In Good Taste: When No Means No In The Kitchen
Dear Etta Kate: I always offer to help my hosts clean up after a meal. Once everyone is finished eating, I quietly stand up, take my plate to the kitchen, then ask others if I can do the same. Usually my hostess protests. Why?
Signed, Astonished Guest
Dear Astonished: Consider that your hostess is acting in accordance with etiquette and in no way wishes her guests to appear to be considered servants. She (or he) is treating you to a night of pleasure, with food to please your palate and a moment’s relief from the drudgery of kitchen scullery duty. While it is lovely of you to offer, if you are told no, the least you can do is allow her or him that pleasure without argument. Return your host’s consideration with an invitation to your lovely home – after sending a lovely hand-scribed thank-you note on stationery, mailed from the post office, of course.
Dear Etta Kate: No one likes doing dishes. I don't mind rolling up my sleeves and helping out. But when I try, most hosts tell me not to. Aren't they just being polite, and hoping I will insist?
Signed, Devoted Dishwasher
Dear Devoted: Do you bring your own apron and rubber dish-gloves? If so, please send me your address and I shall include you on my dinner guest list for every function. But Etta Kate is in the minority. Most proper hosts do not wish for their guests to soil their festive party frocks or mar their manicures. Enjoy the party. Ask if there is anything you may do to help. Your host/ess might require your service to pass out silver spoons for coffee service. But please respect the boundary of host and guest and stay out of the kitchen, which is harder and harder to do for worker bees like yourself, especially in the modern “open-living-concept” homes. Now, do send me your address. Etta Kate is serious about inviting you to her next soirée.
Etta Kate is the nom de plume of a business consultant who maintains anonymity to protect her clients’ privacy. If you have a question about food and dining etiquette, Etta Kate will be happy to help. You can post your messages in the comments section of this page.