Happy Hosting 2010 Greatest Hits

I hope you aren’t reading this while sitting on the tarmac for eight hours, lying on a cot at JFK or snowed in with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall at the Mohonk Mountain House. Mother Nature is very busy reminding all the coasts who’s the boss. What a way to end the year, no? But before we ring in 2011 I wanted to do a little etiquette refresher for the final events of 2010.

Now, unless you were raised by wolves, you know the rules of being a good guest:

Never Come Empty Handed
Play Nicely with Others
Thank the Host

It's the rules of being a good host I feel we need to review. Hosting is work. You have a job. And no, that job is not simply to fill your home with food and drink and open the door when someone knocks. I’m a little up in arms about this topic because of a story I heard recently that I found unacceptable. A friend of mine reconnected with a woman with whom she’d attended college. They hadn’t been super close but were certainly more than acquaintances. They now live a few miles from each other, are married to interesting guys and have children of similar age. They’d had a few play dates, the kids got along well and when the holidays approached my friend received an invitation to an open house at her college pal’s. So, she gathers her kids and her husband and drives the 10 minutes to the party where they are greeted at the door by the hostess with, “I can’t believe you came.” And not in a, “I’m so happy to see you!” way but more like a, “You came. Huh.”

First of all, why was she surprised? She was the one who sent the Evite, had entertained them before and lives only a few towns away. What was the big deal? Now I can’t imagine she wanted to come across as unenthusiastic. Maybe she was impressed with my friend’s ability to get her brood together, or wrestle her daughters into their dresses. But regardless her welcome was decidedly un. And unfortunately the rest of the party didn’t go much better. Hostess disappeared soon after and my friend and her husband were left to introduce themselves to 50 strangers all of whom seemed to know each other. This is an example of a host not doing her job. She should have greeted them warmly, ushered them inside, told them where to put their coats and then made a point of introducing them to one or two people who also enjoy, I don’t know, hiking or have kids who prefer Tofu Pups to hot dogs or spend summers on the Cape. You don’t just set people adrift into a sea of strangers.

This story dovetails perfectly with one I heard from another friend last summer. She and her husband were new residents of a beach community when they were invited to a big July 4th outdoor shindig at the mega-house of a woman they knew peripherally who’d lived in the community for years with her family. This time the guests had to seek out the hostess in the enormous crowd who turned to them and said, “Hi. So glad you could make it!” Okay, she gets credit for being friendly but then she just directed them to the bar set-up at the other end of the lawn and that was the last they saw of her. What is wrong with this picture? Almost everything. They stayed for awhile, introduced themselves to a few people and left before even figuring out who the husband of the hostess was.

Clearly we have a problem here. What happened to the art of hosting? To making everyone feel welcome, at home and part of a whole? I don’t know but it needs to stop. If you don’t have the energy to take on the job don’t give a party. Or make your guest list shorter so you have the time to get the social gears turning. Frankly I think most people can handle sliding a foil tray of spanakopita into a toaster oven. They might even prefer to eat it on their own couch in sweat pants talking to their favorite person rather than gussying up to trudge in the snow carrying a bottle of wine to a party where their presence won’t be appreciated.

Okay, I’m done lecturing but I hope a few hosts have been reminded of their duties. And I suspect I won’t be invited to any of their soirees anytime soon. Oh well. I’d better buy myself some baby quiches the next time I go to Costco. Meanwhile, if you are giving a New Year’s Eve or Day party the above photos are some greatest hits from 2010 to arrange on your buffet table, just click on the yellow links for the recipes. Happy New Year! And Happy Hosting!


Lauren at KeepItSweet said...

That nutella poundcake looks amazing, I love that you used an entire jar of nutella to make it!

In Sweet Treatment said...

Lauren you have to make it! I'm not even a Nutella person and it is really d-lish and a fan favorite. And now I wish I had a piece!

Joseph St. Cyr said...

Well said, Miranda; you are 100% about this! I need some of those carrot cake sandwich cookies NOW.