Please come to dinner–and bring your own damn food.

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My mother didn’t entertain very much. No cocktail parties; no invitations to dinner. That doesn’t mean that we dined alone: our relatives had a habit of just showing up around mealtime. I can’t remember anyone ever knocking on the door, though. They just walked in and called out “Hello?” (It is one of my pet peeves and the reason why I usually keep my doors locked at all times.)

My uncle and his family had their timing perfected. For years, my Aunt and Uncle and two cousins would walk in just as we sat down to Sunday dinner. The dialog would go like this:

Mom (to me): I don’t believe it. Does Elvira ever cook?

Aunt Elvira: Oh, gosh. Are you eating? I just said to Jack that we didn’t want to interrupt your meal. Go ahead and eat. We’ll wait in the living room. Don’t mind us.

Mom: Come on in and sit down. I’ll get more plates.

Aunt Elvira: Well, we’ll just sit and chat with you. I couldn’t eat a bite, though. We had a huge breakfast at my sister’s this morning. I couldn’t eat a thing.

Uncle Jack: Could someone pass the mashed potatoes, please?

Aunt Elvira: Oh, is that a pork roast? Maybe I’ll have just a sliver of it.

My cousins: Can we have some of that apple pie?

And so it went. It didn’t matter what food was on the table, it was eaten with great gusto because it was well prepared and (let’s be honest here) free. Roast chicken, casseroles, pot roast, ham: it didn’t matter to them. It was eaten until it was gone.

As much as I hated seeing uninvited company come marching through our back door, I’ve come to think of that time as the Good Old Days. That’s because I live in the age of the foodie. No more do we eat whatever our host serves. We don’t politely eat something we don’t care for and exclaim how wonderful it is.

We critique. We dictate. We change the menu. We have special dietary requirements.

I invite friends to dinner. They accept. Then the fun begins:

Guest A: Will it be gluten free?

Guest B: I should tell you I’ve stopped eating meat. Oh, and I’m allergic to nuts.

Guest C: Joe and I would love to come and are looking forward to it. Did I mention that Joe is diabetic?

Guest D: Don’t worry about me. I’ll eat anything — except vegetables. Bill, on the other hand, only likes chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes.

Today I called them all back to say I was changing the meal to a pot luck. Bring whatever you want. Just stay away from my liquor.

 

38 thoughts on “Please come to dinner–and bring your own damn food.

  1. I can only understand those guests who are on a medical diet – (allergies can kill people) everything else is a lifestyle choice they made for themselves and which they can put in a very dark place, that is somehow dealing with meals, too ….

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  2. What always makes me sad are couples where one person has imposed their life-changing decisions on their partner/children. I remember inviting a “vegan” family around; they were all closet carnivores and diary fans except for the mother. We ended up sending the mother off on a wild goose chase so the kids could eat ham on their slice of pizza. NUTS.

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  3. I agree! My family here believes I can’t cook… lol I like that because when they come to visit, they have to cook! But your story reminds me of Aunt Kate’s house in NC for her famous big sunday breakfasts, they were awesome good times!

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    1. I’m done with the lot of them. Last Thanksgiving, I’d planned to stay home alone and cook all my favorite dishes. Then a friend invited herself to my house for Thanksgiving — except she has a gluten intolerance and doesn’t like my cooking anyway. So I make reservations for this wonderful Thanksgiving buffet, clean my house like crazy, and she bails at the last minute. That is the last time I go out of my way to accommodate anyone’s goofy diets.

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  4. This post made me laugh. I live on the west coast of the US, and we’re embracing some sort of food fad at at all times. We were ahead of the curve on the whole gluten-free extravaganza, now everybody is on the Paleo Diet. That’s the one where people eat like cave men, and they even have special desserts (i.e. Paleo Pie and Paleo Girl Scout cookies). I can’t wait for archaeologists to dig up a girl scout uniform from the Paleo period.

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  5. Absolutely what franhunne said–unless it’s a health-threatening allergy, guests should shut up and eat. Yeah, if they’re really picky kids they don’t need to be forced to eat every awful thing, but there’s something on the menu they should like. I’ll bring wine.

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  6. Potluck is definitely the way to go. I’m just exhausted keeping up with all of the “special dietary requirements.” Life threatening allergies I completely understand, but when did “gluten free” become the new “low fat”?

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  7. Oh yes, people’s dietary restrictions, combined with my laziness and people-pleasing tendencies, make me want to just go out to eat.

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  8. I envy your childhood a bit. My parents never had anyone over. Dinner was so sacred in my house that even when people would knock (and could see us through the huge front window) my parents would keep talking and no one would answer the door or the phone.
    I enjoy having people around and I wish, at least on occasion, we would have had people over. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed your take on what that kind of ritual was like. I’m a new fan!

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  9. I really enjoyed this post. Last week some ‘invited’ friends came over and reminded me (the host) that their kids need to eat by 6 … is that some sort of hint? I gave the kids carrots and told them that dinner would be on at 7:30.

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    1. And a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. I stayed home this year, turned down invitations so I could cook what I like. For that, I am thankful.
      Going forward, we meet in a restaurant or we don’t meet at all. I’m done trying to meet everyone’s perceived nutritional needs. Some are real –and I respect those–but most are just fads.
      I’m looking forward to the leftovers today.

      Liked by 1 person

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