Had it with hostile hostesses?

Chelsea Clinton was a gracious hostess to all her guests!Chelsea Clinton’s recent wedding was beautiful and tasteful, but that didn’t stop a horde of naysayers from criticizing it. I have had it with them.

 
I take issue with vegetarians and vegans who are disappointed that the bride (Chelsea reportedly shuns meat) did not use her wedding as an opportunity to promote their lifestyle. If she had, I believe she might have turned a happy occasion into an awkward – and possibly abusive — one for her guests. So Brava Chelsea! for not being a hostile hostess!
 
I respect vegetarians, but I recommend having food and beverage options at any function. I have always done so. I also respect religious and dietary requests. I have cheerfully prepared and discreetly substituted fish or veggie plates even at my small dinner parties for years. No one should use social celebrations to chastise or abuse guests for their personal lifestyle choices. It’s rude, inappropriate, and unwelcoming.
 
My husband and I make a habit of asking first time guests about their food and drink preferences and allergies. After all, we don’t invite guest to torture them or make converts. It’s a party not a punishment!
 
Years ago we attended the wedding of a friend’s vegetarian daughter. My friend, against her older European-born husband’s wishes, decided to serve vegetarian food. It didn’t go over very well with many guests. I think it was a mistake. My friend and the bride knew that many of the guests were older Europeans. They looked forward to weddings as a time of celebration. They had never eaten the type of food served, and they did not like it. Hospitality would have been better served by having a choice of vegetarian and more traditional dishes.
 
Recently, I have heard of conflicts when one side of the family drinks and the other doesn’t. What to do at the wedding? It’s tricky. I would offer choices, as I see it as the easiest way to respect everyone’s lifestyle.
 
I am not even going to address the ‘Bridezilla’ phenomena. It did not exist, at least not openly, when I married; it would not have been tolerated. I cringe at the expression, “It’s my day”. When I married, my goal and that of my friends was to have a lovely wedding. I hoped everyone would have a good time. I can’t conceive of decreeing that "people look at me” or that I wanted to be a "queen for a day”. It’s outlandish, yet many people today seem to want an audience more than they want guests.
 
I also could not believe Joy Behar’s bad manners and questionable taste. The talk show host went on for weeks about how President Obama was not invited to the Clinton wedding. When The View was lucky enough to have the president as a guest, she actually asked him if the Clintons had invited him. He said no, and that he understood why. He added he did not think it would have been a good idea to have two presidents at a wedding. Behar persisted, saying he should have been invited so that he could have declined. Where did this woman learn her manners?
 
Behar is not alone. I am constantly shocked when people talk about who was invited to a function and who was not. The golden rule is you don’t talk about a party with anyone who was not there, unless it was long ago or far away. Otherwise, it’s awkward, rude, and insensitive. President Obama should not have to defend the Clinton’s guest list. Shame on you Joy Behar.
 
I am not advocating nitpicking hospitality. A good guest approaches an evening with enthusiasm and good will. They RSVP and show up on time. Heavens, save me from those who don’t know that being "fashionably late” to a private home is a big no-no! And an evening out is never an invitation to be a food critic. Compliments are fine, but keep your critiques to yourself. Good guests bring their ‘A’ game of pleasant and amusing conversation.
 
A young friend recently shared with me that her boyfriend is surprised she and her friends serve food at their parties. His gang, like many others, just opens a house and calls that party – quelle horreur! Too many young single women have told me how broke they are, paying restaurant bills for all the parties to which they are “invited”. They have a salad and two drinks ,and then get hit for more than their share of the bill, which can be hefty when the tab is unfairly split.
 
Some single friends prefer to entertain in restaurants and pick up the bill. There is nothing wrong with that, if they can afford it. But it is amazing how often their hospitality is not reciprocated. I happily entertain my single friends. I find they pay back my hospitality in many delightful ways.
 
It is fun to see to see my younger friends emerge as hostesses. They are learning the pleasure of watching guests enjoy a meal at a beautifully-set table. I’m proud of them.
                                                                                                                                    
Great hosting can have many styles. Over the years we have had the pleasure of having many dear friends who are fabulous hosts. We all have our style of entertaining. But I think we all agree, every party and evening is about making memories.
 
Often whenever we travel, we are met by hospitality that simply blows me away. I will never forget one dinner in Odessa on the Black Sea in Ukraine. Many people who lived there at the time had electricity only for part of the day. We stayed on a cruise ship hotel, just to have reliable power and hot water. But Odessa is famous for its savory cuisine and warm hospitality. 
 
Friends of my husband’s translator invited us for dinner. When we arrived, the elevator was out, so we walked up flights of stairs. As a cook I could only imagine what else the hostess had had to cope with during the day. That evening we were treated to a spectacular multi-course meal. It was finer than anything then available in any Odessa hotel or restaurant. Knowing the dodgy state of markets in the area I could only try to imagine the expense and trouble our hostess had gone to find the wonderful food she served. The care with which she prepared the many tasty appetizers called zakuski was mind boggling. The evening was magical. The hospitality was sincere, gracious, and memorable.
 
Darlings, I don’t know how we have come to this sorry state, when too many seem to have become hostile hostesses and far too many guests are boorish louts. If entertaining is a bore and chore, don’t bother! If a party is just a chance to lecture, convert, or otherwise abuse your guests – leave me off your list. Having a party should be a ball; going to one should be a treat!
 
One of my favourite quotes is from the fictional detective Nero Wolfe: “To me the relationship between the host and guest is sacred. The guest is a jewel resting on a cushion of hospitality”. I think that’s the golden rule of entertaining. Whether you style is barbecue or dinner at eight, you’ll never go wrong if you keep it in mind.  
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