DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had a dinner party for eight people, and when we came to the final course, I asked whether they would like coffee.
The eight people present began asking, “Do you have tea?” “Could I have decaf?” Once I had ascertained their preferences, I was left in the kitchen making caf and decaf coffee, tea and decaf tea. I missed most of the dessert course filling their orders.
This happens at almost every dinner party I attend these days. When did it become acceptable to treat your hostess as a short-order cook? Or is the fault mine? Am I being churlish, when a good hostess should be happy to please her guests?
GENTLE READER: Do you mean to say that you got all the way to dessert before your guests started treating you as a short-order cook?
Nowadays, it usually starts with the invitation, when they announce their food requirements. The thought of cooking to assorted individual demands has discouraged many people from entertaining at all.
But the after-dinner drink situation should be manageable. This is not the household hints department, but Miss Manners does have suggestions.
One is that you revert to the traditional pattern of serving coffee after dessert, not before, and away from the table. Not the entire tradition – Miss Manners does not advise saying, “Ladies, shall we leave the gentlemen to their cigars?”
She only means that you settle everyone back in the living room before you offer coffee. That way, your own dessert will not be disrupted. Then boil plenty of water.