Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Holidays => Topic started by: LadyPekoe on October 12, 2010, 12:27:24 PM

Title: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: LadyPekoe on October 12, 2010, 12:27:24 PM


I wonder what your responsibility is to stick with tradition or to warn people that your version of the holiday is not going to be traditional. 

The back story:
I've never been to DH's family Thanksgiving partially because we typically don't spent Christmas together and partially because he doesn't care for giant Thanksgivings and really enjoyed my mother's tiny Tday.  Three years ago MIL and FIL went to a wedding over the Tday holiday and my BIL came to our Thanksgiving--he's been coming ever since. 

DH has a lot of family that has attended culinary school or have owned restaurants.  He also has a lot of family that are amazingly sensitive to spice (they think the mild wings at Buffalo Wild Wings are "spicy", I say it's glorified ketchup).  BIL and I went to a dinner at his aunt's house a couple weeks ago where she told us that DH's cousin is cooking the big meal and he has decided to theme it Asian--she mentioned wasabi mashed potatoes.  BIL and I looked at each other--both FIL and GFIL can't eat spicy food and don't have very exotic palates.  They are very, very, very unlikely to enjoy the meal.  I suspect they have no idea this is the plan.

-The meal is at DH's grandparents house and there is a mix of family and friends at it, sometimes up to 25 people.
-I have no dog in this race--DH, BIL, and I have no intention of going to it.
-I feel Thanksgiving already has a theme--the theme is "Thanksgiving".

I have a very adventurous palate but would be extremely irritated if I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner and it was 100% non-traditional.  Do you have a responsibility to warn people?

An aside--I sent MIL an email today warning her of what I heard and inviting her to our Thanksgiving (my mother lives about three hours away from the in-laws). 
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: ydpubs on October 12, 2010, 12:52:33 PM
Yeah, I think it's better to give people a heads up when going off the beaten track for holidays.

It's like this:

You don't make what looks like chocolate brownies, present it as chocolate brownies, but really they are carob.

That happened to me. I got this look on my face, not pleasant at all.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: siamesecat2965 on October 12, 2010, 02:35:59 PM
Hehe - reminds me of the time as a kid, on whatever holiday, my grandmother made a HUGE dish of mashed turnips.  And didn' tell anyone they were, and they looked to me JUST like mashed potatos.  Which i love.  So I took a huge helping, and took one bite and went BLECHHHHH.  parents and grandma thought it was hilarious.  It was part my fault as i had simply assumed they were potatoes and didn't bother to find out.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Arrynne on October 12, 2010, 04:24:45 PM
One or two non-traditional dishes is fine, but I think you need to warn people if you're completely changing the menu.  When my husband and I hosted our first Christmas dinner, we told people the menu ahead of time.  Our menu was full of traditional dishes, but it was quite different than what his family normally served.  (His family would have had turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes with tons of butter and brown sugar, and the olive/pickle/stuffed celery tray.  We served orange-butternut squash soup, slow-roasted beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted asparagus, and sweet potato casserole, along with a veggie platter.) 
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Judah on October 12, 2010, 04:34:26 PM
I think that if you expect to vary very much from what people have come to expect, your guests deserve a heads-up.  On Thanksgiving I expect a baked turkey, stuffing, veggies, cranberry sauce, and pie.  If I was surprised with a standing rib roast, wild rice, salad, and creme brulee, well it's a lovely meal, but it's not Thanksgiving.  It would be fine if I had been warned in advance and agreed to the meal, but if I hadn't been warned I'd be miffed.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Marlene on October 13, 2010, 03:55:40 AM
You shouldn't mess with holiday traditions - without giving people a fair warning!

But. It wasn't your warning to give. I think you were a tiny bit rude to the Wasabi-branch of the family; you basically told MIL "you won't like their food, come to our house instead"... not cool.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: MaggieB on October 13, 2010, 04:53:32 AM
We are doing a completely non-traditional meal this year for Thanksgiving, and everyone has definitely been warned.  They were actually warned months in advance.  Even though everyone invited likes the food being served (Mexican feast) we wanted people to know what to expect so that they could plan accordingly.  A few people are opting to go to a more traditional dinner, and we completely understand.  Others were a little confused but ultimately just glad that they don't have to cook.  The rest are really excited.

I know that any given family's "Thanksgiving dinner" might not please everyone 100%, but I do think that people should know what they are being invited to (to what they're being invited?)   :)
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: high dudgeon on October 13, 2010, 08:39:12 AM
This came up last year, and as time as has passed, I only feel more strongly about it. I think you need to tell people what you are inviting them to, whether or not it's traditional! Because even if it is traditional, your tradition might not be exactly the same as someone else's tradition, and that's not always likely to occur to either the hosts or the guests. Whether it's football versus the Macy's parade versus another activity, or canned cranberry sauce versus fresh or turkey versus the family tradition of serving lasagna for Thanksgiving. You should give guests a brief rundown of what you're inviting them to, before you ask them for a response.

So I think DH's cousin should have said, "How about if I cook Thanksgiving dinner this year? And I can do a whole Asian theme, with wasabi mashed potatoes and a hoisin glazed turkey and a spicy ginger/apple pie and then we'll all watch football! It'll be awesome! Would you like to come?" And then the potential guests could say, "That sounds very creative, dear. But I'm afraid Grandpa and I wouldn't be able to handle the spiciness, so we'll have to decline. But we hope you have a great Thanksgiving and we'll see you at Christmas!" And if DH's cousin is more invested in the Asian theme, she can have it without some of the family members. And if she's more invested in having the whole family together, she can change her menu. It's still up to her, but what she chooses could have consequences.

Since she didn't let people know in advance what kind of event she was inviting them too, I don't think it would hurt to casually spread the word to a couple relatives in a conversational way. "Oh, I'm so sorry DH and I aren't going to be able to see you guys for Thanksgiving, it's one of my favorite holidays! And Cousin's idea for having an Asian theme for Thanksgiving sound really interesting, but I don't know if the wasabi mashed potatoes will be everyone's cup of tea? Anyway, DH and I are going to my relatives this year and I always like to make the pumpkin pie...."

I still like traditional Thanksgiving foods, but now I think we'll be having Asian food for dinner tonight!
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: LadyPekoe on October 13, 2010, 09:33:30 AM
High--that's the whole problem--the GPIL can't decline because it's at their house.  I'm almost 100% sure they have no idea about this plan.  I do know for sure that they can't handle spicy food, nor can FIL, which means that part of the food will be totally off limits (spicy food isn't particularly common in most traditional Thanksgivings). 

Marlene--I have to disagree.  MIL hasn't committed to any Thanksgiving yet, so changing her mind isn't rude.  Plus, she's my MIL, I don't feel I have to beat around the bush with her.  And I KNOW FIL would be disappointed in the Asian-themed meal. 

Update--I emailed MIL yesterday, told her what I heard, and she responded that they will probably come to mom's house now. 
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Hmmmmm on October 13, 2010, 09:33:41 AM
I don't think I'd take on the roll of spreading the word unless you had specifics on exactly what "Asian" themed meant.  Some people might think asian theme means she's serving duck feet soup and turkey eggrolls, while in fact it could be that she's planning to add five spice as a seasoning and I've had wasabi mashed potatoes that had very little heat.  

To me there is a big difference between planning to serve seafood enchiladas for Thanskgiving versus a Turkey seasoned with annato and dressing with chorizo.  In the first, I do think it is key to let the guests know that you are planning a very non-traditional dinner.  In the second, I think it is up to the guests to appreciate the effort the host has made in preparing a meal.  

I would also assume the cousin and aunt are aware of the family's sensitivity to spice and will plan accordingly.  If you don't think they are aware, I might mention to them that uncle Joe has some severe issues with indigestion and needs mildly seasoned foods.  Making sure the host is aware of restrictions gives them the chance to modify their plans instead of having the guests make a decision on their desire to attend based on assumptions on a theme.  
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: LadyPekoe on October 13, 2010, 09:58:13 AM
I rarely talk to aunt (we mostly FB about cooking shows) and I've never met cousin or his father (DH's uncle).  BIL and DH think that cousin, who was estranged from the family until recently, wants to "show them what they are missing" by living in the Iowa countryside.  Don't worry, I'm not planning on telling anybody else about the theme--DH and BIL don't go to that Thanksgiving any way, so MIL and FIL were the only ones I felt the need to say something to.

We aren't frightened of Asian food (in fact, MIL, DH, and BIL are of mixed Korean heritage), but BIL and FIL are very sensitive to spice.  Plus, some of us don't want a teriyaki chicken with wasabi mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving (and this is coming from someone who has interned in Japan :) )--a dinner party, sure, but not Thanksgiving.

My view--
I don't feel you are locked in to the same menu every year--I've varied our dinner the last three years because of my blog--but if you are making a totally themed meal, even if the spicing is mild, I think you should warn people.  If you are simply adjusting one or two dishes, I don't think it's needed. 
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: high dudgeon on October 13, 2010, 10:06:49 AM
I'm sorry, I got mixed up with the family relationships and location! That does make it much trickier. I do think Cousin is making a faux pas by not mentioning her Asian theme plans to the twenty five guests before they said whether or not they were coming and I'm glad you've mentioned it to MIL. I do think it's a little unusual that the GPIL are letting Cousin cook in their kitchen without asking about her plans, but that's their call to make. I just hope that they aren't just assuming Cousin is making the family's traditional meal, and that Cousin isn't just assuming everyone can eat what she's making. This is part of why I think communication is so important, and that one needs facts, not assumptions, especially for once a year "traditional" occasions!
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: RoaringGirl on October 13, 2010, 04:38:02 PM
RG the Younger and her family had a rather bad Thanksgiving a year or two ago largely in part because a radical change in the menu hadn't been announced.  Her in-laws love gourmet cooking and designed a meal to highlight their adventurous tastes--think of whatever was really hot in the gourmet world back then (kiwi-stuffed turkey?  Mashed pears with plum sauce and a soupcon of dill?  Lettuce tartlette with a tomato glaze? I wouldn't know...) and they served it.

RG the Y and her family found it largely inedible.  Simply not their taste at all. 

Now for various reasons, the family really was obligated to show up for the feast anyway, but RG the Y would really, really have appreciated some kind of head's up--if nothing else, they would have eaten before heading out for Thanksgiving.  And to make matters even worse, the in-laws hadn't done a test run of the menu, so it took hours to get the food out of the kitchen and served.  RG the Y got there about 1:00, the first course wasn't served until 5:00 (instead of the announced start of 3:00), and by the time they left (around 8:00), dessert had yet to appear.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Midnight Kitty on October 13, 2010, 04:59:43 PM
I can do a whole Asian theme, with wasabi mashed potatoes and a hoisin glazed turkey and a spicy ginger/apple pie
M-m-m-m, that sounds delish!  I'm inspired.  We always get together with our bestest friends, their 4 daughters, and any "left-over guests" (stray people left over the holiday to fend for themselves).  My annual cooking duties are the gravy, a salad, and a dessert.  I think I'll ask the hostess if an apple pie with crystallized ginger will fit with her seasonings this year.  We always have a coordination phone call where she tells me what she's planning and I propose sides to go with.  I could also make tossed greens with crispy chow mien noodles or "one ton" chips with an Asian sesame dressing and canned mandarin orange slices. 
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: high dudgeon on October 13, 2010, 05:05:10 PM
An ehellion gave me a great recipe for apple/ginger pie for Thanksgiving last year and I love it. It's basically regular apple pie with two tablespoons of fresh minced ginger root mixed in with the apples before baking. It was fantastic! But I did check with the family to make sure they were cool with it in advance. They were, but they asked that I never mess with the traditional pumpkin pie, so I don't. Seems fair to me!
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Minmom3 on October 13, 2010, 11:41:36 PM
Yeah, I think it's better to give people a heads up when going off the beaten track for holidays.

*** ***  ***

That happened to me. I got this look on my face, not pleasant at all.

I DON'T like carob, I'd be right there with you, grimacing in dislike and disgust.  Bleah....
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: ydpubs on October 13, 2010, 11:47:55 PM
Yeah, I think it's better to give people a heads up when going off the beaten track for holidays.

*** ***  ***

That happened to me. I got this look on my face, not pleasant at all.

I DON'T like carob, I'd be right there with you, grimacing in dislike and disgust.  Bleah....

Oh yeah. I was pretty grossed out. I spit it out.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Yvaine on October 14, 2010, 07:45:19 AM
I'm weird, I kind of like carob, but only when I know it's carob before I eat it! If I think it's chocolate and get surprised, ick.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: ydpubs on October 14, 2010, 12:35:20 PM
I'm weird, I kind of like carob, but only when I know it's carob before I eat it! If I think it's chocolate and get surprised, ick.

Oh, I don't have anything against carob. But yeah, it was the whole bait and switch thing that sent me over the edge.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Moray on October 15, 2010, 12:18:11 PM
OP, I definately agree that this is something I'd want to be informed of if I were a guest, but if I were DH's Cousin, I'd really appreciate it if you brought your concerns to my attention first.

Granted, DH's Cousin should absolutely have informed her prospective guests of her intentions when she invited them, (I love high dudgeon's wording) but when your Aunt was telling you about her wasabi taters, you might have said "Wow, those sound pretty tasty, but do you think MIL and FIL are going to be able to enjoy them? You know how sensitive they are to spicy stuff." That way, you've given her a polite prod to discuss with Cousin her guests' needs and opened up a possible discussion about non-spicy alternatives.

It would also make it seem a lot less...subversive (maybe? I'm not sure that's quite the word I want...it sounds too harsh) when you provided MIL with a warning and an invite. If you've let her know about your concerns, DH's Cousin would be hard pressed to view your MIL & Co ending up at your mom's dinner as anything other than legitimate concern for their comfort. (As opposed to an "Ewww, Gross!" reaction)


Edited because I can't spell today.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: LadyPekoe on October 15, 2010, 03:20:12 PM
I've never met or talked to DH's cousin (who is male, by the way :) ), so I think it would be a bizarre call or email to make, especially when I have no intention of going to the holiday.  Anything BIL or I could have said to aunt (who is not his mother) would have been laughed off.  Personally, I don't think 2 people out of a 25 person dinner are going to make much difference, so I don't feel I've "stolen" them and they hadn't yet told the grandparents if they were officially coming or not (although they usually do). 

I will be interested to hear what happens with the whole thing--I will have to ask Aunt after the holiday or get the gossip from BIL (he always seems to know what is going on).
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Moray on October 15, 2010, 04:03:56 PM
Ok, given that info, making contact with the cousin would be pretty darn awkward.

I hope you and your in-laws have a wonderful holiday together!
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Dorrie78 on October 15, 2010, 04:43:03 PM
OP - I agree with you completely. I expect a core of certain foods at Thanksgiving and if they won't be present or will be drastically altered, I would be very sad. Core foods - turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing. It wouldn't bother me if other sides changed every year, as long as the core foods are there and in recognizable form. I get depressed watching Food Network around the holidays because they always have shows with the chefs coming up with new foods ("Instead of boring mashed potatoes, try this delicious new recipe with weird, but trendy ingredients!") Argh!

I think you did the right thing warning your MIL and FIL.
Title: Re: Non-traditional holidays
Post by: Giggity on October 15, 2010, 04:45:32 PM
Since you aren't attending or hosting, I say it's not your place to warn anyone of anything.