DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have friends that stay with us at least one week ?each year, ?and although we enjoy their company, ?we desperately need your advice. We live in a small house and therefore it is impossible for more than two people to engage in ?prep work and cooking.
Our friends enjoy cooking as much as we do, and they insist on taking ?over our kitchen and preparing meals without our consent. We have tried ?sharing the experience, but each time it resulted in our being pushed out of the room.
It is stressful to plan meals because they want to ?participate in that, as well. They have no dietary restrictions, only palate ?restrictions, and ?despite the fact that none of us are professional chefs, and we entertain on a regular basis, ?we feel insulted that when it comes to this couple, our skills don't appear to cut the cake.
What does one do when guests feel comfortable whipping up meals, going ?through cupboards looking for ingredients, and taking cooking utensils ?out of our hands while forcibly insisting on preparing our meals?
I ?have made ?comments such as, "Oh please, allow me to cook for you. I enjoy it!" ?However ?my words are of no consequence. Are we being too controlling, or is it common ?for people to feel a bit territorial when it comes to kitchens?
GENTLE READER: So many hosts complain to Miss Manners that their guests won't lift a finger that she might be expected to tell you to be grateful. But don't worry. She understands why you must feel like braining these good people with one of your own frying pans.
It is not only because it would be rude and violent that you cannot clobber them. It is because of those good intentions.
While guests are supposed to be helpful, they are also supposed to accept the hosts' way of doing things. (And why shouldn't you feel territorial? It's your territory -- the whole house is.)
Miss Manners is afraid that you cannot entirely prevent them from offering their form of reciprocation. But you can get it under control if you out-gracious them.
Before they arrive, tell them that the cupboard is bare, but that you are shopping and need to know what they want in case they want to cook one of their lovely meals. You will then set aside a day for them to cook, and have the ingredients they need on the counter. Then pour yourself a drink and stay out -- or better yet, go out and take a walk -- while they are busy.
But you will also insist that they do the same -- go have a drink elsewhere while you cook, because the kitchen is so small it makes you nervous to have company there. Keep saying, "No, no, I want you to relax," as you push them out the kitchen door. And oh, yes -- keep your hands off the frying pan.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am getting married soon and I was wondering what the etiquette was for wedding cake toppers. Is it important to look like the cake topper? Is it important for the flowers on the topper to look like my fiance's flowers?
GENTLE READER: It is not necessary for bridal couples to make themselves resemble icing, although Miss Manners has observed that a not-inconsiderable number of them do.
Contrary to what the wedding industry may tell you, the decorative elements of weddings are not regulated by etiquette. You can even be legally married without choosing a color scheme. So have the flowers whatever color you like, or have figures that represent you or don't; anything that is not actually unappetizing is correct.