DEAR MISS MANNERS: Urgent before Thanksgiving: I just bought a beautiful soup tureen, but am ignorant of how to serve from it. Does it go on the dining room table, in front of the hostess' place? On the sideboard? In what order are the guests' plates filled?
GENTLE READER: Ahhh.
That soft sound you hear is Miss Manners sighing happily with the feeling of warmth and hospitality that the mere words "soup tureen" conjure. The jolly, pot-bellied shape, the shining porcelain, the escaping steam, the tantalizing odor....
What's that? Oh, you want to know where to put the silly thing. If there is room on the table in front of the hostess, the sight of her serving could be charming. If she has to lean over and dribble the soup across the table, the sideboard would be a better choice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended an afternoon potluck put on by a community charity group. We live in a small town, and most of the approximately 50 people there knew each other at least in passing.
After lunch, the host announced we would break into teams for group games. He chose four organization members to be the captains. One of the captains asked if he would be allowed to pick his own team, and the host readily agreed with that.
Due to memories of being the last one picked as a child, I wanted to object to this methodology but couldn't think of a polite way to do it. The team captains then took turns choosing their favorites and sure enough, I was the last one picked.
I can assure you it was no less humiliating and painful as a 28-year-old than it was when I was 9. Was there any polite way that I could have suggested a different way?
GENTLE READER: You could have spoken up when the suggestion was made, saying, "Wait a minute! I was always picked last when I was a child." (At this point, you may be sure of a chorus of voices saying, "So was I.") "How about this time you pick the worst players first, so I don't have to go home and cry?"
What Miss Manners is recommending is a skill adults must acquire -- the ability to make a joke, or in some cases a novel, out of childhood embarrassments.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had the opportunity the other day to make dinner for my partner's parents upon their arrival from a 12-hour travel day. While the dinner took awhile to make, it turned out very well. The problem is that it was a recipe I had never tried before; my partner told me that her grandmother had said it was never OK to make a meal for the first time for guests, that one should always try it first. While I didn't get in trouble, of course, I am curious as to the validity of this way of thinking.
GENTLE READER: Ask her if Grandma is familiar with the saying "The proof is in the pudding."