You Will Eat My Dessert

by admin on September 13, 2012

I have been pondering for some time whether or not to submit this story on my mother’s behalf. It is something that comes up quite frequently whenever our family is planning a party. Ultimately I would like to know if this story will land anyone in e-hell or if my mother is being dramatic.

A couple of years ago my family threw a Memorial Day party, a nice get together with many of our closest friends and relatives. My mother is an amazing hostess and is known to leave no detail undone, no belly empty. We often joke that my mother makes enough food for an army and that we would need to invite the guests over again for lunch the next day just to finish off the left overs.  Many of the guests, although unnecessary, end up bringing a sweet hostess gift for my mother. These gifts usually are in the form of flowers or something of the sort. As everyone is accustomed to my mother’s abundance of food, people generally shy away from bringing anything food related. This party however, a friend of ours brought a beautiful store bought chocolate cake. My mother accepted the gift with no qualms but was required to place the cake on the back counter as the dessert table was very full with her homemade delicious. This in turn, is no etiquette breach; the breach comes when dessert time comes around.

At the time that folks are starting to make their way over to the very full dessert table the cake bringing guest takes it upon herself to take the cake out from the counter and cram it onto the dessert table. Not only has she pushed some of my mother’s delicious desserts to the back of the table but she is now parked at the table cutting and serving this cake. Most of this, a little odd at best, I could deal with. The kicker to it was that she basically forced anyone within 10 feet of the table to take a large slab of this dessert. My mother tried to use her polite spine and suggest that we let people serve themselves; this party was primarily buffet style. Cake bringing guest refuses and stands there until pretty much everyone at the party had taken a slice. Because of the pushiness and hovering over the table, many guests were unable or too full to enjoy any of my mother’s homemade desserts.

After the party my mother was really annoyed that cake bringing guest was so adamant about this cake. It really bothered her that even after asking her to basically back off that she was still forcing cake on everyone. It hurt my mother’s feelings as well that she was pretty much stopping other guests from getting to and enjoying my mother’s desserts.

The question remains, was the cake bringing guest in the wrong or is my mother just hyper sensitive to the subject? Please advise! 0829-12

 

It’s been my observation that people such as your cake bearing guest who compels other guests to take a portion of their dish are not people who entertain themselves. If they did, they’d be finding their own contentment in serving what they really love or think their guests would enjoy.  But they don’t host so they are obliged to piggyback on the efforts of other hosts.

Guest was pushy but it appears most of your other guests lacked any spine to decline a dessert they may not have preferred.    No one would have made me take a slice of chocolate cake if there was a homemade cherry pie among the other dessert choices.  And your Mom can stiffen her spine a little more and just quietly remove the cake from the dessert buffet.  At a buffet at my own house, a new guest, unfamiliar with how I set up my buffet, proceeded to completely rearrange my set up.  Without a word, I promptly rearranged it back to how I had originally laid it out.  And I did it right in front of her.  She knew immediately she had overstepped herself, apologized and no more was thought of it.   The minute that cake walked out of the kitchen and onto the buffet, your Mom can just as promptly remove it and walk it right back into the kitchen.  If guest takes issue with this, a calm reply, “When it is your party, you can decide what and when to serve your guests.  I prefer my guests to have first choice of the desserts already on the buffet.”

{ 129 comments… read them below or add one }

kingsrings September 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Unless you are asked to bring a dish to be served at such an event, don’t do it. Is it very rude to foist your item upon the hostess’ carefully planned and organized meal. Not only that, but you are causing less of her food to be eaten now, sticking her with extra leftovers. AND you’re telling the hostess that what she is serving isn’t good enough, so you’ll bring what is “good enough”. Therefore, the hostess is under no obligation what so ever to serve the dish.

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Bint September 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm

“No, she wasn’t technically rude, but the ‘I am the most wonderful baker EVER’ thing is off-putting enough in the story that I can easily imagine it being so in real life.”

Given the mother did not write this story, Rap, how can you assign this to her just because her daughter chose to praise her mother’s cooking skills? “I am”? The mother did not write a word of this!

Jeez Louise, indeed.

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Angel September 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Put me on the side of the guest was extremely rude. She knew that the dessert table was self-serve and yet chose to force the cake on the other guests anyway. Rude, rude, rude! I thought the hostess was gracious in putting the cake on the counter at all–but, she wanted to give guests the choice of desserts, not force them to have certain desserts.

I will never understand why people force food on others. If I don’t like a dessert and it’s forced upon me, it’s going in the trash. That’s wasted food! Some people might take a couple of bites just to be polite, but, come ON! That’s not a position you want to be in if you’re out for an enjoyable evening.

I probably would not invite that particular guest back. I would want my guests to have a good time :)

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Jenny September 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm

“There’s definitely a tone here that the OP’s mom’s desserts and hosting abilities are are just awesome.

And that may be the case but it does come off a tad overdone.”

It’s a typical reaction to your mom. Most people who have moms who at least competently cook and bake think their mom’s cooking is the most amazing thing ever. I don’t read that as rude and weird, just a typical child/mom relationship.

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White Lotus September 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm

If I am serving Indian cuisine, and you decide to bring a lasagna, when it is not a potluck and you didn’t ask us first, no, I am not going to serve it. It is rude beyond belief to upset my carefully planned meal in your grab for attention. I will be grateful for the lasagna in two days, and thank you for it now, but I am not upsetting my dinner party because you don’t know hostess gift rules and want to grab center stage for something that does not fit in with the planned menu. Mom is right. Cakewoman was wrong in so many ways.
But this is what my second comment is really about:
If you are the person who brings a ham or chicken or meat thing to my vegetarian house for a planned non-potluck dinner party and announces you have “brought DINNER” — and this happens all too frequently — not only will that meat not be served, but you will never be asked again. In fact, I will consider you a complete boor and may never speak to you again. This is not only rude beyond redemption, it is a direct insult.

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babs September 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I think what your mom should have done is slice the cake, put it on a pretty plate (even if just a few pieces) and place it among her desserts. The guest was flat out wrong to slice and serve, and if she any knowledge of how your mother liked to cook and entertain, to bring something from a store. (However store-bought doesn’t always mean grocery store, it could be a delicious bakery cake!) I think it might have been a bit extreme to banish the cake to the kitchen. Also I’m with Library Diva about telling her the family would enjoy it later. But sometimes in these weird situations, we don’t have the time to think up the perfect response!

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Katie September 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

I don’t know if I’m being a bit silly here, but I can’t see why people couldn’t have just taken a slice of the shop cake and then ALSO taken something else from the other desserts??

I’m not trying to be dismissive, but I honestly don’t see the problem with adding in an extra dish brought by a guest. A buffet-style meal sounds pretty informal to me, and something where an extra few dishes could easily be integrated without any fuss or drama.

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Cat Whisperer September 15, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Comments:

You cannot uncrazy people. The lady who more or less forced cake on everyone, rather than just letting them choose what they wanted, was crazy. When OP’s mom suggested that this guest allow people to serve themselves, and this guest refused to back down, that was when things officially entered the crazy zone.

Crazy people do not respond rationally. If you try to force them to behave rationally, they will make YOU crazy. You can’t uncrazy them. Better to just let things go.

OP’s mom did right to just let this guest do her thing. If I were a guest who had cake forced on me, I’d have accepted a slice, taken a token bite, and then gotten the dessert that I wanted from the buffet.

Moral of the story: you don’t try to uncrazy crazy people. Not unless you want them to make you crazy, too. You work around them. You take the unwanted cake, take a token bite (unless you really like the cake), pronounce it “mmm, mmm, good,” and then go for the dessert you really want. And cheerfully and without guilt chuck the uneaten cake in the trash.

While I understand where admin is coming from in advising to remove the cake and tell the crazy guest, “When it is your party, you can decide what and when to serve your guests. I prefer my guests to have first choice of the desserts already on the buffet,” I disagree with this approach. If the guest really is crazy, as in irrational, all it’s going to do is provoke her to defend her actions and make everyone uncomfortable. Which is not what a caring hostess wants to do. Especially when the situation involves someone who is already behaving in a way that makes people uncomfortable.

Let it go. Guest’s behavior is bizarre enough to allow other people to draw their own conclusions about her. And if people aren’t smart enough to just not eat the cake they’re forced to take, or to find a way to refuse to take cake, then too bad for them and more dessert for everyone else.

You can’t uncrazy crazy people, and if you’re smart, you don’t even try.

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Julia September 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I personally think that both the hostess and the guest were wrong. The hostess should have either made room for the cake on the main table, or not taken it out all together. The guest was not wrong in bringing the cake (store bought or not is not pertinent to the story). Bringing a dessert for the table is as good as bringing flowers or alcohol IMO. The guest should, however, have taken the hint that the hostess did not want the cake to be served at that time, and certainly not tried forcing it on people. That crosses the line. The guest was obviously an attention seeker who wanted praise for the cake that she brought.

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Elizabeth September 17, 2012 at 9:17 am

White Lotus has very correctly summarized … and if someone disagrees, start reading the archives of this website because YOU belong in ehell.

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Rap September 17, 2012 at 9:47 am

Bint – the quote you’re attributing to me was from Shannon.

I do feel that the OP’s insistent praise of her mother’s “homemade delicious” that is so awesome that guests just *know* they are not to bring food as Mom’s hospitality is so amazing that a wise guest will understand that a more appropriate housegift is flowers or certainly NOT food as everyone knows mom’s cooking is soooo fantastic is a wee bit over the top. It also suggests, by it’s tone, that the guests decision to bring a cake as a housegift was gauche to begin with. All I know? It a) makes me wonder how good the food really was and b) makes me think the cake was considered a bad housegift which might be what set the guest off.

I suspect there might have been a misunderstanding on this.

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Shannon September 17, 2012 at 10:29 am

Dang, Elizabeth, that was actually pretty rude of you to say. Any variation of “if you disagree with me, you suck” is combative and harsh.

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Shannon September 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm

That quote wasn’t from me, Rap. Now I’m completely confuzzled.

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Katie2 September 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm

It was Shoebox who made the ‘Most wonderful baker EVER’ comment :) I have to say, I agree that there was a tone about the post that the cake was not entirely welcomed (e.g. the OP said that the gift was accepted ‘without qualms’. I found that a little… odd, though it might just have been awkwardly worded).

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Yertle Turtle September 17, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Agree that this seems like a misunderstanding. Guest thought she was doing something nice by contributing, but host thought cake was a gift. (Guest was then abominably rude to force cake on people.)
I once turned up with drinks at a party for my cousin, and my aunt said, “that’s very nice of you, but when you come here for a party, you don’t need to bring a thing.” She taught me something about being a good guest and did so without making me feel embarrassed or resentful.

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Sugaryfun September 18, 2012 at 5:19 am

It’s funny, I have been in a similar situation involving chocolate cake. We were eating at someone’s house and my Mum brought homemade chocolate truffles, not knowing that the hostess would be serving a store bought chocolate mudcake. Instead of thanking Mum for bringing something the hostess grumbled something about it being “too much chocolate” and refused to try any of the truffles. After everyone had eaten a slice of cake she kept pressuring them to eat seconds and even thirds of the cake (though a couple of us refused repeatedly and firmly) but she and her entire family refused to try the truffles. I ate one and kicked my husband under the table to eat one too so my Mum wouldn’t be upset that no-0ne was eating any of them. Surely they could have foregone that second slice and eaten a truffle! People are weird.

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Rap September 18, 2012 at 9:39 am

SHannon – sorry, my error there – I was reading too fast when I was looking for the quote, my apologies.

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Chris September 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I host buffet style parties all the time. I love to throw a party and it is the most economical way for me to throw one. Even though buffet is very casual (usually) a lot of planning goes into it. When I read this it reminded me of the time my MIL brought a cake to my youngest child’s 4th birthday party. She did not ask me. I had made this elaborate (because I always make elaborate cakes, it’s fun fo me) Elmo cake. That was the cake he requested when I was planning his party. He is the youngest of 3 children MIL is at this point aware that if we are having a birthday party I have made a cake and numerous other dishes that all go with the theme of the party (which is always evident on the invites, to help extended relatives with the “What’s he/she into these days?” question) She showed up with a white store-bought cake with elephants on it. I said “Wow! W*** is the luckest little boy ever! He will have an entire cake even after his party is over!” I had my son thank her for the cake, and then put it in the pantry, still in it’s box. I don’t belive I have ever been more offended by someone at a party than I was that afternoon. About a week later I had hubby call his mom to say we enjoyed the cake and to explain why that would upset me. Fortunately, my son is now 8 and we have never had a repeat. I hope the Mom in this story never does as well.

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Shoebox September 18, 2012 at 8:29 pm

OK then!

Clearly, I’ve learned a lesson in not commenting hastily, esp. on a site devoted to the dissection of human behaviour. :) On careful reread the story’s tone is much less ‘off-putting’ than it seemed at first glance.

Still, though… I can’t help but be a bit bothered by the assumption — which also comes through in many of the comments — that the point of a party is the hostess’ preparations, and *any* disarrangement of same on the guests’ part is to be condemned. (You can see it taken to its logical extreme in a recent story on Hell’s Bells, in which a perfectly reasonable attempt to mention bees on the food– a potentially life-threatening issue — is taken as an horrific insult.)

My mom is also a fantastic baker, but anything a guest might bring to a gathering would be equally welcome, because after all the point of hospitality is to make guests happy and comfortable, not to ensure they’re impressed. In that context, while again the guest behaved unconscionably, it probably at least wouldn’t have seemed like as huge a deal.

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Shannon September 19, 2012 at 7:17 am

Chris, if that’s the rudest thing to ever happen to you when you’re hosting a party, I would just count your lucky stars and move on.

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Rap September 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

Shoebox, I think the vibe I don’t like is the idea that food as a gift was deemed unacceptable because everyone should just know that Mom is such a great cook/baker and should know better than to gift her with a food item as it simply won’t be up to Mom’s cooking standards.

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Katie2 September 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm

To respond to Chris’s story: I honestly can’t see why anyone would be offended/upset with an extra birthday cake bought for their child! I can’t understand how on earth that would be considered offensive in any way. And I certainly don’t see why the ‘second’ cake couldn’t be served alongside the main cake. My mother would have been *thrilled* if someone had done that for me, theme or no theme. Unless there is some underlying issue, or the MIL was deliberately bringing something the child didn’t like, then I can’t understand the rationale for not serving the cake. Am I missing something here??

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Spuck September 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm

To Katie2, in Chris’s and in the original post it is a power play and attention issue. In both cases the cooks/hostesses spent a long time planning a menu in a situation where it isn’t potluck and no one else was asked to bring a dish. If your mom would be thrilled, that is fine, but if someone tries to change something in a hostesses theme there is nothing wrong with getting rid of the offending brought food.

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Lapis September 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I understand Chris being upset that MIL brought another cake to the party. MIL knew that Chris would make an nice, elaborate, themed cake to go with the party but MIL brought a cake that was not needed or requested. It was as if MIL thought the cake Chris made was not… how to word this…good/professional enough? I’m having trouble expressing my thought but it seems like MIL was almost trying to “show up” Chris a bit with the other cake.

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Cat Whisperer September 20, 2012 at 12:18 am

I dunno, I guess where cake is concerned I’m a push-over, but I would never, not ever, find someone bringing an extra cake a problem. I have a very simple philosophy about cake: CAKE GOOD. EXTRA CAKE MORE GOOD. ME HAPPY!

(FWIW, regarding the home-cooked vs. bakery or store bought: ALL CAKE GOOD. )

It’s like when my old department manager got upset because his secretary and another departmental administrator each bought a 10-pound giant Hershey chocolate bar to the year-end department morale party. 20 pounds of chocolate instead of “only” 10 pounds. Could someone please explain to me how this is a problem? ;^))

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Cat Whisperer September 20, 2012 at 2:08 am

I also have to add: I understand and respect the concept of the host/hostess composing a carefully thought-out entertainment menu, with courses prepared to complement one another and all the side-dishes in harmony with the main course, and desserts carefully chosen to be in accord with the menu theme. And I can appreciate the desire of a great cook to have guests admire the cook’s ability to execute complex and difficult recipes. But in the end, when you’re entertaining, isn’t the idea that you want your guests to have a great time? Isn’t that the main thing?

It’s like the story about the famous art critic who was invited to the house of a lady who owned a fine collection of paintings. The professor admired a painting by Sir Alfred Munnings, a famous painter of horses, that was hung in the living room. The art critic fell into conversation with the lady and asked her what she liked about the painting: was it the boldness of Munnings’ brushwork? His mastery of light and shadow to illuminate the scene? The fluidity of his line to emphasize the motion of the horse? His impressionistic handling of color?

No, the lady said; she liked the painting because the horse in it reminded her of her uncle’s old horse Brownie, which she’d always been very fond of.

The art critic just looked down his nose at the lady when she said this. That was such a wrong reason for liking a Munnings painting!

In the end, when you’re entertaining, if your guests have a good time and enjoyed being your guest, does it matter whether it’s because they appreciated way the menu was structured and executed, because they were impressed by your expertise as a cook, or because they got two kinds of cake for dessert instead of just one? The point is they had a good time. If they enjoyed being your guest, your entertainment was successful. Does it matter if it wasn’t successful for the reasons you thought it should be?

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Liz0613 September 20, 2012 at 2:56 am

Last year, I hosted an after Thanksgiving dinner. It was basically just Thanksgiving dinner a few days after the holiday so family and friends who don’t get to see each other on the 26th can get together. Everyone knew I was cooking and I made a bunch of desserts, but people brought some desserts as a gift. I was thrilled! My table was literally overflowing with desserts but I thought it was so sweet that people would think to bring something. I was able to send everyone home with a doggy bag of leftover desserts and everyone loved it. I don’t see a problem with a guest bringing food (it’s just a hostess gift) but forcing people to eat it is definitely rude.

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Janos September 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm

I have to wonder if you all would be saying that the Hostess was now required to serve the unwelcome, and unwanted dessert if instead of bringing a cake, the woman had brought a whole HAM and PLUNKED it down on the table making all of the other options the Hostess had made seem unneeded?

She wasn’t asked to bring it, She didn’t NEED to bring it, she brought it anyways..The hostess thanked her and put it in the back since there was NO ROOM, and then the rude guest SHOVED it in, and stood by it, plonking slabs of cake off people.

This wasn’t a hostess gift or even a contribution to the dinner, this was “Guest” Deciding “I’m making this all about MEEEE”

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Stephanie Regan October 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I would like to point out that only in a culture of excessive consumption would we stand around and argue about what to do about extra, unwanted food.

It is probably obvious to anyone that the guest was out of line to push her cake on someone else’s guests — but for goodness’ sake, we’re complaining about having too much food and asking what the rules should be.

Mostly I find it kind of depressing to read a mother’s complaint about her MIL showing up with an extra cake for a kid’s birthday party. Is that really rude, or was the MIL trying to help? If you answered “rude” then my guess is you haven’t worried often about money. How fortunate.

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