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Mar 23, 2011 07:37 PM

But this is how we always eat!

I had a friend over for lunch. We sat at a the kitchen table and chatted for a bit. I then asked what she'd like to have for lunch. Holding the fridge open, I offered ratatouille over cornbread or a pork stir fry. Silence. I turned to look at my friend and she looked very uncomfortable. I thought she didn't like the choices so offered to make sandwiches. She looked relieved and said that would be great.

I put out various condiments and several sorts of lunch meat, sliced some tomato and cucumber, and also set out several cheeses. I picked up some cloth napkins when she told me to stop making everything so fancy, that I was making her uncomfortable. What do you mean, I asked. Well, the tablecloth and the fancy food, and the cloth napkins! she said.

I put the napkins down and tore off a couple paper towels. I sat down and made a ham and cheese roll-up. We chatted along and it seemed she had a nice time, as did I.

The thing is, we always have a tablecloth on the table. It's nothing fancy but I like keeping the wood protected. We use cloth napkins because it's economical. We always have good, home-made food in the fridge. Stir-fries are a staple around here because it's a great way to eat your veggies. I love to cook and have a teenager so there is always good food about.

I have no problem just having a sandwich but I wanted to make things nice for my friend. I laughed at the image of June Cleaver in her dress and pearls making lunch. Good thing I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

Do people think you overdo it on food and food-props like dishes, napkins, etc.?

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  1. Do people think you overdo it on food and food-props like dishes, napkins, etc.?
    well, i don't do tablecloths - ever - because i like to see the finish of my table and the way it looks against my i just use placemats, plus the occasional trivet for hot serveware when necessary. but yes, my food and accoutrements always tend to be more ambitious than what my friends & family are accustomed to, even if it's just a casual dinner for a friend. however, i no longer bring out the cloth napkins unless it's a more formal or elegant occasion because my friends always complain that it makes them feel guilty that they're adding to my laundry pile! it's a silly concern - it makes absolutely no difference to me to toss a few extra items into the wash, but my guests' comfort/enjoyment is priority #1, so i respect their wishes.

    1. Personally, some table clothes and cloth napkins do change my mind set.... When i am eating on a table cloth using cloth napkins I feel as if I better be extra carefull about eating neatly.
      However, I run into the same situation with the food I eat and make. I had a friend over the other day , and started to make something as simple as a monte cristo sandwhich and they kept saying maybe we should just go out,, this is alot of work...

      1. We always use cloth napkins because they are cheaper and greener, but I make sure that I keep the paper napkins that come with take-out because when my folks are over for a weeknight meal the cloth napkins make them uncomfortable. I don't get it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: tzurriz

          yes, as i said above, cloth napkins make my friends uncomfortable too...and i don't get it either :)

          1. re: tzurriz

            it depends on what you are serving. If it is spaghetti and garlic bread, then I am going to be so worried about staining your napkins with either tomato or grease that I'm not going to be comfortable using them. I was raised in a paper napkin house. Mom talked about the old days where everyone had a napkin ring, and you used the same napkin meal after meal until wash day came. She hated it. Especially as a child, because children are not as neat when they eat, so she was constantly using a napkin that was stained, greasy and dirty. Not to mention the sanitary issues. And if you are using soap and water to wash the napkins after every meal, then the 'green-ness' of cloth vs. paper becomes highly debatable, especially if you are in a naturally arid area like the southwest.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              and when the day is done you should be doing things the way you feel comfortable as much as possible without your guests feeling put out. My guess is the OP's guest never once thought that the OP "always eats this way."

          2. Entertaining and serving come more easily for some than others. Some grow up and learn this formally by choice or by family traditions and experience. Whenever asked what I would like, I always reply with *anything is fine*, as I don't want anyone to fuss over me. I have friends who like to enjoy life and others who just pass through. Some give thought and others do not. You can't change them and I do not try to. When I entertain, I probably wouldn't put out a tablecloth, but dishes, glasses and tableware yes.....paper napkins, yes......paper plates, plastic or styrofoam cups, no.

            1. Do people think you overdo it on food and food-props like dishes, napkins, etc.?



              My father is European born and breed and there was definately a higher level of formality in our house compared to other families I knew.

              Not to say we were fancy or fussy, we certainly weren't but there was always a table cloth on the kitchen table, never in a million years would we have used plastic at home, that sort of thing.

              When guest came over, the good glassware came out and a very good natured "fuss" was made, always a celebration.

              I took that with me when I got married and had a house of my own. I enjoy hosting and take pleasure in going a couple extra steps to make guests feel special.

              We use cloth napkins because 1.) I have oddles of them, many hand-me-downs and 2.) it is more economical. I have had guests ask me for paper napkins because they didn't want to get a cloth napkin dirty. I provided them with a paper towel and didn't comment. I don't regularly use table cloths at home because I visually prefer our table bare. At our vacation house, I always use table cloths.

              Unintentionally, I made my ILs very uncomfortable because they thought me to be very "above them" with my fancy napkins and table cloths but it is their issue, not mine so I don't worry about it. I thought I was making them feel special, they thought I was showing off. Oh well....

              Sadly, I think some people don't think they deserve to nicer things (food, experiences) and they don't let themselves relax and enjoy.