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I'm Taking the Food - No Invitation or Discussion


I don't want to be too detailed . . . but here's the general scenario.

Party with young adults.

One YA brings a dessert which is delicious. I overhear person X ask to take home the leftovers (about half the dessert). YA dessert maker says she promised the leftovers to some friends who helped out. Thinking that's the end of the discussion I move around to do some clean up.

I notice person X kind of stalking YA but guess they are just chatting.

But . . . I see X ends up leaving with a huge cup of the dessert. I'd estimate four to five typical servings.

Same group - different gathering.

Meat is grilled in batches. Basically they are samples. So, everyone (17 total) kind of eyeball and take what would be a fair share until the last batch. Person X fills her bowl heaping with about a quarter of the final batch. I do not see her do this, but I do see her walking away and know she has left with her afternoon snack, because the napkin on top of the bowl is not large enough to hide the mountain of meat heaped up in the bowl. Again, I'm cleaning etc. and she's some distance away and headed off.

In addition to all this, X also makes it a point to talk loudly about the foods she doesn't like after having taken large shares of those foods (made by others, donated, or purchased and free to her). "This is just nasty," would be an example. "My Grandma makes much better cake than this." You get the picture I think.

On top of this, every YA in the group, at a minimum, picks up their empty plates, cups, napkins, and some help with wipe down and so on. Not X. I end up having to clean up her mess as she's walking off with the "good" food. Yes. She leaves her plate of rejected "not good enough for her" foods there for all to see.

Would it make sense to speak with her privately about this? I would say something light right on the spot, but I bascially pick up the host duties and only catch the aftermath. The other YAs would not want the food after it had been plopped on her plate.

  1. Speak with her privately about what? You don't personally approve of her actions? You didn't hear the rest of her conversation in situation A, but you assume you know what was said? It's a hard and fast rule at these parties that everyone busses after themselves at these parties? That no one is allowed to comment in any way but favorably about what is served? That sshe is ruinging the party for you and you won't stand for it?

    Why not just not invite her? Or do I read you right and these are not your parties to pick the guests - in that case why not talk to the host and sya that you don't like how X acts. See what happens

    1. Hi CydiA- I'd like some more details if you don't mind? Is this a group of your peers, or are you hosting a group of young adults and if so for what reason? Also, what age are young adult (teenagers, 20 somethings?). Finally, are the gatherings social or for another purpose?
      I'd like to respond, but am not quite sure how without that information : )

      1 Reply
      1. I would probably say something, particularly if the others in the group are complaining about it. If you speak to her privately, you'll save her the embarrassment of eventually being called out publicly. A friend of my husband's liked to do this sort of thing - he came one year at Thanksgiving, after the actual dinner hour. He swooped in and ate (without bringing so much as a bottle of wine) and after eating for about 30 minutes (and not participating in the conversation, etc.) said he needed to leave and demanded leftovers. My other guests, who had contributed quite a bit of the food, were LIVID and told him in no uncertain terms where to go. He hasn't been invited back since.

        1. Ok so there is no way to exclude her from being a guest?

          I guess I'd step in and say something if I saw her bullying someone into giving her things like in the dessert situation. Other than sticking up for someone who is dealing with her selfish behavior I'd generally ignore her. I can't image she has many friends.

          1 Reply
          1. Is this person poor? Just wondering if there's a reason for the hoarding other than a sense of entitlement.

            1 Reply
              1. re: CyndiA

                In this case, I would most definitely have a private word with her. Her classmates, who are undoubtedly feeling slighted because they're contributing and she's not, WILL eventually say something and it may not be done tactfully. If you say something to her privately, at least she'll have fair warning. If she continues to behave boorishly, she deserves whatever her classmates dish out.

                1. re: biondanonima

                  Thanks. I'm getting the exact opposite from another member lower on the thread. I guess the age is the issue. Can/should I address "manners?" With high school kids, I'd think yes. For me, this is kind of a gray area. On one hand, X is an adult (though young). She might be insulted that I would take time to discuss this. On the other hand, I am concerned that these kinds of behaviors could hurt her chances for employment and advancement.

                  1. re: CyndiA

                    I think the advice below about a brief etiquette lesson/discourse on the history of potluck is a good idea for your future classes. I would perhaps also put something in the syllabus about how each student is expected to contribute X number of times throughout the semester (make it part of their grade, if necessary) and that leftovers belong to the person who brought the dish (and can be shared as they see fit). However, that doesn't help you with your current situation. I agree that addressing manners with someone who is technically an adult can be a bit tricky, but many kids don't learn these things at home and I think it would be better received from you than one of her classmates. If they are talking about it behind her back, eventually one of them WILL say something to her face, and you don't want to deal with that scene.

                2. re: CyndiA

                  In that case, yes I'd say something.

                  1. re: CyndiA

                    SInce this sounds like class sanctioned potlucks I don't think there is much you can do as the professor. Have other students complained? Do they care? Or is it you who feel taken advantage of at the time.

                    What is the expectation with leftovers? Do the students come to the "party" expecting to have them (of their own) to take home? Or are leftovers routinely thrown away, divided up amongst who wants them? In that case what the big deal unless others are seeing her "hoarding" as you put it, unfair.

                    Is there an unwritten policy on the leftovers? Like the "owner" of the dish decides? Again, unless they are complaining that student X is taking it all, why do you care if she take "more than her share"?

                    How do you determine what is "too much"? Sounds like in the meat case everyone got a portion and she took larger than most. Greedy yes but why is that problem unless-see point one (did the owner of dish expect to bring some home).

                    In terms of clean up why not assign a clean up crew for each party/event? Make announcement towards the end of the party reminding people to clean up. In the immediate if you see plates/cups being left remind them the clean up after themselves.

                    In term of the criticizing if you are right there I would say something quietly about not wanting to hurt someones feeling but chances are you are not going to change her.

                    As a professor being passive aggressive is not the answer. If this whole thing is really bothering you I would have a class meeting and lay down some guidelines. Maybe now is time to be more specific.

                  2. If you're the prof, I don't see why you can't give the entire class a quick refresher on potluck and party etiquette. I'd include a brief history of potlach, if I was giving the refresher. Probably won't sink into X, but there's a chance it might sink in a little.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: prima

                      Oh. That's a good plan. Sadly, this is the end of the semester. If I do this class again, I can include that though. Appreciate the idea.

                    2. I am not call ing you PA I am suggesting that you not be passive aggressive about it, as a number of responses have indicated you should be.

                      As professor you need to "lead the group". This one particular person stands out to you. There may be others under your radar. Next year your whole class might be like X and then where will you be?

                      My suggestion was to to leave it alone if no one else is bothered by it. You are not there to teach her manners (unless I misunderstood the class). If you feel that it is for the greater good than you lay out your expectations to the entire group and not single her out. The expectations you have for her should be expected of the entire class and the class has the right to know what is expected of them.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: foodieX2

                        I have hosted for other classes prior. This has never come up. Yes. I can see the reactions of others in the class. I'm honestly not sure if X notices or cares. I'm working and interacting, so I notice eye rolls and glance up and see what is going on. I'll be across the room or in the second case outside with her across the courtyard leaving.

                      2. If I caught her criticizing food she's been hoarding, I'd smile sweetly, and ask her why she took so much of it if she didn't like it.

                        I'm not sure if you're another YA, or somehow involved in organizing the parties. I'd be tempted to let her know (discreetly) if she doesn't have anything nice to say about what other YAs have been making, she could have the decency to be vague (or keep quiet).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: prima

                          No. She will find one thing she likes and pack up as much as she can and leave. The things she doesn't like, she leaves sitting on the plate.

                        2. There's a saying in Italian that "the donkey has grown its tail"....in other words, this YA is too old to be taught social graces and if she is, that's not your responsibility.

                          Let it go, and if you're the prof and have her in class again, reconsider the potluck format.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: pinehurst

                            It's a food based class. Linked to social, history, political, and religious elements.

                            1. re: CyndiA

                              Then your problem is solved unless it's a two-semester class. She won't take the same class twice, so there won't be a replay of her lack of social sense.

                              BTW did she exhibit similar in classroom discussions, or does she save it for festive occasions? Wondering about if she's on the autism spectrum.

                              1. re: pinehurst

                                Yes. She made comments about other boring classes and about how learning math was a total waste of time.

                                1. re: CyndiA

                                  What a great opportunity, then, to take the classroom into the party situation and make it a learning moment. You know -- the social part of it: the sharing of foods, being gracious about everyone's contributions, and otherwise being a functioning member of any social gathering...

                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      Thanks. Someone earlier just suggested a session on that beforehand. That would be easy to do. I could cover hostess gifts etc and proper attire. I've had a couple show up in sweats for more formal events.

                                      1. re: CyndiA

                                        Ha. Students in our town think sweats are universally acceptable attire for anything: class, shopping, restaurants, parties -- you name it.

                                        Pyjama pants, too. I've seen it all.

                                    2. re: CyndiA

                                      Then I'd take Prima's suggestion and cover etiquette in class.

                                      1. re: rasputina

                                        I have been reading this and obviously its a hot button for people judging how fast people are commenting . I just wonder if taking the class time to teach the one person that lacks any social tact is worth the time. Everyone else gets it but X. Will one discussion on social grace help? Doubt it. I think you should let things be and maybe next time IF you see her make a pig of herself nip it in the bud then. Otherwise, she is a young adult and pretty set in her ways. Chances are she knows it is tacky, she just doesn't care.

                                  1. CyndiA, if your role in the class is professor--giver of grades---I wouldn't say anything to X. Then in class if she gets less than an A, she can complain that you had a private beef (no pun) with her that made you a less than objective grader.

                                    Let it slide. You're not her life coach. Life will teach her. That's just my two cents, and others will disagree. Unless it stated in the syllabus that etiquette would count for points, I say let it go. I don't think there's a need for in loco parentis---but, it's up to you. If high school, yes....but this is college.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: suzigirl

                                        I agree w/pinehurst as well. I wish CyndiA had been more forthcoming with the details in the OP rather than be drawn out bit by bit; could have leaped this conversation immediately. Taking a personal interest in a student that struggles with what you perceive to be a social issue is tricky in or out of the classroom. I wouldn't place too much weight on one evening. How well do you know the student?

                                    1. Sometimes you need to pick your battles. Happily, you are not grading her on manners or courtesy towards others. I would ignore her and use my energy elsewhere.

                                      1. Thank you CHers for the thoughts and ideas.

                                        I like X, or it wouldn't make any difference one way or the other.

                                        Other than the desserts once, I bought and made the food including grilling. That doesn't leave much time to really see what is going on. I do know the meat walked before eveyone was done with the party. As for the left overs, I'd have suggested sharing them (if there had been any at the end).

                                        I have asked that the thread be deleted. I did get some good ideas from what I would consider foodie friends (as a member of this board). The name calling and bashing rather caught me off guard. If the question so annoyed some members of this board, why not skip over the post?

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: CyndiA

                                          I'm sorry you wound up feeling your topic was worthy of self-deletion and self-edit. I don't see any name calling or bashing just not sure you were very clear in your original post. The thread took time to understand what you were getting at.

                                          Can't climb inside your life, CyndiA through a community thread. The leadership here was also up to you.

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            I'm careful on privacy issues or try to be. I hoped to be very general and get some ideas. This came up both times we had "fun" days. I thought the first time was just a favorite dessert thing. When it happened again and with rather small amounts to share around due to grilling time and batches, it appeared more like a pattern. Also, the last batch was the expensive gourmet brand (which I did note). Best for last I was thinking. I rather doubt eveyone even got to sample that last batch.

                                            1. re: CyndiA

                                              I'll be curious to learn (& learn from) how you handled it post party. Social issues become a challenge for both sides when you elect to address it. Whatever you decide I applaud your willingness to care.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                Thank you.

                                                I deeply regret posting, although I got some good ideas.

                                                If/when the student drops by my office and if a good opening comes up, I will kindly try to work in the idea of the social rules for the class and area. This student appears kind of isolated, and I think these kinds of things contribute. If she doesn't seem receptive to some ideas, I'll just drop it.

                                        2. Since you're both the host and the prof, I think it would be quite appropriate for you to (a) discuss potluck etiquette with next semester's class beforehead and (b) have a gentle, private word with X about her behavior. I must respectfully disagree with those who feel that speaking to a high school kid would be OK but that a college student is somehow off limits. In my opinion, one of the roles of college faculty is to keep an eye out for problematic behavior and address it constructively so that it doesn't become a more serious issue for the student (or fellow students) later on. College students may be of legal age for many things, but for the most part they're not psychologically mature. And college isn't just about learning the course material; it's a social education as well. Finally, it's your party, and as long as you're acting ethically, responsibly, and with all the students' best interests in mind, you call the shots.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Miss Priss

                                            I am very comfortable talking to students about attire which often comes up. I had one show up for a career fair in shorts and a t-shirt. I explained that she looked nice in her outfit, but employers would not be likely to consider her when dressed so casually. She ran back to her room and changed. She got a job and thanked me.

                                            At a very fancy country club event, several students asked questions. Most were not sure where to put empty cups/plates. I very quietly nodded toward the small tables to the side. The staff cleared those so fast, my students did not notice. I told them those were the magic disappearing dish tables. They were laughing about that as we drove home.

                                            When it's informal, I just want them to all have fun. This has always worked fine. The YAs share and enjoy. They have their informal rules for fairness. If there are extra burgers etc, some may split those. If food is left over, they work that out. Each may take an extra piece of fudge etc. I tell them that I don't need the extra food usually, and it's typical that I make more than needed.

                                            This really is a situation I've not seen before.

                                            1. re: Miss Priss

                                              Having put four children through college (two in food ed) I can't say I have ever seen college faculty keep an eye out for problematic behavior and address it constructively as a role of their position. Those who take a personal interest/liking/concern for a student often have to be very careful. Observation and action are different. College students are expected to self-monitor or speak to an Advisor.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                I like all my students. If I can give tips that might make a difference, I might do so if I feel the student would want the input.

                                                My sons are in the college age group. They have professors who also act as mentors.

                                                1. re: CyndiA

                                                  Your sons are fortunate.

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    Yes. Thank you. They are. I am always thankful when professors take an interest and try to make sure they are well prepared.

                                            2. Since the poster has found a course of action she's going to try and is feeling a bit attacked on this thread, we're going to lock it now.