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Nov 19, 2011 04:59 PM

Dinner Party Etiquette: Bringing AND cooking your own food?

Would love some feedback on this... I am having Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house (where I now live as I am their full-time caregiver), and my sister and her husband will be traveling to stay with us for the holiday. We are not much for cooking, and have always ordered prepared meals (Marie Callendar's) that we heat and serve. My parents are not in the best health, so the easier of a dinner affair for me, the better. So we've always done meals like this, they require less work and stress, and everyone loves them.

Now my sister has informed me that she'd like me to go pick up a bunch of ingredients so that her husband can make his own stuffing for dinner. She acknowledged that I will already have stuffing with the dinner, but they love his homemade stuffing and want to have it as well. The kitchen is small, and granted I will not technically be "cooking", but I will still be using the oven and stove to reheat and prepare everything. And her husband is insisting on making an elaborate stuffing with all kinds of ingredients... calling for counter-space and sharing the two-foot wide stove area with me. (Not to mention the mess he will make, using all kinds of utensils, pots, etc., and slopping food everywhere, as he is incredibly messy; and the mess will be left for me to clean).

Am I being unfair thinking this is ridiculous and rude of them?? I do not like three people fussing around in a kitchen while I'm trying to get dinner together.

Granted it is not a "formal" dinner party, and it's just family... but still, shouldn't the same etiquette apply, or at least common courtesy of not messing up someone else's kitchen??

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  1. I'd say that as long as he agrees to clean his mess let him make his stuffing! Maybe he can make it the night before even? For many people it's just not thanksgiving without a particular item and having something homemade would be a nice touch. It's Thanksgiving, make this one concession and enjoy your family.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lixer

      I agree. Just let your sister know that she (and he) will be responsible for his clean-up.

      1. re: wyogal

        And if the ingredients are expensive and time consuming to shop for I would add responsible for the cost.

    2. It's Thanksgiving. Be generous.

      1. I'm with you -- I would just say no. If they must have this dish, they should shop, cook at home, pack the stuff in a cooler on ice and transport. They should not be adding to your burden.

        9 Replies
        1. re: pikawicca

          Thank you. I guess we're in the minority! Perhaps I am not being generous on a holiday. But patience is very hard to come by when caring for someone with Alzheimer's, and having company causes major anxiety for the patient... so, while it may seem petty, I feel like they are adding too much unecessary stress to my plate... just because they want a particular stuffing.

          And, I kinda think it's rude- I am serving stuffing, if it's not good enough for them, then they should have dinner elsewhere.

          If only I could communicate that to them! But, they are so easilly offended and this would turn into a big dramatic scene, which would cause me more unecessary stress.

          Holidays with the family are so fun! lol

          p.s. Ordinarily, I would tell them that if they really want it, then cook it at home and bring it. But they are flying into town that afternoon so it wouldn't be feasible.

          1. re: SpoTurkey

            I have flown with items needing to be chilled. Just put the stuffing in a plastic bag, surround with ice in a small cooler. Never had a problem, even post-9/11.

            1. re: pikawicca

              Thanks for the tip, I didn't realize you could do that post 9-11. I would love to suggest that, it would take the stress off of me. Unfortunately, I KNOW they would be aghast that I ask them to go to so much trouble... they would be upset and mad, and then I'd have the drama to deal with, which is again, more unecessary stress for me! UGH!!!

              1. re: SpoTurkey

                Have you even asked? You seem to be making mountains out of molehills.

                1. re: Lixer

                  Have you ever been the caregiver for someone with dementia? If anyone should be flexible, it is the people coming not those already there.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    THANK YOU! I appreciate your understanding. And, in response to Lixer's comment, I have asked before... years ago we went through the same situation when I was throwing a dinner party at my own house. Same thing, they wanted to bring stuff to cook as well. I asked them to please cook it before because I didn't have room in my kitchen (and frankly, even if my kitchen was enourmous- I'm hosting a dinner, not a potluck). They did not respond well at all, it was a ridiculous big scene. Totally petty to have family arguments over food, but that's how they responded... and yeah, maybe this time they'd be fine and not react- but it's not worth chancing that; the affect that such tension causes on my mom sets her back so much and causes such anxiety and panic- just not worth it.

                    1. re: SpoTurkey

                      Sounds like a massive pain in the ass. Reminds me of how thankful I should be this Thanksgiving for a family far, far away -- and thus, no such drama :-D

                    2. re: escondido123

                      Exactly! Part of being a good guest, even if you are family, is don't burden your hostess. It won't kill them to eat your stuffing. If they insist, they can take over all of the cooking duties and give you a much needed break. I have dealt with this situation before, they need to support you!

                      1. re: MissusLisa

                        I agree with this suggestion. If it's so important, they should deal with the whole thing and let you put your feet up on the sofa for a change.

          2. As a fellow veteran of the Alzheimer caregiver wars with absentee siblings, your post sounds so very familiar. things got so bad that i REFUSED to shop, cook, or clean when siblings announced that they were coming to visit. i simply didn't have the strength, energy, focus, or ability to take care of them on top of mom, the pets, and a full-time managerial job.

            so, having said all that, here's my two cents: tell your BIL and sister that they can have the kitchen for x number of hours - from, say, 1:30 to 3:30 or whatever works. and when the time is up, it's your turn so that you can get the rest of the meal ready, and that the kitchen has to be in the same condition that they found it. AND when their kitchen time starts, you LEAVE THE HOUSE. you need a break. your parents will be OK, and they will have a taste of daily life at the house.

            good luck - and you have my sympathies. it's NOT an easy situation.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jiffypop

              The original post said "not best of health" so I didn't realize we were talking dementia and the care giving that goes along with it. Both my parents had dementia, and lucky for me they had the money to be in a very good place specifically for people with dementia but I was still the one who faced the round the clock stress of hysteria, hallucinations and health issues. I believe jiffypop has the best solution, though you will need to be willing to turn around and walk back out the door if they haven't met their part of the bargain. And then maybe you could just disappear for the rest of the day and they can handle everything!!!!!

              1. re: escondido123

                Thanks for the feedback escondido, and I'm sorry you had both parents with dementia. One is bad enough, I can't imagine watching both my parents suffer with it. It is more than most people understand... so many people think my mom is just "forgetful". And being around it for a couple hours every few months, it doesn't seem that overwheling, you can almost enjoy the 'wackyness' and childlike ways. But being around it 24/7, is a whole nother story. Anyhow, thank you again- it means a lot to know that people have been through it and understand.

              2. re: jiffypop

                Thank you jiffypop, I really appreciate your response and suggestion. And it's so nice to hear someone that understands the stress involved, so thank you for sharing that.

                That's a very good idea about giving them some time in the kitchen, thanks for the idea. I'm not sure how I'll coordinate it, as they fly in at 1:30pm and I'll be going to pick them up at the airport - so we're going to have to squeeze all this in somehow before a reasonable dinner hour. But, it's a great idea and gives me something to work with... maybe I'll tell them it's going to be a late Thanksgiving this year, as that is the only way I can accommodate everyone and keep it stress free.

                And you're right, I should leave the house and let them deal with it for a bit! Thank you again.

                1. re: SpoTurkey

                  Wait a minute: you are the caregiver, but they want you to do the shopping? And then they want you to pick them up at the airport? At 1:30 p.m. On THANKSGIVING DAY?

                  That puts an entirely different light on it, IMO.

                  Why exactly *are* you picking them up at the airport? and what the heck are you going to do if their plane is late, (which should be pretty much expected these days and given that overall weather forecasts for next week around the country aren't looking that great)?

                  Just tell them that with the stress of the daily care and the added holiday duties, that you can't pick them up, especially not on the day of. Tell them that the special stuffing sounds great, and suggest that if it is that important to have it on actual Thanksgiving Day (nothing is stopping them from making their own turkey dinner on another day at their home, with the special stuffing and all types of goodies) that they change their flight to one that gets in no later than say, nine am, or if that isn't possible, than the day before, rent a car or hire a taxi, and stop at a store on the way to get the ingredients, as dinner *will* be served at xxx time and that being definite is necessary given the caretaking issues and need for consistency for your parent with dementia. (btw, asking them to shop isn't unreasonable, even on Thanksgiving Day: even my small town of 80,000 has a nice grocery store that will be open until 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Almost anywhere big enough to have an airport should have at least one grocery open).

                  You need to let them know what things are like on your end. Their unreasonable expectations go beyond the stuffing, IMO. And yes, I definitely think that you need to take a break during the day, both for your own sanity and to help educate them as to what your daily life is like. Hopefully they are just clueless, and not intentionally rude.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    Go Susan!!! The more details that emerge about this situation, the better the case is for packing everyone up and going to A DINER for T-day [although i hear rumors that most parts of the country don't have diners - something i don't understand as a jersey girl!]

                    I'm all for Spo abdicating any and all responsibility for the dinner so that sis and BIL can have the 'pleasure' of cooking and setting up and taking care of Mom and Dad.

                  2. re: SpoTurkey

                    I missed the part about you picking them up from the airport. I'm going to guess this sister has stomped on you since you were kids. Let them get a cab or car service to the house.

                    You have got to learn the power of "no" (said in complete kindness).

                2. They should make the stuffing ahead (the day before) at their house and bring it and reheat it. That's the compromise.

                  While my late-80s parents are not suffering from dementia, I know it stresses my mother out if people are doing too much in her kitchen, which she can't even get into any more - doesn't matter, it's still HER kitchen (from decades being in charge of a kitchen). Everything, in every shelf (fridge or cabinet), drawer and counterspace has its place - and my mother needs to know its all in place so she can reliably ask my father to find her things. When to much is going on in her kitchen, she knows this order will be disturbed and have an unwelcome half-life, no matter how well-intentioned.