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Bring Nothing and Like It!


I was going to add to the post about not eating what you make when you've made a big meal but this is a little bit more complicated. I had a brunch yesterday, 18 people, all family. I bought two dozen bagels and assorted cream cheese and made two 9 x 13" stratas, one with sauage and one with just vegetables. I also made one pound of bacon and stuffed Roma tomatoes with parsley and provolone which I put under the broiler. I had OJ, champagne, coffee and tea.

Three of the guests asked beforehand what they could bring. I told one she could bring a fruit salad. I told the other two they could bring champagne (never going to go to waste). The first shows up with TONS of fruit salad in the largest serving bowl she owns. She also brought some leftover dips that she had made for a party the night before. WTF am I supposed to do with these? I didn't have chips and she didn't bring any. The other two brought more champagne, but one also brought a very large crumb cake. Huge. The other one stuck to just the champagne. A 4th guest brought a huge chocolate cake. Yet another guest brought two medium sized loaves of soda bread.

Needless to say, although everyone ate quite a bit, I am left with tons of leftovers. I resent that so much! So I spent a good while either wrapping up what I could save and/or freeze and tossing what I could not. This is the opposite of the guest that asks what she can bring to a dinner party and is told to bring a turkey. I think this may have occurred because they're family and felt more comfortable doing this but it's borderline offensive, implying I'm not a big enough girl to have people over for brunch.

    1. This is another one of those topics that seems to come up regularly and people get passionate about it :) In your case, from what you describe as YOUR menu, it sounds kinda skimpy. Eighteen is alot of people for brunch. I'd say that huge fruit salad sounds appropriate. A cup per person wouldn't be a terribly large serving. You didn't mention a dessert so at least one, maybe two, doesn't sound overboard. Nor does adding two loaves of soda bread. I loathe any bagel that's not a NY bagel and we live in CA! So I'd have eaten the soda bread in favor of the bagel. And since this was family, perhaps they've felt in the past that there wasn't enough food and rather than say anything overt, they just picked up the slack. And finally, it IS family and some of them (the older ones) will probably NEVER think you're grown up enough to do this all by your little self :)

      2 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        I can assure you it was NOT skimpy. The bagels were from H&H, a pain to get down here and not cheap. I just reread my post, I knew the chocoloate cake was coming but was not prepared for the size of it, same with the fruit. the crumb cake came out of left field. It weas from Costco, not homemade. That bothers me a bit. I was left with about a quarter of the meat strata and a third of the vegetable. The birds in my backyard are currently enjoying the soda bread. Do deer eat chocolate cake? I guess what's bugging me is that all of their food, in addition to being wasteful, changed the dynamic of my carefully prepared meal that I spent quite a lot of time and money on.

        1. re: southernitalian

          I just reread your post and saw that you weren't asking a question, just venting. This happens often enough here that I think alot of us miss it and leap in making suggestions and giving opinions. Mea culpa.

          So really it was just the crumb cake and the soda bread. You do know that you're under no obligation to serve those things, don't you? You can't be taken advantage of if you don't allow it. Assuming you and/or you SO work in an office, send the crumb cake there (office workers will eat ANYTHING) and freeze the leftover bread and strata. And in the future, if you want to be in charge then you're going to need to speak up AHEAD of time not afterwards. I'm not trying to be harsh but if it bothers you as much as it seems to, then STOP THE MADNESS :) As a Chow-buddy said to me recently "My roof, my rules!"

      2. I wonder if it would help to tell them not to bring anything in the future. People who tend to overstep are a lot more likely to do so if you allow them to bring something. At the end of the day, bringing unwanted food has become a fairly common faux pas so you are not likely to escape it entirely. However, if you tell them pleasantly and firmly You are my guest, do not bring a thing it's our pleasure to entertain you! they may get the hint.

        For the record, I tend to agree with c oliver's assessment of the menu except that as a guest it is never my place to second guess the hostesses choices. We all attend gatherings, particularly family gatherings, where there is something chronically and in our view seriously wrong with the food/selection/quantity/menu and the only correct thing is to smile and compliment the chef.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kater

          And I agree with your attitude about how guests should behave. But I'm frequently astounded about how presumptuous some families can be. I think you made another good point to stop acquiescing to some and letting them bring things. It probably won't stop anyway but that might deter it.

        2. Jfood would bring up a few items:

          - One pound of bacon and 24 bagels for 18 people is undermenued, in jfood's opinion. Jfood would have serve at least 30 bagels and 2-3 pounds of bacon. Heck he goes through a pound of bacon with 8 kids who camped out on a saturday night. Likewise jfood figues 8-10 slices of strata from that size dish, so it sounds light as well. But given your tons of food leftover comment, your crowd sounds like very light eaters and you probably know better than jfood.
          - It's a family gathering, lighten up on the control whip. So what is aunt gertrude brought a coffee cake, big deal if grandma esther brought some day old dips. Accept them, smile and say thank you.
          - if jfood is told he needed to bring fruit salad for 18, yup it's a big freakin' bowl.
          - The addition of the crumb cake and chocolate cake seemed like the right thing since you had no desserts planned from your menu. Maybe the two of them got together and said "everytime we go over SI's house she never has any cake and her uncle loves cake after bagels. and he adores your crumb bcake." Every time jfood aunt/uncle visited him from boston, they brought Zeppy's kichel. And jfood loved them for it.
          - No it is NOT borderline offensive. They thought you would appreciate their graciousness. Please do not turn it into n good deed goes unpunished.

          Be thankful they and their desserts are available for attending. jfood wishes there were relatives still with him to enjoy brunch and other meals.


          5 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            Thank you especially for that last sentence. I have no family left and would eat and enjoy any of their contributions...just one more time.

            1. re: jfood

              jfood, you know I always listen to your sage advice, and you've made me feel a bit guilty. But there were 26 bagels and 8 of them are in my freezer. Stratas are in the freezer, the fruit was barely touched and is in the firdge, chocolate cake is on the counter (3/4 of it), my husband polished off the crumb cake last night and soda bread is in the back yard. There was TOO MUCH food. I will point out, however, that there is only one bottle of champagne leftover so that may have had something to do with it.

              1. re: southernitalian

                I don't think the menu sounds skimpy at all, for what its worth. I mean I don't know anyone who can eat more than 1 H&H bagel in a sitting without there being some sort of consumption competition going on. Those things are substantial! Also, it's brunch, people. You eat a bagel, some eggs, a strip or two of bacon and have a cup of coffee! That's it. It's not like you'll never eat again. My husband and I recently got into a big fight because I had planned the lunch menu for my SIL's baby shower. He INSISTED I did not have enough food, so I went out and got more. Guess what! We had more than the extra left over and he apologized after everyone went home and he was stuck with 3 quarts of asian slaw and 2 pounds of leftover satay. The good news is that next time, I think my judgment will prevail.

                1. re: jenhen2

                  The main reasonjfood NEVER goes to buffets is the I have to eat everything syndrome.

                2. re: southernitalian

                  You should not and you should...

                  There are two points to the post

                  1 - Food and amounts (coming from a jewish perspective of if there is nothing left over on every dish there was not enough food)

                  As jfood said, you know your peeps more than he. If this were casa jfood there would be no bagels left, bacon would have been fought over the cakes demolished and the strata picked over. likewise there would be 90% of the fruit remaining.

                  2 - Guilt (coming from a jewish perspective where guilt is part of the food pyramid)
                  At least your hubby is happy :-)) although he is probably on the barca-lounger rubbing his belly in pain. the only thing jfood would ask you to either feel guilty or give some thought to is prioritization...you can eat leftover ar throw them out, but when relatives are gone, game over. If everyone had a good time and there is food left over, c'est la vie, that's a good thing.

                  Sound like the bacon and champagne were hits. :-))

              2. I was brought up with the lesson "never arrive at anyone's house empty handed", so it is hard for me not to bring something.

                The last brunch I went to, I asked the hostess what I could bring. She said "just bring a smile", which was hard for me to do.

                And I have been in your position before, getting way too much food and not knowing what to do with it. I have learned now to buy those cheap plastic containers and do doggie bags for everyone (or at least everyone who will take them), right before they are leaving.

                I am sure that the people in your family network are so much more important than to have a disagreement with on this subject.

                4 Replies
                1. re: mcel215

                  You should never show up empty handed. That does NOT mean that you bring a dish unless your host truly wants it. You bring a hostess gift - just a little token.

                  1. re: Kater

                    This is family and I see them all the time so there's certainly no need for a hostess gift. If they had to bring something, more champagne would have been the most appreciated go-to. And I am ALL for never, ever, ever showing up empty handed anywhere. I loved the thread a while back about bringing a bag of ice which, frankly, we could have used. But never bring something that's in any way going to clash with what the host plans to do or result in an enormous amount of leftovers that you then refuse to bring home with you. It's my home, it's my party. Show some respect and bring what I suggested (only after you'd asked), not what you want.

                    1. re: southernitalian

                      I'm trying to help you find a new way to handle this because the way that makes the most sense to you is not working. Yes, in a perfect world when they ask What can I bring? and you respond Champagne they should show up with Champagne.

                      This is not a perfect world.

                      But when I go visit family for a holiday meal or just a get together, I always bring a hostess gift.

                    2. re: Kater

                      I love to cook, so yes it's hard for me not bring a dish! But now I bring a hostess gift.

                      Our Brunch was in February and it was an unusually sunny and mild day here in Boston.
                      I brought the hostess a lovely coral colored scarf, knowing her love for them. We were going shopping afterwards and she put the scarf on over her coat. She was thrilled with her gift and I was happy to have made her smile.

                  2. I have been guilty of bringing something leftover from the night before when I had a party and it is always appreciated. Of course I wouldn't bring it to a formal affair but with family, anything goes. Why not give out doggie bags of the leftover food next time? I love getting a doggie bag to take home. Use the leftover fruit in smoothies. No big deal, IMO.

                    1. I'll add my two cents, FWIW. Unlike many other posters, reading your post it didn't seem to me like you didn't have enough food. I read the list and thought, "wow, sounds like a lot of food" (and it sounded great- especially the roasted tomatoes, yum!). And I also didn't think it was missing something sweet, call me crazy, but I like to drink my dessert at brunch and it sounded like you stocked up in the champagne department- awesome. I also think your result- left with too much food in the end, is pretty solid proof that you did, in fact, have more than enough food.

                      Looking at your description of your initial planned menu, it looked very coherent and well-planned. Then, adding the desserts, bread, and random dips, all of a sudden, nothing makes sense anymore. Totally understand your frustration from going to a well-edited menu to something else entirely.

                      In short, I would have been frustrated too, as I HATE to waste food, and don't like to find myself straining to use something up just so it doesn't go to waste (and I'm an office worker, so I guess also contradicting the theory that us officer workers will eat anything).

                      1. I think you're reading too much into the situation. It's not that "you're not a big enough girl to have people over for brunch," it's just that people want to chip in. At an informal gathering (which this sounds like), where's the harm of tossing another item on the buffet? Even if it's a crumbcake from Costco.

                        Leftovers are another matter. While it's always better to have too much food at a party than not enough, sticking the host with mounds of food is a recipe for waste. So go with the Hawai'ian tradition and "make plate." Take the leftovers, divvy them up among the guests, and send everybody home with his or her fair share. A couple of packages of paper plates and bowls and a roll of aluminum foil is a cheap price for your sanity!

                        1. My policy is to send the leftovers home with the person who brought it. Thank them, but firmly and insistently send the leftovers home.

                          2 Replies
                            1. My 2 cents worth...A brunch menu with only savory items, no sweets, is like offering only soft drinks to dinner guests, no cocktails. Or the opposite, only alcoholic drinks. I think the addition of a couple of desserts and a large fruit salad was a positive note and nothing to get one's panties in a wad. Leftovers can be sent home with others or frozen for later use. It's family for criminy sakes!! Sounds to me like some underlying family issues are surfacing here....

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: alidrum

                                Aren't there always "underlying family issues"? :)

                                1. re: alidrum

                                  I don't think I made it clear that I KNEW the chocolate cake and fruit were coming. Just didn't expect so much of it. I also had a bloody mary bar and got a few takers. My family always knows where the Glenfiddich is and a few of them were poured. Kids had milk, OJ and water. Fridge downstairs is filled with Diet Cokes, seltzer, etc. I begged folks to take stuff with them (at the very least what they brought) but no one would. So I guess the offenders were the sheer volume of chocolate cake and fruit, the surprise crumb cake and soda bread, and the random dips without chips (right into trash). JFood is right and I should be grateful but I should point out that this brunch was kind of foisted on me because we had family in from out of town and I have the biggest house of those that live here. We had a great time and it was wonderful to see everyone, I just didn't appreciate my menu being tweaked at the last minute.

                                  1. re: southernitalian

                                    if you have the biggest house, please get used to it. jfood's house is like a magnet for relatives in the area and in the summer the pool makes it an enormous magnet.

                                    1. re: southernitalian

                                      Perhaps those who foisted the brunch on you were trying to assuage their guilt.. or were simply trying to help since they couldn't offer a place to host it.

                                      I think life is too short to get offended by people who try to do nice things.

                                      1. re: Chris VR

                                        I think so too, but I don't think showing up with used dip and nothing to plunge into it is doing a nice thing!

                                        1. re: Kater

                                          showing up with used dip and chips is just as bad. :-)) OMG

                                  2. Chris VR said it well : "I think life is too short to get offended by people who try to do nice things."

                                    I truly believe that intent is the most important thing. They were trying to help, they were trying to feel like they were contributing. Why assume an ulterior motive?
                                    It's true we don't know your family and only you or they know for sure if they were trying to subvert your authority and ability to do it on your own, but don't most families always see grown up children as individuals they still want to give their assistance to? I don't think my family will ever stop giving me gifts and helping me out, and I am very grateful for that.
                                    Being insulted by their efforts to help seems like wasted energy. It sounds like you resent the fact that things were taken out of your complete control, and that is what made you uncomfortable.

                                    Do you have trouble accepting help or gifts in other ways? It can be hard sometimes if you are a giver by nature, but giving and receiving need to be balanced, and stopping people from giving takes away a source of their joy.

                                    I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive them for trying to help, and be grateful you have more than enough.
                                    There are always ways to give the surplus away. Sending leftovers home is one way, handing it to a starving homeless person you see on the streets is another. That way you can make it about giving and receiving, and you can share your blessing.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: wonderflosity

                                      What a terrific reply. You've stated it all so well.

                                    2. I agree with those who are saying you are making way too much out of this and coming off as ingrateful for a) having family around and b) having people who want to contribute, as well as a little bit of a control freak. I could understand your reaction if this were a formal, elegant dinner party with hired servers and the fine china and silver, but this was a family brunch, and an "anything goes, I just want to bring something" attitude seems 100% normal to me. Having a bunch of food leftover is typical for these types of events and is supposed to be a boon for the hosts if people don't want to take anything home. As jfood said below, if you had run out of the majority of dishes, that would have indicated you didn't have enough food. That you had leftovers means everyone had a variety of things to choose from and came away satiated and happy, which is the goal of a brunch like this, is it not?

                                      You could have frozen the soda bread, or donated it and the cake to a homeless shelter. There are plenty of people in our country who would love to have a problem such as too much food on their table. Instead of being so controlling and upset about people who didn't want to just eat your exact, planned menu, perhaps you should think about whether or not you are lucky to have such a big home, the money to put on a brunch like this, and the family to attend it, who are generous enough to also contribute.

                                      1. I feel everyone is missing the real point here. Just look at your board name! If the rest of your family is primarily Italian, that's what their all about and why they all showed up with food. Mangia, Mangia! What are you thinking? It is what it is!

                                        1. Folks, we've asked people to avoid posting these 'my family has offended me' type posts here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3609...

                                          We're going to lock this one up now.