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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.

                  1. To me what is weird is not that they want to contribute something to the meal, but that they expect you to do a lot of work for it gathering the ingredients, and then they expect to use your kitchen to make it whether or not that's convenient for you.

                    Personally, I would be inclined to let them know that they are welcome to bring food but that they will have to do the shopping for it themselves and also that it won't be pratical for them to be cooking in your small kitchen. You can be polite and soften the blow by being a bit self deprecating ("I'm already nervous about getting everything together on time and keeping Mum and Dad happy, I don't think I'll be able to manage with someone else in the kitchen too!") but don't back down. It's rude of them to be pushy about it unless they are going to do all the work themselves.

                    1. They are beyond rude, in light of you being primary caregiver for your parents. I would say no, without apology. And there is no way in hell I would go get the ingredients.

                      Until one has been a caregiver for ailing parents, they do not understand how stressful every moment of the day is.

                      She can be mad or sad or glad......it's up to her, but she sounds like an ungrateful *&^%$ and like a sister who always expects you to cater to her.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        Yes, .Spo - no picking them up at the airport. Email them the contact info for a car service or taxi company. Heaven forbid they rent a car at the airport so that they can do their own grocery shopping and not rely on you for any and all transportation during their 'visit'!!

                        use the time on Thursday morning to prepare the meal. tell them that dinner is at XXX. and then lay down the rules - and LEAVE!

                        does it sound too rude or un-sisterly? maybe it does, but there comes a point where kowtowing to family damages your own health and sanity. and it sounds like this point may be coming - or here already! if they start up with comments like 'well, it doesn't sound like you want us,' a reasonable response could be something along the lines of keeping the stress to a reasonable level, and their schedule is putting way too much stress on you and your parents. and if they were willing to pitch in more, change their schedule, fill in your own comment, you could all enjoy a pleasant holiday.

                        good luck to you.

                        1. re: jiffypop

                          Tagging on to the excellent replies recommending setting limits -- an extremely difficult and demanding mother-in-law taught me the wisdom of the phrase "It's not possible". No explanations, no apologies, no nothing. The moment you give an inch, these people take a mile and make you feel guilty that it isn't two miles. "It's not possible" offers no reasons they can turn into arguments; it brooks no discussion.

                          BTW, the answer to the first question "Why isn't it possible?" is "It's not possible". Repeat as often as necessary and do not engage in the passive-agressive behavior which includes "Then you must not really want us to come ....." et al.

                          Setting boundries and limits is mandatory. No airport pickups, no shopping, nada. You are already shouldering the day-to-day load of parental care. Taking on hosting a holiday meal is above and beyond. What your sister & husband are asking is out of line.

                          It's not possible. PRN

                          It will also help to take the long view of this day. What would you like for a positive outcome? Having the family together under a single roof is laudable and may require biting one's tongue at some of the inevitable barbs. I wish you well and sincerely hope that you have a lovely holiday.

                          1. re: Sherri

                            Btw, "It's not possible" is the ur-Emily Post response. It is the single perfect response to a situation such as this. It's perfect because it avoids explanation or interpretation and just states a simple declarative fact. It is the simple black dress of etiquette. And should be used more often than simple black dresses!

                      2. This sounds just like my own sister. You have to be your own advocate in these situations. Tell them "no", unless they want to prepare the stuffing at home and bring it with them.

                        I am my mother's sole caretaker (she is an invalid) so I know where you are coming from. You have to assert yourself and tell them that it's not acceptable. You are already HOSTING them. They should be thinking about what they can do to make it easy on you, not harder. I don't care if it is Thanksgiving... in fact because you are taking care of your parents and they are not, they should be bending over backwards to take the load off of you completely. My heart goes out to you. I understand.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gardencook

                          They should be thinking about what they can do to make it easy on you, not harder

                        2. Has anyone considered the parents may have enjoyed this stuffing recipe in the past and it's the son-in-law's way of showing his contribution to the family dinner?

                          Btw....if you have already arranged to pick them up at the airport.....it would be rude to alter those plans now......stuffing issue or not.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: fourunder

                            Nope, not for a second. That may be his justification, but in the context of everything else I believe it's the sister and BIL wanting what they want when they want it and not giving a second's thought to their sister/SIL and what she is dealing with on a daily basis as well as during the holiday.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              OPs original post said that the pre-prepared meal from Marie Calendar's was one they all enjoyed in the past, and given that and the fact that it is BIL's recipe, I doubt that is the case. That said, that makes no difference, in my opinion. if the sister and BIL really wanted to contribute to the family dinner under the circumstances, I would think he'd insist on taking a taxi and doing more of the work himself, even if it meant altering his schedule to do so.

                              And, as for altering the plans on picking them up at the airport being rude: huh? What? It is *BIL and Sister* who want to alter the plans by also having her shop for stuffing items so that he can then cook them between 2 or 2:15 p.m. or later (let's be realistic, if a flight gets in at 1:30, even if it is on time, it will take that long to get them off the plane, get luggage if they have any, get home and get organized to cook the meal, even if they live very close to the airport!) and whenever OP plan to served! BIL should be given the choice: forego the stuffing and all plans remain as is, or have his stuffing but change the plans to make it happen!

                            2. people get sentimental around the holidays. It is probably his thing and he wants to share it with your family.

                              1. Alright, I do take back my original sentiments. I pictured a leisurely holiday stay and not a scramble to the finish line with all that is going on on Thanksgiving day.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: Lixer

                                  Me too. Visitors sometimes think their presence is a great gift, but for someone like the OP it is also an added burden so she needs to stand up for herself and give it to them straight...a doormat no more!!

                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    Wow. I can't believe all of the thoughtful and thorough responses, thank you all so much.

                                    Where to begin responding to everything? First I should clarify, while I think they are both being completely rude and inconsiderate here, by nature my sister is NOT rude and is completely supportive and helpful to me. She also does quite a bit for my parents, handling all of their finances, and before I moved here to assist them- she flew up often to do as much as she could for them. She and my other sister (who won't be flying in until later in the weekend) continually express their gratitude to me for being here, and they both often send me thoughtful cards, gifts (and money), so I have something for 'me' here and to keep my spirits up.

                                    However, when it comes to the BIL, my sis does not see the whole picture and all of that goes out the window. This is all obviously about more than stuffing. She is extremely sensitive and always on the defense when it comes to her husband, as he has never been a favorite of the family (he's not the most well-mannered individual, and my sister has supported him financially for years- that has never gone over well with everyone). So, I believe she sees this as something we need to do for her and him, since we have never exactly gushed over him or been super eager to involve him, I think she feels we should at least let him cook and do something he enjoys so much; and I believe it's her way of apppeasing him, since he doesn't do much else- I think she caters to his ego and fawns over his cooking, making it a much bigger deal than it is.

                                    So even though for me this literally is about there not being enough room in the kitchen, and having my mom bumbling around the kitchen as I'm trying to get everything together is stressful and annoying enough, let alone having someone else hovering around me trying to share the small space & stove, asking me where this and that is every second as I'm trying to be calm and patient with my mom. I don't think my sister can see that, I think any way I phrase a 'no' to her, will be perceived as me being 'unaccpeting and unwelcoming' to her husband. Then tension is created, my mom gets anxious and I have more stress to deal with... this is why I am so cautious in how I respond. She is in the wrong, no doubt. And I sure as hell do not want to be annoyed and stressed while we're all crammed in the kitchen, and I am irritated at the request that I go pick up all the ingredients too. I'm simply not going to be sharing a kitchen with them, it's rude and too much. But, I need to limit the drama for my own sake and respond in the best way I can to ensure the least backlash.

                                    As escondido here mentioned, sometimes people think their presence is a gift. I think this is the case with my sister... she is flying up here to make the holiday more fun for me, and so we can all be together- as we all kind of feel this is probably one of the last holidays my mom will really be cognizant. I truly believe she is making the trip out of the goodness of her heart. But unfortunately, when the husband is also involved, these other issues inevitably arise.

                                    So, it's a sensitive issue. Even though I know my sister is being ridiculous and not seeing this for what it is, I do not want to spark a defensive and over-sensitive reaction from her. Quite simply, I need my sisters; I can't deal with a strain in the relationship. But, I also get madder and madder the more I look at the email with the list of ingredients, and her lack of ability to see past her husband and instead focus on what the day will be like for me in the throes of caregiver-life here. So, I want to handle it in such a way that I don't offend her and cause unnecessary drama, but also so that she understands what she is really asking of me and the unnecessary chaos it adds to my day.

                                    Anyhow, thank you all SO much for listening and participating in this discussion. It really was helpful to see all these replies and suggestions. I'm soaking it all in and thinking of how to best respond. I'm a little stressed today to not respond to her email emotionally, so I'm stepping back and will reply later when I have a clear head. I'm grateful to have all of your feedback to look through and keep in mind when I do.

                                    1. re: SpoTurkey

                                      If they are going to be there for the weekend, can he make this stuffing another night? I'm assuming that like most people who host Thanksgiving you will be eating leaft overs for days. And since your other sister won't be arriving until the weekend maybe phrase in a way where is comes across as wanting to save the dish for when she arrives? It will give hims something to do while you and your sisters enjoy time together. Hell, maybe if you are lucky he will cook a whole meal since he enjoys cooking so much.

                                      1. re: viperlush

                                        Viperlush to SpoTurkey, what a GREAT suggestion to have the BIL cook 'his' stuffing another day!
                                        You have hit on a great way to diffuse the situation.

                                        SpoTurkey, my heart goes out to you -caught between wanting to be a great hostess, caregiver and preserve your family relationships, while keeping your heart and strss level intact. Bravo to you for reaching out to us here - I am sure MANY of us have difficult family relationships to handle amongs't our excitment here on chowhound for 'the best turkey, the best gravy"

                                        I usually think, the best 'gravy' on Thanksgiving is a calm, appreciative enjoyment of everyone there at the table, and how we are glad to be together, so I am SO hearing your inner concerns on balancing the matters of practicality in 'doing it all' - which you are - and preserving relationships....

                                        If you could call your sister, and share with her - if she has, as you say, been appreciative of all you are doing for your/her parents there, then could you honestly let her know you are a bit overwhelmed, and simply ask genuienly for compromise?

                                        Can her spouse make 'his' special stuffing for when the other sister comes later in the weekend, and you all can have a second 'seconds!" celebration together?
                                        Can they PLEASE rent a car to get to your folks place, then use that, perhaps on Friday to buy the ingredients he wants and have a space of time to cook later that day, and during the time on Friday while he/they are cooking stuffing, etc. you get some time to go out and visit a friend and have a little respite time for yourself?

                                        If your sister is as caring as you say, while being very protective of her husband, and putting up these 'isn't he great' stories for you all to absorb, she must actually know this is so, but deep down she loves you and appreciates your sacrifices and efforts to care for your parents. She probably already knows they have asked too much.

                                        If you can stay calm in the conversation, and not use accusing tones, but couch it in; ' there is just so much to do already - I appreciate your showing up, but, it just is not possible' as suggested up-thread?
                                        I want YOU to get some of the peace of Thanksgiving for yourself, and I think it is fair to ask your sister to help you get it, and she should reign in her husband for you, and be on your side.

                                        1. re: gingershelley

                                          I agree that viperlush hit on a great solution, assuming that sister one is staying at least one night while sister two will be there.

                                        2. re: viperlush

                                          that's what i was going to suggest too-- have the mc meal be the meal on the day they fly in, for convenience's sake, and the stuffing on another day when your other sister will also be w the family.

                                          perhaps, since your family has treated BIL like a moocher and layabout in the past. . . you should at least entertain the thought that he may be trying to change your perception of him by cooking a home made component for your thanksgiving dinner. just throwing it out there-- he may see it as the only way he can contribute, in a difficult family situation where he is the "outsider" and perhaps treated coldly, as you say. he may be a bit of a boor, or getting over personal problems, but i would see his efforts more as a rather clueless attempt to play a role in this "last holiday" of your family's, rather than trying to make things more difficult. give your BIL a pass, on thanksgiving, for having good intentions, and be upfront about ways he can **actually** help you and your folks out!

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            not only the family.....but many have judged this man in the same vein and condemned him here in this thread...

                                            I agree with your second paragraph completely. Good gosh, how elaborate can this stuffing be....another five minutes extra to shop while making a regular shopping trip? How longs does it take to prepare a stuffing mix 30-60 minutes. After it's done, it just reheated with the rest of the dinner.

                                            forgive me spoturkey.....with due respect about dirtying the kitchen....

                                            (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).

                                            Just tell your sister and BIL you would appreciate if they cleaned up after they finished making the stuffing.

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              In all fairness to the OP, some people have a different definition of what clean is from others. This can mean having to re-clean everything someone used and not simply because you are a neat freak. Many people don't properly wipe off a counter, leave crumbs all over and under things, etc. and if that is going to cause angst to the OP that might not be a good thing.

                                        3. re: SpoTurkey

                                          Being the caregiver deserves endless amounts of respect and gratitude from family. Endless! They are so lucky to have you.

                                          Glad your sister is generally supportive! Also, it's helpful that you've identified that her behavior is stemming from insecurities about her husband having a place in the family. I can imagine that years of insecurity resulting from having one's spouse marginalized could make someone act a little crazy/unreasonable. So, maybe in presenting your solution, start with affirming how much you want him to participate and how much value he will add, and then suggest the way in which he could do it that might be more easy for you (either, you get a break from the kitchen for a few hours, or he cooks the next night)? Maybe she wants the affirmation more than anything? I know that I become a lot more flexible with family once I realize that they are sensitive to my feelings and just dealing with their own at the same time.

                                          1. re: SpoTurkey

                                            SpoTurkey you are stretched way thin, and you're an amazing person to take all this on.

                                            I suggest a slightly different tack (EDIT: Just read what Miriam wrote above and that's where I'm going too): tell your sister (or BIL if you're talking to him) that you're really looking forward to his stuffing (and actually, there's nothing like homemade stuffing, and tell them that; I suspect that just you acknowledging that will go far toward making everyone happy.). And that for their sake, they will be happy if they made it in advance and put it in a ziplock to reheat at your place...that they won't want potential stress to spoil the fab stuffing experience, it always comes out better when you use your own kitchen implements, etc. And they can take it on the plane btw; I recently took pastrami as carry-on, with a gel-pack. If they doubt it will get through, they should put it in checked luggage.

                                            Also: while they are there, as suggested earlier, you must definitely plan a time that your sister can be there and you get out of the house for pre-determined length of time. In the meantime, think about where you want to go or do with your free time (see a movie, go shopping, go to the library...whatever), and plan it, else the time will slip away and you'll be even more resentful. When things get stressful this week, just count down to your time off.

                                            1. re: SpoTurkey

                                              Even two people in a small kitchen can be way too much. Would it be an option to say "Homemade stuffing would be wonderful, but the kitchen is just too small for all of us. Could BIL reheat the rest of dinner while he's in there? The instructions are all on the packages, and you just put it in the oven/micro...."

                                              I don't know if you could distract/occupy your mother enough to make that feasible though.

                                        4. OK for what its worth, here goes.
                                          Lets eliminate the ill parents, and the fact this is your sister and BIL for a minute and think about the issue which to me is pretty simple:
                                          Does an invited guest bring groceries and prepare a personal item for dinner when invited to a dinner party?
                                          In essence, this is what is being asked.
                                          I think it's pretty clear. The answer is NO.
                                          They are invited guests, and while a host does respect food issues as much as possible (allergic to shellfish? Don't serve only oysters, for example), a guest's duty is to smile and enjoy the food someone has provided for them. Doesn't matter if that food is all made from scratch, is a catered affair, or is from M and M Meatshops. Doesnt' matter if they are family or not. They're a guest first and foremost and their personal desire from BILs special stuffing has to take a backseat to what the host is providing for them. Their role is to make sure they are charming, polite, helpful and well, eat or at least taste what is put in front of them.
                                          So, should they schlepp all that stuff over and cook? I say NO.
                                          Now, IF they were to say, Sis you do so much, let us handle dinner this year, and do it all, that's another case (making YOU the guest, with guest responsibilities).
                                          As for picking them up? Well, at this point it may be too late...
                                          Here's wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving, you are amazing to take all this on your shoulders. It isn't easy, and I wish you all the best.

                                          1. Spo Turkey,

                                            Remember, we are all rooting for YOU!

                                            1. TOTALLY support you as being a caregiver , esp. of a person w/ dementia is very demanding. Been there, done that. Agree w/ suggestions to let BIL make his food when other sister comes. Perhaps they can coordinate to make the entire meal later on the weekend and give you a break. Also agree for you to take a bit of time for yourself and let them all see just what goes into caretaking as you are doing. There's nothing like having someone else have a chance to walk a mile in your shoes to give them a glimpse into just how difficult it is, no matter how much you view it as a labor of love(as I did) and a privilege to pay back back all that your parents gave you.

                                              1. why not just let BIL's stuffing replace the marie callender's one you were going to make? if you were going to be needing counter/oven/stove space to make it anyways, and he's willing to make one from scratch instead, thats one less thing that you have to make isnt it? let him pitch in a little bit--- it could be a much more delicious stuffing?!

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: mattstolz

                                                  Gee how about they chip in by making things easier and not making a big deal about the stuffing.
                                                  The OP is up to her ears with caregiving and now she has to make sure the BIL feels included? Give me a break.

                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                    I agree completely. I get that there are deeper issues about the brother-in-law feeling unaccepted by the family but this situation is not the best place to sort out those issues. If he truly wants to feel more accepted perhaps he should try to help in the way that the OP actually needs help. Sometimes life is about more than food and this is definitely a time when that is the case.

                                                    1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                      My brother (who is truly not a bad guy) once explained to me that he would not be able to come see my parents in a nursing home one Sunday because he had obligations at church!!! People can be clueless.

                                                2. Bless you SpoTurkey and your parents! I pray all will go well and it will turn out a easy Thanksgiving with help from your 'guests' (do they understand that?) rather than hassles. ~+~

                                                  1. Spo. honey. after reading everyone's very thoughtful and helpful comments, i'm convinced of one thing, and one thing only: make sure there's more than enough wine around - for YOU!!!!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: jiffypop

                                                      This is a reoccuring problem in my family. Though it doesn't carry the exact details of your issue. My SIL, when invited to a family dinner and asked to bring something, notoriously arrives with ingredients in hand and expects to prep and cook her contribution in the hosts kitchen. It's just rude considering generally the host is doing most of the cooking and is then inconvienienced by her tying up counter space, utensils and appliances. IMO if you must have something that you are fond of or are asked to bring a dish, prepare at home and bring it with you and if this is not an option, go without! Sounds like you have enough on your plate (no pun intended) without being inconvienienced by another "chef" in the kitchen. Kindly say no!

                                                    2. Let them bring it on the plane. I took a fully cooked pork loin roast to Indiana for my family to have my husbands pulled pork. It wasn't even questioned. I agree it is selfish of them to 'have to have it for it to be Thanksgiving' .
                                                      Have they ever come for a week to take care of Mom & Dad and give you a respite? Let them do that and see what all goes on in the caretaking end of things. We did that with my MIL when my SIL and hubby needed time away. Changes the way you see things.

                                                      1. I think you've gotten some really good advice and I like jiffypop's suggestion but would take it a step further. The food is bought, premade from Marie Callendar's. I think you should take the afternoon off yourself, once they get there, and hand the kitchen and all cooking off to them. That way, there won't be too many people in the kitchen, you won't have to worry about oven space, etc.--it's their deal. From prep to clean up. They'll understand why their request is unreasonable and you won't have to deal w/ it next year (or, better yet, start a tradition for the future). You can pamper yourself and you deserve it.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                            1. re: chowser


                                                              I have been the primary caregiver of two very ill parents, and never once have the out of town family offered to cook when they arrive. Finally, I asked them to cook once, and they did, and it was great.

                                                              Of course, they continue to never offer to cook.....

                                                            2. So..... how did it go?