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How to cope with giving up control of your menu or I don't think lasagna bolognese and strawberry daiquiris really compliment each other!

Okay, the menu in the title is hypothetical- the real menu is chicken pot pie and margaritas! I really would not consider myself a control freak, I'm actually pretty easy going, believe it or not! But… we entertain so rarely and when we do, I like to plan a well-thought out and cohesive menu. However, some people in my life always insist on bringing something. So, I assign them drinks, thinking I can deal with whatever they dream up, telling them that the meal is chicken pot pie. And what do they come up with… possibly the worst combination there could be! Chicken pot pie and margaritas… it just sounds wrong! (Not to mention, there's the added irritation of a dirty blender afterwards and a noisy blender going while people are arriving in our tiny one bedroom apartment! Plus, the other irritation of me trying to do last minute things in our one-butt kitchen while someone else is trying to make margaritas!) How do you deal with this situation? Have you learned to live with giving up control? Really, I just want everyone to come and enjoy themselves and not worry about bringing something, but this person will not take no for an answer! Do you have a pleasant tactic that works? Do you recommend really specific things for them to bring? Ugh… I wish this weren't eating at me!

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  1. I feel your pain--that's why I don't give up control! Ha ha!
    Actually, I've been luckier because most of my friends just bring wine, and I can always surreptitiously not open them if I think they don't go. But would your friend be upset if you asked her to bring flowers or some breakfast items for you to eat the next morning? Say something like, "Oh, I'm always so exhausted the next morning and it would be so great to have a nice muffin." Those are two gifts I bring when I don't want to impose my foodstuffs on someone else's menu. Or chocolates.

    1. I was going to suggest just serving the margarita's while people arrive (so as not to conflict with the chkn pot pies) and have appies. But that doesn't solve your noise and limited space problems. How well do you know this person? Have they ever been to your apartment? If not, maybe politely suggest that space might be an issue. It sounds like they're trying to be helpful and creative, so hopefully they'll be receptive.

      4 Replies
      1. re: littlegreenpea

        Ah... here's the kicker, it's my mother-in-law! :-)

        1. re: Katie Nell

          I tend to either ask for something specific or not to bring anything at all. Not to mention margaritas should be served on the rocks, but that's another issue <g>. In your case (and my MIL is a bear so I can relate) I would say you would love margaritas but you just don't have the room for them and ask if she would mind picking up some wine.

          1. re: Katie Nell

            Oh yeah, when it's your MIL you just have to let go of control. It's not like a MIL is going to act reasonably anyway.

            1. re: Katie Nell

              Okay, so I'm guessing that she' been to your place before and knows about the kitchen situation. I think in this case you just have to graciously accept, but serve them before or after dinner. Good luck.

          2. Hi Katie - I'm in exactly the same boat. Entertain rarely, total control freak when I do.

            I really suggest that you request very specific things if someone insists on bringing something. After all, if they insist, and this implies wanting to help you...you should feel comfortable in saying "great, please bring a bottle of un-oaked Chardonnay" or "stop by My Favorite Bakery and bring two loaves of cheese bread". If their motives are true-blue, they will be happy to bring you exactly what you want. If their motives are more along the lines of self-agrandizement (I have been guilty) or simple gluttony (also guilty), they may take no for an answer next time.

            I also suggest you cultivate a reputation among your friends of being a food weirdo. If you acknowledge this as if it were a fault (like your friend who can't ever be on time, or your friend who corrects other people's pronunciations) they will be more likely to forgive you your foibles...and let you pick the restaurants!!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: danna

              Yikes, constant lateness and pronunciation corrections are not adorable quirks to be indulged! Nor is being a control freak.

              I love to cook, and love to plan a cohesive menu, but being a good hostess is about making people comfortable and happy. If it's really a nitpicky control thing for you, just make the margaritas and don't worry about it. I actually don't think it sounds like that bad a combination, since pot pie can be a bit heavy, and a citrus-y drink could cut the richness. Would you consider tweaking the menu to King Ranch chicken, which is sort of a Mexican-ish pot pie?

              Danna's idea of giving really specific suggestions is a good one (although I don't know if I'd specify stores if it would take the person out of her way, or use fancy wine-talk with someone who doesn't understand it). Flowers or ice or some sort of equipment (like a serving dish or champagne bucket) would also let your MIL feel like she's participating without actually affecting the menu.

              If it's really too much trouble (and the blender mess and noise and space issues are legitimate complaints), just say no. I refer you to my favorite Miss Manners quote: "No one takes advantage of you without your permission." When she asks, say "You know, I think we've got everything under control. If I think of something last minute, can I call you?"

              Since the cow's already left the barn on this one, could you call her up and say, "Hey, MIL, I've been thinking that margaritas might not be the best thing tonight, because our kitchen is so small and we're having so many guests. Can we save the tequila until Cinco de Mayo, and just have white wine instead? I'd love it if you could play sommelier for me!"

            2. Can you tell your MIL that you're watching your weight, and therefore avoiding any heavy cocktail type of drinks? Or if that sounds not believable, use some other guest as an excuse? Weight, migraine, allergy etc. Broken blender?

              1 Reply
              1. re: welle

                Uh, no... I'm 5'-1" and weight 95 lbs! But, good try! :-) I thought about the broken blender, but she bought it for us and I know she'd go out and buy us another!

                I think I will do like mojoeater says and just deal with it this time... it's not going to ruin my fun anyway. I need to make a drink for my little brother too, so he doesn't feel so left out, so I can tailor that to the menu if I want to. It just feels good to vent and get feedback on Chowhound sometimes!

              2. I think it might be best in this case to just deal with it. Obviously, MIL thinks that margaritas are fun and festive and probably thinks she's really contributing, and you don't want to make her feel otherwise. I'd say have some wine in the house too, and let your guests decide what they want. And next time, just be a little more specific with MIL, like 'I'd love some white wine with this dish" and realize you may not like her choice in that either.

                1. Several of us feel your pain. At least margaritas were at issue -- and the suggestion of having the margaritas on arrival is a diplomatic one. The noisy blender isn't nearly as bad as someone who insists on bringing a side dish that absolutely clashes with your meal.

                  Last year, I had a birthday dinner party for a close friend, to which I invited some mutual friends and also some people he is close to, whom I barely knew. We can seat 10 at the dinner table. One couple, friends of the birthday boy, were hosting her stepmother who was visiting from Florida. They brought her (with advance notice, thank goodness),which meant that we shifted from sitdown for 10 to buffet for 11. I was making a French-ish, Italian-ish meal from apps to desserts. This very sweet lady brought some kind of a noodle pudding -- and a bad one at that, dried out on top, charred around the edges and unappealingly curdled in the middle. The only thing that would have been worse might have been a Jello mold. I tried to be gracious.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                    It makes me so sad to hear that a gift of food was thought of so badly. The more the merrier, IMO.

                    1. re: Snackish

                      Agreed. Plus, I sort of like gelatin molds.

                  2. Do you have room to set up a "Margarita" station somewhere other than the kitchen? When we have guests, I remove the knick knacks off of a side table and set it up with wine, opener, glasses, cocktail napkins etc. At least that might keep it out of the kitchen, if that is your preference.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Oh, that's a good idea... we might be able to rig something up!

                      1. re: Katie Nell

                        Has the added benefit perhaps of making your MIL feel as if you are showcasing her Margarita making!

                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          That is a great idea! Just be sure to put something down that can handle spillage. Frozen drinks are messy.

                        2. re: MMRuth

                          Perhaps the MIL could bring the Margaritas in a thermos and serve them over the rocks. No noise, no mess. All she has to do is shake them up, or stir, and pour. And yes serve them with the appetizers. Good luck.

                        3. Well the cow's leftthe barn on this one KN so let's deal with how to make the best of it. I would not recommend telling MIL to change what she thinks is a wonderful gesture. So here are ome thoughts:

                          1 - Since you live in an apartment, does it have a deck or terrace. And if there is a plug out there, even better. Blender noise outside.
                          2 - No need to serve them frozen, serve them on the rocks. Freeze lots of glasses
                          3 - Why is there so much activity in the kitchen if the course is chicken pot pie. That puppy should be done and ready for the bake when the guests arrive. Plan your day to have the filling in the caaserole. I would also suggest havingthe crust inplace as well. Then all that's needed is the baking.

                          Out of curiosity since it appears you told MIL to bring the drinks, what were you hoping for. If would told her "something to go with CPP", then oops, that will never happen again, but did you tell her "please bring wine."

                          Good luck. Remember the meal lasts for a couple of hours, she's your MIL for a long time.

                          1. Short of telling her that two of your guests are extremely allergic to strawberries (and getting them to go along w/ the deceiption), you're up a creek without a paddle.

                            But I would suggest that in the future you be extra specific of what it is you want her to bring or get ready for salty dogs with spagetti and meatballs.

                            I would also suggest you learn this great word, that I love, .... "No." It's hard to say the first couple of times. But once you get used to it, it can be your very best friend.

                            1. I usually specify wine - if it's bad, you can also serve your more suitable bottle, but it's more likely to go with a variety of foods than "cocktail of your choice." Alternatively, hors d'oeuvres or dessert -- something that can clash a little more with the planned main course.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                Why are you using a blender to make margaritas? Frozen? Otherwise...you don't need a blender to make a pretty mean margarita....

                              2. Sounds like not much can be done about the MIL's drink of choice but here's a tip I picked up from my grandmother that will at least make cleaning the blender easier: Just give it a squirt of dish soap, fill it about 1/3 with warm water, and blend the contents with the lid on for a minute or two. After that all you need to do is rinse, and it will be clean as a whistle. No fussing around with the annoying blades required!

                                1. Pardon me for being blunt, but you've gotta just suck it up.

                                  Dealing with drinking margaritas while eating chicken pot pie isn't the worst thing in the world. And it's better to do that with a smile than to piss off your MIL.

                                  Next time specify "I'd love it if you would bring wine." And if she shows up with a box of Franzia Crisp White, you suck it up and deal again.

                                  There are worse things in life and this world to let annoy you. What's that saying? "Don't sweat the small stuff."

                                  This, my dear, is small stuff.

                                  Have a wonderful dinner!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: QueenB

                                    QueenB, you are invited over anytime.

                                    1. re: Snackish

                                      As long as you don't mind when I show up with a box of Franzia Crisp White. :-)

                                      1. re: QueenB

                                        I think we could make a nice white sangria out of it...

                                  2. If someone insists on bringing something and they insist that it MUST be margaritas, you just have to let it go at some point. And when it comes down to it, what people are going to remember isn't that OMG! you served margaritas with chicken pot pie, but that you gave everyone the opportunity to have a wonderful time with friends and family. Believe me, people will appreciate it, because a lot of people forget to take the time out to do so otherwise.

                                    And generally, drinks and dessert are usually the safest things to ask people to bring, but every once in a while you do get a humdinger. There's nothing else to do but smile and be gracious about it.

                                    Once a friend of mine called the day of a dinner party, and asked what he should bring, and I as usual said, really, it was not necessary, but he insisted, so I said, okay, dessert, figuring what could go wrong with dessert? Lo and behold, dinner hour arrives and he shows up with two stale danishes! But what can you really do....

                                    1. If somebody asks me if they can bring something, I either tell them I've got it covered, or if they insist, I assign them something specific to bring.

                                      Next time simply tell the person to bring wine (or, even more specifically, the kind of wine you want), rather than "drinks."

                                      1. Or, you could take another tactic...perhaps the chicken pot pie (don't shoot me) could morph into something that would go well with Margaritas. I'm thinking of something like burritos or one of those tortillas-layered-with-a-gazillion-ingredients type things. Just be prepared for the obvious: "But I thought we were having CPP dear."

                                        1. In an ironic twist, "Margaritaville" was playing on my way home last night! ;-) I had to laugh and I'm over it! I'm mentally prepared for the next time around!

                                          1. It might be a whole lot easier to just say 'bring a bottle of wine." You could specify white or red based on the food. Even if she brings a terrible cheap bottle, unless you are a complete wine snob, you could probably manage to choke down a bit while maintaining a good relationship with her. And miss out on the extra blender to wash, noise, etc.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: nieves

                                              This is exactly what I would suggest. It's like, when you have a small child, you don't ask them "What would you like to do today?" because it's too big a question. They might want to fly to Saturn or go fishing for sharks. But you can ask, "Would you like to go to the zoo or to the playground?" as long as both options are fine with you.

                                              With guests, when they ask what they can bring - or when they simply announce that they're going to bring something OR when they don't say anything at all but you KNOW they're going to show up with something - you say: "A bottle of wine would be great." or "We're doing Spanish - would you like to get a bottle of Rioja or BRING A PITCHER of sangria?" (Thus avoiding having them show up with a shopping bag full or fruit and 3 miscellaneous bottles of wine and whatnot and then proceed to make it at your house.)

                                              Guests are idiots. You must treat them as such.

                                              P.S. I'm kidding about the idiots part. Only my sisters-in-law are idiots - everyone else is fine.

                                            2. You're already gotten a lot of really good advice, so all I can say is that there are a LOT worse things a MIL can do to you than to offer to bring something you think is inappropriate. My MIL, and my mother, too, can both do and say things that will make you wish they'd just brought Margaritas.

                                              I've found that my blood pressure goes down if I just relax and do the "whatever" thing my teenager taught me...

                                              So, have fun and count your blessings!