Food Lifestyle

During a recent conversation with friends on the subject of dinner guest etiquette, we were struck by how confusing the matter can be.  Should we, as guests, bring a gift for the hostess? Leave some money? How many bottles of wine should we bring? Should we bring a dish? One thing is certain, the “rules” have changed over the years. Today, the notion of arriving empty-handed at our host’s home is inconceivable. We should, at the very least, bring a bottle of wine with us. Granted, we don’t all see things the same way. Here’s a guideline that might help you to: (1) keep your friends, and (2) get re-invited.

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First and foremost, when you’re invited to dinner, please let your host know about any allergies you might have or foods you can’t stand.

Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a guest pick at their dinner after you’ve spent hours sweating over a hot stove. Meal plans aren’t necessarily carved in stone prior to inviting guests to dinner. It’s far more pleasant to plan a dinner menu with your guests’ needs in mind than to “catch” one of them trying to hide everything under their mashed potatoes. Leaving your dinner guests at the table while you run into the kitchen to prepare an improvised dish for a guest who doesn’t like the meal you’ve already prepared and served, is definitely not fun. It can ruin what should have been a very pleasant evening.

Should we bring a dish?

For the sake of courtesy, if nothing else, we should always ask the host if there’s anything we can contribute to the meal. Bringing dessert or a cheese platter can be a thoughtful gesture (even when the meal isn’t a potluck). It also eliminates the uneasy matter of whether or not to offer to contribute towards the cost of the meal. Offering help, in one form or another, is considerate.

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The famous bottle of wine.

The basic unwritten rule is to bring a bottle of wine. Keep in mind however that a single bottle of wine might not be sufficient for two people. You can always gift a bottle to your host at the end of the evening.

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Should we leave some money?

Hosting a meal can cost our host a few hundred dollars. If the night’s menu revolves around lobster and caviar, your hostess gift should, in my opinion, be on par. That being said, we do need to take our budget into consideration as well as our host’s. Leaving a twenty dollar bill on the dining room table can be a little out of place when the host has organized a casual spur of the moment meal to be shared among friends. Your relationship to your host, be he/she a close friend, colleague or parent, is an important factor to take into consideration. Trust your judgement in the matter!

Should we clear the table and do the dishes?

I am one of those people who obsessively cleans everything up after my guests and I have finished dinner. I can’t stand having dirty dishes piled up on the counter. Also, I prefer to clean up on my own; I don’t want help from my guests. I rinse the dishes and pop them into the dishwasher lickety-split. That being said, I think it’s very considerate on the part of guests to offer their help, if only to clear the table.

A hostess gift ?

I’ve read that by definition, a hostess gift should be something that can be eaten. If you have a little Martha in you, a pretty container filled with homemade cookies can be a great option and it costs next to nothing to make. If that’s not your cup of tea, a box of chocolates, macaroons or other little treat that your hosts can enjoy after their guests have left, can be a wonderful option.

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If you’re always a guest and never a host, it’s high time to change that!

If you’re absolutely lost in the kitchen, you could order pizza and watch some hockey with friends! Who knows!

Of course, these are all just suggestions. You don’t have to bring 4 bottles of wine, a hostess gift, and a blank cheque to be a superb guest. Do whatever suits you best. Enjoy every opportunity to spend time with good friends because good friendships are precious!

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Anne-Emmanuelle Cyrenne

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