[Publisher’s Note: Avid readers may have noticed that the RonnBlog has been eerily silent for over 11 months. The author has been stingy with details of the cause—or causes—that has led to the absence of new posts. However, he assures us (with cryptic references to international intrigue and black ops) that he has not broken any U.S. laws. He has also taken great pains to emphasize that “indictments” are not synonymous with guilt.]
Well, the holidays are behind us, with the accompanying parties, dinners, and other such hoopla now merely a memory. But like many, I am left with nagging doubts: Was I the best host I could be? The best guest?
Whatever the answers, it’s worth considering during this brief lull before the next round of holiday gatherings is upon us. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is right around the corner (as is Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, if you live in Alabama or Arkansas…the irony of both being on Jan. 15 is duly noted). And Tu Bishvat/Tu B’Shevat, Groundhog Day, and Valentine’s Day follow soon thereafter. Consequently, there’s no better time to make certain we are all prepared to be our best selves, whether we are hosting or attending a celebration.
What good fortune then, that recent news items in the StarTribune provide handy tips for the party enthusiast.
This headline appeared on the Monday following last Thanksgiving:
“Minneapolis woman charged with killing Thanksgiving guest for smoking crack”
Well, with an opener like that, who could resist reading the rest of the article? Here’s a brief synopsis: It seems the woman had invited a man to Thanksgiving dinner, but before they started to eat, she looked over and saw her guest lighting up a crack pipe. Apparently, she felt this was a ghastly breach of etiquette. According to the criminal complaint, she got angry because he did not ask her permission and did not offer her any of the drug.
Who among us would not have become upset? But where things escalated was when she chose to convey her anger by trying to appear intimidating by taking an antenna in one hand and a butcher knife in the other, telling the soon-to-be victim that he couldn’t leave. When the man allegedly yelled for neighbors to call 911, then broke out a window with a vacuum cleaner, the woman grabbed him around his shoulders and fell on top of him as he fought to get the knife out of her hand.
Now we come to my favorite part of the article. The woman told police that after he was face down for awhile, “he started snoring. I just grabbed him by the front and he went down. To me it just felt like I put him in a sleeper hold or something,”
An autopsy found the cause of death was homicidal violence.
By the way, you know it’s a good story when it gets picked up by the New York Post. It appears 2 days later, albeit with the addition of a Post-y headline:
“Host killed Thanksgiving guest for bogarting crack pipe: cops”
No story is too tragic (or ridiculous) that we can’t glean some nuggets of wisdom therefrom. And so it is as we consider parties and other gatherings. Said nuggets are as follows:
- If you are hosting a get-together, make your preferences for the use of crack known to invitees. For example, the following can be added to written or spoken invitations:
a) Please do not bring crack.
b) Feel free to bring crack, but please don’t smoke it prior to dinner.
c) Offer crack to others before you fire up. Sharing is Caring.
- If you have been invited to someone’s home and aren’t sure about the crack protocols, it’s an excellent idea to ask the host or hostess for clarification prior to your attendance. Thus any awkwardness can be avoided. Also, if crack is permissible, ask how many people will be attending to make sure you bring enough for everyone.
Our next article appeared the day after New Year’s, with the following headline:
“Vegan wedding dinner leaves bad taste for Twin Cities couple
Lawsuit seeks $22,000 from caterer, alleging ‘horrific’ food.”
The happy couple had a great idea: serve vegan fare at the wedding, but don’t tell the guests what they are actually eating until after they’ve finished the meal. What a fun surprise for the guests! What could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out, just about everything. Allegedly, the servers spilled the beans (not literally; as far as we know, beans were not on the menu, despite being a staple of many a vegan’s diet) by telling guests they couldn’t have creamer or soy sauce because they’re not vegan, and then asking guests which dish they liked best.
In the event, the trouble went beyond letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak (again, not literally, because it’s very unlikely that cats would be on a vegan menu). According to the lawsuit, the tofu that was supposed to be crispy was raw. The curry was “just a bowl of vegetables, which were missing bamboo shoots as instructed, and had an exorbitant amount of carrots.” [Side note: I wonder what amount of carrots constitutes “exorbitant”?] And don’t even ask about the pad thai,..the noodles were mush and broken into little pieces against explicit instructions, bean sprouts were few, and the sauce was “sickeningly sweet.”
That would seem to be sufficient to ruin the couple’s big day. But the horror continued:
- The peanuts on the table weren’t chopped as instructed. Hmmm…lengthwise? atom-sized pieces? chunklets? We simply don’t know.
- The Seitan skewers lacked texture and taste. Is there anything worse than textureless/tasteless Seitan skewers? Turns out there is: a guest who has celiac disease was told the Seitan skewers were gluten-free. They weren’t. She got sick.
The nuptial nightmare extended beyond the food to the service:
- When the father of the bride asked for a glass of water, he was told to get up and get it at the bar.
- When the grandfather asked for his slice of wedding cake to be packed up so he could take it home, it was removed but never given back to him.
- When the mother of the bride was giving her speech, her cake taken away.
- When people stepped away to use the restroom, their cake was removed as well.
- And as a final insult, the leftover cake with gold chocolate leaves? The cake that was supposed to go home with the bridal party? It did not.
The aggrieved newlyweds had other beefs (apologies…couldn’t resist a food pun), but if you haven’t reached your limit of calamity yet, feel free to read the article for yourself.
One final element to this story is the pearl in this oyster of misery, at least for would-be hosts and guests. According to the lawsuit, a guest was allowed to bring chicken fingers to the meal without the bridal couple’s approval.
Well, I never! To quote a wise acquaintance of mine as she viewed a worrisome lack of accepted wedding mores, “These things used to matter.” To be fair, we don’t know the circumstances surrounding this situation. Did the guest realize that the provided eats were noxious and take matters into his or her own hands by zipping out for chicken fingers? Or did s/he bring them to the wedding…just in case?
At any rate, this unfortunate incident highlights some advice that we should all take to heart:
- If you’re hosting: As with crack, let invitees know well in advance where you stand on the bringing of food. If it’s a dinner party where you prefer to provide all of the grub, and people ask if they can bring anything, politely but firmly say “No.” (Note: if the invitees are Minnesotans, you may have to repeat the negative up to 5 times. And you still can’t be certain they won’t show up with a 7-layer salad or an assortment of bars. Revisit their track record of such actions with others familiar with them.)
- If you’re attending: Ensure clarity of the appropriateness of bringing food, and if the answer is “No”, accept that answer without a lot of extra chinwag. And if you do bring food, make sure (again, as with crack), make sure there is enough for everyone; if it’s a wedding or other large gathering, you’re required to bring enough for your table only.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and will put them into practice at the next opportunity. I know I will.
Remember, good manners cost nothing!
Today’s Fact Cetera
The first Friday the 13th of each year is national Blame Somebody Else Day.