Most of my friends and I are graduate students, and therefore always pn tight budgets. I'm the only one who managed to find an apartment with a large kitchen and living room that I can afford without roommates. Therefore, my place has become the default location for socializing, particularly around food, since we all love to cook.
Every Tuesday, I cook a large dinner and invite everybody: friends and roommates are welcome. I email the group the day before with the menu and ask for RSVPs. It's generally something very simple: soups, salads, breads, casseroles or pasta, but it's scratch made with local ingredients, and the apartment is always sparkling and the table is set with candles and flowers. Dinner is served at 7, with finger foods or appetizers available at 6:30. If you show up earlier than 6:30, you will be put to work. If somebody offers to bring a side dish, dessert, flowers or special beverage, I always say yes.
I usually end up with at least 6 people in my apartment between 5:30 and 6, offering to set the table, chop veggies, and one girl always asks to take my dog for a walk. Nobody has ever mentioned a problem with these arrangements until last night, when I was making pizza. One boy showed up at 5:30ish with a friend visiting from out of town who we've met before. He asked what toppings were going on the pizza, and when I didn't mention olives (his favorite), he offered to run to the store to get some. Since my policy is if you want to offer it, go for it, I had no problem with it. When he and his guest returned and were directed to top the pizzas, the visitor became quite angry.
He said I was a terrible hostess to force my guests to buy ingredients and work for their own dinners. At proper dinner parties, people are supposed to offer to help, but a real hostess always refuses help.
I can see his point, as I would be upset if I was invited to a fancy dinner party, and as soon as I walked in the door, was directed to a cutting board. However, this is a casual weekly event between friends, and if a person doesn't want to help, they don't have to. With the nicer party, I would expect a reciprocal invitation from my guests, but this is a joint effort as nobody has the ability to host a fancy party.
What do you say? Should I be cast into E-Hell for being too casual of a hostess and making/letting my friends work? Or is he the bad guy here by insulting the way my friends and I choose to spend our time together?