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Asking your guests to bring their own plates and silverware for large/r dinner parties...


This should be fun. Etiquette & sustainability all wrapped into one juicy package....

For the last two major parties (20+ people) we have hosted -- one of which was a potluck, another one we catered -- I asked people to bring their own plates & silverware. Two reasons, really -- bear with me.

a) we don't own plates/silverware for that amount of people
b) using paper plates & plastic utensils doesn't strike me as particularly 'green'

The reactions I got were mixed, but not unexpected. Some folks thought it was the best idea ever (the more, um, environmentally conscious perhaps?), others thought it was tacky and ridiculous (one of our best friends - that's why we love him). Or maybe some were just more honest than others, who knows.

There are logistic issues, of course. As we also don't own a Camelot-sized table that can seat more than 8 people, our guests generally disburse throughout the two living rooms and the tiny kitchen (of course) and find a place to sit down. The food 'served' is set up on the dining room table we do own.

So there isn't really any place to put your plates & silverware until the eatings begin. Some folks solved this by keeping their plates & silverware (maybe I'll abbreviate that as p&s from now on) in a bag which they placed under said table. Others put them on smaller tables we have around.

In the end, all plates and most of the silverware were taken back home, with some people rinsing their stuff off and putting it back in bags. We still have a few homeless serving bowls (from the potluck) and some silverware we'll be able to return to the rightful owners eventually.

How would you feel about this request? Do you think it's ridiculous? Tacky? Awesome? What about using paper plates & people just bringing silverware? I REALLY dislike the idea of having to use disposable plastic forks, knives & spoons.

I suppose another option would be to buy cheap-ass stuff @Goodwill and just have enough to go around... matching or not.

So -- let 'em rip. This is the NAF board, after all. Just make sure you don't get deleted, because I actually am interested in what you have to say :-)

  1. Yes, tacky, IMHO. You can easily get cheap re-usable dinnerware, you don't need to get a full set, just dinner plates and flatware. Go to Ross or Big Lots or some other similar place and you can find new stuff for almost as cheap as the disposable.
    As for green... well, it does take energy to wash dishes, rinsing them to take home, then washing them when they get home.
    I'm sure you can find disposable stuff made from recycled materials.
    It doesn't take much space to put a stack of plates and a bowl or washed out cans, decorated, to put the flatware.

    1. Sorry to say but yes, it is tacky. And, I have to disagree with you about Goodwill (or any other thriftstore). I have a closet full of Corelle (enough for a dinner party of 30) that I have collected over two years and it is perfect for large parties. I have several different patterns but the pattern if against a white plate so they all work well together. I found a complete service for 4 (16 pieces) for $10 among my many finds..

      I have also supplemented my everyday silverware from thriftstores over the years (the same pattern) that was discontinued by the manufacturer.

      Give it a try, you will be surprised at the good bargains to be found as far as dishware and silverware are concerned.

      1. Yes, it is tacky. Just don't invite that many people. You can't. If you are going to invite people then be truly hospitable. Otherwise, know your own limitations.

        1. Tacky with a capital "T". Visit Goodwill and Freecycle......matching or not. Macy's even has sets with plates and silverware for cheap or even Walmart. Asking guests to bring their own plates and silverware truly offputting. Sorry :(

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sydneyeats

            Definately tacky. I would be insulted if I was asked to bring my over silver and dinnerware. It you can't accommoddate your guests have several smaller parties. Liking to be "green" is not an excuse for poor manners.

          2. Add me to the Tacky camp. When I've done big parties and needed extra place-settings, I head to the Goodwill and spent got glassware, plates, and more for cheap...

            1. I don't know if I'd think it's tacky, but I'd be fantastically annoyed to have to drag a plate and silverware to a party. If a friend called and asked to borrow my dinnerware for a party she is giving, I'd be happy to lend it all. But to bring my own plate, that I then had to figure out how to wash and get home? No way.

              Borrow or buy cheap.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Cachetes

                Very well said.....I would not mind lending dinnerware to a friend and like the idea of buying some cheapy stuff for the occasion. I abhor plasticware or disposable plates unless it's an "all hands" meal like burgers or ribs.

                The idea of bringing my own plates and silverware (and lugging my husband's as well) is off putting. Do they need to bring their own wine glasses as well?

                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                  Actually, no. We bought about 80 glasses @Voldemort for another large party a couple of years ago.

                  And imagine -- 2 years later, and people STILL want to hang out with us!!! Masochists, I tell ya. Every single one of them.


                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    I agree with Sunshine: I don't think it's tacky...I just think it's too much of a pain to deal with. I'd borrow from a close friend or family member rather than ask 20 different people to bring something. But if the stuff doesn't have to match (obviously), why not pick up some extra plates and flatware at garage sales, Goodwill, etc.? Especially flatware, which doesn't take up much space and lasts forever. My "every day" flatware I bought at a flea market for six bucks more than 30 years ago!

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Yep, that seems to be the general consensus here, apart from a few character assaults and many interesting assumptions :-D

                      1. re: linguafood

                        Yep, add another vote to "not tacky, but kind of a pain". I absolutely wouldn't be offended, though, but I'm easy to please. I think it would just be simpler to find some other solution.

                        With all the etiquette threads on Chowhound, I'm terrified of ever holding an event and breaking some sort of unknown rule that will make people think I'm an uncivilized clod. There are so many things that a host can apparently do incorrectly. As a guest, I'm usually just happy to be invited *shrug*.

                        1. re: tazia

                          Just don't post about it here, and you should be fine. Rules are to be broken.

                          1. re: tazia

                            Just don't ask whether you should bring food when you're invited to someone's house. Half the posters think it's rude to bring food and half the posters think it's rude not to.

                  2. Tacky IMO. Either embrace the disposable stuff or buy more place settings or just don't invite that many people.

                    1. Definitely tacky. If you didn't want to buy extra plates for lack of storage, you could have rented them from a party rental place. We've done that for larger parties and baby showers. And nowadays, they sell nice plastic plates at party stores and Costco that are very durable and don't look like the picnic style plates of the past.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: boogiebaby

                        Seconding the party/equipment rental - while it's a little more expensive, it's SO convenient. You can get matching plates, glassware and flatware, linens, and even tables and chairs if you need them. And you don't have to wash anything - you just bag everything up in the crates and the company will take it back to the warehouse to be washed. If you're hosting a big party and have a bit of cash to work with, it's the way to go.

                        1. re: kathleen440

                          The 'bit of cash' is a 'bit' of a problem. Thus the decision to buy and own - matching or not.

                      2. Unbelievably TACKY, with a capital "T". Goodness, how were you brought up? And for "catering"????? And for a "potluck"????? For the potluck in particular, you're asking guests to not bring their own tableware, but also their own food??? Why bother inviting them at all. All I can say is, I'm glad I'm not one of your associates.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Breezychow

                          Well, I guess our many friends ("associates" -- what does that even mean?) value our company and sharing their and other people's foods enough to go through this unbelievable hassle. Twice, so far, at least.

                          Sorry potlucks are not your thing. We enjoy them immensely, as many in our circle of friends are fantastic cooks.

                          Thank you for your thoughtful, nay -- breezy -- input, tho.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            I think maybe you were brought up to think about the environment and I applaud you for that!
                            HOWEVER I think you could rent if you are the caterer or invest in some Corel as options to paper. I organize church events for 50 to 150 and we have outgrown the dishes we own so I have borrowed from others in a pinch. One member is famous for her stash of cheap wine glasses.

                        2. I don't worry so much about whether it's tacky or not. It seems like your friends took it in stride. But it is a burden on the guests to carry their p&s back and forth. It also probably created a lot of unnecessary work for you as the host to keep everything straight, have people washing their dishes, etc.

                          So go with inexpensive IKEA or discount store option. I have also seen semi-disposable bamboo products that I believe you can wash and use more than once.

                          Finally, since you don't really have space to seat everyone for a sit down dinner, why not plan menus that are more in the line of substantial appetizers that people can eat with a minimum of serving ware?

                          1. I wouldn't do it myself - have enough dishware to host multitudes because of having been married for a longass time, but I wouldn't be offended or think it was tacky were I asked to supply my own in such a situation. I'd rather bring than eat off plastic or paper with plastic utensils, yuck.

                            1. A better way to go might be to ask ONE of the guests (close friend, sister, etc) to borrow some dishes and forks.

                              Or get some plain white buffet plates and simple flatware for just these occasions. Around Thanksgiving, Bed Bath and Beyond usually has some pretty good deals on this kind of stuff.

                              As a guest, I wouldn't want to have to remember to bring my plate home.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: iluvcookies

                                My thought exactly that the same purposes could be served by borrowing a complete set of dishes from 1 (or 2) close friends or family members. The one time that I hosted a dinner party that exceeded the number of plates that I owned, that's what I did.

                              2. Thanks for all the wonderful replies. It would appear that getting more plates and dinnerware (not saving up expensive china - whatever Corelle may be) is the way to go.

                                Much love, as always.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: linguafood

                                  I'm not sure if your comment about Corelle was a question or not. In case it was, it's not expensive, it's very inexpensive, but durable. We do not use paper or plastic at home (except toilet paper) so we are *extremely* environment-conscious. Corelle has been our go-to for kids and adults alike for everyday. Over 10 years of our daughter dropping them occasionally, only 1 has broken. You can get them by the piece for just a couple of dollars at department stores. You don't have to buy the whole set, so you can buy a piece or two at a time as you can afford it. We have fine china and then everyday china, as well, but for large parties (we can comfortably seat 20 in the warmer months with another 6 places with supper trays in the living room) we use the Corelle for these large get-togethers. For smaller dinner parties (up to 12) we have place settings in fine china, but like another poster, I've had these since starting out in life over 20 years ago and I don't feel obligated to buy another 12 place settings for larger parties. I can't host a formal dinner party for more than 12, anyway.

                                  But yeah, I agree with the others that it's pretty tacky and most likely, only your best friend felt close enough to tell you that. (Unless you are a college student... then I think it would be OK but not if you are an adult with your own household.) The others probably thought it tacky, but didn't say it. I would not let it stop me from attending a meal at your house (if I enjoyed your company), but I'd feel put out and wonder why you are hosting parties of this size if you can't afford the dinnerware, cutlery and food and don't really have the room for everyone. Best to do what is within your financial, culinary, and space ability than to extend yourself so far that you have to call upon your guests to fill in the gaps and eat with (their own) plates on their laps. JMO.

                                  1. re: velochic

                                    It was a question, honestly, and I'll look into that Corelle! We also have friends who might be able to help out in the future. They host similarly large dinner parties, and have enough silverware and plates for everyone.

                                    Our friends are fine having plates on their lap. We're not a very formal crowd.

                                  2. re: linguafood

                                    Lingua, Corelle is a decorative type of glass -- think the white glass plates you see at the hyperrmarket (I think the brand is Arcoroc) -- it looks like porcelain or china, but it's actually glass.

                                    Corelle has the advantage of actually being available in some attractive patterns, unlike the cheap white stuff at the hypermarket.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      and it's durable (I swear you can bounce them off a lino floor), in the US it's a division of Corningware IIRC

                                      1. re: hill food

                                        Tell that to my college roommate. She broke many pieces of my Corningware. She always vowed to buy me full set of real dishes when we were done school, but I let her off the hook when she took me on vacation to England (because of other help I had given her in our years of friendship).

                                        1. re: Sooeygun

                                          Corningware is pretty darn hard to break. Was she dropping it on cement? It's strong, but not indestructable.


                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            If you live in an apartment chances are there is concrete under whatever floor surface is showing. And yes, Sooeygun is right, it will break, even if it slips off the kitchen counter.

                                          2. re: Sooeygun

                                            well I didn't say it was un-breakable (although I'd happily smash a set for a trip overseas)

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              I have vintage ceramic floors, and Corelle doesn't bounce, but it does shatter quite impressively.

                                              1. re: hill food

                                                I did mean Corelle, sorry. I had always been told it was unbreakable. I seem to recall commercials from the 70's-80s of it bouncing off the floor?? The trip was more than worth it!!

                                                1. re: Sooeygun

                                                  It's tough stuff, to be sure -- it is **less** breakable than some other types of dinnerware, but I'm living proof that it's breakable.

                                      2. Not terribly relevant to your situation but, I thought, interesting: in Tudor England (for instance) guests always brought their own cutlery (spoon and knife in this case) because it was assumed that the host wouldn't have enough on hand for others than the immediate family. Just one of those things you run across when researching for a book!

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: Jasz

                                          I was just about to say the same thing about the Tudors era too. I think it can be fun, some may even have a story to their cutlery.

                                          1. re: Jasz

                                            And the plates were disposable - trenchers, thick slices of stale whole grain bread. That may not have been the case in the Tudor period, but certainly was common earlier on.

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              Joey from Friends always carried a fork in his shirt pocket in case of a sudden pie opportunity.


                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                Sudden pie opportunity: not unpossible!

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  For awhile, when we were having a lot of chowdowns in Minneapolis-St. Paul, I actually carried a set of nesting camping utensils in my purse in case of sudden chowdown and need to slice one taco/burrito/egg roll/ tamale/meat ball/torta/pork bun/sambusa etc into 8 pieces for sharing...


                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    Brilliant idea! We've been having a bit more of the same here in the Triangle area - maybe we need a couple of sharp knives along next time.

                                              2. re: paulj

                                                You're absolutely right. But the people of this time also didn't bathe and ate with their fingers:}

                                            2. You could always borrow all the required silverware and dishes from a neighbor or a close friend. It's a common occurrence for people to borrow fine china and silver from family members and close friends for special dinners and holiday dinners.

                                              But asking individual guests to bring it is, yes, tacky.

                                              1. In our scout troop we require each boy to bring his own mess kit and cup, but that's a camp out not a dinner party.

                                                Rather than asking each guest to bring p&s you could ask 1 or 2 close friends/guests to loan you a set.

                                                1. I think I will be the lone dissenter and say that had you invited me to break bread with you and asked me to bring my own plate and fork, explaining your particular reason for doing it, which is not to create more non-biodegradable waste for our environment, I would think it a great idea and not be put out in the least.

                                                  FWIW, the intent matters. If I'd known you to be a stingy type of person, I would view the request differently. But from what I know of you from your participation on CH, you seem a very hospitable person who welcomes friends oft and easily.

                                                  There was another thread months ago in which we were discussing proper guest behavior, and it really surprised me to find how stringent a standard many of us hold ourselves to as hosts, and how easily we could be perceived to be cheap or tacky for entertaining in any number of more casual ways.

                                                  So yeah. A request with the green explanation I would have thought to be fairly *AWESOME*. :)

                                                  3 Replies
                                                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                      I really appreciate your interpretation of this, and think your attitude (and linguafood's, for that matter) is really great. I also applaud how you've pointed out how distressing it is that so many here tend to conflate etiquette with character.

                                                      I just think, I'd rather buzz over to my sister's house and borrow her stuff than ask my guests to carry that load individually.

                                                      1. re: Cachetes

                                                        Thanks, Cachetes. I also, if given the option to borrow, would probably do that as well. And it looks like the responses on this thread have given lingua the idea to do that in the future.

                                                        This is not directed at you specifically, but I wonder how many people who are ok with being asked to bring a dish to a potluck would not also be ok with being asked to bring plates. In both instances, aren't you just being asked to chip in on the fun? (Not that I don't know that there are good and decent people who think it's awful to ask anyone to bring anything when they're hosting.)

                                                    2. My first thought was, " Why not rent them from a party rental store?". I see that one CHer had suggested the same thing, and am surprised not to have seen more of that suggestion.

                                                      I did attend an outdoor songfest/potluck by a lovely civic group of hippie-boomers this summer, and we were asked to bring plates and flatware, but this was not a private party. At someone's home, I would not expect to bring my own tableware. Even if I am bringing a dish, I still want to feel like a guest.

                                                      1. Arriving with a gym bag filled with plates and silverware....great image!

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: beevod

                                                          Departing with a gym bag filled with dirty plates and silverware is even more so...( sorry, lingua..;) )

                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                            LOL. It's a dirty PLATE, Veggo. Just one. And wouldn't it be just like a dude to use a bigass gym duffle to carry one plate. :P

                                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                              Most of my friends count the silver before I leave.

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                I keep our silver well locked up. Plus it's only a set for 8.

                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                  Ha! That's very self-disclosing of you. :)

                                                            2. re: beevod

                                                              A gym bag? How much of the leftovers were you planning on taking with you?


                                                            3. It is tacky, but it is also not very imaginative. Several years ago, when there were actual design shows on TV, I recall (I think, Christopher Lowell) buying many pieces of varied dinnerware at thrift stores, with a common theme, and color. From there, he mixed and matched, and made a gorgeous table. You can do the same with flatware.

                                                              I would never ask people to bring their own tableware.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah

                                                                OMG -- thanks for reminding me of THAT hilarious show! "FURNITURE!!!!!" C. Lowell used to crack us up to no end.

                                                              2. Sorry, we don't believe in using disposable stuff either but I would never ask this, it's too much and created confusion for all in how to handle, it seems, and at least some were obvious about their displeasure. Goodwill, big lots, invite less people or rent.

                                                                1. Hi, Lingua -- I can buy bamboo disposables and plates made from recycled wood pulp and even plates made with ground sugar-cane fibre here in France, so I'm guessing you should be able to find it near you, too (if not, let me know, and we'll find a way to hook you up!)

                                                                  I don't ask folks to bring table service simply because of the bastard and orphan problem -- no matter how careful you are, someone ends up with orphaned and bastard dishes, and it takes weeks or months to get it back home. (Orphans are the ones that got forgotten and someone calls to check on their existance...bastards are the ones that no one fesses up to owning, so you get stuck with the pink bowl with orange flowers....) It's a PITA, and someone always ends up short a spoon or knife -- that never turn up, so are gone forever. I just don't need the hassles.

                                                                  So for our last big deal, I bought really cheap stuff at Carrefour -- and we keep a dozen really cheap IKEA wine glasses (both flutes and goblets) on hand because I don't want to risk all my good crystal...but I despise drinking wine out of a plastic glass unless it's my last option. Lidl and Aldi also frequently have silverware and things that could be had for next to nothing and just stored until the next big party.

                                                                  Good luck!

                                                                  (I don't think it's tacky...I just think it's too much of a pain to deal with.)

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    Yeah, we have a bunch of orphaned serving plates & bowls no one wants to pick up. That's cool. We'll just bring them to our next get-together.

                                                                    And yeah, wine outta plastic cups is disgusting.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      I love orphans and bastards with your description. May I borrow?

                                                                      And what do we call our OWN dishes that we liked and expected to get back, but never did? Runaways, perhaps?

                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                        Kidnapped. Abducted? (you want them back, but...)

                                                                        Use it at will.

                                                                      2. I'm not a fan of disposable dishes, but unless you're a penniless grad student, I don't agree with asking your guests to furnish their own. Either pare down your guest list to a number you can accomodate, or start exploring other options.

                                                                        We have enough dinner ware to comfortably host 20, over that I start getting inventive. Purchase extras from Goodwill/Ikea (and store in the basement/garage), rent from a party store, or borrow from 1-2 sources. I've done the latter when I went over by a few, MIL brought 5 spare place settings, packed neatly in a box. I returned the box, with clean dishes and some chocolate as a thank you a few days later.

                                                                        The logistics of storing, washing and returning 20+ individual place settings sounds much too stressful. And asking your guests to put dirty dishes back into their car/bag? Ick.

                                                                        1. I thought when friends asked us to bring an appetizer and our own drinks to a Christmas party last year was really tacky, but I hate to say it but this takes the cake!!! Good lord I hope this isn't the thing to come!!! My feeling about inviting guests is serve them what you can afford in a way that you can handle (they make some very nice throw away plastic), this includes drinks too....if you can only afford inexpensive wine put it in carafes ,most people won't care, just appreciate being invited.

                                                                          34 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Mother of four

                                                                            I'm not sure how this became about 'being able to afford' anything. We are one of the few people in our circle of friends who CONSISTENTLY and often host get-togethers -- informal in all cases. I guess academics (or at least our friends) don't have many hang-ups about formality as much as other professionals?

                                                                            In any event. Our guests are well-fed and lubricated at all times. This p&s thing was mostly an experiment / born out of necessity, i.e. lack of hardware.

                                                                            I have no interest in hosting less, or less friends, because of some minor logistical issues.

                                                                            If you've read the thread, most people agree it's a hassle to bring your own stuff. So in the future, we'll probably acquire cheap p&s (or borrow from that one other couple that hosts on a fairly regular basis).

                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                              Your comment about "academics" kind of made me smile. Academics, which happen to be our social circle (dh is a professor and I'm a librarian) seem to be more hung-up about propriety than others I know. I wouldn't lump them all together. It's probably just your friends being who they are personally rather than them being academics. (And my undergrad degree is in linguistics so I know that crowd, too. <grin>)

                                                                              1. re: velochic

                                                                                Interesting. I guess they're just great people, then. Economists, Linguists, Communications, History, Astrophysics, Accounting, STS.... fairly wide range of colleges and fields.

                                                                                So glad they are the way they are.

                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                  They do sound like great people. And I've always said company trumps everything, so if you all get along and they are cool with it, that is really the only thing that matters. I wouldn't let bringing my own place setting keep me from enjoying time with friends. If it works for you guys, then go for it. It wouldn't fly for our friends, but each group has its own dynamic.

                                                                              2. re: linguafood

                                                                                Have to say, the OP reads differently now knowing that the friends are academics. The ones I associate with are all the extra-relaxed sort, fortunately. But I'm acquainted with (too many) austere ones too.

                                                                                1. re: odkaty

                                                                                  Hehe. Imagine trying to pull this off with bankers! Scandalous, I tell ya!!!!

                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                    The bankers would force you to rent the most expensive plates, and pay them for coming to dinner.

                                                                                2. re: linguafood

                                                                                  Well if afford doesn't come into the picture then why wouldn't you just rent what you need? Makes more sense to me. So glad that they are all well fed and lubricated!

                                                                                  1. re: Mother of four

                                                                                    Not saying this was lingua's intent, but it could have been a little social experiment to test the waters, to see if she could get her friends to participate with her in her brand of eco-consciousness.

                                                                                    Obviously, we are a small, SMALL minority. But there are some of us who don't think it a big imposition, or any imposition, really, to have to bring a plate and some silverware to a party, especially in support of a friend who not only is being generous enough to host and feed us, but who feels passionately about doing her part to protect the environment.

                                                                                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                      I have been wondering how many guests brought their plates and flatware in disposable bags.

                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                        But let's say people did use a disposable bag, say, a plastic grocery bag, and threw it away after they took it home with the dirty dish in it. Isn't that still better than throwing away that bag just after you bring the groceries home in it?

                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                          None of them.

                                                                                          Where Lingua lives, nobody uses disposable bags - everyone has a bag full of bags that they take to the shop with them.

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            Are you trying to tell me that lingua lives in a hippie colony??? :P

                                                                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                              no, I'm trying to tell you that Linguafood lives in Europe, where it's hard to even **find** a disposable bag in a supermarket, and you have to buy it even if you do find it.

                                                                                              We all use reusable bags, because we don't have much of an option.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                Even "disposable" bags are re-usable!


                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  So you both live in a hippie colony is what you're telling me.

                                                                                                  I kid, sunshine. Blame it on the moon, but none of my dumb jokes is going over this week. I sorry.

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    Ha, I wish! I'm only in Europe during the summer months (*summer* being a relative term, particularly this last one). The rest of the year is spent in Central PA. Crunchy Ithaca it ain't.

                                                                                                    But yeah, it's a fairly progressive town thanks to the university, and especially compared to the rest of the state (save for Philly & the PItts).

                                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                      ah, my mistake, then -- I've read bits and pieces of your blog, *still* thought you were Europe-based, and still missed that you're Stateside most of the year.

                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        Pennsylvania: Philly in the east, Pittsburgh in the west; Alabama in between ;)

                                                                                              2. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                Ok, I am going to sound like the country gal that I am.

                                                                                                I always make way too much so that folks can take things home. BUT! If you don't bring your own containers, I am not giving you mine. I tell folks "there will be plenty, bring a take home container(s) if you want to take some home. I do not deviate either. I have been known to wrap a portion of sqush casserole in tin foil because I do not let my containers go.

                                                                                                I guess the moral is; bring your own stuff if the hostess asks you and have a good time. Or sit at home with your plates and things and take a stand against "The Party".

                                                                                                ETA: I wonder if I should be concerned that I sounded too attached to my containers?

                                                                                                1. re: Robinez

                                                                                                  My daughter-in-law buys a new set of containers for this purpose. By now we must have half a dozen of her containers in the regular fridge rotation.

                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                    I guess that is an acceptable solution if you don't consider the recycle angle in the OP.

                                                                                                    Also, the way that I am suggesting takes out of equation that you may be short enough containers. It would be a shame if A took 2 containers and B took a few..and by the time poor J got there..no more containers..what happens then? I have run out of containers! So, J gets no food? I am the one that supplied the others with containers. What about poor J?

                                                                                                    Well, the way I do it, poor J knows that he should have brought a container!

                                                                                                    1. re: Robinez

                                                                                                      The DIL has full control as to who gets what. The left overs are divided up among the containers during cleanup, and then given to the various parties as they leave.

                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                        I prefer folks just make their own to go. My widowed friend brings divided containers and makes a few dinners for herself for later on in the week, friends and family always have a fav dish they want a bit more of.. I wouldn't want to send casserole home with someone who really liked the pasta salad and wanted more of that, or send someone home with a pasta salad when they would have prefered the casserole.

                                                                                                        So I just let folks have at it. They go home with good food and leave me with less clean-up and more room in my fridge.

                                                                                                        And I keep my containers. :)

                                                                                                  2. re: Robinez

                                                                                                    Before a really big meal, I go down to the Asian grocery and buy 50 foil trays with cardboard lids (reusable AND recyclable) -- then I have something to send leftovers home in, and I don't expect to see them again.

                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      That's a great solution, so much better than my little cabinet of horrors-random gladware, Chinese restaurant soup containers, recycled yogurt containers & pickle & pasta sauce jars...

                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                        Those are great. So are the paper to-go boxes you can buy at smart and final type places.

                                                                                                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                          Now I have happy feet. There's a Smart and Final place not too far from me, so I'll have to look. :~)

                                                                                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                          I like this idea and wonder why no one has made plates/dishes that come w/ lids. I wouldn't serve dinner on aluminum trays but I would pick some ups for people to take home leftovers. My inlaws always leave me w/ no Tupperware in the house and this would solve that problem.

                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                            It's 5 euros or so for 50 containers and lids...cheap enough to not care how many of them head out the door.

                                                                                                            I also use them for gifts of cookies and such for Christmas -- I decorate the lids, line them with red or green tissue -- and they're sturdy enough to manage a trip home on the train or stuffed into a backpack (assuming they make it home...which many don't!)

                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                              Your ideas are just great. Thanks!

                                                                                                            2. re: chowser

                                                                                                              I have a small set of Ziplock plates with lids. I don't recall how long ago I bought them.

                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                I've never seen them. Maybe I should keep an eye out. I'm tired of losing all my tupperware.

                                                                                                2. I'm all for green and hate to eat with disposable cutlery/plates. But I would find it a bit of a pain to have to lug my own, keep track of it, bring it home, then wash it up.

                                                                                                  Were I hosting in similar circumstances I would see if I could borrow enough from a good friend or relative. (My family has a history of mothers getting a new set of matching dishes when their daughter registers for her wedding. This creates a large amount of matching or coordinating dishes to share for big events.Usually by this point in time there has been enough attrition to the mothers original set that she is ready for a replacement!)

                                                                                                  Next I would look into renting. Finally, if I entertained this large of a group with regularity I would purchase some inexpensive dishes and cutlery.

                                                                                                  I wouldn't call it tacky. Unusual, unconventional -yes. But it sounds as though your guests understand your reasons and enjoy the gathering!

                                                                                                  I do like the idea of thrift store Corelle ware. So many patterns, holds up well and a pretty inexpensive way to put together a parties worth.

                                                                                                  1. Re: thrifting, and to veer slightly OT, I'm a thrifter from way back, but lately, the prices at the thrift stores have been a little outrageous in my neck of the woods. Almost to the point that, charm or novelty factor aside, it just doesn't make money sense to thrift anymore.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                      Hmmm. I got a dress at Goodwill for $4.99. Had it taken up for another $5.

                                                                                                      I thought that was pretty awesome. Of course, eating off of it proves difficult.

                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        It might just be my area, though, because when I was in Chicago for a couple of months last year, the thrifting was great all around. Lots of really cool, old school style and quality stuff - clothes and kitchenware.

                                                                                                        Here, I see used up Pyrex pie dishes with permanent grease stains on them for $4.99.

                                                                                                    2. I vote for thrift store/yard sale purchases. If I shopped carefully, I think I could get 20 plates and the same of silverware for about $30. And the plates would not be Corelle or plastic. That to me would be the way to go.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                        The mention of yard sales reminded me — freecycle.

                                                                                                      2. I'm with the tacky bunch. There are any number of ways to get the plates you need - even if you borrow them -
                                                                                                        If you can't get them then don't invite so many people over.

                                                                                                        1. It wouldn't bother me. We give a lot of big parties, and do rent when it's a huge crowd, but we're always so happy when someone else goes through the trouble of hosting a party that we wouldn't mind. I probably would have offered to bring a bunch of dishes and our old cutlery, but I wouldn't have my panties in a twist over it..

                                                                                                          1. Just a little support for the OP! My friends would totally buy into this idea -- but I work at an environmental agency, so they are all pretty eco-conscious. Personally, I would rather bring my own real plate than try to manage a disposable one, especially if there isn't enough table seating for everyone.

                                                                                                            That said, I agree with the ideas of finding cheap or borrowing. The other option is if you have other friends in similar situations, maybe all group together, buy a large set, and pass it around to whoever is hosting next. I do hate the idea of having 30 plates that primarily take up space (I live in an urban area and my condo does not have room for things that aren't used).

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: aletnes

                                                                                                              We'd probably keep them in the basement, right next to the box with the 75+ glasses.

                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                In my house, that's a 6 year supply, with my clumsy guests plus my own clumsiness. And no red wine in carpeted areas!

                                                                                                            2. Just an observation:
                                                                                                              No one seems to have brought disposable plates/utensils for the get-togethers that linguafood threw!
                                                                                                              That shows that the group has similar views about the environmental aspects.

                                                                                                              Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
                                                                                                              A real friend is one who overlooks your broken down gate,
                                                                                                              and admires the flowers in your garden!

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                Nice quote. Perhaps a good sticky post for the NAF board :-D

                                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                  Yes, but the train wrecks do have a perverse appeal!

                                                                                                              2. I would be the friend that would tell you how frigging bizarre it was and that go out and spend a couple of bucks on some eco-friendly/recycled paper products or hit up the .99 cent store..
                                                                                                                Saw some cool bamboo stuff the other day.

                                                                                                                Maybe you should stick with finger food items until you get your cache of dining tool essentials, since it sounds like to you like to host parties..
                                                                                                                Your friends must really love you..
                                                                                                                ; )

                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                                                  Of course they do. What's not to love?

                                                                                                                  Even recycled shit would still end up in the trash in the end. I'll go stock up on my china & silver shortly.

                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                    Yeah, the bamboo or whatever stuff is really only marginally better. It won't biodegrade in a landfill as it can't have the chance to, surrounded by so much other stuff. So you're not really helping much by buying it. I mean a little, but not a lot.

                                                                                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                      and to be really blunt (as blunt as, say, a bamboo knife...), the bamboo cutlery *sucks*. And splinters.

                                                                                                                2. Huh. We have monthly pizza parties at our house that average around 40 guests. I specifically note in the invite/announcements that we do not provide eating utensils or cups for container-less beverages (although we do bring out some cups for kids or the forgetful). People have a choice about whether they want to eat communally or off their own wares, and there are some of each. Our rationale for this was that the monthly expense of disposables ("eco-friendly" ones can be really expensive) and the work of washing 30-60 dishes on top of the rest of the party prep was a little much, not to mention having no space to store that many dishes. And no, that doesn't make us cheap or should limit our desire to entertain, this is our financial reality. No one has ever said anything negative about it and the atmosphere of sharing (we ask people to *gasp* bring toppings too!) has been very well received.

                                                                                                                  We have started taking a cheap re-usable set to parties and have no problem keeping track of it. For me, I am more interested in challenging the prevailing notion that is ok to use up resources for things to be single-use, and to demonstrate that it really isn't that much work actively try not to use them in creative ways, like having a traveling set of dishes. I look forward to reviving this thread in twenty years, when this kind of stuff if common practice!

                                                                                                                  Additionally, I think it is kind of tacky to assume that hospitality directly correlates to how much the host provides. I don't think anyone leaves a great party lamenting whatever they were asked to contribute (whether that is something or nothing), they leave feeling happy about good food and drink, good company and good times.

                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: jbanana

                                                                                                                    Tacky, tacky no, no , no. I'm afraid I would pass on that invitation or offer the hosts a chance to borrow my extensive collection of cutlery. To the comments referencing the habits if the Tudors - they had a fondness for cutlery in the form of a guillotine. I would pass on their invitation as well!

                                                                                                                    1. re: greenstate

                                                                                                                      A French doctor names Joseph-Ignace Guillotin invented the eponymous guillotine a couple of centuries after the Tudors as a supposedly more humane (quick) way of executing people. In Tudor days they used an ax or occasionally a sword (Anne Boleyn supposedly requested a sword).

                                                                                                                      1. re: greenstate

                                                                                                                        I wasn't advocating emulating the Tudors' habits—just pointing out that the notion wasn't new. And, yes, they used chunks of bread as plates. Wouldn't want to be doing that either ;)

                                                                                                                        1. re: Jasz

                                                                                                                          And yet, half the tourists who come to San Francisco want to eat chowder out of a bread bowl.

                                                                                                                        2. re: greenstate

                                                                                                                          Found while researching the 'forks and knives' thread - a page about historical portable cutlery


                                                                                                                        3. re: jbanana

                                                                                                                          Well said all around, banana. :)

                                                                                                                        4. Tacky to the max! You can rent plates, cutlery, table clothes, napkins and anything else imaginable for a large party. Dishes and cutlery are super cheap and you don't even have to wash them. Just rinse them under hot water and put them back in the box they came in. Table clothes and napkins don't have to be washed either. You just return them. Asking your guests to bring their own is something that would never occur to me because logistically it doesn't make sense. Do you expect them to put their names on the bottom? Wash their own? Please, do us all a favor and just don't bother having a party if you feel it is too much of an effort!

                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: 02putt

                                                                                                                            Put me in the tacky....very tacky group.

                                                                                                                            1. re: 02putt

                                                                                                                              I applaud your green sensibilities, but what a hassle for you and your guests.

                                                                                                                              At my local party rental place, I can rent dinner plates for as little as 35 cents a piece. Perhaps there's a party rental place near you? http://www.midwaypartyrental.com/prod... If not, I'd just maybe borrow everything you need from one or two close friends.


                                                                                                                              1. re: 02putt

                                                                                                                                I think the idea of renting for a large party is great..........IF you have the money. Lots of people don't and I'm glad they find ways to get together that work for them. Those of us who can't always do it perfectly are happy to do it imperfectly and enjoy ourselves.

                                                                                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                  Well, it's important to live within your means, of course, but if you honestly can't afford 35 cents per guest (as I mentioned a local party rental place near me does http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8120...) I kind of wonder if your first priority should be throwing large dinner parties.

                                                                                                                                  Also, the OP didn't mention budget as a consideration, just "green" concerns. I didn't read the entire thread, so perhaps the OP mentioned budget later, but OP also mentioned the possibilty of purchasing from Goodwill. I'm pretty sure you can't do better than 35 cents per item, even from Goodwill.

                                                                                                                                  ETA: I guess it would actually be closer to 99 cents per guest if you wanted to rent a fork and knife for everyone, in addition to a dinner plate: http://www.midwaypartyrental.com/prod... Nevertheless, I still don't think you can do it for that price at Goodwill.


                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                    But then they go back to the rental place. Buy them once from a thrift store and they're yours forever. Which makes more sense for the OP who entertains regularly.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                      Yes, that's fine with me as a solution, too. But you implied "the idea of renting for A large party" would cost prohibitive. I don't think so. Perhaps renting for a lot of large parties it would be, then Goodwill or EBay or garage sales or even borrowing from friends would be a more economical way to go in the long run.

                                                                                                                                      All of these are more elegant solutions in my mind than having everyone bring their own flatware and dinnerware.


                                                                                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                      It may be true that you can't get plates and cutlery for 99 cents per person at Goodwill, or Ikea, or wherever, but if you can gather the wherewithal to purchase at one of those places, probably at the rate of a couple or three bucks at most, that is a one-time expense and so is a much better deal than having to spend 99 cents per person each time on rentals, if you have largish parties occasionally and have a place to store the goods.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                        I agree. I think I was writing my reply while you were writing yours. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8120...


                                                                                                                                2. While I agree that it's easier to use disposable plates, and as a guest I'd prefer not worrying about my dishes, I realize that it's not much different than a pot luck. There's usually a bowl or leftovers or something to take home with me, so it goes back in the bag that came along in the first place.

                                                                                                                                  That being said, as a host, I'd rather not have to think about "imposing" on my guests, and I'd just stock up on party dishes and entertain more to get full use out of them.

                                                                                                                                  1. Asking people to byo plate and cutlery seems a bit silly to me... it's awkward, messy, and likely to result in people's dinnerware becoming lost and/or broken in transit. Personally, I'd buy the expensive disposable stuff (some of it's really nice) or go for the 'cheap-and-cheerful' look and get mismatched dinnerware at Goodwill, give it a quick wash at home, and donate it back after the event.

                                                                                                                                    It's a lot less hassle to borrow a whole dinner set from two people than to try to co-ordinate 16 different people to bring one thing each...

                                                                                                                                    1. I wouldn't do it myself. Having said that, I've been invited to such parties and didn't mind bringing my own stuff in the slightest. It's hardly "burdensome." I wonder how easy and benign someone's life must be to consider bringing a plate and three pieces of flatware to a party among friends a burden. Informal, and with friends, it's not tacky.

                                                                                                                                      The point of my dinner parties is conversation, followed by food. I find that 8-12 guests are ideal. With 20, people will of necessity break into groups for chatting, whereas with eight, everyone can pitch in on one topic. For a lively party with dancing, 20 is great as long as you have the room.

                                                                                                                                      I object to paper/plastic because it's hideous and doesn't perform the functions it should. Spear a piece of meat a plastic fork, or cut it with a plastic knife? I've had difficulty spearing a piece of rigatoni with a plastic fork. No. Never.

                                                                                                                                      If you have the room for storage, I'd rather buy dinnerware and flatware than borrow it. That's just me. They don't have to match. Matchy-matchy is tacky itself, imo. My silverware (not the flatware) is a deliberate harlequin set, because I like lots of different patterns. Why should I choose only one? A friend of mine has lots of Fiestaware in different colors, and her table(s) look beautiful. That's a middle ground between obsessive matching and my free-for-all. My sister, on the other hand, has seven FULL sets of dinnerware--one for each season, and one each for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. Oh! She also has a cheapie set for placemat eating for lunch. I think she must have a million bucks invested in party ware. Hey, there's a collector for everything, isn't there?

                                                                                                                                      If the parties are formal, however, it's another story.

                                                                                                                                      I think I'd like to attend one of your parties. They sound like a blast. If you wouldn't mind telling us, what are you going to serve at this next one?

                                                                                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: hopeh

                                                                                                                                        It can't be fun being related to Sandra Lee...

                                                                                                                                        Well, except for the cocktails. Those fabulous cocktails...

                                                                                                                                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                          I'm not family with Sandra Lee except for her cooking out of cans, with mixes, etc. I don't do that. I also don't think there'd be very good conversation at her dinner parties. So what about her way of life equates to mine?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: hopeh

                                                                                                                                            "My sister, on the other hand, has seven FULL sets of dinnerware--one for each season, and one each for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. Oh! She also has a cheapie set for placemat eating for lunch. I think she must have a million bucks invested in party ware."

                                                                                                                                            I kid. Sorry it didn't go over. :)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                              you forgot the moldy chair fished out of a ditch sitting ON THE TABLE and so much crap piled on your "tablescape" that you can't quite find the table itself.

                                                                                                                                              And the Christmas tree buried in upside-down cocktail glasses. Pretty sure she had to make sure none of them leaked before she hung them on the tree.

                                                                                                                                              (all of this comes directly from Aunt Sandy's shows)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                I got it. :P But 'Martha Stewart' might work better in the context...

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                  Point taken, but I think it was the use of the word *cheapie* that evoked Sandra... ;)

                                                                                                                                                2. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                  I meant to type I wasn't "familiar" with Sandra Lee, not that I wasn't "family" with her. Jeez, Louise.

                                                                                                                                                  I didn't get it, plastic, so I had to ask. I'm pretty ignorant about many of the people on the cooking networks. Please keep trying to kid me, though. I'm teachable.

                                                                                                                                                  You know, I thought she was Chinese for the longest time because of her name. I know a couple of things about her now, including that she's not Chinese. lol She made a truly hideous Kwanzaa cake that you can see on line. That's really when I learned about her, only last month. I heard part of a lecture by Anthony Bourdain on YouTube where he suggested everyone google that.

                                                                                                                                                  She apparently lives with Andrew Cuomo in the governor's mansion and they're not married. Two things spring to mind. First is that times have really changed. I can't imagine what his mother and father think. The second is that the Cuomo family is well-known for good eats and family food. The notion that she's opening a can of Chef Boy Ar Dee beef ravioli for him, then calling it a day, is surprising. Okay, I'm grossly exaggerating (I think), but what the hay. Besides, ravioli in a can got me through college, and I think I might just buy some for old times' sake.

                                                                                                                                                  Sorry I talked so much. And thanks for the answer.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hopeh

                                                                                                                                                    LOL. You dug up the Kwanzaa cake and everything. You weren't kidding when you said you're teachable.

                                                                                                                                                    You kidded back and gave me my first laugh of the morning. I can't think of a better way this conversation could have evolved.

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks, hopeh. :)

                                                                                                                                            2. re: hopeh

                                                                                                                                              Thank you for a different perspective.

                                                                                                                                              Frankly, I'd consider it a hassle, too -- bringing my own stuff, but I wouldn't hold it against the host....not until it is very, very dirty :-D

                                                                                                                                              There currently isn't one planned save for a possible NYE party. Last year's was around 65 people, black-tie & dancefloor. It was pretty awesome. The food served was mostly finger foods & small sandwiches (those were very much appreciated after hours of dancing) of course, which is fine since the party didn't start till 9 PM (it went till 4:30 AM).

                                                                                                                                              The last "BYOP&S" party was a potluck where everyone brought their favorite dish to make. We contributed 7 lbs. of lamb kebabs, potatoes au gratin & tzatziki. Among the dishes brought were mac & cheese, salsa, tapenade, an African spinach & peanut dish, an eggplant bake, lasagna, a fantastic salad of shaved yellow squash & radishes with vinaigrette, a spicy sesame shrimp salad, peanut noodles, and some type of cakey dessert.

                                                                                                                                              It was delicious, the last folks left around 3 AM, and a good time was had all around.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                I wanna come to your next party!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                    Tell me when and where. I'll bring enough plates and service for all. I have my china, mom's china, the "roving" box of plates and glasses (yes, we have cheap stuff that travels), grandmom's china . . . and three sets of silver. I'd gladly trade it all for 7 lbs of lamb. Add potatoes au graitin?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                      If you don't RSVP in a timely fashion, I *will* kill you. Literally, or here on the NAF board :-D

                                                                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for listing the FOOD!!! I can't begin to envision 65 people dancing around my apartment, lol. You sound as though you have a lot of fun in your life--you make it happen. Please don't go all stodgy on us, and your circle, and stop doing what you're doing.

                                                                                                                                              2. Gosh, I can picture your guests all arriving w/ their little plastic baggie of dinnerware (or they're eco-conscious & have a fabric bag, that would need to be laundered). What do they do, stick their bag under their chair while they're eating & then line up at the sink afterwards, to rinse off their plates? Don't know that I would call it tacky, but definitely goofy...

                                                                                                                                                1. If you were my close friend I would still come- but I would be honest and tell you that I think your plan is tacky. Also, if I were told to bring my own dish, I would most likely bring you a big bag of disposable plates and utensils.

                                                                                                                                                  1. You invited them to your home, providing a place for the gathering. This appears to be a group of fairly close friends, and it was anything but a formal event. These are people who enjoy a potluck, not those who feel it is inappropriate to ask guests to bring food. Given those circumstances the word Tacky should not apply.

                                                                                                                                                    I don't personally have a problem with disposables, although I would much rather have paper than the "nice" plastic ware. At least the paper is biodegradable. Yeah, it may take 500 years, but the plastic won't truly degrade ever. I am also assuming you aren't serving steaks or prime rib, or roast chicken where you are going to be needing to slice food on your plate. I am not fond of plastic utensils, fortunately living in Hawaii you can get away with the disposable chopsticks for almost all potluck foods. Not so much on the mainland where half your guests would not be presumed to be able to use them.

                                                                                                                                                    Having said all that, it is a pain in the tail to have to cart p&s to the party, especially as you could be coming from someplace other than home, and may have forgotten to pack it up while running around the house that morning.

                                                                                                                                                    I really like the idea of purchasing p&s from thrift stores, as it is another form of recycling. My stepmom has a set of glass tableware that she likes to use at Christmas. For a number of years I was able to pick up additional pieces and completer pieces that she never had at various thrift stores, had no idea it was such a popular pattern. It was a great pre-holiday present. If you have someplace to store the stuff, 20 or 30 plates don't take that much room, nor does the accompanying flatware, especially if we are limiting it to forks, which takes care of about 85% of the food.

                                                                                                                                                    1. Tacky isn't the word I'd use and I certainly wouldn'y say anything to the host, but it is an unncessary hassle to place upon guests. I'd stock up on some resusable stuff at Target.

                                                                                                                                                      (Actually, I'm the wasteful person who goes for paper/plastic for larger gatherings, but I don't own a car or eat much meat, so I feel like that buys me a bit of wastefullness here and there.)

                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                        I like that - sort of like individual-size carbon credits in the Kyoto Protocol.

                                                                                                                                                      2. So many aghast people. And I don't think that I've seen the word "tacky" appear in quite so many posts. Lotsa uptight folks on this thread.

                                                                                                                                                        Look, honestly this would never have occurred to me - I tend to just have finger food on the rare occasions when I entertain. I like the idea about going to Goodwill, but some people might not have the storage space for that.

                                                                                                                                                        If I received an invitation that said to bring my own silverware/plate, I'd just expect access to the sink at some point in the evening to rinse things off. It's not a HUGE hardship, people. And if it IS a hardship, then you just sit the party out. But frankly, if someone was going to the trouble to open their home and throw a huge shindig, I'd think it was worth a teensy bit of aggravation on my part to spend a fun-filled evening with my friends. Tacky is hitting people up for donations unexpectedly, asking for cash in the invitation, serving only Cheetos and pork rinds, whatever. Not having enough silverware/plates and not wanting to contribute to the further destruction of the environment is not a terrible thing.

                                                                                                                                                        They are throwing a party within their resources and ethical requirements - if people disagree with that, they do not need to go. There is nothing tacky about that. I mean, heck it's a POTLUCK, not a wedding reception. We're not talking about a terribly upscale event. Why be so rigid?

                                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Heatherb

                                                                                                                                                          Actually, the OP asked if people thought it was tacky(used 2x in original post) & people answered honestly. Frankly, I wonder if this was an attempt to stir up a lively debate (which it has) among all the 'uptight' & 'rigid' (as Heatherb has characterized them) vs. The crunchy-granola faction...I'm sure lingua food is enjoying all the responses...

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: thistle5

                                                                                                                                                            Whoops. Sorry - my reading comp sometimes sucks.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Heatherb

                                                                                                                                                              Sorry, Heather, didn't mean to single you out, but I almost wonder if lingua food really does this, or is this just a 'hot topic'? Because if you have room for 80 wineglasses, you have room for 20 plates & a container of flatware...
                                                                                                                                                              If I were to be totally honest, if I were invited & asked to bring my own p&s, my first thoughts would not be 'tacky', 'Eco-conscious', or the whole expense issue, it would be 'lazy' (I speak as one who fights it constantly). Cooking & parties are fun, cleaning up afterwards, whether it's bagging disposables, scraping & loading into the dishwasher, or horrors! Hand washing it all-not fun at all. By shifting one of the less pleasant duties to your guests, you have half lauding your environmental values, half talking about how you were raised, & you get to go to bed an hour earlier-crazy like a fox!
                                                                                                                                                              Fortunately, this thread has remained civil & lively, which is why I responded. I wouldn't even begin to touch the thread about restaurant service 15 minutes before closing-I don't think I could respond w/out losing it...

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: thistle5

                                                                                                                                                                LOL. I had not considered the laziness possibility. And yeah, there are some threads here that are way too hot to touch. Yet sometimes I gets sucked in.

                                                                                                                                                        2. It would be inconvenient to bring my own plate/silverware to a party. I wouldn't take my every day stuff with me either, in case it gets broken or lost - I'd be really upset if I broke up my service for 12. I would probably buy something cheap for the occasion.

                                                                                                                                                          We entertain a lot. I have collected 80+ (at last count) plain white dinner plates and (100+) dessert size, from various dollar store/ goodwill / yard sales. They are all white, but they do not match. I think I may have paid $1 for some of them, but almost all of them were less than $1. For flatware, Sam's club has 50 fork (or spoons or knives) paks for about $7. So with my old flatware set, I have service for 66 packed away, plus my current flatware. It works.

                                                                                                                                                          I keep them all packed in boxes, and I unpack what I need, run it thru the dishwasher a few days ahead of time, and cover it with a clean towel.

                                                                                                                                                          1. Lingua, this clicked for me when you stated that you are entertaining a group of academic people. i remembered one of my fine arts profs who famously re-used envelopes for on-campus mail and returning students' work. open up your mailbox and there would be a weird lumpy paper package with a fold or a hinky re-used paper clip to contain the papers inside, LOL! perhaps people thought of him as wildly eccentric, "tacky," or whatever-- perhaps i thought so myself at first. but the man probably saw more paper and mailing material in a week than most of us do in a year (editor, publisher, author, head of department). he was an environmentalist and the paper waste drove him nuts. envelopes were where he put his foot down and attempted to make a difference, "tacky" comments be damned. the thing about making a conscientious decision that bucks convention. . . it is usually more work to do it, and to follow through, and you can expect some criticism-- after all, you are being unconventional!

                                                                                                                                                            anyway after four years i didn't think my prof was nuts anymore. . . actually scratch that-- i knew without a doubt he was fucking batshit-- but it wasn't because of the envelope thing!

                                                                                                                                                            i say go for it. your academic friends may have more open minds or flexible thinking about this issue. they will probably at least appreciate you prompting them to think about this issue--schlepping around a personal place setting is not so much removed from schlepping around a personal reusable water bottle or coffee mug-- trends which are becoming mainstream, along w reusable grocery shopping bags. and after all, they are already bringing a potluck dish to your house, so bring a fork/chopsticks and a plate along as well in the (reusable) bag-- big deal. turnabout is fair play-- people who overuse the word "tacky" to avoid examining their own comfortable reality can also invite negative criticism to themselves. . . i'd term many of them: "shallow." :)

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                "fucking batshit" is perhaps my new favorite adjective.

                                                                                                                                                              2. awesome? no. tacky? no. I like your comment "cheap-ass stuff @Goodwill and just have enough to go around... matching or not." personally I wouldn't give a sh#+ but some do. I think paper is tackier than mis-matched stuff if only for utility.

                                                                                                                                                                and then just shove it into a box somewhere until the next go around.

                                                                                                                                                                1. When's your next get-together, Lingua? I'll be there with a full place settings for me and Mrs. ABD, plus our own chairs!

                                                                                                                                                                  I'm glad I don't have most of you here in MY circle of friends! Add me to the small list here that has no problem with it. Life's too short to get all hyped up over something this minor. Especially since...

                                                                                                                                                                  If you consider it to be tacky to bring your own place setting, I'll bet you would think it REALLY tacky if I invited you to dinner and asked you to brig your own chair. That's right. I have a small house with a small dining room and only room for four chairs. We also don't have room to store additional chairs anywhere else in the house. For normal living, four is plenty.

                                                                                                                                                                  With the leaf in the dining room table and the French doors open to the living room we can seat up to eight. Fortunately the friends I have invited laughed when I explained the requirement, and brought folding chairs...and we had a great meal and a great time.

                                                                                                                                                                  As for you guys that would be insulted...just more food for the rest of us.

                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                                    I would bring an extra chair if that meant spending a lovely evening at someone who's opened their house to me.

                                                                                                                                                                    Before we moved into our current house, we lived in a 650 ft. square rental (huge for NY standards, perhaps, but tiny for any entertaining plans..... tiny rooms, carpeting EVERYWHERE, not even room, frankly, for extra chairs). We are hospitable folks, and I was starting to get really down on the fact that we couldn't really host any get-togethers beyond the occasional dinner party for 2 couples tops.

                                                                                                                                                                    Now that we live in a bigger home, we relish the space we have, and people come over to our home on a weekly basis -- often just for after-dinner drinks if we've gone out together, or just because.

                                                                                                                                                                    I consider myself very lucky to know such a large number of generous friends who couldn't care less about rather minor things, and who enjoy the big picture: friendship & good times to be had.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                                      I would find it much less odd (quite sensible, actually) to be asked to bring a chair, but p&s? & you have space & money for 80 wineglasses? Even linguafood admitted it was sort of an experiment...but I'll bet he or she is a great cook, the food sounds wonderful!

                                                                                                                                                                    2. Wow, I'm genuinely amazed at the tacky chorus. I had no idea in this day and age that people would have a visceral reaction to BYOD! Personally I think it's a great idea as I try never to use disposable stuff, even at picnics, because it detracts from my dining experience. I would think that having many unique plates at a table would be a pretty cool sight actually (reveals something about your guests). And owning less stuff is even cooler. If the host is supplying food, drink and great company, this seems like a humble request easily accommodated (despite the grumbles).

                                                                                                                                                                      22 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rubadubgdub

                                                                                                                                                                        yeah I'd much rather eat off (clean) garage sale fare odds and ends that goes right back to the thrift store the next day or gets stuffed somewhere than floppy styro-paper-crap (to clarify - that part is very cool) it is a little odd to ask individual guests rather than borrow a bunch (that just complicates clean-up time I'd imagine) but heck no skin off my ass one way or the other really. will you impress anyone? ummm no. do you care?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                          Hosting a meal shouldn't be about impressing people, but about making people feel comfortable and providing a pleasant experience. In this situation, I'm not worried about what people think (and I've never used the word tacky in this thread), but by the general hassle, clutter, and confusion it invites into a situation where--as the OP describes-- there are a large number of guests and you're already space constrained.

                                                                                                                                                                          I mean, having dishes stashed in little piles in bags all over my house, including on the floor? Before and after the meal? What the heck? That amount of clutter and potential for my guests to trip over stuff would drive me insane. Plus, if they're keeping their dishes on my coffee table/end table, etc., where can they can comfortably set down a beverage while socializing? It just doesn't seem like a pleasant experience to me and, as a host, my primary objective is to make my guests comfortable.

                                                                                                                                                                          Furthermore, germaphobe that I am, I just don't think that's all that sanitary to have dishes go from floor to table. Sure, it might be in a plastic bag while on the floor before the meal, but suddenly a bunch of bags that were on the floor before the meal --and perhaps on the floor of their cars during transport--, are now on my kitchen counter or the table while people are getting their dishes out? Ew. And then after the meal, I've got dirty dishes--perhaps rinsed, perhaps not-- in random bags (and now you'd better hope it's a plastic bag!) on my hardwood floor and/or Turkish carpets and/or vintage furniture? No thank you. The whole situation sounds oogy to me. The dishes I serve my meal on are clean and I know it, because I washed them. The table is clean. The counters are clean. And never mind the pets and small children are always in attendance at my parties that will be into everything, especially if it's on the floor.

                                                                                                                                                                          By the way, I just noticed that the OP mentioned that one of the parties was a potluck. Everything I just said notwithstanding, I might not object to the bring your own dishes thing as much if it were a potluck. People are already dragging stuff into your house. What difference does it make if they bring their own dishes, too? But, I will just point out, I don't throw potlucks in my own home for the same reasons I recite above, because I find them cluttered and chaotic, especially in my small'ish home. If it's too much effort or expense for me to provide a meal to my guests, I either don't host or I adapt my menu. I'd rather serve big old bowls of chili or crock-pot pulled pork sandwiches than have a potluck at my place. I don't object to potlucks in general, and I enjoy attending them when other people host them, but I don't host them. [Besides, if you're not providing food or dinnerware, what, exactly, are you offering as host? A roof for the evening?] This whole thread reminds of me of the kind of thing I might have done when I was in college or a recent grad, and I think it would be fine for someone in that phase of their life where you're living in somewhat temporary housing and you really don't and can't have that much stuff, but those years are behind me.

                                                                                                                                                                          There are things I wouldn't mind asking guest to bring, but dinnerware and flatware are not among them. I have a big garden party every year where I ask people to bring their own lawn chairs if they've got them because we just don't have enough for everyone (I'd guess we have a little more than a dozen outdoor chairs?) and lots of people seem to own collapsible chairs that they keep in their trunks so they can attend little league games and such. Not everyone brings them, but we end up with enough seating between what I have and what people bring. Of course, I could rent them, and maybe my friends think it's tacky and maybe we're going to see a post here on Not About Food one of these days from someone who felt slighted because they were asked to bring their own chair to a party...


                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                            It is indeed too much effort AND expense (we are a one income household, more or less) for me/us to try and prepare food to feed 20+ people.

                                                                                                                                                                            So I guess the ONLY BIG thing we are offering -- besides our fabulous company of course -- is indeed: a roof for the evening. Well that plus usually a case of beer and a case of wine & the food that we, too, contribute to the bounty.

                                                                                                                                                                            I don't feel that "if I can't feed everyone, I shouldn't be hosting". Frankly, I think most folks are thankful someone, ANYONE, is hosting, as most people seem to be perpetual guests. And yes, we are beyond grad student age. Barely, of course '-D

                                                                                                                                                                            But I will leave that one for another thread.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                              If in your shoes, I would honestly just pare it down to accommodate what I could comfortably provide. Ie., a big pot of chili (or something along those lines) that could be served in mugs. You could super easily pick up a bunch of cheap used coffee mugs-- for about 25 cents a piece at a thrift shop, I'll bet-- and spoons.

                                                                                                                                                                              Or maybe pulled pork sandwiches. Instead of plates, pick up a bunch of used saucers at a thift shop.

                                                                                                                                                                              These sorts of things are easy on the budget and easy on the logistics.

                                                                                                                                                                              Then let others bring the beer and wine as that's an easy thing to bring.


                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                It's pretty clear that this is not the style of party that you'd throw, or would enjoy attending.

                                                                                                                                                                                There's nothing wrong with this sort of party -- just as there's nothing wrong with you choosing to not take part in this sort of a shindig.

                                                                                                                                                                                But it doesn't mean that Lingua and friends are in any way deficient or tacky or classless or cheap for choosing this entertaining style...it just means that it's different from the style of you and your friends.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                  Completely true that this style of entertaining is different from mine (and apparently, by the way, different from many other peoples including some of Lingua's own friends and other Chowhounds who replied in this thread), but Lingua asked our opinion and I gave mine. Furthermore, I never said it was tacky, deficient, cheap or classless, so please don't pretend I said or even implied those things. Those are all your words and thoughts, not mine. In fact, I actually applauded the OP's commitment to eco-friendly practices in my first reply to this thread. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8120...

                                                                                                                                                                                  What I actually said over the course of a couple of posts is that it seemed like a hassle, and chaotic and cluttered and that having people store their dishes on the ground was unsanitary. I offered/supported at least three other solutions that I thought were a more elegant way to address the "eco-friendly" and/or budgetary concerns (even though the budgetary concerns were only confessed by the OP after the fact).... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8120... Alternative ideas (including one the OP specifically requested our opinion on--buying from Goodwill) that I find more appealing (listing them here again for your convenience): renting, borrowing from a single friend, buying from Goodwill/Garage sales/ebay, changing up the menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                  If you or lingua just want us to validate this idea and give pats on the back for "wacky, out of the box, unconventional, thumbing your nose at tradition, thinking" I'm sorry, I'm not going to do that. I came here to offer my opinion because I thought it was sincerely requested. (Last line of the OP: " actually am interested in what you have to say") I'm not here to hand out gold stars and smiley faces.

                                                                                                                                                                                  It's gross to make people eat out of dishes they put on the floor.


                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                    The claims of deficient, classless, tacky, and cheap came from a lot of people - I'll apologize for not clarifying that that portion of the board was in response to those folks (although you have made it clear that it's not up to your standards...which would be deficient under most folks' definition of the word)

                                                                                                                                                                                    It's just not too far removed from yucking someone else's yum...and we all know the rule about that.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                      If Lingua didn't want us to yuck this extraordinarily yummy idea, I am certain Lingua wouldn't have posted "I actually am interested in what you have to say." Instead Lingua would have simply posted, "I really, really want to do it this way despite outcry from some of my friends. How can I address their concerns and stay committed to my vision? And by the way, I can't really go to the effort or expense of doing it the conventional way."


                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                  Those are all great suggestions, except for that we like the variety our way of hosting provides in terms of food (even if it's only a small number of folks who actually bring anything to share), and I fucking hate chili. No offense.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Add to that any number of veggies & vegans, then you have two pots of chili I hate.

                                                                                                                                                                                  There was, btw -- and just to relieve you from the icky germophobia factor - not a single plate on the floor by itself at any point. The plates were in their respective bags (mostly reusable hippie bags, of course), until they were released, used, and then left on the various tables around the house.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                    ALL of those suggestions interfere with the "variety" of your meal? Renting, borrowing from a single friend, buying from Goodwill/Garage sales/ebay?

                                                                                                                                                                                    "The plates were in their respective bags (mostly reusable hippie bags, of course), until they were released, used, and then left on the various tables around the house." That's fantastic, as long as you don't have curious pets or children snooping in the bags while they are waiting to be used. Also, as I mentioned in my first germaphobe comment, it's great as long as you can be certain that the bags that were once sitting on your floor --or God knows where before they got plopped on your floor, say, the dirty floor of peoples cars during transport-- don't end up on the ("previously clean") table or countertops while retrieve their dishes for the meal. I'm guessing at least a few of those did end up on the table and, as I said previously, that's what I find gross.


                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                      Chili and pulled pork sandwiches were my reference.

                                                                                                                                                                                      We do have a cat, but he wasn't around. One well-behaved kid not snooping around either.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh well.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                        There are plenty of one pot dishes from around the world to you could cook instead of chili and pulled pork (sorry you "fucking hate them", I actually like them under the right circumstances), which are just examples of things that are cheap and easy since you confess to lacking sufficient time and money.

                                                                                                                                                                                        There are ways to make the menu your own and still entertain within your means. I have done a Thai curry, : two pots, one pork and one pumpkin (though the pumpkin is good enough that sometimes I serve just that to everyone). That could easily be served out of coffee mugs, though you'll want a big pot of rice, too so people could put a scoop of rice in first, then the curry. Another favorite at my parties has been green chile turkey stew, with a big hunk of crusty homemade bread on the side that you can just leave out on a cutting board and let people serve to themselves. (It's more authentic with homemade tortillas, but those are hard to keep warm in a large party setting, unless part of the fun for you is making them to order, which is not out of the realm of possibility.) Of course, those are both very labor intensive dishes because I'm toasting and grinding about 20 different spices for the curry and roasting and peeling my own green chile for the stew, but those can be done well ahead of time and frozen.

                                                                                                                                                                                        There was this episode of (apologizing in advance here) DInner Impossible where the these "down and dirty" Roller Derby Girls had him do a down and dirty menu where there would be no flatware or dinnerware required. I almost think you have to do this as a party of theme before you acquire all of your spare dinnerware. I wish I could remember the menu they did, but they had gazpacho in cucumber cups, where you ate the cup when you were done. Something savory, (maybe a salad or a pilaf or something?) out of an ice cream cone. Soup out of a bread bowl. Some things on sticks, caramel apples, kabobs. Oh, wait, I don't even need to list them: here are some of the recipes from the episode: http://www.foodnetwork.com/dinner-imp...


                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                      How about a "bring your own plate and silverware and leave it" party? People can be creative and bring whatever they want. They leave them, you wash them and put them out next time. That way, people don't have to bring their own and leave w/ dirty dishes. It could be fun. They might not stack as well, so storage might be a hassle. I know bars that do this for drinks, coffee shops w/ mugs, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                        I actually kind of like this idea. You might as well have a bring your own cloth linens, too, so they don't have to use paper napkins etc. in the future. And, if a few people bring a weird, nonstacking dishes, just donate those back to Goodwill and pick up a few of your own choosing to fill in while you're there.


                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                          I like the napkin idea, too. It could be a lot of fun. OTOH, I invested in a lot of cloth napkins for in law family get togethers (over 30) and they won't use them. They think the cloth are too nice so then they go without. I don't know if I should break down and buy paper for the next gathering. Each time, I put them out, each time, they go unused.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                          Your & TDQ's posts reminded me of this blog post http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/02/... about the tradition of keeping napkins for friends/regular customers. Not a bad idea.

                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, you did say, 'let 'em rip'- when you say 'we like the variety our way of hosting provides', I hear 'less work for me'...

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: thistle5

                                                                                                                                                                                            Lingua has already said "It is indeed too much effort AND expense (we are a one income household, more or less) for me/us to try and prepare food to feed 20+ people." so, yes, "less work for me" and "less expense for me" is apparently part of the objective here, even though this wasn't revealed in the (greenwashed) initial post. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8120... But Lingua fucking hates chili (no offense) so, *shrug* I guess there's nothing to be done but impose on friends. I've thrown tons of dinner parties, no potlucks, no bring your own dishes, on one income.


                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                              Congratulations. Thankfully, there are many ways to host a party.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I've decided - after two experimental runs and suggestions from several friends and various people on this thread - to acquire enough plates and silverware to continue hosting our kind of parties.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm glad you found this thread useful. Did you see chowser's idea? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8120... I thought it was pretty neat.


                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I did. But b/c we have the storage space & I've already asked my friends to bring plates & silverware twice, I think just getting some to keep around is the best solution.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                            I like that - Vegan Friends = Two Pots of Chili I Hate

                                                                                                                                                                                            we should print t-shirts

                                                                                                                                                                                3. Not that this was ever about money, because lingua told us explicitly that it wasn't. But let's just say it is, and let's say that the host has fallen on harder times than he/she has seen in a while (because that's happening a lot these days), but would still like to have the pleasure of breaking bread with friends and opening up their home so people can enjoy good conversation, good food, good company. And one of the ways in which they can save a little expense and yet still have the pleasure of everyone eating on real plates and with real utensils is to have each bring his own.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Does it really have to be all or nothing? Do people have to entertain the *right* way, or not at all? I'll bet that even the people who initially grumbled about bringing their plates and forks had a great time, specially with all the free flowing scotch at lingua's house ;) , and would be willing to do it again if that's all they had to do to be in the happy and well fed company of some good friends.

                                                                                                                                                                                  As to all the talk of how much hassle it would be, the OP even said most of the plates and silverware were taken home. So was it really that much of a hassle?

                                                                                                                                                                                  Not saying any of the posters who commented here would, but I've been in the presence of people who snicker and thumb their noses up at others who entertain more humbly than they would, and those people dampened the party so much more than having to bring my own plate would have.

                                                                                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm not thumbing my nose at humble entertaining, I'm saying there might be better ways to entertain humbly than having your guests store their dishes on your floor.


                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                                                      I know some of those same people. When I first moved into the neighborhood I am in now, I was a young mom, with two kids under the age of 3, and I worked full time. We joined a 'gourmet' group and participated in their monthly dinners (nice arrangement - host plans and publishes a menu, provides the entree and beverages, and everyone else picks and prepares an item off the menu to complete the meal) for about a year.

                                                                                                                                                                                      After a year, I offered to host at my (small) house, knowing I could create a terrific menu. From the moment I offered, I caught a vibe that my house wasn't up to standard- I was tipped off when one of the older woman remarked, in a helpful way, that it's usual to eat in the dining room at these functions. And there is no way I can seat 12 - 14 in my dining room. And I am not apologizing for it. Then another woman commented that it would be too hard for me, with the mess small children make. Then someone else said something like, you know, paper plates are inappropriate.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Well, I rented round tables for my kitchen, and used nice paper plates. My theme was a Greek picnic. It was probably some of the best food we'd had at one of these events. Everyone stayed later than anyone had ever stayed at one of these events. But, it got back to me that they all talked behind my back, criticising the paper plates, my house, the fact my kids came down to say goodnight, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I have since upgraded my friends. My house, not so much.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                                                        How very hurtful. I'm sorry that happened to you because in my mind, you did the perfect thing, which is adapt your menu to fit your circumstances. Greek picnic should, by definition, be a little casual, even though it is absolutely "gourmet."

                                                                                                                                                                                        I would be in your boat, if I lived in your neighborhood. I don't have room in my dining room for 12-14 people. I'd would move furniture out, and use this fantastic long folding table I bought at Costco awhile back for abotu $40 and a couple of card tables I already own (I think one was $14 at Walgreens and one was a hand me down ) with some nice linens thrown over the top. Linen napkins that I've acquired from thrift shops over the years. Mismatched chairs. I actually do have enough servingware for 12-14 people, but that's because I've acquired it over the years from garage sales etc. I do this thing where my primary everyday where is white and I do every other place setting is a mismatched floral mostly white pattern. I think it looks eclectic and would hope others do, too. If they gossipped behind my back, yeah, I'd drop out, too. How petty and mean.


                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks so much for your kind words. This was about 18 years ago, but it still stings a bit. I have since accumulated lots of plates, etc. but I like your flower/ white plate alternate idea a lot! Sit downs are just tough in my house. I can squeeze 16 at two tables, but I mostly stick to finger food. I did a fondue sitdown for New Year's Eve last year that was a huge hit - but really cramped, so I am negotiating with one of my friends with more space to do the food if she'll do the place. But these are such gracious people, everyone has insisted that everything was perfect last year, and we don't need to move it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                                                        "Does it really have to be all or nothing? Do people have to entertain the *right* way, or not at all?"

                                                                                                                                                                                        There you go. That's the real question, isn't it? And I side with the old magick creed: Do what thou wilt shall be the Whole of the Law (and it Harm None).

                                                                                                                                                                                        When I was younger and was a Yankee, I abided by classic rules of etiquette. I don't knock etiquette or protocol. Each smooths the way so that everyone is comfortable and no one is embarrassed. The culture there was more formal.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Now, having added quite a few years to my brain/mind, and living on the west coast for half my life, I've come out, learned a lot, and changed many ideas.

                                                                                                                                                                                        It depends on where you live, who your guests are, what type of experience you're trying to provide, what the culture is where you live and in your circle, and so much more. Some of the answers here seem to be hidebound. They also sound as though they're meant to shame lingua for her idea. If you know anything at all about etiquette, you know that no one who knew the rules would ever in any way seek to do that. That's far more dreadful than asking someone to carry a plate. The potential guest who thinks that's too much to ask of him can say he has a prior engagement and simply not go. Problem solved.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Dairy Queen, while I understand your worries about bacteria, they are out of proportion to the risk in this case. The last study I saw indicated that the most dangerous collections of germs in a house were to be found not in the toilet, but in the kitchen sink. A lot of people put their dishes in the kitchen sink without harm. I've even seen them take a glass out of the sink and use it to no ill effect. The dangers here are from the food; airborne bacteria from talking, sneezing, coughing, etc., and skin (fingers). None of that changes if the dishes are on site instead of transported.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Remember, our immune systems are ancient and formidable, except in those who are immune-compromised. You'd faint dead away to see what a small child from an impoverished area in India can eat without getting the slightest illness. Rancid butter covered with flies is a treat--normally, there's only slightly moldy rice. I'm not advocating eating that way, just trying to allay your fears about an errant cat hair or gross child.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: hopeh

                                                                                                                                                                                          I fully admit that I'm a germaphobe, I understand my opinion might be a minority opinion, but whether there are germs or not, its gross to eat off of things that have been on the floor where your cat has been. And it's really inhospitable to expect your guests to do so.

                                                                                                                                                                                          But I do understand no one at the OPs party died from it: I shall, however, continue to find it disgusting.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I don't let people put their purses on my kitchen table or counters and I wouldn't let them put their icky bags there either to get their dishes out of whatever bag they brought with them, certainly not in the middle of a party.

                                                                                                                                                                                          But I do appreciate your gentle reminder that the germs probably won't hurt us. :). I can use occasional reminding, for sure.


                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                            No only do germs not hurt you, they make you more resistent to lots of other germs.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. One thing to keep in mind if you buy enough to store for your biggest dinner parties is that you have to store it all. I had a NYE party and bought champagne glasses, over 30, from IKEA. They take up a whole shelf in my cabinet and I have limited room. I also picked up clearance dishes at Crate and Barrel and they take up another shelf. We have very limited closet space in the whole house so we've used up one cabinet for dinner party stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                        My problems with bringing my own plates is: transporting them and being afraid to break them on the way and taking home dishes that are dirty (and the transporting them at that point). And, I'd hate to break some and mess up my matching sets. So, I'd probably end up buying cheap unbreakable plates to come to a party that asked me to BYOD.

                                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                          I said almost exactly the same thing, about being afraid to break my dishes, up thread. I was thinking I was the only person who thinks like this.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                                                            Honestly, if I received this invite, I'd bring paper plates. Or eat before I came and make some kind of excuse. And just stay for the dancing and drinking. I have the feeling that the OP is just at a different point in life than I am as the OP mentions that no one else will host gatherings, so this is the only way to get people together. That's not my reality anymore. Maybe I would have responded differently to this OP 20 years ago, but right now, the dishes on the floor thing grosses me out.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                                                              I'd just bring my camping plates:) Or use it as an excuse to buy a reusable plastic set in the gaudy colors I secretly crave for my patio.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. It really is an interesting thread. One thing I noticed is the difference in answers between what do you think about being invited to a party like this as opposed to would you go to a party like this, or would you be offended by a party like this. The OP never asked if you would HOST a party like this, although the request for replies was pretty open ended.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1) I would be glad to be invited and probably attend
                                                                                                                                                                                            2) I would go and bring p&s that were not part of a set
                                                                                                                                                                                            3) I would not be offended
                                                                                                                                                                                            4) If I were hosting they would have to put up with biodegradable disposable plates and thrift store flatware. I'm not willing to deal with trying to keep track of everyones p&s, or the orphans left behind.

                                                                                                                                                                                            having decided that, I will now be hitting up the thrift stores for flatware, no more plastic forks with tines breaking off in the stew or plastic knives that can't cut bread or spread butter at my get togethers. In my case I have a small (609 sq. ft) two bedroom apt. There is a recreation room in the building that works well for parties, but there aren't any utensils etc. I have a box of stuff that I have to carry up there, and I'm not willing to carry a dozen or more plates in addition to the other stuff. Paper will just have to do most of the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                            thanks for making me think about it lingua..

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I don't think it's tacky - but I'd prefer it to be a 'bring a place setting and get a meal in return' party so people leave the plates and cutlery behind and it only happens once.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Peg

                                                                                                                                                                                                I love it!! Great idea, and the hostess gift is built in!

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I guess you fellas haven't heard of Diner en Blanc. Similar to flash parties these are pop-up outdoor dinners where everyone not only brings their own Ps & Cs, but napkins, glasses, tables, chairs, candlesticks, flowers, food, and beverages. Everyone dresses in white too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Location is more a less a secret to be released at the last minute to those who RSVP. Many details are by word of mouth, but thousands of people show up, some of whom are invited and some are invited by friends of friends. It started in Paris, moved to Montreal and this past Aug. there was an immense gathering in NYC. Oh... and it's highly organized.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Take a look...


                                                                                                                                                                                                Lingua looks like you're ahead of your time...

                                                                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sounds super fun to haul all of that on the subway....

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I almost attended the one that took place in Berlin this summer. Alas, I don't really own many white clothes -- pretty idea, but how long do they *really* stay white? Plus hauling a table, 2 chairs I don't even own (we rent in Berlin) AND food around with my little Vespa or on public transportation seemed.... rather complicated. The pics were nice, tho the crowd strikes me as a bit too precious for my taste...


                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'd be banned simply because I don't own anything white. Black - slimming and stain resistant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                      at the risk of sounding snarky, about 20+ years ago the SF branch of the Cacophony Society threw a (brief) dinner party in the middle of the Golden Gate bridge

                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. I'm going to ask my guests to bring their own toilet paper to our next party.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DaisyM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Weak analogy, methinks. Unless of course it's a toilet papering party....

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DaisyM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wow, you must have a VERY small place and budget. My condolences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                            My very green buddy and his wife in North Fayston, VT. have a 2 holer outhouse.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Party of two?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I've rented plates and silverware and even napkins and chairs and tables and tablecloths from a local place that supplies weddings, conferences and university events. Quite cheap. And they have anything you want.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have an opinion, linguafood, and it's that you are awesome! Your good naturedness (is that a word?) makes me want to come to a party at your house even if I have to bring plates and silverware for strangers!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Well, I just think what a terrible inconvenience. Not just for the guests, but for the host too. I don't want a herd of people washing dishes, drying and in the way when I'm hosting.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            I like that you're trying to think green, I like that, and I wouldn't think someone that invited me for dinner was being tacky for asking, I'd would think that there was more to that request.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            For BBQs I have some cute inexpensive plastic plates that I bought on sale at Target. You can find these things when the season ends, even at drugstores these days. $1 a plate and so on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Personally I don't borrow breakables. If I or a guest broke something, I'd feel terrible and then you might as well of bought your own dishes after replacing, that is if you could.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Nice ideas rounding through this thread, thanks for starting this!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I'm not sure I know the complete meaning of "tacky" but it seems negative so I have to say no. I mean, if I were inviting people I don't know that much like hubby's extended family, then I would try to find another solution. But for a dinner party with friends, it's all about fun, being together etc. I don't think it's wrong to ask them to help out this way provided there is an easy solution so they don't have to hang on to their stuff the whole night (like under the table:P). I'm sure when you get some extra money you will eventually invest in batches of dinnerware for parties. Otherwise you are providing delicious food for them to eat, a house to gather in and a fun night so bringing plates is not really the end of the world and is understandable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. First of all, I think that your having the "home of choice" for gatherings speaks volumes about you. I am all about the people and not the "rules". I actually got flamed in the "bring your own meat" thread by someone who was hung up on the literal idea of bringing food that only you would eat instead of my comments that we often had communal, last minute "bring what ya got" gatherings in which everyone shared what they had. I am getting more crunchy granola as I get older and applaud your efforts to be green. That being said, I would prefer something like chowser's idea of a bring and leave d&s. Seems it could make things simpler all around. Encourage them to bring the wackiest stuff possible and make a game out of trying to figure out who brought what, and why. Yours is an invitation I would gladly accept.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sherriberry

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  was that Chowser's? it is a good idea - make a game out of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sherriberry

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I Love "The Wackiest Stuff" approach. What a fun idea. I would bring the Mickey Mouse plate that I still have from Disney World. Shaped like Mickey Mouse's head of course because otherwise it would be tacky. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sherriberry

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ah, indeed -- a home for all the orphans and bastards I mentioned upthread....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I find it odd that you are negative about the image of people drinking wine out of plastic cups and yet seem to be ok with the image of guests having to bring their own food and cutlery and then wash up afterwards. Sort of backward snobbery if you ask me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I do agree with others that it is tacky to ask guests to bring their own cutlery but more than that, I don't understand how this can be considering good host/hostess-ing? If someone asked me to bring the food, the dishes and silverware and I had to wash up afterwards , what is the point of going to their house? I might as well stay at home and save myself the hassle of lugging everything over and back. Even better, I would throw my own party and invite the people I want to eat my food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It smacks of laziness to shift everything onto others (ie the guests) and then use the terms like "potluck" or "environmentally friendly" in an attempt to make it acceptable. What next? Are you going to ask a friend if you can use their house because their place is bigger than yours?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think it boils down to priorities and preferences rather than any objective measure of what is a superior way to entertain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There are some people who really would rather bring their own stemware than drink out of a plastic cup while I think it's safe to assume from your comment that you would rather drink wine out of a plastic cup as long as it's provided for free.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And I would hardly say that providing food and drink for 20+ people, which the OP explicitly said she did on at least one occasion, smacks of shifting everything on to others.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This has to be the MOST intelligent reply yet. Thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Maybe instead of dinner parties you might try hosting just cocktail (beer or wine) parties with little finger foods that would just require as many plates as you have, just covered with different finger foods. No one needs their own plate, no one needs to bring cutlery, you're still having a party, and I think people would enjoy it more. Or a dessert party.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree (and said as much up-thread).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If having enough room is an issue, just make it a "stand-up" cocktail party. For me, though, I really detest trying to balance a dinner plate on my lap, have to sit my glass on the floor and bend over to get my glass every time I want a drink, deal with balancing my utensils on an unstable plate as I break and eat my bread or take a drink and have to stick my napkin under my leg to keep it from falling off my lap as I juggle through a meal. There is NOTHING pleasant about that, IMO. Then if it were my own plates and am providing the food, it would take only one time at a party like that to realize that I'd rather meet my friends at the coffee shop for the companionship and enjoy my meals on my own table at home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I told my husband about this thread, and his immediate reaction was "c'mon, surely this poster is pulling your legs!" So there is one thought that is running through at least one mind out there about the thought of doing this. I told him I was pretty darned sure the poster was serious. His next word was "preposterous."

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My husband said the same thing!!! He thought it was particuarly funny that because the friends were "academics" they'd be okay with it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: DaisyM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  *Most* of them were okay with it, even tho (?) they are academics. No quotes needed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Glad to see your house has enough room for two people, tho. I take it you buy your toilet paper in single roll installments, then?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Well, this thread has proven such an entertaining read, I've sent a link to our dear friends who were guests at (at least one of) our last two parties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I am sure they will find this just as interesting as I have.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. As is typical with etiquette threads, the discussion is getting increasingly unfriendly and personal, so we're closing this topic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Quirky, not tacky. As long as your friends agree to it, who cares about what people here think? I would just ask them for their honest opinion and go from there. Personally I would totally attend and see nothing wrong with potlucks and byo's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    BTW you fucking hate chili? Well I fucking hate peanut soup, so that is a one pot dish that I will never serve at my house. :)