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Unexpected (and unplanned for) 'guest' brought along to dinner -awkward situation - what do you do and how do you cope?

OH & I invited a neighbour around for dinner. Neighbour lives alone now her son has moved out to live with his girfriend and says that she doesn't much like cooking for herself. She has eaten with us several times, and we have also eaten takeout at her place over the years.

I had told her about a new recipe I wanted to try out - Rhone Valley beef (steak, anchovy, onion, parsley lots of red wine - my favourite food groups!), she loves french food, she used to live there, said that it sounded great and was really looking forward to trying it.

Two days before, I checked she was still OK to come along, mentioning I had to place an order for the 3 steaks with the local butcher, yes, she was looking forward to it.

Really enjoyed making that dish, it was going well, slowly cooked in a cast iron casserole dish, smelt delicious! I also made dauphinoise potatoes, green beans and garlic mushrooms as a side.

On the evening itself, she turns up.....with a bottle of wine and... her son's girlfriend!
Ahem...I wasn't expecting someone who I hadn't invited...

I'm normally pretty flexible and accommodating, but I've got 3 steaks and now 4 people.
OK, maybe I can cut up the steaks (not great on a presentational level) or I can forego mine for the additional 'guest'.

My neighbour then asks what we are having for dinner, which I found very strange given that we had discussed this specific dish in detail when I had invited her for dinner and reconfirmed, that it was Rhone Valley beef.

"but she gasps... Kath's a vegetarian!" (this I didn't know I didn't know! - I had only met Kath once before in passing and had no idea of her dietary preferences)

I didn't want to make Kath feel uncomfortable by raising the point about not knowing she was turning up as an unplanned guest in front of her as she clearly had no idea what was going on. It felt like a french farce!

In the end, Kath ended up eating dauphinoise potato and the vegetarian side dishes, supplemented with a french cheese plate and a lot of bread. I was mortified, I cook great vegetarian and vegan dishes but didn't have the heads up on this one.

I would say that normally my neighbour is pleasant company, fine and reasonable so this was totally unexpected behaviour coming from her. So I called her about it after later on that week, she states that she had mentioned to me she was bringing Kath along, we never spoke or got a call or text about that, plus why would we knowingly cook a specific meaty meal if a vegetarian was invited? My OH was really annoyed as he had heard me firming up the arrangements with her.

Have other Chowhounders had tricky situations similar to this, and if so, how did you deal with it?

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  1. Wow....that is overall a horrible guest experience.

    This year for Thanksgiving (being hosted on the Saturday after), I invited a wide range of expats who all had RSVPed, where I felt like I had a firm yes/no/maybe count. However, I live in Jerusalem, and given the war that happened the week before, all of my invitees (who largely work for international NGOs or are journalists) had no clue what their schedule would look like until the day/hours before dinner.

    I planned for a rough estimate, and ended up with way more people showing up than expected. I ransacking my fridge to find stuff to make more sides and ended up shredding the turkey to serve in a sauce to stretch the meet. Overall we ended up being able to serve everyone a generous plateful, but there were no leftovers. And had no vegetarians to worry about pleasing.

    While coming up with enough food was stressful, at least I knew that people just didn't know whether or not they could come until the last minute due to reasons beyond their control.

    1. first-why did you invite her to begin with? to show off your cooking prowess? to show her some love? if the 1st-bummer.for both of you.if the 2nd, they foods` not mportant, its the ineraction of one human to another. albeit rude, she might have had as yet unexplained reasons for bringing her. none the less, i would have welcomed them both, split the meat(altho she was a vegan, it would have demonstrated my willingness) and enjoyed the company-which should have been the priority.dont sweat the small stuff.well, you asked!

      1 Reply
      1. re: leigh58

        ???

        The OP laid out the type of relationship and how the invite had transpired quite clearly.
        The invitation was recipe based from the start with several conversations about the main.

      2. It sounds like you handled it well. No one left feeling offended, everyone left having had enough to eat. People can be forgetful so I'd let it go since this was unusual for her. She might just be distracted being by herself and all. That meal sounds delicious, btw.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chowser

          +1

          you handled it well and did all that could be expected. I'd put it up to "forgetfulness".

        2. I would have been thrown by this, especially when the guest understood the menu wasn't something which could be easily extended. You adjusted to the change quite nicely.

          Your neighbors behavior seems odd and your surprise indicates this is not normal for her. Perhaps she is having issues which are causing some memory lapses? I have a friend who is on medication and he frequently gets plans confused. I have learned to be prepared for any plans we have to go haywire.

          At this point I would let it go. Future menus with her would be extendable stews, casseroles, etc. for a bit just in case!

          1. I agree with chowser - I admire your ability to adapt to the situation. Kudos to you! I suppose the only solution at this point is to never invite that guest again. Sad that it has to be that way, but it sounds like you were very much disrespected in this situation. At least for me, that would have been a "last".

            And yes, the meal sounds delicious. I'd love to know the recipe for the Rhone Valley Beef.