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 }

E September 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I think the guest was rude to stand and serve and pressure the guests into the cake but did your mother make it clear she wasn’t going to serve the cake at all?

I can imagine a scenario where the guest gives over the cake and the hostess makes a comment about there not being room at the table at the moment, will pop it on the counter etc which may have given the guest the impression she intended to re-arrange the deserts a little later on and put the cake out when ready to be served?

I also agree with the posters who have said that they didn’t see the harm in serving the guest’s cake – especially as it was a buffet so there were already a range of options, not one set meal so may not have disrupted a hostess’ theme. I’d personally see it as a nice gesture – your guest trying to treat you and wouldn’t mind at all putting it out with the rest of the spread and mentioning the guest’s generosity if anyone asked about its origins.

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Calli Arcale September 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I don’t think the mother deliberately “hid” the cake; there just wasn’t much room on the table. Obviously, the cake-pusher was able to squeeze it in there, but I know when I set up a buffet, I always try to leave room for maneuvering and for setting down one’s plate temporarily while handling serving tongs or whatever. It’s entirely possible there just wasn’t enough room for everything.

I can see where the cake-pusher may have felt this as a snub, but I’m not sure I can understand the subsequent behavior in the light of revenge. Insisting on cutting and serving at a buffet is a bit weird. Perhaps she is socially awkward, and didn’t realize how uncomfortable this could make people feel? Or perhaps she’s from a family where traditionally there is cake and somebody serves and plates it for everybody? In my family, typically the host(ess) cuts and plates cake and pie (often with ice cream or whipped cream, according to the guest’s preference), and then enlists Spouse or Child to take orders and distribute the plated desserts. If serving a cake buffet-style, I would expect it to be completely cut before the guests begin taking desserts. And you never pressure anyone into taking a particular food item. That’s just plain rude.

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AS September 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm

For people saying that the hostess should have accommodated the cake in her dessert table – I don’t think that the hostess is obliged to serve the food a guest brings, unless it is a potluck (in which case it would be bad if they don’t serve something a guest brings). Admin, please correct me on this if I am wrong. I have often taken desserts or wine when invited for dinner, and they sometimes gets served, sometimes they don’t get served (and I hope the host enjoys them later, but I’ll never know – it is a gift and should be treated as such). So, OP’s mother did not have the obligation to serve the cake, and hence she had it at the back in case someone wants it. There is no reason for the guest to force it upon other guests.

As a side note, admin – I don’t host parties too often even though I’d like to because we don’t have much time or space in our house. But I w0uld still not force others to eat or prioritize what I get at someone else’s party. And I have met a person who loves to boast if she brought a dish to share in all parties, eventhough she often used to host her own parties.

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NbyNW September 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I believe the rudeness is all on the part of the cake-bringer. We’ve addressed this before on the forum. Once the gift has been given one does not get any say in how that gift is used. I understand that the cake-bringer wanted and expected that her cake would be served that day but we don’t always get what we want or expect. That’s life. Once the OP’s mother thanked her for the cake it was hers to do with as she pleased.

What took this from mild, understandable rudeness to the deepest corner of what-was-she-thinking e-hell was her insistence on standing at the table serving everyone a slice of her cake whether they wanted it or not.

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Angeldrac September 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm

There are a couple of quotes, concerning manners, from the movie “Blast from the Past”, that I always liked:
“Manners are a way of showing other people we care about them.”
“[the] definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.”

Now, while agree the guests behaviour in forcing cake on everyone is tiresome, I find the behaviour of the host and the suggestion from admin to be quite lacking in grace and hospitality. OP and admin seem more concerned with assertiveness and the “rights” of the host, as opposed to the responsibilities of the host in behaving gratefully and welcoming by including the offered gift of cake or rearranging of the table (however inappropriate either action may have seemed).
Since when did etiquette and hospitality become more about assertiveness and not ensuring guests were being made “as comfortable as possible”? (without, of course, becoming a doormat, and I hardly thinking the host making the tiniest but if fuss about the store bought cake does that).
What would it have taken the host to have just put the cake out at the front of the table and make a little bit of fuss about it? Nothing! It would have been a NICE thing to do.

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Elizabeth September 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Your mom is the hostess and devised the menu. Guests shouldn’t bring dishes unless specifically asked to (i.e. potluck or ‘an appetizer would be a huge help’). Bringing food or wine doesn’t obligate the hostess to serve these items immediately – they are gifts for the hostess and do not change or alter the menu. That the cake was even visible at all surprises me – its arrival bears no impact on the menu plan.

Your mom is rightly annoyed by this guest’s pushy action. She was under NO obligation to serve the cake. And please remember that the guest brought a gift for the hostess and the hostess’s only obligation is to say ‘thank you’ graciously. One shouldn’t give gifts with expectations.

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Roslyn September 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I agree that hiding (what do you mean that your mother was “required” to put the cake on the back counter??) the cake was wrong, which (in my opinion) forced the Bringer of the Cake to find it at dessert time and put it on the table. No, there is no etiquette obligation to serve the cake, but there is a “nice” factor since the cake was brought to be served to all, not just a “hostess” gift like a bottle of wine or flowers.

I also think that standing there and forcing a “slab” onto everyone was wrong.

Two wrongs. Also, I think that this has a deeper story, what did your mother do to the Bringer of the Cake? Was she somehow slighted at some previous time which she would have behaved this way?

I had something happen to me at one of my Husband’s Family Picnics. They have one in the Summer every year, it’s pot luck, but pretty much everyone brings what they always bring each year. I am a Professional Baker, and I bring something homemade every year. I made a beautiful Strawberry Cream Cake (one of my signature cakes) with freshly picked local strawberries. I have made this before and I am VERY used to taking home a cleaned off platter with NO leftovers. After eating I wondered over to the table where the desserts were placed. I had placed my dessert right up front. Someone else had moved it, to the back of the table, behind a pile of napkins and plates. You could hardly see it when you were at the start of the line of desserts. So by the time you walked up the table, your plate was full of other things.

Needless to say I took home a very large portion of that cake, at least 75% of it. It took my family 3 days to eat that cake (it was very big!) and we loved it. It was delicious. I have since heard whisperings and things as to why it was moved, however I don’t take anything elaborate anymore. They are not deserving of my cake.

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Emily September 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm

My friend and I are both big bakers and host events often, so I asked her opinion on this post and she shared the following:

The hostess didn’t sneer, she didn’t scoff, she didn’t throw it out; she put it on a counter in her kitchen – relax.
When my parents have parties they put ALL the gifts on the desk in the kitchen.
IF someone mentions “oh you should try the wine I brought” or something we’ll bring it down to the party; it’s a gift, you’re not obligated to serve it immediately.

And if I spent days preparing food for a party and somone didn’t ask if they could bring food – especially if they know me and how I plan parties (similar to how the poster’s mother’s parties are well known for having lots of food) – of course I wouldn’t give their food a front and center spot. I never bring food to someone else’s event without asking permission of the host and then asking them what they want me to bring.

Perhaps she could have said “Do you mind if I save this for another occasion as I’ve made plenty of dessert for today?” and that would have mitigated the situation.

And to add my own comments to my friend’s thoughts–
If I spent days planning a menu and sweating it out in the hot kitchen and invited people to a party where I assured them there would be plenty of food, I, too, would be a little miffed that someone brought food they expected to be eaten by the guests without first asking what they could bring. It’s a disregard for my own time and thought put into the event.

Furthermore, if you want to bring a hostess gift, think about your hostess and what she may be lacking. No, not everyone is a baker, so instead of bringing a store-bought cake, bring wine, bring cheese, bring whatever, but don’t bring a store-bought cake to a baker’s home, who specifically DID put the time and effort to bake everything homemade, unless you ask permission ahead of time and they say “the more the merrier” on the dessert table.

If the person insists on bringing a cake as a gift, I would graciously accept it (I am a student of eHell, after all, and every gift should be accepted with gratitude and appreciation) and also request that we serve it at a later date.

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doodlemor September 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Any authorities that I’ve ever read state that hosts are not obligated to serve food brought by guests.

Here are three sources, the first of which is Miss Manners:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=20041126&id=QZAyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6PIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3085,185681

http://www.ehow.com/list_6913335_suggested-hostess-gifts.html

http://www.dogphotog.com/A55C96/Demos/coastviews.nsf/ID/60FE65?opendocument

I think that the guest was insufferably rude to hijack the dessert table and ostentatiously dole out the cake that she brought. I would hesitate to invite her again.

It’s unfortunate that the hostess left the cake where the guest could find it, and didn’t stick it right into the freezer. She also could have been more forceful in stopping her errant guest from serving the cake, so that her guests would have been able to choose what they wanted.

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Alice September 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Wait, if a guest brings wine as a hostess gift, my understanding is that one is not required to put away the wine one has already provided in order to serve the gift. How is the chocolate cake any different? I think I would have cleared a place for it, but I can’t imagine I would have allowed her to force it on to other guests. (And I must say that, had I been one of those other guests, I would have thanked the pushy guest warmly but refused her “offer” and taken what I preferred.

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Yet Another Laura September 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

You can never win when you host a party. Someone will be offended no matter what you do or how you handle it.

This hostess reminds me of my mother, who used to host a lot of gatherings for our huge extended family. There would be food – and lots of it – all homemade. When someone brought something that there wasn’t space for – there was never space for something not specifically requested – she’d have thanked the guest profusely, assured the guest that the overflow item was appreciated, and brought the item out the instant something else was finished off. I’m assuming that was probably the plan. Placing the cake in a Plan B position is not rude or insulting. The guest taking it that way was over the top.

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German Shepherd September 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I do wonder why Guest bought the cake when she knows there’s always an abundance of food at Hostess’s party. Which is why I agree with the Admin’s response of “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 see how Hostess’s actions were childish, but what Guest did was even more childish, irksome, and just plain p.a. She may have gotten back at Hostess, but she put the other guests – spineless as they were – in an awkward situation. Yeah, Hostess should’ve made room for the cake, but Guest’s p.a. was worse imo.

Now I’m craving store bought cake ;)

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Miss Raven September 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I agree that it’s boorish to push food on people, but I have to agree that OP’s mother had an etiquette breach herself.

Hostess gifts are of course not required to be consumed in front of the guests. But unlike flowers or a bottle of wine, an entire cake brought to a party is quite obviously meant to be the guest’s contribution to the dessert table. To pretend otherwise is being deliberately obtuse, which is what OP’s mother did.

I bake myself, and am a frequent hostess. I prefer to both provide and consume home-made goods over store bought. That being said, it was incredibly snobby of OP’s mom to sneak the guest’s cake off where it would never be heard from again and I can imagine that this was in no way lost on the guest.

We have to consider the messages that our actions will send. To hide the cake in the kitchen, away from all the other desserts sends the message, “How nice of you to bring a sub-par dessert that I hope no one will take notice of. It does not deserve to share space or spotlight with the treats I prepared myself.”

A gracious hostess would have made room on the dessert table for the offering and allowed the guests to choose for themselves. This story makes it sound like OP’s mom is less interested in the altruism of hosting and more interested in soaking up praise.

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Tina September 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I also think the cake should have been placed on the dessert table. The hostess should have had spine enough to tell the cake bringer, that while she appreciates the gesture of serving the cake, this is a buffet and everyone serves themselves. By not having the cake displayed it seems as if she was purposely hiding it, and the guest probably did feel slighted

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badkitty September 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm

A hostess gift is a gift for the hostess, to enjoy whenever she chooses. When you give someone a gift, you relinquish all control over where, when, and how the gift is used or consumed.

In other words: bring a cake, leave a cake. It’s not your cake anymore.

We’ve had a similar event posted here in which a guest brought a bottle of wine for the hosts of a dinner party. The bottle was not served with dinner because the hosts had more than enough of their chosen wine to go around and nobody requested anything different. The guests retrieved their bottle and took it home after the dinner party, and were blasted in this forum for being so rude. Now we have people claiming that, in a similar situation, the hostess was rude for not serving her gift to her guests; it seems we have some double-standards when it comes to consumable gifts?

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Otter September 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I agree with the posters who think the hostess was too territorial. It’s insulting to have your contribution to a buffet assigned to a back room to go uneaten. It could at least have been put out. Having her push it on everyone was too aggressive, but it was in response to “store-bought” cake being shunned in the first place. Both women were rude in varying degrees.

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FerrisW September 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Gosh, for a moment I w0ndered if I’d been a guest at this party! I once went to a buffet where a horrible woman who I’d never met before stationed herself by the buffet table plonking items on peoples plates whether they wanted them or not. I’d just managed to help myself to a few items when she reached out and deposited a huge piece of chocolate cake onto my plate without asking. When I protested she said it was delicious and I’d enjoy it.

Unfortunately I’m allergic to chocolate and so now couldn’t touch anything on the plate, as the icing had touched the other items. A friend happily took the plate from me and ate the contents but when I went back to help myself to more items I could eat they’d all been taken! The horrible woman demanded to know why I wouldn’t eat the cake and when I told her she rolled her eyes and said there was no such thing as a chocolate allergy and that if I was trying to watch my weight, it was a little late!

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Spike September 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I agree with people who say that maybe the hostess could have tried to make a little space for the guest’s cake, which, while a “hostess gift,” was probably also hoped to be shared with the guests. If she didn’t want people thinking she had made this store-bought-quality cake (which is fine), she could make a small announcement that “so-and-so has kindly brought this cake to share.”
Having said that, it’s the host’s call, so the cramming of the cake on the table and serving and pushing of the cake on other guests by the cake-bringer was unquestionably rude. I hate when people try to push food on me – especially sweet stuff, since I’m on a diet! It seems to be a selfish desire on the part of the pusher to appear generous no matter the cost.

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starstruck September 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm

first of all, i dont agree with the first comment on how your mother was rude to put the cake in the back. sorry, but when i throw a party, especially at my house, and serve the food, i think its up to me which food i will be serving. so no your mother wasnt rude on that front. however i do agree with adm when she said that no one was exactly refusing the cake. i mean we are all adults and if someone offers you cake and you dont want said cake, you dont take the cake! lol i do think that the cake bringer was being pushy and a little crazy i might add. i mean, why wasn’t she eating and enjoying the party herself? sounds like someone with control issues. but above all, the people accepting the cake should be the ones to decide for themselves.

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June First September 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm

It’s like when you bring any other gift: the giver doesn’t get to say when or how the recipient uses it.

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Another Alice September 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I actually agree with commenters that the whole thing started when the OP’s mother put the cake on the counter and not the table. I don’t consider bringing food to a food-based event a “hostess gift;” I consider it a contribution to the party, and should be served as such. I prefer to make homemade things to take to parties, but sometimes I just don’t have time, and I’d be pretty miffed if I brought a store bought cake and it was put on the back counter away from everything. The message is clear: This is not good enough to be served with my REAL food.

That being said, it’s also incredibly rude to be forcing people to eat your cake. I agree with admin that no one could ever force me to eat anything (I’m too stubborn), but sometimes for the sake of keeping the peace, you just take it on your plate and throw it out. I do think though that it was a direct retaliation, and as such could be avoided next time by just putting the stupid thing with the rest of the desserts to start with.

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Din September 13, 2012 at 6:38 pm

The guest was way out of line to be sure, but I was brought up to believe that if a guest brings a food dish, you always bring it out to be served. It’s an acknowledgment of the gift that the guest has been kind enough to bring.

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Rachel September 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I see nothing wrong with what the mom did. A hostess gift is a “gift” after all. It would be different if this was a potluck dinner with everyone bringing something. In that case it would have been incredibly rude and I would never have attended another such potluck. If the guest had called ahead and asked if she could bring anything, was told to bring a dessert and then had her store bought cake relegated to dessert Siberia, then it would be rude on the part of the hostess.

But, in this case there is no indication that Mom had asked guest to bring a dessert, guest did it of their own volition as a hostess gift. Mom thanked the giver and put the gift away. There is NO requirement for a hostess to server an edible hostess gift. Think of it another way. If I am visiting my mother in her home for Christmas and give her a box of her favorite chocolates, it would be extra nice if she decided to share it, but she is certainly under no obligation to do so.

Take into consideration also that Mom may have prepared desserts based on the dinner that she prepared. Throwing a party, serving a meal and whatnot requires a lot of planning, and I know that I would be annoyed to go to all that work just to have a guest throw it in my face, basically sending the message that everything I had done and prepared was not good enough.

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White Lotus September 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Puzzled is right. The rule is that a consumable hostess gift need not be served at the time it is given or at that event/meal. The mother was perfectly right to stash the cake. She might have said, “Thank you so much. I am saving this for me!” She did not have to, though. This was NOT a potluck. She was under no obligation to say anything but “thank you” and to set it aside.

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Baglady September 13, 2012 at 10:16 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.

Where did you get that in the OP?

the OP’s mother was rude in banishing the cake to a back table, as that sent a message, intentional or not, that the guest’s cake was unwelcome.

It was unwelcome … as a contribution to the meal. It was a welcome hostess gift, and it was put where a hostess gift goes: out of the way of what the hostess is serving her guests.

That the cake was store-bought and mom’s desserts were homemade isn’t really the issue. Even if cake lady’s cake were homemade, and/or mom’s desserts were from the bakery, the fact is mom did not want or need or ask for *any* contributions to the meal.

Perhaps mom could have been a little more explicit in letting the guest know (graciously) that the cake was appreciated but not needed for dinner: “Why, thank you, Martha! It looks delicious. You know, I’ve made more than enough desserts for tonight, but this will be just the thing for tomorrow’s dinner/Thursday’s book club meeting/a late-night snack. Will it be OK on the counter, or should I put it in the fridge?”

But not everyone thinks that fast on their feet. I know I don’t. Mom was not rude. Cake lady was, not for bringing the cake but for insisting it be served with dinner and making it happen.

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Rug Pilot September 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm

I have extreme food sensitivities and cannot eat certain items which I may like. My nutritionist has told me not to irritate my digestive system for the sake of a treat. If the guest would have tried to force me to eat the cake (there is such a thing as too much chocolate and it will make me sick) I would have told her that I can’t eat that. If she continued to force the food on me I would have taken it to the nearest trash can and dumped it.

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Rebecca September 14, 2012 at 2:24 am

I’d be really annoyed with the cake-bringer. It wasn’t a potluck. This was a chance for the hostess to showcase her talents. I don’t understand why cake-bringer would bring a cake to a hosted event without checking first. There’s only so much dessert everyone can eat. But where she really crossed a line was in standing at the buffet table pushing her cake on everyone. It’s not her house, not her party, and what right does she have?

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Bint September 14, 2012 at 2:28 am

I don’t understand why posters keep assuming some superiority/smugness on the mother’s part because she’s a wonderful cook. She hasn’t submitted this story; her daughter has. Until the mother starts bragging about how great her culinary skills are, those posters are making big – and totally unfounded – assumptions. For all we know, the mother is a very modest lady who just loves to host and her daughter just happens to be extremely proud of her! For goodness’ sake, and why should she rearrange her table with all her work on it for one chocolate cake – which the daughter herself admitted was ‘beautiful’? How long did it take her to set it all up in the first place?

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ItsyBitsy September 14, 2012 at 3:46 am

I’ve read these comments and I cannot believe there are people who blame the hostess, some of them quite snidely. To them I would like to point out that it was her daughter who submitted this and praised her mother’s cooking, not her mother, the hostess, herself.
If anything, the hostess was too nice in putting the cake out on display. She may have intended putting it on the dessert table once there was room. Who knows and what does it matter? It was her gift to do with as she wished.
The guest was unforgiveably rude. Who brings cake to a buffet party unless asked to do so, never mind force it on people?
As for the commenter(s) who said that when they bring something edible to a party – not when asked to do so but as a ‘gift’ – they expect it to be served regardless of the hostess’s plans otherwise, well, they wouldn’t get invited back to my house.

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Margo September 14, 2012 at 5:25 am

I’m a little bit curious as to what is mweant by ‘back counter’. When I read the post, (and in forulating my reponse) I read it as the cake being set out on a counter which was bbehind the dessert table – i.e. that it was ‘served’ but in such a way that it was not included with the ‘real’ desserts which OP’s Mom had prepared.

If the cake was kept separate from the food (i.e. put in the freezer, kitchen or pantry) and Mom was gracious in thanking the bringer then I don’t think Mom was rude.

My view that she could have handled it better was based on my reading of the Op as Mom having accepted the gift and put it to be served, but not *with* the rest of the food.

I don’t think Mom was under any obligation to serve it, nor to put it ‘front and centre’, but if she chose to serve it at all , it should have been served in the same way as the rest of the desserts.

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Jenny September 14, 2012 at 6:49 am

I agree you don’t have to serve a hostess gift. You want to decide what the other guests are fed, you have your own party. Especially for something store bought, where you don’t even know if it’s going to be all that good.

I agree it’s just like wine – you don’t bring it expecting it to be served. If you are ASKED to bring a dessert, then fine, but can you imagine if I, unprompted, brought a ham to your dinner and then insisted it be served? It would be massively unfair to the hostess.

I’m actually not a fan of store bought cakes at all. I don’t like icing, and so I make cakes at home with whipped cream. No way I’d let someone force that on me.

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Lisa September 14, 2012 at 7:31 am

I feel sorry for the OP’s mom. I think that just about anyone who has ever worked in the kitchen for hours, or takes pride in their homemade product, pouring their love and time into it, will understand her reaction. The guest hogged the attention, pretended to be more important then she was, and made sure that people were too full with her chemical-laden 15 dollar cake to taste the stuff OP’S mom spend time, money and effort on.
I’ve had a similar experience and was very upset as well. A while ago, I spend hours to make a proper meal, pasta-sauce from scratch, etc. I knew that the main dish was very filling (but goooood), so I served a very, very light appetizer. The sister of a dear friend had tagged along and brought a huge quiche as a gift. She sliced it into little cubes in the kitchen, put it down on the table in the living room, and people started filling up on it before the meal started. When my big pastadish came a lot of people were half-full already. I felt like she took over the honor of serving my guests nice food, something that gives me great joy & that I spent a lot of time and money on.

And as a side-note : Home-made goods by an experienced baker ARE far superior then storebought, if only for the thought and love put into them. I don’t really understand why some posters think it’s not OK to look down on storebought? I sure do. Maybe it’s cultural (I’m European)? I know that in my family, people who bring store-bought ARE looked down upon. It’s a lot better to bring flowers or wine if you can’t take the time to cook. (which in itself is perfectly understandable/acceptable, just don’t bring food then).

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Angela September 14, 2012 at 7:37 am

I do a fair amount of entertaining and don’t do potlucks simply because I want to be control of the food quality. I’ve found that potlucks often generate a lot of subpar purchased food. At my house I want the food to be good so I make it myself.
People sometimes do bring things and I try to put them out but I may not, or may put it on the side. I cannot imagine making people take something whether made or brought. That is extremely rude and inconsiderate.

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Lucky September 14, 2012 at 7:55 am

No, people who act like this are not people who entertain . . . because nobody will come to their houses any more. People who don’t entertain because they’re not the entertaining types don’t do this because it’s exactly why we don’t entertain: We don’t want to be in charge of the party. People who do this are entertaining types who are pushy and overbearing and generally suck at it.

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NicoleK September 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

I think the mother removing the cake from the buffet would have hurt the guests feelings terribly and I don’t recommend it.

To answer the LW’s questions:

Yes the guest was rude and yes the mother took it too hard.

I’ve been in the situation where my MIL always likes to bring a dessert and try to show me up when I host, but we just put all the desserts out and usually half of each gets eaten.

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Shannon September 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

Personally (and I say this as a frequent hostess), I think too many people who host get WAY too uptight about their menus and setups and what-have-you. It’s a party, not a state dinner or invasion of Normandy.

I understand that the hostess is not required to share hostess gifts, but there’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The rules on hosting exist to maximize comfort and enjoyment, not to be some sort of rigid bylaw on How Things Are Done and to punish the evildoers.

I would have found room on the table for the cake, because ultimately, which is more important: That the guest, to whom I am extending hospitality, feels valued and comfortable? Or that my perfect menu goes undisturbed?

Hospitality is about people, not things. A dessert tray, a table setup…those are just material objects. Give me a choice between people and things and I’ll choose people every time.

(And before anyone jumps on me…yes, I think it was rude to push cake on people. The guest who did that in my home would not be welcome back. But jeez louise, all this ‘it is rude to bring things to a party because it disturbs my impeccable menu’ stuff is just way over the top. Life isn’t perfect, and clinging to some ideal of Martha Stewart hostess perfection isn’t hospitality, it’s showboating. People know when they are valued guests, and they know when they are simply an audience.)

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NicoleK September 14, 2012 at 8:38 am

I’d also like to say that even if it is “technically” correct that a hostess gift needn’t be served, the reality is that a lot of people’s feelings WILL be hurt, and telling them “A hostess gift doesn’t need to be served” won’t unhurt their feelings, they’ll still read it as “your contribution wasn’t good enough for my party”.

Not a nice message to give a guest.

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Cami September 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

While obviously the guest was intolerably rude to push food on people — and where was the hostess during this debacle? Why did she have no trouble banishing the cake to a back counter but couldn’t find her spine to tell the cake pusher to sit down?

Anyway, I think it’s a red herring to compare a cake with a bottle of wine as a hostess gift. A bottle of wine can safely be stored for months. A cake won’t be good in a day or two.

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Decimus September 14, 2012 at 9:25 am

The people who are saying the hostess was rude for not putting out the cake are essentially saying all dinner parties can be turned into de-facto potluck events. That’s just not how it works! Bringing an unrequested/unapproved dessert and insisting it be served is rude TO THE HOSTESS because it states “what you are planning to serve wasn’t good.”

Imagine my mother plans an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, all the trimmings and a nice home-made cake with home-made ice cream. Then imagine I show up with a pepperoni pizza and a half-gallon container of ice cream from the grocery store and insist everyone take a piece of what I brought.

Do you really think it would be rude of my mother to NOT serve the pizza?

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Rap September 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

“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.

Where did you get that in the OP? ”

I will be honest – the OP gave that impression to me with the details that her mom is an amazing hostess and guests just know not to bring food because her mom’s food is so awesome, and are accustomed to bringing non food hostess gifts as Mom’s cooking is so abundant and the storebought cake had to be put on a back counter because the desert table was full of her mom’s homemeade delicious. It’s then emphasised that the homemade delicious desserts were moved aside for the store bought…. There’s definately 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.

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Katie2 September 14, 2012 at 10:05 am

I think that the nice thing to have done would have been for the OP’s mother to rearrange the desserts so the guest’s cake was on the ‘main’ table. Even if that meant relegating a couple of her own desserts to the back table. I think that putting it at the back was a slight on the guest, even if it wasn’t intended that way. That said, the guest responded very rudely. I can understand why she was miffed at having her dessert snubbed (and I *do* think that, given the context, it was snubbed), and she was very out of line.

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Teapot September 14, 2012 at 10:13 am

I think assuming that the cake was a ‘gift’ for the hostess is wrong. Flowers or bath salts are a gift. The cake-bringer was obviously contributing to the meal. Mom was rude to hide the cake. The cake lady was rude for blocking the dessert table. It’s an ehell tie.

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Katie2 September 14, 2012 at 10:16 am

I’d also like to say that I agree with Shannon. And I’ve never heard the expression ‘jeez Louise’ (I’m British)- hilarious :)

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Jones September 14, 2012 at 10:31 am

I would have a huge problem with someone doing something like this. There are a lot of different food sensitivities and outright allergies in my family. My mom can’t have chocolate, my sister and I can’t have gluten. If someone presumed upon a hostess at a party we attended to serve up slabs of chocolate cake and force the guests to take it, I am afraid she would find several plates of cake handed right back to her as we partook of chocolate-free, gluten-free goodies, which a good hostess would have known about and planned to accommodate. Even without the intolerances/allergies, I don’t know why guests didn’t refuse what they didn’t want and take what they did.

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Lucky September 14, 2012 at 11:41 am

If it’s not a potluck, people who bring food shouldn’t expect to have it served on site. Hostess gifts don’t have to be served on site. Unless contributions are solicited by the hostess, people who bring them need to understand that what they bring may not be served. No, it’s not Normandy, but that it’s not an invasion should go both ways: The hostess shouldn’t have to defend her plans from pushy marauders.

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Samihami September 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

When a guest brings something like that, it is supposed to be a gift for the host/ess to enjoy at a later time. It is intended as a thank you for their hospitality. It’s rude for the guest to presume that they can change or add to the menu that has already been planned. I would not be inviting that person again.

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bloo September 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Decimus, I think you nailed it.

A previous poster mentioned that about hosts being too uptight, but that’s not the problem. A guest SHOULD understand that he/she does not insult the hostess by bringing food to be served at a gathering without input from the host. A gift is great; it can be used/consumed/served at any time at the host’s discretion.

A cake brought to a party with the expectation that it will be served and then brow-beating people to take pieces (and ignoring the clear signals from the host that she didn’t want to serve the cake) is presumptuous and insulting to the hostess. If a guest like that selfishly takes the message “my food is not good enough” away from that, well, that is his/her problem and not the host’s.

The message Cake Lady should have taken away is, “Oops, maybe I should have asked if I could bring something or gotten them some flowers instead.”

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Floweramon September 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I agree with Margaret. I think this is all just a result of miscommunication and misunderstanding. The hostess saw it as a gift, and the guest saw it as a contribution. Personally, I’ve never been to a party where people bring stuff just for the host and not for the party as a whole. (unless you count birthdays or showers, but people don’t tend to host their own birthdays/showers, so I guess that doesn’t count)

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goddessofpeep September 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I don’t think the hostess was rude to do whatever she wanted with the cake. This was not a potluck, it was a hosted event. What if more guests brought a little something to share? What if they all did? It was already a more than fully hosted party. What is a host to do with all that food then? The cake was made available to the other guests, but it just wasn’t put out in such a way that it was the center of attention. If the hostess is making as much food as indicated in the story, even a small addition can cause a chain reaction of craziness when it comes to shifting around a buffet. I know that I only have so much counter space and serving plates, and for bigger parties they’re already at capacity with my own stuff before the first guest sets foot in my house.

My MIL does the same thing, and it’s not for any nice reason. She just wants the attention and the praise. She did the same thing this year at Christmas. She arrived extra early, and brought some food with her. Since she got there before all my hors d’oeuvres were even finished cooking, she had her food out before mine. And she spent the time I was in the kitchen trying to plate things playing host in my home. I spent literally 24 solid hours cooking(I made one heck of a spread), and I got to watch people fill up on her food. This is after she was specifically told not to bring anything. Repeatedly.

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Robert September 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Reminds me of the time I was invited to my friends family BBQ at his cousins house. It was also my friends mothers birthday so I made a birthday cake for the party (chocolate cake with homemade peanut butter frosting decorated with peanut butter MnM’s).

I knew my friends aunt and mother did not get along too well but I was a bit taken aback when the aunt intercepted me coming into the party, commented about how nice the cake looked then took it from me saying, “I’ll just bring this into the house and put it in the fridge. Sister can take it home with her when the party is over.”

My friend wound up telling his mother what happened, mother retrieved the cake and put it with the rest of the desserts. By the end of the day all evidence of any etiquette breach had been consumed.

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