DEAR MISS MANNERS: For the last two years, my husband and I have hosted Thanksgiving at our home (about 16 people total). Every year he asks that no one bring anything, and he always loses out. Everyone wants to bring something, and I don't mind if they do.
He likes having everyone over, just like I do, but he wants to know why we can't just host the dinner and provide all the food.
He does not want to host if people are going to bring food. He doesn't like a dozen people all in the kitchen trying to prepare food at the same time he is.
The problem is that I think my family would rather die than come to someone's home for a holiday meal and not bring food. His mother hosts Christmas dinner and no one brings anything.
How do we tell our guests that we are providing the food, and that they don't need to bring anything? This is causing us a lot of anxiety and stress.
GENTLE READER: This is not the usual Thanksgiving kitchen complaint. Miss Manners is more used to hearing about expensive or complicated menu assignments, failure to comply or live up to expected culinary standards, and unseemly squabbles over who gets the leftovers.
There is, after all, historical precedent for Thanksgiving dinner's being a communal meal. Many people prefer it to be that way. Now, if only everyone also respected the historical precedent for the convivial spirit of the occasion ...
Your husband is not imposing on anyone with his hospitable request to provide for your guests. Does your family think it gracious to defy and annoy him?
And you seem to think that his position is odd. But the automatic assumption that every dinner party must be what is now termed "potluck" drives many hosts crazy. Miss Manners has had countless letters about guests who sabotage their hosts' carefully planned arrangements, which were only intended to please them: They take up kitchen space and equipment, substitute their own food, even dump their offerings on the table.
Astoundingly, they do it in the name of politeness. How it can be considered polite to commandeer someone else's house against his express wishes, they have not explained to Miss Manners' satisfaction.
Please tell your family that if they will die without bringing something, they can bring flowers, candy or a treat, such as wine (the usual one bottle being neither coordinated with the meal nor enough for a dinner party) for the hosts to enjoy later.