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Food Police (Or How To Be A Quick Thinking Host)

The recent post about “food police” at a barbecue reminds me of an event I attended.  A couple, “Ann” and “Brad” who grew up with my boyfriend, invited us to a pot luck dinner party. I’m usually fine with potlucks as I have a few crowd-pleasing recipes.  Ann and Brad, however, sent all of the attendees an exact recipe that they should bring and told everyone that they should “adjust the serving size to 10-12” since that’s how many people would be attending (this is important for later).

I wasn’t crazy about the recipe I received, but a few other friends were attending so we clicked “Yes!” to attend (this was done on social media a few weeks prior to the dinner).

The night of the dinner arrives and so do my boyfriend and I, sharing dish in hand.  We have appetizers (someone else’s assigned dish) and mingle for a bit before being called into the kitchen to serve ourselves.  The hosting couple Ann and Brad provided two dishes themselves and they were not main courses but sides.  Someone else had done the main course.  As people are lining up to help themselves, Ann approaches each person and says, “We didn’t know how many people would actually show up, so the rule is each person can take one scoop of X and one of Y (the two dishes they made) so we don’t run out.”  I was dumbstruck but managed to nod politely.

Here’s the thing: everyone who said they were attending showed up and there weren’t any surprise guests.  There were exactly 12, which is what we were supposed to adjust our own recipes to.  So after going out of their way to make sure everyone else cooked enough, they couldn’t even feed their own guests!  And we are all adults in our late twenties; I don’t think any of us would have taken heaping portions of X and Y after seeing that there was not a lot to go around.

So, besides venting, I guess the reason I’m writing is to ask: is it ever okay to be the “food police” at an adults dinner?  At the time it seemed like the epitome of rudeness.   0529-14

I had to reread it to “get it” but here’s the gist. The hosts assigned all the guests a recipe with specific instructions to adapt it to serve 10-12 people yet they themselves apparently did not follow their own standards and did not prepare enough of their dishes to ensure that all guests got enough.

Yes, treating adults like little children who must be told how much to help themselves is quite rude.   To be that rude requires a large number of assumptions about one’s guests, none of them positive.   If you host a dinner, particularly a pot luck, it’s good sense and planning to have a few back-up food items that can be quickly added to the meal to bulk it up.    Frozen or canned vegetables are always a great stand-by. Ditto for cheese and crackers, applesauce, cranberry relish, carrots sticks and Ranch dressing,  bread sticks.


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  • Marie June 4, 2014, 10:43 pm

    The hosts assigned the main dishes to guests and only provided a side dish that was rationed? TACKY!

    Reminds me of a guy who invited people over for a potluck to celebrate his wife’s birthday. He provided the rice while guests were to bring main dishes, sides and desserts. TACKY! Amazing that many people actually went to the potluck with main dishes, sides and desserts in hand.

    And there’s a family in our peer group who “hosts” potlucks and provides drinks, cups, plates, napkins and plasticware. Really? TACKY!

    • kingsrings June 5, 2014, 11:07 am

      I’ve been invited to parties like that, too. Guests were basically requested to bring everything that was needed for a party – grill item (bring your own meat for the grill), side dish, and whatever you want to drink. So the host isn’t providing anything but the space?? And sometimes they’ll even say to bring your own chairs! I’m waiting for one to also request that you bring your own toilet paper, too.

      • Anonymous June 9, 2014, 1:22 pm

        That might actually happen, if it was a camping party.

      • Theta Marie August 16, 2014, 3:10 pm

        I’ve been to that kind of party, not even as a guest. My granddad and I are dance teachers and at the time of this particular evening, were renting a church hall for group classes and occasionally the same hall for private classes. We weren’t personally affiliated with that church (the hall was just much better for dancing than my grandparent’s church) but because most of our students were churchgoers it was considered (mistakenly) to be organised by the church. The Vicar and his wife called my granddad one day and told him that he would be bringing our equipment to their evening dance on x day at y time and tickets cost £z. We were expected to both buy tickets even though we were going to play CDs and turn on the lights (although we did get ‘dinner’). The food consisted of one small jacket potato, one small scoop of a ‘filling’ (beans, dry tuna, cheese) and still frozen apple pie. It wasn’t just bring your own booze, it was bring your own liquids and cups. People had expected if they were bringing bottles of wine that there would at least be disposable cups, but another group that rented the church hall and had a cupboard in the kitchen was pressed into offering their teacups for everyone who had nothing to drink out of. The food was actually inedible, I was rudely told I couldn’t fill up a water bottle in the kitchen and yes, we were also confronted with the sudden ‘new policy’ that you had to bring your own toilet paper as the bills for it were getting out of hand. To top it all off, and the reason I am certain the vicar’s wife is going to e-hell: on posters for the event she advertised that tickets could be purchased through my granddad and I, supplying his home number and my mobile number without even telling us!

    • Anonymous June 6, 2014, 10:04 am

      My dad used to do something similar when he and my mom were first married, but it wasn’t quite as bad. He’d invite guests over, and then ask them what they wanted to eat after they arrived, and then he’d send my mom to the grocery store to get it. Now, they lived maybe half a block away from said grocery store at the time (they could see it from their apartment), but it was still an inconvenience, and it still disrupted the visit, assuming that my mom was participating in the visit as well as my dad. So, needless to say, it didn’t last long–my mom taught my dad to prepare food for guests BEFORE they arrived (with a general idea in mind of what foods they liked to eat), even if it meant they wouldn’t get exactly what they wanted in that moment.

  • Enna June 13, 2014, 9:49 am

    That is quite bad. They as hosts should be providing the main course and sould have enough expecially if there were no surpirse guests.

  • NicoleK June 14, 2014, 10:48 am

    I’m confused, if 12 people made dishes to server 12 people, wouldn’t that be 144 servings of food? Seems like there should be enough.

    • NostalgicGal June 16, 2014, 12:08 am

      Try making a big bowl of mashed potatoes when you’re hungry. Now take a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Measure that quarter cup and put it on a dinner plate. Repeat 11 more times. You should fill the plate comfortably, and have 3 cups of food on the plate. Eat what’s on the plate.That’s the equivalent of what this dinner bit comes out to. Recipe says serves X number of people but it may only be a small scoop for a portion.

      In food service they sell color coded self emptying scoops for portioning food (portion control) and a different color scoop will measure off a different amount. What is considered a portion and what the person taking some food out of a self-serve dish or container thinks is a portion; are often two different things. And if you DO provide one of these portioning scoops to take food… someone will take two or three scoops thinking that is a serving! (and those that know what one of these are, will probably be insulted)