Hostesses With The Mostest > Entertaining and Hospitality

Bringing Food to Others homes for Parties

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I will admit that I have read both the regular website and the forums for quite a while, but this is my first post.  IRL  I am a rather shy quiet person as well.

I will start by saying that I am a pretty good cook.  I started learning with my mother and grandmother at a very young age and I come from an Italian American family with lots of other good cooks so food has been an important part of family gatherings.  On top of that I have a chemistry degree and devour food science books so I have a very good understanding of food and how to prepare it.  This is the opinion of other people as well, as I have heard second hand how much some members of my family love my cooking.  I am not trying to brag, but this is part of the issue.

Second I will say that I have two children that are very picky eaters due to their disability and another child and husband who are spoiled by my cooking.

We are sometimes invited to parties on DH side of the family.  Typically these parties are hosted at my SIL house for several reasons (space and distance mostly)  I enjoy cooking and so will offer to bring things when there is a party.  Sometimes she will ask me to bring a particular dish and sometimes she will say "we are having  xyz"  bring what you like.    I am having several etiquette issue that I need help with.

First, my MIL sometimes gets upset when I bring things because if we bring the same stuff, mine will get eaten and hers won't.  This is sometimes an issue because I will make a dish that I know my children will eat and she will make a similar dish, but add ingredients that my children simply won't have. Am I rude for bring things for my kids to eat, but  also to share?

Second, SIL is notorious for not providing enough of things for everyone.  She will buy one bottle of soda when she is having 10-15 people over.  Last year she had a picnic and she had someone else bring the drinks, she brought koolaid and beer only.  This picnic had several elderly ladies who do not drink either of these things.  I keep a case of water in my car at all times (we lived in FL for many years) so when I got a bottle of water for myself, I offered bottles to others who accepted.  Was I rude to offer the water to others?  I know that it would be rude to drink and not offer, but I don't think that I could go several hours outside without something to drink.

Third SIL is also notorious for not returning serving dishes.  So I will offer her the leftover food and take my dish home with me (soemtimes clean and sometimes not)  We recently went to a party where I brought a large pot of chili.  MIL and SIL wanted to keep both the chili and the pot!  I had no problem with them keeping the chili, but the pot was a gift from DH for Christmas two years ago, and very expensive (enameled cast iron)  I will often bring food on plates that I don't expect back (from the dollar store or likewise)  I also brought cornbread and told her she could keep the basket if she wanted.  Should I be taking my serving ware back or should I only bring cheap/disposeable things that I don't want back?

Next, I know that SIL doesn't have enough plates and silverware to serve the people she invites and often doesn't buy disposalbles for the party.  Is it rude to bring these with me?

The last thing has to do with taking food.  I usually let the hostess have whatever leftovers there are.  There have been times where the host said that there was too much food and to take my extras home, but at the last party MIL claimed some of the leftover chili when the party was hosted by SIL.  SO what should I do with extra food, and how do I respond to the host saying take it home and another guest wanting the leftovers?

Thank you for your help.  I have been having some trouble in this area as my family and DH"s family do holidays very differently.

Welcome to the posting community!

Taking your questions in order:

When your MIL has been upset that you each bring similar dishes, but yours is apparently the preferred option - had you each known what the other was bringing?  If not, while I can understand MIL being a bit hurt that her dish wasn't acclaimed by popular demand - not anything you could do, and not your fault.  If you knew what she was bringing, I would suggest you bring something different.  And if she knew what you were bringing, but you didn't know what she was - well, she declared an unofficial "Iron Chef" challenge and lost.

For having enough and appropriate beverages for a llarge gathering, if your SIL is hosting and this has been an issue before, you could ask SIL what the planned beverages are and if you can bring anything to supplement (if you wish).  If the picnic you mention was at SIL's, I would think tap water was available, but if the picnic was at another location, or such an activity will be in future, just ask who is bringing bottled water.

As for serving dishes, I would only take expensive serving dishes where I did not already know the return of them could be an issue.  So, I would suggest some large disposable containers in future, or keeping an eye out during clean up and being prepared to say you *need* the serving item in question, so will be taking it back then.

For disposable silverware, you could offer to bring some if you wish, when SIL is planning next get together, but I would caution against routinely bringing that, or water, or any basic not discussed in advance with SiL each time or you will become "silverware/water girl" and it will be *your* problem rather than the host/organizer's for all future events.

As for leaving, taking, or sharing leftovers - I don't think you are always obligated to leave leftovers, though it is nice to do so.  If you are prepared to not take leftovers with you, and the hosts don't want them, sharing with guests, MIL, or others who do want leftovers is nice - not an obligation, but nice.  Just don't let the leftovers be taken in your serving dish.

Of course you aren't rude for ensuring that your children have something they are able to eat. If your MIL has an issue with it, you might point out to her (nicely, of course) that if you hadn't brought yours her grandchildren would have gone hungry, since she adds things they cannot eat. Your MIL getting upset because people prefer your dish is not your problem to deal with, so I wouldn't be concerned about that. Of course, you could communicate with her to ensure you don't bring similar dishes, but you aren't obligated to do so.

I would say, regarding providing your own beverages/utensils, etc. is a matter of common sense since your SIL is, as you say, notorious for not providing enough of various items. I would not make a big deal of it; just nonchalantly bring out your provisions when necessary. It doesn't sound like your SIL is complaining about you doing this, so I would just continue as you have been.

As for your serving dishes, since it seems to be an ongoing issue I would suggest that you bring along some inexpensive plastic containers to package up your leftovers, so that your stuff comes home with you. As for taking your leftovers home when someone else wants them, I would probably just let them have them. But I don't think you would be wrong to refuse if you want to keep them for your family.

Do you ask before you bring things over or do you just bring them? I would not be amused if I invited you to dinner and you brought it with you because you feel my cooking is not up to your standards.  If you ask and get the ok, then that is not rude, but just presenting the food as a done deal - yes I think that is rude.

Same with the water...why did you need to get yours out of your trunk? Could you not have said SIL, can we have some water or something similar?

If it were my house that the party was at - and I provided the food I would be put out if I wanted the left overs and everyone else took them. If you brought the food, it would be up to you if you wanted to share the left overs.

But if I had someone continually bringing food to my dinner parties, and it was not pot luck, I would be hard pressed to invite them back

First thanks for the feedback.

To address some of the issues.  The invites usually come as "we are having mother's day or a birthday party bring something if you want."  Generally there is very little coordination of who is bringing what, and even when I ask the answer is "I don't know what so and so is bringing"  For the water, there are several issues, first I don't drink a large variety of things, nothing with sugar or artificial sweetners and rarely alcohol, never beer and never coffee.  Mostly I drink water and unsweetened ice tea again often herbal.  The tap water at SIL house is horrible and she doesn't own a cup larger than a coffee cup or for that matter anything plastic that would have been appropriate to bring outside at a picnic.  When I placed the food I had brought into her fridge I noticed that the only thing she had to drink was a very small amount of milk, and she was publicly stating that she had not bought any drinks for the party and that it was someone was bringing them and she would be there later.  So I felt that I was kind of stuck either sit outside and sweat while waiting for this person to show up or go get the water out of my trunk and offer some. The last issue is with bringing disposable plates and the like.  I used to just leave the stuff in the car and "go see if I have anything" if it was needed, but this lead to running out to the car several times in the course of a visit, then others would start sending me out there to see if I had stuff, it was getting a bit silly, so now I just bring it all in at the begining. It is a bit exhausting doing these parties, between all the stuff we have to bring and the needs of our boys, but we have a very hard time getting people to come to our house for these things, so we are stuck between going elsewhere and just not celebrating.

Thanks again for the advice.


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