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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.