DEAR MISS MANNERS: A lot of entertaining at people’s homes involves potluck dinners where everyone brings a dish. I love cooking, and put a considerable amount of time and energy into preparing a dish that guests will enjoy, as do many others in my circle. Often, these dinners are some of the best food you will find in our town.
But there are some who bring the cheapest and least time-consuming thing they can think of: a bag of chips, guacamole, deli potato salad, etc. Someone once actually brought a cheap takeout pizza.
I find this infuriating. Most of the time, these non-contributors just don’t feel like doing anything, so they don’t. That doesn’t stop them from eating what others have spent time making. I think it’s incredibly selfish and self-centered, as most of these folks have both the time and the money to contribute. These are the same people who bring the cheapest wine they can find.
I had one party at my home, and I will never do it again, as I found myself scrambling around in my kitchen trying to find something to put out to eat in the absence of any real contributions.
Any ideas on how to handle this diplomatically, short of narrowing my social circle? This is a SMALL town where everybody knows everybody else.
GENTLE READER: Telling people to bring their own food and then quibbling with the results is unfair and counter-productive. If you don’t like what’s being offered, there is a simple solution. It’s called a dinner party. Miss Manners assures you that even one on a grand scale is possible.
However, even if you declare it so (“No need to bring anything, this time we just want to give it ourselves”), your friends will still bring cheap wine and store-bought chips, which you can put aside or toss. But at least they will have been forewarned -- and the main dishes will have been suitably prepared in advance.