DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper etiquette for when you pour gravy or a sauce from a gravy bowl (it has a spout) and the gravy is dripping off the side of the spout? Do you wipe it off with your napkin, leave it there to drip, lick it off (ha!) or wipe it off with your finger or what?
Should the gravy bowl (with the spout -- I don't even know what they're called) have a plate under it to catch the drips? What if the table cloth is white and there isn't a plate underneath?
GENTLE READER: It is called a gravy boat or sauce boat, and, like any boat, it poses hazards.
Miss Manners would think it in the interest of the host to provide the usual under-liner. Regardless, it is in the interest of the guest not to make a spectacle of himself by dribbling gravy.
But that includes dribbling it onto the napkin. Try turning the spout slightly sideways after pouring, as if it were a wine bottle. If that doesn't work, use your knife to remove whatever gravy is coming down the side. And if that doesn't work, quick, pass the gravy boat to your dinner partner.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Someone at church or wherever will ask where I will be spending Christmas. In fact, I have no particular plans, and I don't want to invent some, in case this is a prologue to an invitation.
Usually, no invitation is extended, but the speaker is not happy with my being alone. So he or she will ask why I won't be with my father. My sister? My aunt? Don't I have any cousins?
I have not forgotten that these relatives exist. For reasons that I really do not want to explain (work schedules, geography and the realities of family relationships), I won't be with any of them. It becomes miserable.
Well, had I considered hosting a dinner? Gathering up a compatible table of folks is difficult even when it is not a holiday. A table made up of people with nothing in common but no place to go is not a good conversation. Soup kitchens around here do not need any more new people coming to work that one day.
What can I say that will jolt folks enough to make them stop suggesting the obvious but not be so abrupt that I lose any chance at an invitation, if that is being considered?
GENTLE READER: Do you really want to spend the day with people who don't issue invitations until ascertaining that you have no alternative and can't be persuaded to seek one?
And wouldn't they be assembling exactly the sort of group of strays that you don't want to entertain?
Mind you, Miss Manners disagrees that such a gathering is bound to be dreary. With parties, as with romance, chance can sometimes produce more sparks than obvious suitability. So she has no qualms about telling you how to fish for an invitation.
"Unfortunately, I can't be with my family," you say with a sad but brave little smile. "And what are you doing?"