DEAR MISS MANNERS: I love to cook and entertain guests. It takes a lot of work to plan a menu, shop for groceries, cook and serve a delicious meal. I always ask guests in advance about any food allergies or intolerances.
But I frequently notice that although my guests will clean their plates and seem to enjoy the meal, they never comment on the food or thank me for preparing it. It seems to occur more often with guests who don’t cook themselves, so they may not realize the amount of effort that goes into it.
Am I wrong to expect simple gratitude? I enjoy cooking, but the recognition and appreciation would certainly be nice. Do parents teach children food etiquette?
GENTLE READER: Parental teaching about food talk must begin with, “Nobody wants to hear that.” This is because children’s idea of what to say at the dinner table tends to be some variation on the theme of “Yuck!” or “Do I have to eat that?”
Some years ago, to Miss Manners’ distress, it became common for adults to make similar statements. That is why hosts have learned to ask about prospective guests’ medical, religious and ethical requirements, as you do.
But many don’t stop at that. They may say in advance what they do want to have – as if ordering at a restaurant – or they may critique what is served in terms of what they believe everyone should or should not eat.
The prevalence of this kind of talk sent Miss Manners scurrying back to the days when it was considered wrong to make any remarks, even complimentary ones, about the food one was served in private homes.
Well, not quite, because one rationale for that was the assumption that a hired cook, not the host, had provided the food. It wasn’t necessarily true then, but it is seldom true now. So compliments should still be allowed.
But assuming that your guests thank you properly for your general hospitality, you should not fret if the outstanding part they mention is the conversation and the company.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband’s family gathers in the beach house, my husband and I are relegated to an open loft for sleeping, while the others have bedrooms. Because of the noise level from both the night owls and the children waking up early – along with the bright sunlight – I get very little sleep.
Having chronic health conditions, I find this very difficult. My preference is to sleep at my own home, an hour away, and to join the group for day and evening activities. I’m afraid this appears rude, so I was hoping to get an outside opinion.
GENTLE READER: Others might think it rude to suggest that the beach house would be less crowded when other quarters were so nearby.
So Miss Manners guesses that if you don’t mention your complaints, but merely say that you live so close that you can still enjoy everyone’s waking hours, no one should be insulted.
Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.