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Did I do wrong?

Ok, I've search this board and the site and don't see a recent post on this one so, I'm going to go ahead with the post.

Did I make a major cultural faux pas? We are the den leaders for our son's Cub Scout pack. A while back we hosted a pinewood derby car carving/den meeting as we have a good size garage, tools etc. and, we're nuts to boot.

I made and bought cookies (nuts, no nuts, choco, no choco, eggless etc.) and cocoa and lemonade for the boys and akelas (moms, dads or guardians.) A Mom who I believe is Chinese, but I'm not positive surprised me when she showed up with a whole, ginromous, pumpkin pie from Sam's. Now I'm not dissing the pie source, but I was completely surprised that what was clearly intended as a hostess gift was a whole custard pie.

I offered profuse thanks, and discretely put the pie on the counter and then continued to help wrangle big and small boys with sharp tools. When snack time came, I put out the cookies and thermoses of cocoa, ptucher of lemonade and paper cups and napkins. I didn't serve the pie as, I don't have that many plates and forks to serve 20 people pie unless I plan ahead and have bought disposables or borrowed from family. Seriously! I have a fairly well stocked kitchen but serving up a gift pie was simply not on my radar.

Of course she didn't say anything but, now I'm wondering if I've committed a cultural oopsie. I don't think that I would have changed what I did, unless I knew in advance that I was committing a major mistake. Communication/language difficulties are also a factor here since I'm an English and Spanish speaker and not even a dabbler in the Asian languages.

FWIW: this was offered as a regular den meeting and never in the past has anyone been expected to bring anything unless they had signed up in advance for snacks or water. Granted those had typically been at school or at the park and this was our home. But still, I'd like to know for the future. So I can do better next time. And if she invites us to her home I want to be sure I don't show up without the appropriate gift or bring something that would be inappropriate.

Ok, we served the pie later that weekend for a family dinner and it was pretty awful. And my ingrate hubby said the cocoa was too rich!!! Yes, he did end up doing all the dishes for that one. I wasn't aware cocoa could be too rich. Too sweet yes, but too creamy?

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  1. You didn't do anything wrong! But consider calling the lady and thanking her, after all, it was a nice gesture, as was yours for hosting the event. It'll get it off your mind and provide an opportunity for clarification, if either of you need it.

    1. I guess I don't understand why you didn't cut it into bite size pieces and serve it on napkins along with cookies? I've been known to eat a piece of pumpkin pie out of my hand. So I don't know if it was a cultural faux pas but if I had been her I would have been embarrassed which I am sure was not your intention. If it was me I would call and thank her as DPGood said.

      4 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        I just noticed you said it was "clearly intended as a hostess gift." I would have assumed it was meant to be part of offering to kids--big enough pie for a group.

        1. re: escondido123

          Too often we are guided by or assumptions. Itentify them. Question them. You may have assumed incorrectly.

          1. re: DPGood

            I love that. Who cares what you "think?" So much of the time we think that little voice in our heads is The Truth Speaking. It's just neurons firing. Find out what was intended.

            1. re: chicgail

              I didn't even see DPGood's answer until now, and I love it too. It's actually great life advice, relevant to pretty much everything.

      2. I'm just surprised that you were serving snacks to 20 kids plus a dozen adults and you DIDN'T have a stack of paper plates ready to use? (I know you had cookies and napkins, but doesn't that just invite crumbs everywhere?)

        It's pretty much tradition for Chinese families not to come empty-handed when they come to an event...

        I'm also a person who's eaten pumpkin pie without a plate... but it's easier if you have something to put it on. I would have cut it into small wedges and served it up anyway.

        1. Are you absolutely sure it was meant to be a hostess gift? A huge pie seems like an odd hostess gift, and much closer to something for a big group to share. Did everyone know you were providing treats? I guess you'll have to wait and see if she gives you death stares at the next event or not.

          1. a short note might be better. explain you were caught by surprise by her generosity, but you greatly appreciate it. a note gives her a chance to 'translate' slowly, so the message she receives is the message you meant to give. and yes, you might have figured out how to serve it at the time, but with a garage full of excited kids, assorted akelas, and the assoiciated insanity you can be pretty much forgiven whatever you might have done faux pas or not.

            2 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              I agree with KaimukiMan. offer thanks and blame it's absence on fluster.

              1. re: hill food

                Yes, KaimukiMan's suggestion is perfect.

                I really respect your interest in knowing if you committed a faux pas and your effort to keep from doing so in the future. It is so easy to get caught up with our busy lives and to know that our intentions were good so why worry about the possible fallout of a misstep, etc. You must be a lovely person...not to mention a brave one! All those boys (big and small) and their knives!

            2. Does this woman not speak English? Presumably she brought the pie for the group and was expecting to see it show up at snack time. It would have been very easy to approach her at that point to explain that you weren't set up for serving pie to a crowd, etc., but thank her again for the pie that you would enjoy later that weekend, unless maybe she wanted to take it back for her own family, etc. etc. I think this pretty much works in any culture, in a casual situation like this.

              But since you didn't speak to her at that point, I assume she doesn't speak much English. In which case a phone call will not be very useful.

              1. When you're new to a group, it's hard to know what is expected. I know that I made a homemade dessert for a church fundraiser dinner once that would have been great for dine in. That was how my old church rolled. The new church in the city where I had moved put store bought pound cake in the carrry out plate boxes. My dessert was wrong (and more money and work when I was on a tight budget). I did not need anyone to point that out. It was easy to figure out.

                I can appreciate your concern; however, I do question why you feel the need to include: "Ok, we served the pie later that weekend for a family dinner and it was pretty awful." A mistake was made. Those things do happen. If the woman who made the effort to fit in saw this post, how do you think she would feel? I know I'd sure feel bad about my from scratch dessert at the church dinner which did not pack well (OK - I got it), but I would have never attended again if a church member had posted online about my mistake and then said her family ate my dessert and that it wasn't very good anyway. Really . . . anyone can read online. The fact that you made your husband do the dishes over being "honest?" would not have taken the hurt off this post.

                3 Replies
                1. re: CyndiA

                  I agree with you CyndiA. I wasn't quite sure how to bring up what you did. The OP said she made and BOUGHT cookies so I feel sad that the mother brought something and it was treated as not correct and then eaten and criticized here online. Thank you for your posting.

                  1. re: CyndiA

                    I kind of appreciated the extra details, without which the story would have seemed unfinished. This may be "Not About Food", but we still want to know what happened to the pie and how it tasted, right? And while "pretty awful" isn't a charitable thing to say, it's mostly directed at whoever's making the pies at Sam's Club, not at this scout mother, who [speculation follows] probably just wanted to help feed a bunch of kids and was not necessarily aiming very high in gastronomic terms.

                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                      or maybe her family likes that pie? i have an older family member who will only eat ONE type of pie from a chain grocery store. he otherwise eats excellent food--he travels to europe a few times per year solely to have a gastronomic adventure. but that pie... i've tried a slice and it's horrid. absolutely horrid. no one else in the family can eat it, but we'd all damn well better have that 16" pie for him at all family gatherings. people have different tastes? don't mean to sound silly, but maybe that's her favorite pie and she really thought you'd enjoy it as well? who knows!

                      i used to have an Indian friend when i was a kid and her parents would make her bring a gift every time she came to our house. EVERY time... i.e. every weekend for several years. she'd bring Indian sweets, vases, fabrics, and even brought a nightgown for my mother once. my parents thought it was absolutely strange (not the sweets, but the clothing) and would joke about it in private. i remember crying secretly on more than one occasion, as i understood even then that it was simply a cultural difference that is really very generous and respectful.

                      to the OP--i'd tell the woman that you were so flustered that you forgot to set out the pie but your family was able to enjoy it later. white lie, i guess, but whatever. no need to be "honest" in this situation...

                  2. I think you handled it fine. "Clearly intended as a hostess gift" implies that there's not an expectation it will be used immediately. I don't know what the cultural norms are, but I think under the circumstances you did the best you could. I would definitely send her a handwritten thank you note, though. And just IMO, sometimes too much creamy actually detracts from the richness and depth of the chocolate itself.

                    1. I agree with those who have said it doesn't seem like a hostess gift to me, she just didn't want to come empty handed and thought it would be set out. I don't think it's terribly egregious that you didn't set it out, but do agree that I would have bought some paper plates and a pack of plastic silverware for an occasion like that even if I was just doing cookies. Cookies on napkins alone with a bunch of kids=an awful lot of crumbs.

                      And you didn't have to explain that the pie was bad - when you said it was from sam's club, well, nuff said. :) But you weren't above store-bought cookies in addition to your own.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        I bought the store cookies as I needed nut free, eggless, gluten free cookies. (one scout has allergies). But, the remainder I baked: chocolate chip, with and without nuts, oatmeal and snickerdoodles. And crumbs weren't a problem since everything was outside, in the the garage and front yard.

                        Really, I did not have anough flatware to serve pie. I had half my forks from breakfast and lunch and cocoa making pans still in the dishwasher since I ran out of time to run the washer and even though the kids were mostly outside, some of the Mom's, siblings etc. were in and out of the house, using the restrooms, changing diapers etc. I really didn't want to run the dishwasher with guests.

                        In the future I'll make sure I've got a stash of forks and plates, just in case. But never ever has anyone ever brought something to one of these den meetings and that it was a large, gloppy, unwieldy custard pie just completely flummoxed me. I'll try to do better in the future.

                      2. One day we'll have the antithesis of this thread - 'I bought a Sam's Club cream pie to a scout's meeting and didn't think to bring forks and plates, and the hostess didn't serve it and now I feel I've committed a faux pas!'

                        You can't win. OP you did just fine.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: smartie

                          I think smartie's answer is actually the best one here - "You can't win. You did just fine." Sometimes in the absence of a guide book regarding manners in unusual last minute situations, we just have to do the best we can. As long as your intent was good, at the end of the day it's what really matters. Modern-day etiquette is all about kindness and appropriate behavior; less about which fork to use and where to place the bread plate. And it can cover a multitude of sins, not that I think one was in any way committed by you.

                        2. Once I brought two gourmet pies to a gathering and they didn't end up getting served cause everyone was so full from eating crabs and stuff that they couldn't eat the pie.

                          The host did mention later that his family chowed down on the pies and they were incredible.

                          So I think that so long as you thank the Chinese lady for the pie next time you see her and tell her it was delicious, no harm no foul.