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Scraping The Bottom Of The Pot

As I was reading some of the archived stories on your wonderful site, I recalled an event that happened fairly early in our marriage that still astounds me.

Shortly after my DH and I were first married a friend we had known for several years and his new wife moved in next door to us. The four of us spent quite a lot of time together. One afternoon we had all been hanging out together at the home of these friends, L and G, when I excused myself to go home and begin preparing dinner for myself and my DH. I was setting things up to begin cooking when DH came home and asked me if I minded having L and G over to have dinner with us. I was preparing spaghetti, so including two guests would only involve cooking additional noodles, so I was more than happy to include them. DH went next door and invited them to come over.

As soon as I finished cooking, I went to the living room to let everyone know that dinner was ready. As we were all very familiar with each other and this was a simple, casual occasion, DH and our guests came to the kitchen to prepare their own plates. I stepped aside to allow L and G to prepare their plates first and busied myself with finishing up the dishes I’d been washing as I went along. For some reason, L and G insisted that DH prepare his plate first and after a short protest he finally went ahead. L and G then prepared their plates and met DH in the dining area. I quickly finished up what I was doing, picked up a plate and walked over to the stove to find that there was NO food left! L and G had even gone to the effort of scraping every last bit of sauce onto their plates. I was stunned!

I should note that I was at this time pregnant and therefore also extremely emotional. I was so upset that I began to sob and not knowing what else to do, began pulling together the makings of a sandwich. DH came to check on me after several minutes, concerned that I had not joined them, and found me sobbing into my sandwich. When he realized what had happened he was furious! I asked him not to say anything as I was already so upset I couldn’t bear for there to be a scene. Just then our guests entered the kitchen to find out what was going on. When DH explained (trying his best to not raise his voice), L and G stated that they had just assumed that I had eaten while I was cooking. (To this day I still have no idea why they would have thought that.) They both then offered me their LEFTOVERS as they “couldn’t possibly finish it all”!

Not so surprising that it was a long time before we ever offered to share a meal with them again. 0109-13

If L & G had had any training in manners from their parents, they would have known that you never take the last bit of food unless you ascertain that everyone else has had at least a first serving and whether they wished to have seconds which you then divvy up according.    In a buffet line, you never scrape the serving bowl unless you are the absolute last person in line.

Suffice it to say that L & G learned a lesson in how not to be inconsiderate, thoughtless food piggies that day.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mel January 11, 2013, 1:45 am

    I was already taken aback by the behavior of the guests in this story. Now all I can do is laugh at the mental gymnastics of the people trying to excuse it by blaming the OP. It’s not difficult to be considerate of others around you, nor is it difficult to practice common etiquette. I have to wonder if some of the responders are feeling defensive because they would have behaved in the same horrible fashion as the guests.

  • Bint January 11, 2013, 4:43 am

    “Another thing, OP put herself in the position of a kitchen attendant already earlier – when she “excused myself to go home and begin preparing dinner for myself and my DH”. That’s exactly what a kitchen worker generously taken along to a party by her master would do – a married couple would leave together. Husband stays at party and wife goes home to make dinner?? – unless it happened at least 50 years ago, that’s pretty bizarre for me.”

    I hardly think the OP choosing to pop back home (note how closely they live to L&G, given the husband’s popping in and out to invite them) to cook dinner makes her some kind of kitchen maid! This is not a party – not a formal event – this is a couple hanging out with neighbours who live very close by, and her choosing to leave slightly earlier is entirely normal. You cannot just assume she is some 1950s Stepford because she’s the one cooking dinner. What if her husband had been the one who left early? Would that make him a Stepford kitchen maid as well?

    This was a casual dinner with near neighbours. The OP clears up a bit as they serve themselves – totally normal. No sign whatsoever to assume she isn’t going to join them. A good sign for someone with manners to say they will wash up as a thank you, then beg her to serve herself before them. The fact L&G didn’t even ask if she’d eaten is a dead giveaway of how rude they are. No interest in whether their hostess was going to join them. Nothing.

    Married couples are not joined at the hip, by the way. My husband and I both leave casual hanging-out time separately quite often, and things like starting dinner are one of the common reasons. One nips back and starts, the other winds down and comes along 20 minutes afterwards. The idea this is acting like a kitchen maid taken out by her master is not ‘pretty bizarre’ to me, it’s just flat-out daft.

  • Kali January 11, 2013, 4:52 am

    I’d like to believe that they thought the OP had made herself up a plate already, and were trying to be helpful by scraping the pot clean. That seems to be the version that reflects best on L and G. I would like to live in that world.

  • UKHelen January 11, 2013, 6:10 am

    When I read this story, two things stuck out as odd:
    1. The guests insisting the husband went first – as noted by others.
    2. ‘ I was setting things up to begin cooking when DH came home and asked me if I minded having L and G over to have dinner with us.’ Nobody’s commented on this, but I thought it peculiar.

    If OP hadn’t started cooking yet, then she must’ve only just got in. It’s odd that DH immediately turned up asking if she minded doubling up the dinner. I’d love to know how the conversation went just after she excused herself to cook her and her DH’s dinner: if DH proactively invited the neighbours round, why didn’t he do it when she got up to leave? Or why didn’t he leave with her, ask her if they should invite the neighbours to dinner and then pop back next door and invite them?

    Given the guest’s behaviour, it makes me wonder if they hinted, e.g. “So what’re you having tonight?… Oh, that sounds nice, we’ve got nothing in the house at all… Really? That’s very kind of you, we’ll be round in 20 minutes”. You never know.

  • Lou January 11, 2013, 6:35 am

    I suppose the nub of this dilemma is the same as the nub of many etiquette fails – people made assumptions rather than using their words and asking. Regardless of what L and G believed was the case (OP had already eaten/wasn’t hungry/preferred to wash up than eat/etc), when they noticed that OP was washing up rather than filling her plate, a quick ‘Hey OP, are you eating with us?’ or similar would have prevented the entire incident.
    One of my best friends is currently struggling with one of her kids and his major piggy tendencies – he behaves similarly to L and G, assuming that food is there for his use over and above anyone else’s, hoovering up leftovers before asking, taking enormous portions or nagging for a particular portion (the head end of a caterpillar cake, to use a recent example!) then not finishing them. However, he has the excuse of being 9 years old – I’m guessing L and G don’t have that excuse any more…x

  • The Elf January 11, 2013, 8:01 am

    Kit: “a married couple would leave together. Husband stays at party and wife goes home to make dinner??”

    Normally, but L and G were neighbors. “Going home” was literally going next door. It also wasn’t a party, it was “hanging out”. This is so super casual that it makes sense for the dinner maker (wife, in this case) to go home and get started, knowing that the other partner was not far behind.

    Sorry, I don’t buy it that they relegated OP to “kitchen attendent” status.

  • Wren January 11, 2013, 9:06 am

    I can only think that in neighbors’ household, the cook eats while cooking and the last person to dish up scrapes the plate. You never know how other people “do things.” Growing up, my husband and his siblings routinely loaded their plates as much as they could, ate as fast as they could and then grabbed second helpings as fast as they could or else they went hungry, he said. Seeing him eat was shocking to me at first but finally I convinced him that food wasn’t going to be declared illegal in the next five minutes.

  • Carrie January 11, 2013, 9:23 am

    To the people saying the piggie couple probably rightfully assumed OP had already eaten: they should have ASKED her before serving themselves. “OP, are you going to eat to? Yes? Well, we insist you go first along with your husband.”

  • Mrs. Lovett January 11, 2013, 9:36 am

    @UKHelen, I wondered about the invitation, too. I hope L and G were properly invited, but at the same time, if the husband offered an unsolicited invitation, I hope the husband had asked the wife first, rather than inviting before asking his wife how she felt about it.

    @Kit, I think the idea of relegating the wife to “kitchen attendant” status is rather antiquated, and it seems to me that you’re bending over backwards to give the offending couple the benefit of the doubt. One can certainly argue that some would consider it rude to wash dishes while the guests served themselves, although in such a casual setting, I think many, myself included, would disagree. However, the idea that a wife is a kitchen attendant simply because she makes the meals is rather outdated and even insulting in this era. You don’t know how OP and her husband’s partnership works. Perhaps they take turns with the kitchen work and it was simply her night to cook. Or perhaps he doesn’t cook at all and so it’s her job to prepare dinner and his job to do the laundry. Either way, someone had to do the cooking, and in this instance it was the wife. However, that does not make her a kitchen attendant, it makes her a contributor in their household. This couple also supposedly viewed her as a friend (although they hardly treated her like one in this case), so it would be completely unfair for them to view her as a kitchen attendant, even if she acted like one by your standards.

  • Asharah January 11, 2013, 10:49 am

    Regarding the “wife as kitchen attendant”, wasn’t there an episode of The Cosby Show where Elton, Sandra’s then boyfriend later husband, made a comment about Claire bringing Cliff a cup of coffee, saying he didn’t think she was the kind of wife who “served” her husband. Claire told him off. “I am bringing him coffee now, just like he got me coffee this morning. And if you don’t shape up mister, nobody will be bringing you anything, anytime, anywhere.”

  • Angel January 11, 2013, 11:31 am

    There is absolutely no excuse for the guests’ bizarre behavior. It was rude. I give them no benefit of the doubt. I would never invite them back again. There is a special place in ehell for people who take food from a pregnant woman–and not even offer her a scrap. If they REALLY thought she had already eaten the polite thing would be to ask if she had eaten. Not just assume and scrape out the entire serving dish. Their behavior was really rude and disgusting. That’s good that the DH did say something to them, but honestly I don’t think I would have bothered. I would have manufactured an excuse to cut the evening as short as possible and kicked them out. Some people might think that’s passive aggressive, but honestly I don’t know if I could be in the company of people like that!

  • Sarah January 11, 2013, 12:57 pm

    I would like to say something that’s semi-tangentially related….

    *It is NEVER a favor to make yourself “finish off” the last of the food.* Ever.

    Obesity is rampant in America. Forcing yourself to eat more than you want to causes situations like this, it’s bad for you, puts you in a wrong frame of mind regarding food, and makes you look like a pig to other people. Likewise, the host should not badger people into finishing off the food. Food is not a contest on how delicious you can make it so the food all disappears.

    If the host is insisting that you take the last of the food, tell them it was delicious and ask for a ziplock baggie so you can take it home. And if you’re a host with too many leftovers from a party, offer to do the same. In the end though, consider this… Would you rather want the food to go to waste, or to waist?

  • arrow January 11, 2013, 2:35 pm

    I’ve been following this thread and also think maybe L&G assumed OP wasn’t eating because she was washing up—but I’m not excusing them, they were still beyond rude & shouldn’t have assumed. I’m just the sort of person who tries to imagine both sides of a story–what could they possibly have been thinking?!?

    Had I been the OP, I’d have been quite rude myself and pulled a passive-aggressive stunt–I’d have walked out to the table with an empty plate and fork, and silently stared at them till someone asked if I was eating, and then said, “I guess not, because nobody left any in the pot for me.” (And then I’d likely never socialize with them again.)

  • Brockwest January 11, 2013, 5:35 pm

    I cannot buy the excuse that the neighbors thought the cook had eaten during cooking.
    When you have company for dinner, everyone sits down at eats at the same time, to participate in the event and conversation.
    It’s really horrid behavior to scrape a pot clean. One should never ever take the last piece of cake, the last serving. There is the “dance” that is supposed to be danced…”you have the last piece,” “no YOU take the last piece, it was so good.”
    This reminds me of the many horror stories of serving lines and those at front hogging all the best food or taking seconds before everyone is served.
    I can’t imagine a cook preparing a meal, getting hungry, then getting none.

  • Jen January 11, 2013, 8:38 pm

    I agree with the majority that this was appalling behaviour. Even if they thought they were the last to help themselves to the food they should have asked before taking all of it.

    Like UKHelen, I also wondered how the invitation came about, and couldn’t help but wonder if they more or less invited themselves.

    One other thing I wondered about, and I don’t think it has been covered (or I missed it), is whether four plates had been set out for people to serve themselves. Given these were guests, they wouldn’t have been expected to take a plate from the cupboard, so if plates had been set out so they could serve themselves, surely it would have been obvious that there was an empty plate remaining?

  • Moose January 11, 2013, 9:06 pm

    I disagree with the idea that at a buffet it’s ok to scrape the bowl if you know you’re the last one — because sometimes you can’t be really sure you actually are the last one.

    I used to work at an annual event that ended in a big buffet dinner for everyone attending and working the event. Because of the type of work for the event my coworker and I would not be able to get to the buffet until near the end of the dinner time. Every single year we would get up to get food and find the buffet scraped bare. Every single year we would politely suggest the the organizers that they make sure to not let people go for seconds (or thirds) until we’d been able to get some food, or even just ask us if we had eaten before letting people have more. Every year the organizers would say, “Oh, we forgot” and “We assumed you already ate”.

    After three or four years of this we just gave up and started taking ourselves out for a (better, but not free) dinner after we were done, passing by the yet again empty buffet dishes as we left.

  • NostalgicGal January 12, 2013, 1:19 am

    I’m surprised as L&G started to dive in and scrape up that the DH didn’t mention that the OP hadn’t gotten any yet…

    In such situations, if people are to serve themselves from pots then sit, I set out the number of plates. So in a case like this there should have been four plates out… a tipoff that if three plates are picked up there is one not used yet. Aka a fourth going to eat…

    Because they insisted that the DH go first this was premeditated grab/scarf gluttony to me. Totally Rude.

  • amyasleigh January 12, 2013, 1:46 am

    Although a number of posters see the guests’ actions as so outrageous that any attempt to make excuses for them seems absurd; there are others who prefer — even if against the odds — to hope for there to be something in extenuation. I’d wish to be in the second camp; and am a believer in the maxim that “it is wise not to ascribe to malice, what can be explained by plain stupidity”. Or — to echo Lou in post 55 — by people’s making assumptions, instead of “using their words” to sort out what is going on.

    It’s amazing what a degree of mayhem can be caused by misunderstandings. Also sometimes amazing, how far some things in people’s upbringing can depart from what most folk see as the obvious norms of etiquette. As with the mention by a couple of posters, of large families in which standard practice was, effectively, to fight for the food — “the devil take the hindmost”. Which seems positively barbaric and “way out there” to most of us; but it happens — one can imagine the parents in question, justifying it as teaching children to stand up for themselves and to cope in a competitive world.

  • Emmy January 12, 2013, 7:55 am

    Even if I try to give L and G the benefit of the doubt, some of their behavior can still only be explained by boorishness. Somebody made the comment that washing dishes is a sign one is done the meal, but also many people wash dishes as they go, especially at a casual meal. Even if the thought crossed their mind that the OP had somehow eaten because she was cleaning the dishes it should be obvious that she didn’t partake in the meal that she just cooked. A considerate person would have asked if she would like some spaghetti. Insisting the husband go first made it seem very premeditated.

    The second fault was heaping their plates so full they could not eat everything. Taking more than you can eat at a buffet is rude under any circumstances. I would be a little more understanding if they were really hungry and would eat all the food. Were they planning on taking the leftovers home or just throwing them in the garbage? Either way, I don’t see how it is ‘helpful’ to the OP for the guests to scrape out all the leftovers onto their plate. Even if the OP wasn’t interested in eating at that time, the decision about the leftovers should be left up to the hosts. It would probably be appreciated as a lunch.

    I also have to disagree with the kitchen attendant remarks. Unless this couple had a personal chef, either the husband or wife had to give up socializing for a while to cook the meal. Even if the couple had traditional roles and the wife did all the cooking, she is still an equal partner and not a kitchen attendant. Just how would dinner get prepared if somebody didn’t excuse themselves to do it? I like the term mental gymnastics for somehow justifying L and G while calling the OP rude. This story seems so black and white to me.

  • yankeegal77 January 12, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Whatever happened to taking a reasonable portion and leaving some, asking for seconds when everyone else has (for surely) eaten?

    It sounds like the neighbors invited themselves, possibly in a PA manner, indicating they had nothing for dinner. Even if they did assume (albeit, incorrectly and rudely) that the OP had already eaten, finishing the whole pot was completely inappropriate. Scraping it? Oh, E-Hell no!!!

    I know this is terrible, and apologies to you, OP, but I laughed when you wrote you were crying, your DH was furious and then the gimmes came back in. What a perfect ending where even if the boors didn’t learn a thing, they received some sort of clue-by-four!

  • mpk January 12, 2013, 5:32 pm

    I would probably never invite them over for a meal again. And i agree with the posters that think they probably talked their way into an invitation. And why wasn’t anyone helping the pregnant cook in the kitchen with the food prep? I think they were just being pigs and they knew it.

  • missminute January 12, 2013, 7:57 pm

    Reminds of one evening when a friend came over and simply insisted on cooking spaghetti for myself and my housemate. I was dubious as I am a little OCD about keeping my home tidy. My fears were realised – not only did she make an incredible mess which I was left cleaning while they ate (some sauce stains to this day remain) she made far too little pasta. She and my housemate served themselves and went off to eat, and when I came to the stove after cleaning the whole kitchen, there were just two or three noodles left. I ended up having a bowl of sauce to take to the table. “Aren’t you hungry?” she piped up when she saw! I told her there weren’t enough noodles left – and she just shrugged.

  • The TARDIS January 12, 2013, 9:51 pm

    Well! IMHO, the guests stating they thought the OP had already eaten was nothing more than an excuse for their own piggish behavior. They choose to say that in place of apologizing for their rudeness. I hope they were ashamed of themselves and were less boorish in the future. Unlike me, people are not bigger on the inside and they need to stop taking more than they can consume! One can hope.

  • Ari January 12, 2013, 9:58 pm

    OT, but this reminds me of a story my grandpa would tell.
    He was born in 1930 and lived near Duncan, Oklahoma. He was the second eldest of a very large family- I think he said his Mother had 23 kids total, but only 12 made it to adulthood. They generally worked on a farm as sharecroppers, but at one point great-grandpa owned a grocery store.
    Dinner was served in rotations- the grown men ate first and then the kids ate what was left. He said the women ate while they cooked.

  • GleanerGirl January 12, 2013, 9:58 pm

    They thought you had eaten WHILE the food was cooking? “But of course, we know you LOVE your noodles extra al dente!”

    Good grief!

  • Aria January 12, 2013, 10:18 pm

    Wow, that behavior is absolutely bizarre to me. When I’m just having a meal at home, and I want to take the last bit, I just yell to the family, “Anyone want this? Cuz if you don’t I’m gonna eat it.” And then we know. Why on earth wouldn’t they ask when they were GUESTS? How nasty!

  • GleanerGirl January 12, 2013, 10:20 pm

    First off, why didn’t they ASK before emptying the pot? Even had their assinine assumption been correct, it was still darned rude to leave nothing, without even ASKING. Communication, people!

    Secondly, you don’t take more than you can eat, especially when you are a guest at someone else’s house. Sure, they were probably thinking that they would take home their leftovers, but come on! They already got one free meal, now they’re angling for another. Meanwhile, the people who PAID for the food are left without any leftovers.

    My mother always made plenty, so there would be leftovers. Buying in bulk and cooking in bulk saved money. If someone were to come along and steal our leftovers, we’d go hungry the next day! We budgeted for guests, but not for every meal.

  • penguin tummy January 13, 2013, 3:00 am

    What a strange comment from the guests! If people are having a meal together then I would think everyone would eat together! I have had similar troubles in the past with dinner guests eating all the food, so now I serve everyone, then place the central item (roast or pot of food) back in the kitchen. This way people are not tempted to eat too much and feel stuffed.

  • Kit January 13, 2013, 4:18 am

    @Mrs. Lovett, actually, that’s exactly what I was saying – wife as kitchen attendant is quite outdated, and that’s why I was surprised that OP (and her husband) would behave like she was one. It would have been only logical for them both to excuse themselves together, as “it is getting late”, or some other reason like that without even needing to specify that it was late enough for cooking dinner, and go home together, instead of “excuse me, I, the pregnant wife, will go make dinner for my husband while he is staying here to have fun with you”.

  • Libby January 13, 2013, 10:51 am

    Where I work we frequently have buffet lunches, dinners, and picnics where a lot of people are invited. (It’s a residential care facility.) People have learned from experience to have servers stationed along the tables with serving spoons in hand to dish up the food so that guests aren’t serving themselves. It keeps the portions fair and keeps the gimme pigs in check. Easy enough to do the same at home, and more gracious to serve each person.

  • Bint January 13, 2013, 12:29 pm

    Kit – she isn’t behaving like a kitchen attendant. That is the point. The sexism here is on you. One partner left early to start dinner. You’re the one assuming this:
    “excuse me, I, the pregnant wife, will go make dinner for my husband while he is staying here to have fun with you”.

    Just because she is a woman cooking the dinner on this occasion (for BOTH of them, incidentally) does not mean she is subservient. That’s an enormously sexist assumption, and her pregnancy is irrelevant.

    One person in the couple agrees to nip home to start cooking, as is totally, totally normal for many couples. Why should they have to leave together when they’re just yards from their own home? I left my husband’s club early yesterday to start dinner. Other times he’s left early. Maybe I’m still chatting to someone and not ready to leave when he is. We aren’t Siamese twins. It isn’t illogical.

    Suppose the husband had gone home, done the cooking then been treated like this. He’d be pretty angry. Would you say then that he had acted like a kitchen attendant? That he was saying “I, your subservient husband, will cook your food while you party without me?” I strongly doubt it.

    Women who cook dinner are not necessarily stuck in a 1950s gender stereotype, and even if the OP were the biggest Stepford in America it would not excuse this couple. And back in the days when people did have kitchenmaids, openly treating them with disdain was seen as unforgivably cheap.

  • Ergala January 13, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Now that I have had a few more days to think on this I think I have a little in sight into why people heap their plates full. It’s a common thing around here for people to pretty much eat until they can’t move. I watch and I gasp sometimes when I see an 8 year old child out eat every single adult at the table, but the adults aren’t too far behind. There is no way someone is that hungry. So one day I asked someone if they were still hungry and they said yes. I asked them if their stomach was growling or feeling empty and they said no, but that they weren’t feeling uncomfortable yet. You are full when you are no longer hungry, not when you are so full that your stomach hurts. I don’t think this is taught anymore by parents as it used to. When I was a child I was taught that you have enough to make you feel satisfied, not enough to be in pain after or to slip into a food coma. I do the same thing with my kiddos. Seconds is enough, especially when I serve them on a big plate and more than half of it is covered in food. If you don’t finish what is in front of you during firsts you do not get seconds. We also hold off on heavy drinks like milk and water during meals, it fills you up and then you don’t eat solid food as you should, so 20 minutes after dinner you’re hungry again. Eat half of what’s on your plate then you can have your drink.

  • Cat January 13, 2013, 10:29 pm

    I cannot help but wonder how one would go about eating spaghetti while preparing it. Dip a single noodle in the sauce and then lower the dripping noodle into ones mouth, perhaps? Take a slotted spoon and dip into the sauce after choosing the noddles one wants?
    As has been said, there is no excuse to wolf down all the food before everyone has been allowed to eat.
    As for greedy piglets of children, a parent should supervise the child’s helping of food. I recall going for “all you can eat” ribs at a restaurant with a friend and his teenaged son. The lad would order a plate of ribs, take one bite out of eac h rib, and then put it on the “bone” plate, going through an entire order this way and then ordering another plate filled with ribs. His father bragged about how many ribs his boy could eat and did not notice that 12 ribs equaled only 12 bites.
    It was a terrible waste of food and his father said nothing. I thought at the time that it was some sort of emotional problem that the boy could not finish more than one bite. His brother constantly complained that his younger brother took huge amounts of food at home and then did not eat it.

  • wendykh January 13, 2013, 10:45 pm

    I’m just gonna ask…
    The neighbours and hubby were drinking eh?
    THAT’s why this happened.

  • Rinny January 13, 2013, 11:51 pm

    Just wanted to say something in response to Kit’s comments – isn’t it also outdated to assume that a married couple must go everywhere together? There are so many possible scenarios as to why OP returned home first to start dinner before her husband did, all without having to subscribe to the strange “kitchen maid” idea. Sorry but I agree with Bint.. Your comments are really quite sexist. 🙁

  • LonelyHound January 14, 2013, 10:07 am

    Honestly, I do not care of L and G assumed that the OP had eaten due to the fact she was washing the dishes. They never ASKED if she had eaten. Not only that but they took more than they could have ever eaten. I know the logic behind that and it is still selfish. If I take more than I can eat I can ask to take home the leftovers. I mean, who wants the leftovers off of someone else’s plate?

    As for her excusing herself to go make dinner and then washing as she was going. First, yes, she did excuse herself to go make dinner but, from the story, DH came over in the middle of making dinner to ask if L and G could come to dinner. By the time she was done with dinner everyone was there. To me it works the same as Thanksgiving or Christmas. Parts of dinner are started early but certain things, like mashed potatoes, are started right before the meal. Does that mean removing ones self from your guests and making the remainer of your meal demote you to kitchen attendant. Certainly not! As for washing as you go or right before the meal I have done this and never once have my guests left me without food. I did this a lot while pregnant with my first child as we had no dishwasher and I knew I would be too tired after the dinner. I also did it because I have guest so considerate that not only do they still leave me food even if I have not been 100% socializing to make the dinner and/or cleaning up, but they will insist on helping clean up!

    The excuse that they thought she had already eaten is just that, an excuse. There is only once I have ever had a host not eat with his guests. It was the first Thanksgiving my cousin ever hosted. He was so excited that he insisted on making everything himself while his guests mingled. The only problem was that meant he was one of the only people in the kitchen to taste the food. The poor guy had a complete Thanksgiving dinner, minus the turkey, trying to make everything taste perfect for his guest. He learned his lesson. The next time he hosted he accepted any offer to help and others doing some of the cooking but he insisted that he buy everything and cooking the turkey. He also got to mingle with family and friends that year.

  • Tracy January 14, 2013, 11:43 am

    I wonder if L & G really did intend to finish all the food on their plates, but thought saying “we couldn’t possibly finish this” was a more “polite” way of offering their food to the OP. It’s what you might say if the host hadn’t prepared enough food and you didn’t want them to feel bad about the scanty quantity.

    In fact, I wonder if the OP may not have actually prepared enough food for four people. The fact that doubling the number of servings only involved cooking more noodles, and not more sauce, struck me as odd. I know it’s possible she normally cooks a double batch of sauce to save some for a later meal, which is very possible, but wasn’t mentioned in the post, and it seems like “they ate enough for two meals” would have been a bigger deal if that were the case. Her husband apparently didn’t notice that the guests had taken gargantuan servings, because he didn’t realize until he got back into the kitchen that there wasn’t enough left for her. Maybe there was such a small amount of food that the guests thought the OP must have served herself already, because there simply wasn’t enough food left for three people.

    This comes to mind because I have a dear family member who eats like a bird and seems to assume her guests eat the same way. For example, if she’s serving 10 people, with 2 of them being teenage boys, she will take 6 pork chops and cut them in half. I can see someone who isn’t familiar with her cooking habits taking 2 or even 3 of the small pieces of meat (assuming that others have already taken their share), seeing that there isn’t enough food to go around, and saying “whoops, I took too much, please have some of mine” rather than “seriously? you expected most of us to eat half a pork chop?” I have, in fact, offered my own “too much” to my child when she came up on the short end of the stick. “Here, sweetie, I’m not going to eat my garlic bread, why don’t you take it.” This spares the host’s feelings, since she gets irrationally upset when she feels she hasn’t provided enough food (and yet she keeps cutting those pork chops in half, sigh.)

    Anyway. I think it was still inappropriate to scrape the pots clean, and I’m not making excuses for L&G, but I just wonder if there really was a misunderstanding, caused by a lack of food.

  • just sayin' January 14, 2013, 5:39 pm

    1. @mel, that’s a great way of putting it–mental gymnastics trying to explain away boorish behavior. you really have to bust through a lot of layers of basic, decent behavior, and wind up both blaming the OP and making sexist and antiquated assumptions about her marriage in the attempt to “think the best of people”.

    2. @tracy, that is the only reasonable way of possibly rationalizing the guests’ behavior. but even still–(and this is making an assumption based on the way the story is written) it does seem that the “friends” probably finagled an invite after she had left. even if the pregnant woman cooking in the story eats like a bird and there may not have been “enough” food by their account, it still doesn’t excuse not leaving any for the cook, or not scraping the pan, or even asking if OP had eaten. if they didn’t get their fill eating at someone else’s house, they could have easily gone to their own home to supplement their supper rather than being so inconsiderate.

  • NostalgicGal January 16, 2013, 1:54 am

    Then there are those like my DH, after all these years, who cannot serve himself spaghetti. Including having made it himself many times, he just can NOT grasp the concept of grab that much with the serving tongs, lift and put to your plate, as you will have a lot anyways. He will always grab a huge ‘pinch’ and end up lifting a good chunk of the strainerfull. Every time. I have to fill the plates with the pasta or he will have four servings or more on his plate. And if he tries to serve himself and I stop him from taking such a big pinch he gets upset, then it hits his plate and he can’t understand how he ended up with that much. Every time.

    I still stick with my original comments about thinking L&G were purposeful by insisting that the DH take his first, then they took all the rest. And there is no stretch of the imagination on the last part, that can cover ‘oh we thought you ate while you were cooking’… surely she would want to eat with them… and THEN offering her their leftovers as they had taken far more than they could eat (by dividing what was left after the DH took some and leaving none for the OP) And there is no excuse on what L&G did.

  • Jess February 1, 2013, 3:27 am

    HAHAHAHA I remember that Mary Tyler Moore episode as well.. It always stuck in my head 🙂

  • Inge March 8, 2013, 10:29 am

    It might be because I am not from the USA (I’m from Holland) but this whole affair sounds very strange to me. Why weren’t they all sitting at the table with plates in front of them? It’s so strange that they were helping themselves to the food in the kitchen. If it would have been me I would have either put the pans on the dinnertable for everyone to help themselves (then the neighbours would have seen that the OP was going to have dinner too) or I would have put the food onto the plates myself (in the kitchen). Might be a cultural difference though. And the behaviour of the neighbours sounds really rude to me.