Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
A mutual friend invited my friend and I (and several other ladies) to her cabin for the weekend. The cabin owner thought the theme of the dinner should be Mexican and my friend offered to make chicken enchiladas. I offered to make chile rellenos and the cabin owner stated she would make tacos. The other attendees were bringing a salad, dips, etc. My friend had a separate conversation with the cabin owner and told her not to make the tacos (she didn’t think it was necessary and belonged with her enchiladas). She later told me she will also make beans and rice which is the proper thing to serve with her enchiladas.
Issue: My friend makes it very plain she thinks potlucks should be organized by the hostess and the menu should be very strict and match. She hinted she didn’t think my rellenos belonged either. I told her it wasn’t her party and she shouldn’t be telling the hostess how to handle. I also told her one of the other guests was helping with the tacos and now what would they be bringing? I don’t normally like beans and rice – never eat them in a Mexican restaurant (although my friend is a great cook and everything is usually good) and i personally enjoy eating potluck cooking from other individual’s kitchens. I think my friend is showing poor etiquette by telling the hostess what to make/not make and would like your opinion. She believes she knows the proper etiquette for all dinner parties because her sister owns a high end store in the San Francisco bay area.
Should I care? Does it really matter who is right?
Mexican Food Muddle
Jaya: Wow, this is more thought than I’ve ever put into a potluck.
Victoria: Hahahaha. Yeah, I mean, there are definitely two theories on potlucks.
One is that the host/ess guides the attendees on what to bring and that can even be like, assigning dessert vs side vs apps or whatever. Down to being very specific about theme and whatever each person should bring.
And then the other is that it is a free for all.
Victoria: And like… it doesn’t really matter, it’s kind of up to the hostess. And so for a guest to try to steer it is supremely rude.
Jaya: It honestly seems like the hostess had a handle on doing the first type? There was a theme, everyone else divied up the entrees/apps evenly
Victoria: Exactly. And um tacos and enchiladas go to together fine, this person is a loon.
Jaya: Yeah the whole point of potlucks is you have options!
Victoria: Also your sister owning a high end store in San Francisco doesn’t make you an arbiter of what potlucks should be like. Or etiquette. Declaring yourself an etiquette expert on the internet makes you the arbiter of what dinner parties should be like, obviously.
Jaya: So yeah, she’s clearly wrong here. However, does that matter? Would it be worse to confront her about this? Personally, I probably would say something. Even along the lines of like “hey chill out we just want a fun dinner at the cabin.”
Victoria: Yeah, or something like….”Jane the hostess, seems to have a handle on things and you should probably just let it go.” I mean part of the thing about group trips is it’s not always going to go your way and you have to compromise about mealtime (and everything, basically) and if the rest of the group is going one way…you just need to go along with it.
Jaya: Yeah, especially if it’s enchiladas v. tacos. This isn’t someone insisting on steak when half the cabin is vegan. Like I seriously can’t imagine a scenario in which someone has made enchiladas and another person puts tacos on the table and I’m like “well this is just not done.”
Victoria: Hahahah right?!?! It’s extremely nutty. And the question writer should care about this because clearly she is headed for a weekend away with an obnoxious control freak and should prepare herself for it. And yes, say something to your friend. And if you feel like it would help, say something supportive to the hostess
because it’s super annoying to be being really generous about inviting people to your cabin and then having them try to micromanage all your plans when they were fine plans to begin with.
Jaya: This is hard because the friend in question seems to be having a lot of independent conversations with people trying to orchestrate things, which is a sly move to keep everyone else from ganging up against her.
But, if this is a situation where everyone is on an email chain, an email in support of the original menu, or something generally positive with phrases like “let’s not overthink it” could be useful.
Victoria: Oooh yes, good call!
ED: Thanks to our question writer for this great question! If you have an etiquette question, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!