

Cami’s story extends to the whole town? Everyone in the community is like that? That’s why I said that I do believe her and find it unbelievable at the same time. Where is this?

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PM April 20, 2012 at 10:30 am

Angela2- Please tell me that the last meal the Boor family ate at your house!

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AS April 20, 2012 at 10:46 am

“Striving for Sense” and “Sarah Peart”‘s comments had infuriated me, especially because I come from one of your so called “third world”, “non-native English speaking” countries (though I live in USA now). And we’d never, EVER think of letting a guest pass unfed. Thanks to all the other posters and admin for letting both of you know how wrong you are. The fact that you are still trying to defend your comments by saying “Non English speaking countries =/= “less hospitable” but simply “differently hospitable””, while saying that inviting a child for sleepover is hospitable when you learn that this is not some awful country, but your very own “English speaking” USA is disgusting. Yes, hospitality is different in different countries. But no hospitable place would consider a child going unfed while they all eat to be acceptable, and hence that is less hospitable to most people. And that also goes for your “non-English speaking countries”!

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AS April 20, 2012 at 10:59 am

@Striving for Sense – I am also wondering what you are trying to say about the friends in country where tax rate is 60-70%, where they are not native English speakers, but are educated and know to speak English? It sounds like the meat they gave was prepared in a different way, and has nothing to do with either the tax rate, or the fact that they are not native English speakers, or their hospitality or otherwise. You did not like the preparation, which is fine; not everyone likes a preparation that they are not used to. There are countries where they don’t eat meat, and are completely vegetarian and a meat dinner would probably make them throw up too. But what exactly are your trying to say in your apart from just sounds patronizing (they were a non-English speaking country with 60-70% tax and made meat that was beat up rather than cooked; yet they are our good friends because, you know…, and we ate their food…)?

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Lindsey April 20, 2012 at 11:00 am

I have to agree with the last two comments re: non-Western cultures. Most non-Western and/or less industrialized countries actually put a great deal of emphasis on community, hospitality, and face. Not only is it important to treat any guest well just to be polite, but also because of the reputation you’re trying to uphold (shame can affect your entire family). And food, or at least drinks, are often a very important part of interaction within those cultures. The West, and especially the US, are extremely individualistic and I think are more likely the sorts of places you’d find people not properly providing for guests.

I grew up on the eastern edge of the midwest and it’s completely unheard of not to give good to people sleeping over. Even adults would get food if they stayed the night. There might be a few instances were it’s not done (say, a friend drunkenly crashes in your dorm room), but they wouldn’t involve pre-planned get togethers or parties of any sort.

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jehauck April 20, 2012 at 11:00 am

I lived in Iowa for 27 years and Michigan for 23 years, and never encountered a situation where “food is for family” and sleepover guests are not offered any. I’m hoping this is just one town and not an entire region.

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Michelle M. April 20, 2012 at 11:04 am

PLEASE, Cami, tell me by “upper midwest” you do not mean Minnesota! :(
If anything, we are generally accused of being TOO generous with food and drink–actually had someone (not from the midwest) say, “No wonder you midwesterners are all so overweight!” when I put out what I thought was a beautiful spread at a get-together held at my home.

I would be MORTIFIED to have a child–or anyone, for that matter–come to my home, especially for an overnight stay, and not offer them food and drink. Eating in front of them and not offering to share?? NEVER going to happen! We even buy and keep special foods and treats at our house for my son’s best friend–poor kid has numerous food allergies–so that a sleepover is much easier and more fun for him.

If you are living in Minnesota, I tender humblest apologies on behalf of your, um, *interesting* neighbors, and invite you over to my house—There will be treats! :)

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Lynne April 20, 2012 at 11:15 am

I was so curious yesterday! I am glad that Cami shared a hint of her geographical location, although I, too, would love to know the specific city.

The “outsider” dynamic of the community is an interesting aspect to consider here: is your daughter typically the only child being invited for a sleepover, rather than a slumber party?

Is it possible that children who are “from” the community (whose parents grew up there) are NOT considered strangers, and are given food?

Either way, it all seems so terribly bizarre.

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The OP April 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Cami –

Hmmmm…could this locale of rudeness be one of the island communities on the Great Lakes? (Not that I accuse islanders of being rude in general, but they can develop their own little cultures pretty easily, and generally if you’re not born on the island you will always be an outsider.)

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kingsrings April 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I am wondering if the situation Cami described could actually be considered a crime. Allowing a child to go hungry for that amount of time is in fact endangering their health and well-being. Could someone call the authorities and have them arrested when this happens, I wonder? I also want to reiterate again that people in the Midwest are NOT like this as well. My family if from Wisconsin, and I’ve spent a lot of time in various parts of the Midwest. This practice is unheard of, and is only occuring in this bizarre little part that Cami is quite unfortunate to be living in at this time.

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Peachykeen April 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I’ve seen something similar when visiting my boyfriends Father and Stepmother in Florida. Stepmom (SM) is not well liked by the children (adults; 2 women and 1 man). She married their father when they were both retired so the children never lived with or were raised by this woman. I had only met her once and was planning a visit to see them at their home for the first time. Boyfriend’s sisters would also be there and the family joke was that there would be no food offered so be prepared. I scoffed at this, thinking they were exaggerating. We packed snacks and sodas for the car trip and at one of our stops I bought a fancy box of chocolates as a hostess gift. This brought laughs from the adult children and talk of ‘you’ll never see those chocolates again’. Ok, the hostess doesn’t have to put the gift out for us, it’s her gift.
Here’s how the visit went. All meals were at one of the two local restaurants in their small town. Father and SM paid for their meals and never offered to treat the guests. They often split an entree. No snacks or drinks were available at the house other than what we brought in the car. Breakfast one day was donuts from the community center where they lived (free to residents). Before you ask, yes, like most retirees they were on a fixed income but by no measure were they poor (new cars every couple years, golf cart, golf and the fees that go with it etc) Now I’d never tell someone how to spend their money but when you have house guest I was taught that you provide at least some bare neccessities of food and drink. They had a lovely fully equiped kitchen, dining area with nice dishes on display etc. but no culinary hospitality was ever offered. We suggested cooking our own breakfasts, buy eggs etc and was told she didn’t want the kitchen dirtied (by adults who run their own homes quite successfully and know how to clean up after themselves). This was her husband’s children (and me) as guests not strangers.
The kicker- SM wasn’t from Florida, they were snowbirds who spent half the year there and the other half in the upper Midwest where she was raised. Sounds like she came from the same area where Cami lives. I’d love to know where this custom comes from. And no, the chocolates were never offered to the guests.

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Lilac April 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Cami–I agree with Michelle M.–it can’t be Minnesota! Or if it is, it’s a complete aberration! I have sent both my kids to many sleepovers and neither has ever gone hungry. I have relatives in some of the smaller towns, as well as in the Twin Cities and they would be mortified if anyone accused them of being poor hosts. Minnesotans tend to set an over abundant spread and then worry if 3 meat choices, 4 salads, and 6 different “bars” are enough . I am curious to know if this is a very insular, isolated community or a suburb of a bigger city. It just seems so far out of the norm of American culture.

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MoniCAN April 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Cami- I’m with some others who have said you need to submit these stories as their own post to Ehell so we can have another 100+ comment discussion on this (without highjacking another post).
I am amazed at your story and want to hear more details!
Though unlike others, I don’t want to know EXACTLY where, lest it tarnish the town’s reputation forever online due to the lack of civility of one group of people who may or may not really represent every single person native to the area.

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Gilraen April 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Sarah wrote “My first thought was that wherever it was it would not be in America anyway, maybe some third world country where life is “dog eat dog”. ”

Strangely enough greatest hospitality I have found there where people have very very little. People that rather go hungry than having their guest leave without having had a drink and some food, little as it was they have to offer. It does not surprise me that it is in the USA and I have no doubt that it could happen anywhere in our rich rich first world.

Invited to watch a game? Man, I overfeed the people. But I do understand the BYO, did it a lot when I was a poor student. but do make it clear upfront or provide food and drinks.
I always have food for guests ready, love a freezer, and have the basics. Anybody that enters my house is fed and gets offered a drink. No matter if they are working or guests.
When it is an unexpected visit it may not be as much as I would prefer, but a cake is easy and quick to bake etc. Granted I too would be upset I would end up being the free eatery in town for friends.

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Kristi April 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Having read through all of the comments, I have to comment on Cami’s story. I grew up in northern MN near the ND border and now live in WI. I have family all throughout ND and MN and I am so puzzled by this community/area’s practices, as I have never, ever, ever heard of such a thing! This part of the country is probably better known for offering more than enough and being more than hospitable to guests, friends, family and neighbors. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be chewed out by my someone over the phone for having the audacity to serve food to a guest in my home – how in the world did you respond to that? Cami, please do say where you live, or at least narrow it down a bit so we have a better idea of your location! Of all of the bizarre stories I’ve read on E-hell over the years, this one is right up there!

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Enna April 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

@ Carol – I think it depends on the situation. If the host plans to serve food doesn’t matter if the group is big or small in some situations the host pays, in others if it is a spontanous “lets get pizza” expecting the host to pay for it all is a bit unfair – everyone should chip in if it is small or big group.

@ Cami, that just sounds weird. Never heard of that before! And the mother expected you to be telepathic? To eat a full meal in front of the child? “Food is for the family”. Never heard that before!

If the host’s sister baked cookies to share she could have said so e.g. “the cookies are for everyone” and if that didn’t get the host’s attention then go and get them.

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Abcd April 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I think Cami made it clear that she is in the US and not in a foreign country.

Anyway, this reminded me of a story my high school friend related to me. She and several of her classmates were invited to have lunch at the house of one her classmates. So when they were having lunch, the host classmate was called by her mother upstairs. My friend and her classmates suddenly heard the mother shouting very angrily why the host classmate invited people over for lunch when they themselves have barely enough to eat.

Needless to say, that instantly killed whatever appetite my friend had.

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Smiling Charmer April 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Well, I’m from a third world country. When I was 11 years old – I’m 48 now- an American girl joined my school. I’ll call her DJ. Her father was a diplomat, which is the reason why they had moved to my country.
DJ and I became good friends, so I was one of the very few classmates she invited over for her birthday. We were supposed to walk to her home right after school, at 5 pm – it was a two minute walk only – and our parents would pick us up at 8.30. So we’re at her home playing and listening to music when around 7 pm DJ’s parents asked us to wait in the living room while they had dinner (including DJ) in the dining room!!! I don’t really remember much of that evening, it was so long ago, but I can tell you I never forgot how shocked I was. I’d never seen anything like that before and have never heard a story like it – until I read Cami’s story. I left that school soon afterwards and never saw DJ again. I just wish I could remember which part of the US they were from! I’d also like to point out that I’ve been to the US at least 20 times in my life and never saw such thing happening again, on the contrary, I’ve always been very well welcomed by American friends and their friends&family in the US ;-)

A short PS: My mother NEVER believed me when I told her about the whole thing. She thought I didn’t like the food and that that was the reason why I hadn’t eaten!

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The Elf April 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm

My father in law rarely offers food, but it isn’t a cultural thing. He just doesn’t eat and is dirt cheap. He doesn’t eat breakfast, lunch, or snacks. For dinner, it’s into town for a fast food joint, a diner, a gas station (I’m not joking), or if we pressure him a bit, an inexpensive American chain. Sometimes we’ll pick up meat to grill, but only meat. No veggies, no sides. These days, we go prepared with our own stash of ready to eat, shelf-stable, transportable items (which basically means a lot of snacks). He’s out in the country quite a bit so it isn’t like we can just go down the road for a bite. We tried cooking for him, figuring that he’d eat if we put something down in front of him, but that was a lost cause. Not only did he eat maybe a bite, but we got a string of complaints about what we made, how we made it, the mess we caused…… He’s a real piece of work!

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AYS April 21, 2012 at 8:27 am

Am I the only who immediately thought of one of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books after reading Cami’s story? I don’t remember which one it was, but there was a part where Ramona’s parents were very late picking her up from the neighbors’ house where she was being babysat. Once dinnertime came around and she was still there, the family finally ended up sitting down to eat in front of her while she sat in the front hall and continued to wait for her parents. My memory is fuzzy, but I want to say the reason they didn’t invite her to the table to join them was that they were having pork chops and had only enough for each person in the family to have one. They did offer to make her a peanut butter sandwich or something like that, but she turned it down, half out of embarrassment and half because she was still hoping her parents would show up any minute.

Definitely not the same situation, but this was immediately what I thought of when reading that story and was just curious if anyone else remembers it! :)

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kingsrings April 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm

AYS, thank you!!! I am a huge Ramona fan, and that is immediately what I thought of during this thread. Thanks for posting it, I had forgotten to. I can even remember how it goes – Ramona was offered peanut butter and crackers while she was waiting. She was ravenous sitting in the other room listening/smelling them eat their yummy pork chops, but knew that Howie’s family probably wouldn’t offer her any because of the expense of it. In that case, her stay there that long was an unexpected situation, but it still makes me wonder if what Howie’s family did was etiquettely-correct? I know it may seem silly to reference juvenile fiction for an etiquette issue, but still. If I was in that situation as the parents, I would feel bad about a child sitting there eating nothing or just peanut butter and crackers while everyone else noshed on the yummy pork chops. Even if we were so broke, I would make that sacrifice because my conscience would be bugging me so much. But that’s just me, maybe I’m just too much of a push-over or something in that regard.

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Fraenzi April 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm

I actually have a story similar to Cami’s to tell.
Now, this is what my mother told me, I was a child and don’t really remember what happened, but apparently, one of my brothers and I were playing at a friend’s house.
This was a friend we’d often invited and who’d often stayed for lunch and/or dinner.
But when lunchtime came around, my mom was a bit late picking us up, due to unexpected traffic. When she arrived, our friend’s family had had lunch… while my brother and I were made to sit there and watch them eat, we weren’t even offered a glass of water.
Luckily, we didn’t have to wait -that- long, so we weren’t extremely hungry, but my mom still talks about how absolutely shocked she was when she heard that we hadn’t even been offered food.

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Elle April 21, 2012 at 10:04 pm

“I am wondering if the situation Cami described could actually be considered a crime. Allowing a child to go hungry for that amount of time is in fact endangering their health and well-being. ”

No.

A decently healthy** kid of sleepover age can easily go for 18 hours without food without endangering their health. It will not be a happy 18 hours. It will not be a pleasant 18 hours. And it certainly is NOT polite. But it is not dangerous to a kid’s health.

**Not diabetic or the like

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Michelle P April 22, 2012 at 9:50 am

AYS-that was the first thing I thought of! I remember that book too. I read it when I was a kid, so didn’t really understand how rude it was then. Shockingly rude now that I know better.

My sister is funny about food at her house too. I love to feed people!

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Michelle P April 22, 2012 at 10:12 am

Cami-you sound wonderful! You are more than welcome to move to my small town; I’ll feed you and your child until you explode. Aynor SC, biggest small town in the world. If you’re here, you’re family.

The Elf-you’re kidding, right??? I can honestly say there is no justification.

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Angel April 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm

The poster who talked about sleeping over a friend’s house and the family eating a cooked dinner in the dining room while the guests ate peanut butter sandwiches in the kitchen is just as bad to me as not offering the guests food at all. Treating your guests like second class citizens is just insulting and wrong. Not only is it inhospitable but it also makes the guests feel guilty for being there and sucking up your resources. I personally have never been in that situation, but my mom would tell me all the time growing up that if I was in a situation I was uncomfortable with to call her and she would come and get me. No questions asked. She knew I was a pretty easy going kid and not a lot of stuff would phase me. But I have to say, being separated while the rest of the family ate the “real” dinner would have set off big red flags for me. It may not have been enough to call my mom, but I wouldn’t have gone over there again

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Mabel April 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Rude not to offer snacks at least. Ruder still to hide the cookies in the kitchen and not offer any. Egregious to expect guests to chip in like that without coming to some agreement first. At some gatherings among close friends this is common, but if you invite people over you are the host and they should not be paying for their dinner like that. Also NOT EVEN A DRINK???

And completely deserving of E-hell to complain the guests are too loud and go off into another room. What a twit.

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Tom April 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Not even a beverage? Jeez, even Sheldon Cooper knows enough to offer a beverage.

I’ve gotta say, though, that the “winner” of these stories is FerrisW.
Too cheap to drive your kid to the hospital trumps no food and no drink.

Cami, I agree with another poster. Continue to offer other kids wonderful hospitality at your house. Heck, have a big blowout birthday party for your kid with ALL her friends. The kids will be happy with hot dogs and mac-and-cheese, so it won’t cost that much. Let the parents berate you for this. It’s not like you have anything to lose. Those kids will have warm memories of your family and will talk about it for years.

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Enna April 23, 2012 at 9:19 am

@ Elle, someone who does not feed a child for 18 hours could get into trouble for child neglect, it may not lead to a prision sentance but it could still end up with an adult getting a criminal record and community service. Even if the child is healthy if they aren’t fed for eighteen hours they could faint, or if they are feeling light headed and injure themselves as a result the adults in charge would be liable. If the child isn’t allowed water there is a risk of dehydration regardless of the health of the child e.g. if it is a hot summer day. I am diabetic and I am healthy but I think it’s wrong to discrimate against people who don’t have medical conditions and think they can “just cope”: access to basic food and water is a human right and a basic requirement of a host.

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Enna April 23, 2012 at 9:24 am

P.S the person who is hosting the sleepover is the one responsible for making sure that messages about bringing food or if good is going to be provided. If the guest has any special requirements e.g. vegetarian food then it is their responsiblity to let the host know. If I had a non-diabetic child who went to a sleeppver and he/she went without food for 18 hours and the hosting parents did not telephone me to bring some food along if that was the case my child would not being go back there.

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NotCinderell April 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

The only logical explanation I can have to Cami’s and Smiling Charmer’s stories is that this is a way that people show, due to possible racism and/or xenophobia (Cami mentioned being of Middle Eastern descent) that they’re too good to fraternize with someone who’s an outsider. The hardest part is, when Cami does the normal, correct thing, and feeds the kids who come over to her house, it just shows their rude parents that they’re not enforcing a social order, they’re just being rude.

Smiling Charmer’s story says to me that DJ’s parents didn’t want DJ to get too friendly with the locals.

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Striving For Sense April 23, 2012 at 10:24 am

If you only have enough pork chops for each person to have one, then you slice a little off each one, and one (or two, or however many is necessary) gets pre-cut chops. Excellent for visiting children who may or may not yet be cutting their own meat.

Seriously? Only enough for each person to get one is not a valid excuse when it is applied to something easily divisible with a sharp knife.

Now, applied to hard candies, well, then either no one gets one, or else someone (preferably the host) volunteers to skip.

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Striving For Sense April 23, 2012 at 10:28 am

Smiling Charmer – I’m sorry your mother didn’t believe you. However, I’m glad she had cause not to believe that such a thing could truly happen to you. Obviously, she had a good, happy, and hospitable life.

DJ’s father was a diplomat?! How undiplomatic of him. I’m not surprised they were posted away shortly afterwards, if that was any indication of his diplomacy. Gee, I wonder how many deals he bungled on the job.

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Striving For Sense April 23, 2012 at 10:28 am

Oops. I misread. You left the school, not DJ.

Still, a diplomat?!?!?!

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Striving For Sense April 23, 2012 at 10:43 am

AS – what was I trying to say about the story with my friends who pay a tax rate of 60% to 70% of their income and made meat in a way I didn’t like but I ate it anyway?

I was showing how important food was, as an aspect of hospitality, even in a culture where you work literally 2/3 of your life, just to pay the government, and have to live on merely 1/3 of your gross income. And this family was Christian, and paid 1/10 of their gross income to charity, too. So, out of their ^extremely small^ net income, they still managed to plan and pay for an extravagant meal, to honor their guests.

I guess I meant it as a counter-point to the story about not feeding guests. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. What matters is your generosity of heart. However, this was also part of the culture. Even if you could only offer bread and butter, guests were ALWAYS offered food or drink. Not both at the same time, because it was considered unhealthy to eat and drink at the same time. However, if you stayed long enough, you’d get covered on both bases. The people I knew in that country worked very hard to live very poor, but were also very generous. I’m sure there were a few who were not, but I was fortunate not to encounter or remember them.

If these friends were to encounter Cami’s neighbors, someone would probably have a heart attack, from sheer shock.

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Striving For Sense April 23, 2012 at 10:51 am

The Elf – My church also has missionaries, going door to door. Your firm no, early in their spiel, actually saves them time, so they can move on to find someone interested, faster.

I do hope, though, that if they are hot and thirsty and ASK you for a glass of water, you would give them one, just so they don’t keel over. It gets pretty hot in our neck of the woods, in the summertime. I think they’re supposed to bring bottled water with them, for that reason. But sometimes they drink it all before they are finished with their work.

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Cami April 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

I just wanted to clear up a few things:

1. I am not of Middle Eastern heritage. I am an American mutt (a little bit of everything) and grew up in a town with a lot of folks who were 1st-2nd generation immigrants from Mediterranean countries. Hospitality to guests and even strangers was the norm and in fact a matter of pride and honor. I knew many people who would stiff themselves in order to make sure there was enough for guests.

2. I have lived in three different towns in this area and the behavior was the same. So it’s not just one small town with this attitude. One particular town was by far the worst, however. I could submit a story about my PTA experience there that would curl your hair.

3. I did always continue to feed guests in my home. I cannot imagine doing otherwise. I once heard a little girl say to my dd, “Your mom is always so nice. She offers us food when we come here! No one does that!” My dd replied, “That’s what you do when you are the host. You feed people and make sure they are comfortable.” At the age of 7, she grasped the concept. Alas for those adults who refused to do so.

4. When that mom called me to yell at me for providing hospitality I told her that if I’m supposed to respect her ways, then she has to respect mine. If she does not want her child exposed to my ways, then she’s welcome to keep her child away from my pernicious values of hospitality. Gasp. She hung up on me. Her daughter continued to come over to my house and eat my cookies.

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Calli Arcale April 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm

The Elf:

Hmmmm….. Maybe the roots of the traditions of Cami’s town is in poverty? My mother’s family is from the upper midwest as well (though they don’t practice that tradition to my knowledge), and to hear my Grandmother tell it, they barely made it through the Great Depression alive. It makes sense – if you don’t have enough to feed your own family you wouldn’t serve food to anyone else. While that may not be the case any more, the tradition may still stick.

I dunno. My grandmother survived the Depression, and grew up absolutely dirt poor. She came out of that extremely frugal, to the point that even after marrying my grandfather (a doctor, who later inherited a substantial fortune), she would save the free shower caps from hotels to use in lieu of saran wrap. (Saran wrap is more difficult to reuse, after all.) Still, if you were in her house, you got *fed*, and fed well, because being a hostess is important to her. She’s very old now, and in declining health, so she can no longer fix a sandwich for you or even get you a lemonade. But she’ll direct you to her refrigerator, which she keeps stocked for guests, and will invite you to the restaurant they have on site or take you out to dinner. It costs more than hosting used to, since she can no longer cook it herself, but that doesn’t matter. She lives frugally and shares her bounty with guests.

And then there are my husband’s late grandmothers. They were never wealthy. Both of them survived the Depression. Until declining health made it impossible, they would feed a guest to bursting if at all possible. They lived frugally and simply, of course. But a guest always is offered something. So I’m not sure that surviving the Depression makes a person into a cheapskate who is rude to guests. I think people tend to become cheapskates entirely independently, and usually have no one to blame but themselves.

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Ultra Venia April 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm

NotCinderell, Cami mentioned she was second generation from the Mediterranean area. That does not mean “Middle-Eastern descent” although it can, but those who use the phrase are usually referring to north shore of the Mediterranean which includes Italian and Greek cultures.

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Smiling Charmer April 23, 2012 at 9:19 pm

@NotCinderell – I believe you have a point there. Theirs might have been a case of xenophobia or racism. Now that I think about it, DJ only invited a few friends from school, all of the same race as hers, and I was the only one of the same religion as hers. As for DJ’s parents not wanting her mingling with the locals, there’s an American school in my city, but apparently they wanted a school that was close to their place, I guess.

@Striving for Sense – you’re absolutely right! I’m an only child so my mother always encouraged me to invite friends over (and yes, they were fed!) and to accept invitations from them. Because of this I have friendships that have lasted for more than 40 years :-)

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Angela2 April 24, 2012 at 1:04 am

@PM: absolutely the last. We strategized about how to avoid and/or deal with boors inviting themselves to dinner after that (basically developed our polite spine)

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The Elf April 24, 2012 at 7:11 am

Calli Arcale, I agree but localized poverty creating a tradition of “just us” was the only explanation I could come up with.

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The Elf April 24, 2012 at 7:18 am

Striving For Sense, if I see a person who is in dire need of water, or if they ask for it, I’ll surely provide it if I can. That’s not only common courtesy but practically inhumane not to!

But I cannot emphasize how rude I find the practice of door-to-door missionaries and I have no desire to encourage it in any way or open myself up for listening to their speil one iota longer than necessary.

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Striving For Sense April 25, 2012 at 9:01 am

The Elf – They’re kind of like telemarketers, aren’t they? I don’t like in-your-face proselytizing, either. However, my church does it, so I feel obliged to accept the practice in other churches, as well. I don’t, however, have to participate in it, myself.

And as I said, telling them early that you aren’t interested frees them up to proceed to the next person. Like a telemarket. It may be fun to play with them, but it’s just eating into their time, and in that case, their livelihood, so I try to say no at the earliest opportunity. If some cases, I’ll even bite the bullet and hang up, if they refuse to take my no for an answer.

And I NEVER listen to a recorded message spiel. If it’s a recorded message, I hang up the very moment I realize it.

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JodyQld April 26, 2012 at 12:43 am

We have similiar friends, with lack of hosting skills! We have been invited on numerous occasions for a BBQ – which starts at 3pm. However there was no finger food, chips, nuts, nothing. Then at about 8pm they called for pizza, without asking any guest if this was suitable (my husband is glutten intolerant). Imagine 5 hours of alcholol and softdrink only (BYO also) and every guest was told ‘you know where the ice and glasses are’. Needless to say, we learnt and brought our own nibbles and ate before arriving.

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NicoleK April 29, 2012 at 7:39 am

Not having even chips or drinks (doesn’t have to be alcohol) is strange. I don’t think it is strange to ask everyone to chip in with pizza, depending on the nature of the event and the relationship of the people. I’ve been to many gatherings where it’s time to order pizza and we all pitch in ten bucks or whatever to cover the costs. If someone had no money on them, someone else would cover them. These are informal gatherings.

If everyone was chipping in, though, why didn’t they order more food? Usually the way that works is everyone looks at a take-out or online menu and gives input.

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Syrse April 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm

First, to the original post;
if you invite people over, you at least offer them a drink. If it’s for a game, or anything longer then an hour, you provide finger food.
You never, EVER eat in front of guests without offering them too. If there’s not enough, you don’t take it out, or you don’t eat yourself. If it’s a gift, you put it on the table.

When we cater, we get the fridge full of drinks, and get chips, meaty snacks, and healthy food, so we have a little for everybody. Mostly all of our guests end up bringing tons of booze, cookies, pudding, and then we have to yell at them because we can’t finish it all and they refuse to take it along, saying ‘just leave it for the next one.’ Of course, next one comes around, and they show up with yet another bottle. I still have 3 bottles and about half a crate of beer waiting for the next one. My friends crack me up. You think it would be bad etiquette to tell them not to bring anything next time?

Oh, and if something goes wrong, and people end up being around during dinner, you pull up a chair, and make due. If there’s not enough, you divide what’s there, maybe take out some bread or add some soup. Maybe decide to not start cooking, and go for take out instead.

Of course, if people consistently show up ‘accidentally’ around dinner, I would surely not feel bad to say, after the 3rd time or so; ‘sorry, we’re about to sit down for dinner, so glad you could stop by though’, and escort them to the door.

I would also like to respond to the ‘is it illegal not to feed a child’ question. It most definitely is! This falls under willful neglect. Food and water are basic rights, and should always be provided when asked for, or needed. ‘The child is not mine, so not my responsibility’ is NEVER a good excuse. If you’re the only one available to feed the child, and there is food, or money to go get food, you have NO excuse. You either feed the child, or find someone who can.
Even if these strange people want to follow these absurd rules, they should therefore have at LEAST called the parents and ask about where their dinner was. Leaving a child hungry until well after breakfast? Seriously? I would have called the cops, filed a complaint.

We had a court case a few years back actually, where a toddler died… because the man babysitting her refused to feed her. this was less then 18 hours. The mom was his girlfriend, and had to leave the kid there as a last resort.
The judge asked him why he did not feed the child after hours and hours of crying.
His response?
‘It’s not my child. Why should feeding her be my responsibility?’
You could hear a pin drop in that court room. Judge was NOT mild.
How can people like this exist? How can people like this have kids of their own?

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Guinevere May 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

A couple of years ago my then-hubby, our infant son and I were invited to his cousin’s wife’s birthday party (10 people invited). We were told to arrive by 4, and the meal would start at 5. We were there at 4:15, feeling terrible about being late. We were the first ones there. We sat until almost 5:30, when another one of the guests called to say they would be late, and could the dinner just be later as they needed to go grocery shopping first? At the end of this tale, our meal started at 7:30 because our hosts acquiesced to their tardy friends.
We had to request refreshment after about 45 minutes of waiting to be offered, once we’d arrived.
I just don’t know what to say, except lesson learned.

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Jodi Rives December 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm

My Southern grandmother just rolled over in her grave. I come from people who make every meal three or four times larger than necessary so that when people pop in the backdoor–which is never locked, by the way–there is enough. Hospitality has gone the way of the dinosaur.

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