My Second and Third Helpings Take Precedent Over Your First Helping

by admin on October 16, 2012

This past summer, I invited four friends to accompany me to my home country, for vacation, in the Caribbean. We are in our early twenties and were tight for money so renting a hotel room was not an option for us, however, my dear Grandfather insisted that we stay with him in his home for the week that we would be visiting there. My two South American friends decided to make a very popular dish from their home country (a shrimp ceviche) as a gesture of thanks to my Grandfather, which I found very sweet. Now, I believe that my friend underestimated the quantity of ingredients for the amount of people that made up the group including my Grandfather and my cousin because no sooner had they sat down to eat (my Grandfather is usually the last to eat by his own choosing no matter how insistent I was at that time), my friend and her boyfriend (I will call them Jack and Jill), served themselves heaping mounds of food onto their plates while everyone else took smaller portions. I did not even get a chance to serve my Grandfather, much less myself, before they took heaping seconds and thirds, by the time to fix a plate, I made sure to take a give my grandfather whatever was left of the shrimp and vegetables and rice (there was not much) and juice and rice for myself.

I believe that during this whole time, in retrospect, I should have been the first person to fix my grandfather a plate and put it to the side but I had been so busy helping to find last minute items (juice, cups, napkins, etc.) that I overlooked that aspect. I was flabbergasted at the fact that this couple would take heaping spoonfuls of this dish without even thinking to be consider that other people had not even fixed a plate for THEMSELVES. On one hand, we were all guests in my Grandfather’s home and as a host, it is important to be gracious and giving to your guests, and yes, the dish was made for everyone to eat but mostly as a gesture of thanks to my Grandfather. In my upbringing, elders are and always have been served first out of respect (as much as they are equally as insistent that everyone else eats first and they fix themselves a plate later), but as a guest in another person’s home, is there not a rule of etiquette that one waits for seconds until everyone else has had a fixed themselves a plate? If I am missing a lesson in etiquette or they changed a rule, I would really like to be updated.

What should I have done in this situation? Am I justified in feeling the way that I do? Has common decency when it comes to being a guest gone out the window? 1011-12

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Ergala October 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm

@Cammie. We don’t know where Home Country is. For all we know they could be backpacking and were planning on camping somewhere. In some countries this is perfectly normal, as is staying at a Hostel where more than 1 party shares a room. Nowhere did she state she fished for an invitation from her grandfather. He could have been very excited to see his granddaughter who lives in another country.

As for the dish, I had never heard of it. Maybe the OP hadn’t either nor had her other friends. They may not have realized that it wasn’t a main dish so therefore didn’t make any other food.

I think your assumptions are extremely out there and you are reading way too much into the story. Nowhere did I even see a hint of what you attacked the OP for doing. That is unless you are one of the food hogs mentioned in the party….

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moose October 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I used to work with a sporting event. I was part of the team that did the final scoring, and at the biggest event of the year this could take a couple of hours. Usually we wouldn’t get all the needed data until the event was finishing.

The event ended at a restaurant where a buffet dinner would be provided. As my colleagues and I struggled to finish the final scoring (including triple checking to make sure everything was accurate), we’d constantly be badgered by contestants wanting to know if we were done yet. Of course, taking time out to answer them meant distractions from our work.

By the time the final scores were calculated and announced, the dinner serving would have been going on for a good 90 minutes. And without fail, we’d go to the buffet to find… nothing left. Not only the participants but the other organizers never took out a moment to ask if they could bring us some food, and of course all the hungry hungry …. well, everyone else, went back for 2nds or 3rds (you’d hear them bragging about “I shouldn’t have had that 3rd whatever”).

Every year the scoring team would be promised “Next year we’ll remember to feed you first” and then we would go and spend our own money on dinner somewhere. The only bright moment was that our food probably (hopefully) didn’t sit for 2 hours in a steam tray.

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Cammie October 18, 2012 at 9:59 am

@ Ergala

Your lack of knowledge is not the issue here, but let me help you in understanding.

1) We have a pretty good idea where “Home country” is, she said the Caribbean, that in and of itself means a relatively small, generally economically depressed nation. Not the most suitable for camping and backpacking, with all the tropical diseases, crime, etc. Even then, if the plan was backpacking and camping (which might not be free either) why didn’t they just do that? Seems like much more fun than sitting around someone’s house because you don’t have any money.

2) If she didn’t “fish” for an invite for her friends, how in the world did her grandfather even find out? There’s nothing here that says she couldn’t go without her friends, so she just wanted to bring four extra people. And who was going to feed these poor waifs the whole week, if the can’t scrape together the 20 bucks each per night for a place to sleep?

3) I’m guessing you didn’t bother to Google “Caribbean Shrimp Ceviche” did you? Because I got 210,000 results in 0.33 seconds. This is not an unusual delicacy, it’s a common dish. I’ve had it myself in various Carribean countries as a starter. There’s nothing to suggest she didn’t know what it was, just that it was “South American” style.

Further, it seems rather convienent that the OP would happily accept Grandpa’s insistance that she and her gang sleep in his home, but when he insists that his guests eat before the host, (maybe he saw that the OP, who SHOULD have been acting as hostess and taking care of the food for her guests, didn’t prepare anything for an actual meal) she got put out because that meant SHE didn’t get any.

And no, I would never impose on an elderly stranger in a poor country so I didn ‘t have to put myself out for a few bucks. You, I gather, would.

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Sugaryfun October 18, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Yep, the couple were rude. Nobody should have seconds until everyone has at least had their first helping.

I’ve had a similar problem with a regular event we hold where we often order pizza. One particular guest would pile three or more slices on his plate straight away before everyone else had had a chance to serve themselves. This sometimes meant that someone only got one slice, and it could be even more of an issue if there was a limited amount of the kind that met someone’s particular dietary requirements (eg. half the pizza was vegetarian or gluten free and that half got eaten first not leaving any for the people who actually needed it). After the second time he’d done this I took him aside and suggested he slow down until everyone else had had a share and he was genuinely surprised because he thought that everyone did things the way he did.

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Sarah October 19, 2012 at 12:45 am

@Cammie:

1) Maybe they were planning to stay in a hostel, or a smaller and crappier inn. Either way, staying with family is certainly safer and more comfortable. OP’s grandfather extended an invitation. Why should OP refuse it out of pride? Even if OP and friends DID have money to stay at a hotel, in some cultures, it’s typical of local relatives to insist on opening their home as a gesture of closeness and good will.

2) It’s not strange at all that her grandfather knew of her plans; he’s a direct relative. OP’s parents probably mentioned about OP’s vacation plans to relatives. In typical families that have good relationships, things such as vacation plans are shared because regular communication happens. In such close-knit families, relatives are also happy to extend invitations to stay at their home without being, you know, bullied into it or having it fished out of them.

3) Yes, but do you google everything in real-time? Maybe they didn’t find it necessary to research dinner. Anyway, regardless of whether or not OP knew what it was, and the amount of accompaniments that should be served alongside it, it was still extremely rude of J&J to take so much.

Actually, even if OP was guilty of all of the etiquette hell antics your posts accused her of, J&J’s actions would still be rude. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Even if Grandfather was taking a long time arriving at the table, J&J should have sat there and waited for him and OP before taking the multiple servings. It’s important for host to take care of the guest, but it’s also important for guests to show manners to the host. Etiquette goes two ways.

And accusing the OP (and other posters) of supposed rudeness is quite ineffective when one uses a rude tone as well…

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Gleaner Girl October 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm

This situation could have been avoided by the simple act of everyone sitting down to the table together. The addition of saying grace over the meal would surely have made it impossible for seconds or thirds (!!!) to be served before everyone got their first serving. However, even without saying grace, just making sure that everyone sits down at the table to eat together ensures that everyone is served.

This is why setting the table and then announcing, “Dinner is served. Please take your seats at the table,” and bringing the serving dishes (or even the pot on a trivet) to the table is very important.

It seems so strange that the thank-you gift went awry like that. My condolences.

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Traherne October 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm

@Cammie

You make a lot of assumptions, but this one takes the cake –

“And no, I would never impose on an elderly stranger in a poor country so I didn ‘t have to put myself out for a few bucks. You, I gather, would.”

Am I to understand “imposing on an elderly stranger” is more acceptable in Sweden than in Venezuela? Why are you assuming the OP’s grandfather somehow is struggling to make ends meet? This may come as a surprise for you, but there are rich people living in third-world countries just as there are homeless people in first-world ones.

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Kit October 22, 2012 at 1:46 am

Helloo… I live in a poor (European) country and I always ask my friends/family to stay with us whenever I hear them mention that they are visiting my country! (But some friends prefer hotels thinking my couch is not as comfortable. Some even think that a 4-people family is too many guests – when we hosted easily 4 people even when we were living in a 2-room flat!) Even if indeed it could have been possible that such a near relative as grandfather could have potentially not heard of this probably relatively rare visit to Home Country, could it not be that OP had called him to suggest a visit – just a visit, you know, to see one’s grandfather? some people do that – and grandfather begged them to stay with him instead?

I have a friend myself on whose parties there is never much to eat AND it is something not easy (IMO) even for grown-ups to eat without spilling (and we usually attend children parties), and last time she was surprised that there were no leftovers… nobody else was. ;)

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Nate October 26, 2012 at 1:43 pm

They got to thirds before you even made a plate for your grandfather? Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s rude that they weren’t paying attention to how much food their host got considering it was a “thank you” meal to him, but come on. You should have been on it way sooner and not waited until the last minute to scrape the bowl.

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RedWitch September 29, 2013 at 6:23 am

What greedy little so-and-sos. No-one has any right to seconds till everyone has had firsts, I was taught this very early on. Guests of Honour and elders get served first, this goes for formal-sit-down-dinners and pull-up-a-patch-of-lawn-bbqs. This could mean they have the means to serve themselves first, either way, it shows respect. J&J showed no respect for anyone, including themselves. I hope they made themselves sick by overeating.

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