When I host dinner parties, I spend a lot of effort planning the menu and preparing the dishes in advance. Invariably, some guests will show up with additional food items without asking permission beforehand. I resent this, as I feel obligated to serve their dishes along with mine; I have to serve their store-bought cake with my homemade blackberry cobbler. I always serve plenty of food, so that is not the problem. How do I, without stepping on too many toes, stop this practice?
This is a positive problem: You’re a great cook! You have generous friends! But if you don’t want to plop that tub of macaroni salad on the table with your homemade pasta, try clarifying your invitation: “We’ll have plenty of food, so please don’t bring anything.” If you suspect that won’t work, channel your guests’ impulses: “But if you’ve got a bottle of white wine burning a hole in your fridge, that would be welcome!” Anyone who asks directly can get an assignment: “Would you be willing to pick up some vanilla ice cream?” Beyond that, be grateful for big-hearted gestures. Put out the supermarket cake and focus on enjoying everyone’s company.
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