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  • December 05, 2016, 10:48:03 AM

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Author Topic: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"  (Read 1260 times)

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Hmmmmm

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Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« on: December 01, 2016, 12:17:26 PM »
I'm referring to the second question.
http://www.uexpress.com/miss-manners/2016/12/1/social-media-invitations-need-not-always
A couple is invited to a dinner and the writer asked what she can bring. The inviting wife said "dessert". The inviting husband later gave instructions to bring a specific pineapple cheesecake. The writer was put out because she'd planned to make a dessert and also didn't feel it right for the hosts to demand a specific dessert.

Miss Manners said she 1)shouldn't have offered in the first place 2)Since she did offer she should take the requested dessert.

I know in many areas offering to bring a dish to a dinner party is frowned upon. However, in my social and family group, we often have less formal dinner parties with invites issued with "Hey, ya'll want to come to dinner on Friday" and a response of "Sure, what can I bring?" is almost standard (formal parties you don't do it). Most of our group host dinners at our home and it's always the hosts providing the basic meal and someone bringing apps and someone else bringing dessert if we have one.

While I normally agree with Miss Manner's advice I would have responded with "Thanks for the suggestion, but I think I'll make crème brulee.". The only time I would accommodate a specific request would be if it was a one off like someone calls and says "Hey, let's get together to celebrate Tim's retirement. I'll provide the main course and sides. Would you bring a dessert? Pineapple cheesecake is his favorite."

How would other's handle it?

gellchom

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2016, 01:16:02 PM »
I know in many areas offering to bring a dish to a dinner party is frowned upon. However, in my social and family group, we often have less formal dinner parties with invites issued with "Hey, ya'll want to come to dinner on Friday" and a response of "Sure, what can I bring?" is almost standard (formal parties you don't do it).
This is how it is in my circle, too.  The answer is either "how about a salad? [or whatever]" or "Nothing, we're all set."

I think that the hosts in the Miss Manners column were being a little too specific, especially as they didn't specify what dessert they wanted right away but waited until the letter writer planned something else.  (I do think she was being really childish to not want to go at all or to bring something they'd hate.)  But Miss Manners is right that if you make an open-ended offer of "what can we bring?" you may be stuck with an answer you don't like.  Better either not to offer at all or to offer to bring something that you do want to bring (or a choice of a few things) and let them say thanks or no thanks.  That's what I usually do.

Suppose the hosts, immediately upon being asked "What can we bring?" replied, "Well, we were planning on a pineapple cheesecake from Yummy Bakery.  Would you like to bring that?"  It seems to me that the guests could then either agree to do that or respond with "Oh, if you want us to bring dessert, I'd love to make a XYZ Torte.  Would that go with your menu?"  And the host could then either agree or say, "No, we definitely want that cheesecake.  So how about a salad instead?" or whatever. 

I mean, presumably these people are friends and not first-time guests -- otherwise the guest might not have offered to bring something, and the hosts very likely would have declined the offer to contribute to the meal.  So to me it seems obvious that simple communication between friends ought to resolve this.  If it were close friends, I might even say, "Sure, but can I get a different flavor instead of pineapple?  I really don't like it."  Especially if we were to be the only guests.  After all, hosts are disappointed if their guests don't like the food, so they would probably be glad for the heads-up that you won't like it.  If they are close enough to ask you to buy a pineapple cheesecake, then they are close enough to hear that you hate that flavor!

I have to wonder how much the LW's dislike of pineapple enters into her irritation, too.  But it brings up an interesting question.  Suppose you were the guest, and you don't mind being asked to buy or make a dish, but it's one you dislike?  What should you do?  Sounds like a good time to offer to make something here didn't look good or something!  But I wouldn't.  I think I'd just get what they asked for and eat only a little bit, the same as if it were served and I hadn't known anything about it.  (At some level, I'd actually be glad I didn't like it, because then it's easy to resist ingesting those calories!)

wolfie

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2016, 02:26:34 PM »
]" or "Nothing, we're all set."

I think that the hosts in the Miss Manners column were being a little too specific, especially as they didn't specify what dessert they wanted right away but waited until the letter writer planned something else. 

When I read the letter I got the impression that they did ask for the pineapple cheesecake right away. The letter writer asks what to bring, wife says dessert, husband gets on the line and says pineapple cheesecake.

cicero

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2016, 03:15:56 PM »
]" or "Nothing, we're all set."

I think that the hosts in the Miss Manners column were being a little too specific, especially as they didn't specify what dessert they wanted right away but waited until the letter writer planned something else. 

When I read the letter I got the impression that they did ask for the pineapple cheesecake right away. The letter writer asks what to bring, wife says dessert, husband gets on the line and says pineapple cheesecake.
that's how I read it,  too.

I agree that it depends on your *social circle* and the type of meal.  But having learned the hard way,  I never make an open ended offer.  I will say "oh,  sounds lovely,  would you like me to bring a batch of The Best Brownies In The World™?" or I just accept the invitation and bring wine  or flowers.   

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gellchom

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2016, 03:17:24 PM »
]" or "Nothing, we're all set."

I think that the hosts in the Miss Manners column were being a little too specific, especially as they didn't specify what dessert they wanted right away but waited until the letter writer planned something else. 

When I read the letter I got the impression that they did ask for the pineapple cheesecake right away. The letter writer asks what to bring, wife says dessert, husband gets on the line and says pineapple cheesecake.

Oops!  You're right.

So the LW really has even less to complain about -- it's not like she already shopped for and started making a different dessert.  The problem is still the same.  The husband asked an open-ended question of "what can we bring?"  If right away they had said "pineapple cheesecake from XYZ bakery," without first just saying "dessert," I doubt that would have made a difference to the letter writer.

This isn't a request I can see myself asking of a guest, but I do think the LW had an awfully major and rather childish reaction to it, especially as I assume, from both the question and the answer, that these are friends.  Cicero has it right, but it's too late now for the LW.  This time, the LW should either just ask if they can bring something else instead, or else just get the cheesecake and next time don't make an open-ended offer. 

Kaypeep

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2016, 03:21:05 PM »
I'd be okay with a specific request but if it's not possible to get that dish, I'd tell them.

HOST: Can you bring pineapple cheesecake>
ME: Well I can't make that myself and I'm not going to be able to get to the cheesecake store.  But I have the makings for _____ though and can definitely whip one up.  Will that do already instead?

In other words I don't see why it can't be a conversation.  If it's casual enough an event that I'd ask if I can contribute, I'd be comfortable enough to discuss what I can/can't bring and not just take requests as marching orders.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2016, 04:19:45 PM »
I honestly can't image giving specifics of exactly what and where I want to them to buy it from if someone offered to bring dessert or other to the dinner. To me that's the same as someone saying "Sure I'd love to come to dinner. Would you go get pizza from Luigi's and serve that?"

Cor

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2016, 11:23:07 PM »
My aunt hosts Easter every year.  Everyone is expected to bring a dish to holidays like this in my family.  But this aunt literally asks me to bring the Jewel brand spinach and artichoke dip and the [name brand] Hawaiian bread.  It has gotten to the point where my mom jokes to me about the aunt telling us what bowls to bring our food in!  It's easier just to roll with it for events like that, with detail-controllers like her.  (In related news, there are contests she holds on Easter in which participation is mandatory, such as the Jelly Bean Guessing Game (guess the number of jelly beans in the jar); my now-husband tried to not participate and I had to explain to him that those who do not participate will be hunted down and forced to, it's just easier to give in ahead of time and guess a number that will be too far off to accidentally win the "prize" (a candy we despise!)).

In the Miss Manners scenario, I think she might have been able to politely tell her friend "I'd much rather cook something from scratch" and maybe she could have gotten out of buying the item.  Or maybe she should have brought 2 desserts--the pineapple thing and her yummy made from scratch dessert.  Probably only the hosting husband would eat the pineapple thing if there was a yummy homemade option.

Semperviren

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2016, 08:28:34 AM »
I'm not comfortable being that specific unless I know someone really well and there's a shared understanding of a particular recipe or item. "Could you make your amazing pineapple cheesecake?" or "Would you mind picking up some Brie on your way over?" is something you can say to a close friend with a more informal relationship.

Otherwise-I think it's polite to allow the guest some "artistic control", as well as allowing them to determine how much time, money and effort they can contribute. They're my guest, not my caterer or personal shopper. "How about a salad" works well.

ETA: as a guest in this scenario, I'd probably be a bit taken aback but do as asked (being not very skilled at self-assertion in the moment.) However, I'd make a mental note to avoid a reflexive offer of "Is there anything I can bring?" with these particular hosts as they interpret that offer more literally than most, and next time just show up with a bottle of wine or some flowers.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2016, 09:29:20 AM by Semperviren »

gellchom

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2016, 11:03:54 AM »
I'm not comfortable being that specific unless I know someone really well and there's a shared understanding of a particular recipe or item. "Could you make your amazing pineapple cheesecake?" or "Would you mind picking up some Brie on your way over?" is something you can say to a close friend with a more informal relationship.

Otherwise-I think it's polite to allow the guest some "artistic control", as well as allowing them to determine how much time, money and effort they can contribute. They're my guest, not my caterer or personal shopper. "How about a salad" works well.

ETA: as a guest in this scenario, I'd probably be a bit taken aback but do as asked (being not very skilled at self-assertion in the moment.) However, I'd make a mental note to avoid a reflexive offer of "Is there anything I can bring?" with these particular hosts as they interpret that offer more literally than most, and next time just show up with a bottle of wine or some flowers.

Yes, exactly.  The letter didn't say what the relationship was in this case -- are they close friends who eat at each other's homes often, or just acquaintances, and this was the first time either had entertained the other?  Your post highlights how that makes all the difference, and how the best response varies accordingly.  Your choices are pretty much what I'd do, too.

DavidH

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2016, 02:23:16 PM »
I agree in general, that if you don't really want to know what you can bring, don't ask.  If what you mean is that you'd like to bring a homemade dessert, then offer that rather than the open ended question.  For example, "Thank you for the invitation, I'm looking forward to your party.  Can I bring my famous homemade chocolate cake?"  Then the host can say yes, or please don't go to all that trouble, we already have dessert covered. 

I think it's fine to specify course or genre, but a bit much to specify the exact item.  To me, it would be better as the host to reply to the open ended question along the lines of yes, dessert would be great, or even, perhaps a cake for dessert.  If it were wine, I think you're fine to specify a type or at least red vs. white, but to ask for a specific vineyard or worse a vineyard and vintage would be over the top.

If the host is very specific, I think you're fine to refuse, perhaps say that you can't make it to bakery X, and ask would a different cheesecake be okay. 

I think it is fundamentally rude to offer and then not bring the item unless you have made the host aware far enough in advance to make other arrangements. 

jazzgirl205

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2016, 04:36:58 PM »
When I was in college, I was invited to a medieval themed buffet (not sca).  After asking what I could bring, I was handed a recipe for meringue that looked like mushrooms.  I had never made meringue before and was nervous about this assignment.  I must have done a good job because most of the diners thought they were real mushrooms and started spooning them over their pot roast.  The host had to stop and make a general announcement.

Semperviren

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2016, 05:26:48 PM »
I'm reminded of a friend who asked her new MIL if she could bring anything for a family dinner and was handed a recipe card for steamed persimmon pudding with hard sauce, and the molded steamer thingy to make it in! My friend had never made anything like it before, but she's a good cook and managed to hunt down ripe persimmons and several other unusual ingredients and successfully make the thing. I thought it was kind of a dirty trick, though, and always wondered if it was a bit of a "test".

gellchom

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Re: Miss Manner's response to "what can I bring scenario"
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2016, 11:45:59 AM »
I'm reminded of a friend who asked her new MIL if she could bring anything for a family dinner and was handed a recipe card for steamed persimmon pudding with hard sauce, and the molded steamer thingy to make it in! My friend had never made anything like it before, but she's a good cook and managed to hunt down ripe persimmons and several other unusual ingredients and successfully make the thing. I thought it was kind of a dirty trick, though, and always wondered if it was a bit of a "test".
Sometimes a MIL can't win, though.   My mother told me that when she was a new bride, and by the way knew nothing about cooking, she always felt insulted that her mother-in-law, who was a wonderful cook, only responded to her offers to help with asking her to do cleanup as she cooked and prep jobs and the like.  She wanted to be asked to make a whole dish by herself. She told me that years later when it was her turn to host holidays, she realized that that is the best and most important help of all!  In a way it's a sign of intimacy and teamwork.   When my husband or grown children and their partners are helping me in the kitchen, sometimes I do ask them to take care of a whole dish, whether I tell them what I want or ask them to come up with something, and sometimes I ask them to help me with what I'm already making. I really wouldn't ask a stranger to do that.

Maybe Semperviren's friend's mother-in-law was indeed being mean in assigning something really tricky. But you could also look at it as a vote of confidence; this dish was on the menu, and she  was planning on making it herself, but instead she was giving her daughter-in-law the complement of her confidence in being able to pull it off.

But in any case, whatever the motives were, this is an excellent example of more than one problem with open ended "What can I bring?" offers. The offeror may get stuck with a task that is difficult or that they don't want to do, like making something complicated or buying a pineapple cheesecake. And the host may well have trouble hitting the exact sweet spot of what the offeror is sort of hoping to be asked, or at least the range that they were envisioning.

So communication is key, in making the offer, in responding to the offer, and in accepting, declining, or negotiating the response. It seems to me that if people are close enough to be having this discussion in the first place, they ought to be close enough to discuss it maturely.