I don’t know about you, but I have pulled some real hostess bloopers over the years. (And, yes, I’ve had a few guests pull them as well, which makes us even.) I am pretty certain that I don’t know about all my bloopers, because I’m always busy at the moment, and I fail to see what I failed to do.
One of my common blunders that I have tried to overcome is this one: I sweetly offer a guest something to drink, and then I forget all about it and never come through with the goods. Said guest is too polite to mention it, and unless it occurs to me later, they usually go drink-less. Just yesterday, in fact, a friend stopped by and I made a pot of coffee. But we got talking, and it wasn’t until she left that I realized the coffee never got poured! Nice! And to top it off, I had made scones which I never served her with the coffee. Now that’s a record for me. When I called her later to say oops, she had a jolly laugh and confessed that she didn’t even notice! Now that’s a thoughtful guest. And she pointed out that I had two granddaughters on site who were modeling hats for us while we visited. (They were waiting for a tea party with scones which I did not forget.) So she said I was justifiably distracted.
Sometimes I find one of the side dishes in the fridge after the meal. I’ve left things in the oven too, and the results are not as kind. I’ve made a topping or garnish that never made it onto the dish, and it isn’t until cleanup when I see the little dish of chopped fresh parsley sitting ready for action.
Guest bloopers seem fewer than my hostess bloopers. The worst was a no-show when I had dinner all ready and hot. That was a let down. And a couple of times we have had guests who simply would not speak. I felt so sorry for them, and did all I could to make them feel at ease, but I finally had to resign myself to silent guests. That’s when I was grateful for chatty children.
The lovely thing about hospitality is that it is not a show. It is real life. And in real life things happen. Like when I pulled a lovely big pan full of lasagna out of the oven, the dish split, and half the lasagna went with it to the floor. Oops.
37 thoughts on “Hostess Bloopers”
Okay, I had to laugh at this because, I too am the queen of absent beverages. 🙂
Another of my common blunders is forgetting to put napkins on the table. This typically happens when the napkins are right out of the dryer and in desperate need of ironing. I’ll set the table napkin-less in preparation for the napkins, not realizing that I left them folded neatly on the ironing board until we all are elbow-deep in a platter of barbecued ribs or something else immensely messy. I am always thankful for understanding guests!
It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s bad about beverages. If it weren’t for my husband, who always remembers to offer drinks and follows through on delivery, we would have thirsty guests.
My biggest blooper was the time I heated the oven, but never actually put the dinner in. Of course, I didn’t discover this until it was time to eat. Thankfully the company were good friends of many years who are very gracious and really laid back. Their response was something along the lines of “none of our children are trying to kill each other so waiting another 30-45 minutes for dinner is no problem.”
Jenn, that sounds like something I would do!
My biggest blooper is just getting the basics right. I have to confess that I haven’t had anyone over for a real meal (I’ve done delivery a couple of times) in well over a year. When I was trying to have folks over more often, I just didn’t balance my time and energy well enough to feel like I was being at all a gracious hostess. Trying to clean the whole house and cook on the same day was simply more than I could handle. And then having to clean up afterward meant I couldn’t simply sit and enjoy my company. I guess the remedy is 1) be aware of how the general chaos in my life hinders me from serving others, and keep working to correct that so the house is clean earlier in the week, and 2) swallow my pride and use paper plates and plastic utensils so there’s less to wash up afterward.
Lasagna in the oven, salad tossed, garlic bread at the ready. Sewing project on the dining table that needs one more piece of fabric cut. I told the girls to start getting dishes ready to set the table as I went to cut that last piece. Ruler down, rotary cutter engaged and pushed forward – clean through the side of my finger that was not clear of the ruler edge. (Hmm – too many irons in the fire?)
I grabbed a towel, wrapped the finger, kenneled the dog, and told the girls to go out front, “Mom, we don’t have shoes on!” Mr Perfect pulled up (home from work) we jumped in his car and I told him to head to the ER. He called our dinner guests, who thoughtfully met us in the ER, picked up the girls and headed back to our house to enjoy a fabulous dinner.
6 hours later we returned home and they said dinner was delicious!
When I was still getting the hang of a new oven, and had been married about a year, we had a great aunt visiting from another country and my grandparents, parents, and siblings over for what was intended to be a nice dinner. It was the one night that we’d be hosting my great aunt for dinner, and I had prepared everything well in advance and felt that no matter what all would go smoothly. The lasagna and cheesecake went in the oven, we visited and had a great time, and then with only about 15 minutes of cook time left I went upstairs to nurse a tired baby, leaving my mom in charge of the kitchen. When I came down 30 minutes later, it was to find that the oven had not been on the entire time. I had preheated it, then accidentally pushed the “stop” button twice (instead of just once to make it stop beeping), and turned it off. We waited another 45 minutes for dinner, and of course the cheesecake had needed to chill, too… so we ended up sending slices home with the guests because it was still warm!
They were all very gracious, but I was horrified. It’s funny NOW. 😉
One of the nicest things guests can do is to help with the dishes! So I try to keep that in mind when I visit others. 🙂
My worst moment (and yes, I routinely do all the same stuff you all have outlined above) was with Easter dinner for a table of at least twelve, though it may have been fifteen. It had to do with a stubborn ham that simply refused to cook. For hours. Inexplicably. I still don’t know why that was.
This wasn’t me, but I was a guest once for an Easter dinner where the hostess had neglected to take the plastic wrap off of the ham before baking it. It tasted perfectly fine!
Now I don’t feel so bad about mindlessly scraping that spoon full of mashed potatoes off the table and onto an unsuspecting guest’s plate…..Not one of my finer moments…
Just want to clarify: Valerie’s hostess wasn’t me.
Here are a couple of suggestions for you. Invite a small group, maybe just two or three adults. Tidy up your house during the week, a little bit each day, so it’s all clean at once the day of your dinner party. Then plan a menu that you can prepare ahead, maybe even the day before. Just make sure it will come out of the oven a half hour after they arrive, or make sure it is something that can just sit and keep warm in the oven. Then, when they arrive, you can sit down with them and enjoy a drink or some appetizers and just chill. Then move on after a while and hand them their salad. Maybe you can do all this in the living room or on the porch. Finally, after the salad is done, move to the table (which you set the day before) and serve up the main course. By this time they’ve been at your house for an hour. This means you can’t do anything that is last-minute, like boiling pasta. But lasagna would work because it could come out of the oven right about when you are sitting down with your salad. A roast would work as well. It can sit while you enjoy your salad. With a little planning like this on the front end, you’ll be able to enjoy your time with your guests. And if you keep it to a small group and a make-ahead meal, you won’t have a mountain of clean up. You might actually get to just enjoy the evening with your guests. Give it a try. Go, fight, win!
We live in a very small place right now, and the first time we invited two families over it didn’t occur to me (till everyone and dinner was crammed into the bedroom/library/dining room) that we only owned 4 table chairs.
Since then we’ve had guests at meals sit on the the toddler bed, the floor, a cooler, and it goes on. Fortunately the more odd seats (like a large exercise ball) have been sat on by relations with a good sense of humor.
Also, through lack of experience and planning, I have a bad tendency to spend the entire time away from my guests. I’m making the food, then I’m feeding small ones, then I’m cleaning up and I barely talk or eat. And I know this is terrible hospitality as it makes neglected guests feel uncomfortable. I have so much work to do in this area.
I think my story tops them all. I invited a family over for dinner with every intention of serving a lovely meal. I promptly forgot. They showed up and I wasn’t even home. : ( I write everything in my calendar now.
Thanks, Nancy. Those are good thoughts.
Claire — Oops! I hope I wasn’t implying you were the purveyor of plasticized porcine provender!
Early in my cheesecake experimenting days, I made a chocolate cheesecake for a young couples dinner party at our church. I had often made the desserts and I must’ve had a big ego at the time and needed some bumping down a few rungs. It was all going perfectly, it looked right, it smelled right. The ring comes off and there’s a huge crack – okay, not the end of the world. But as I contemplated what I was going to put on top to hide it, I took a taste off the ring. And something was definitely wrong. The recipe ran through my head, and it occurred to me – semi-sweet chocolate you idiot – NOT UNSWEETENED!
Suffice to say, it went directly into the trash, and there was time enough for a batch of chocolate cookies and plenty of humble pie.
One of my hostess follies was preparing one too many settings for non-existent children (they only had four children and I think I prepared for six!!!). Add to that the fact that I am horrible with remember the guest’s children’s names… and I’m quite the airhead. I don’t know why, but I’m always struggling to remember everyone’s children. Hopefully this will improve as my own children get a bit older.
One frequent visitor at our table (his name is Ian and his wife reads this blog…) has particularly bad luck getting a cup of coffee from me. I will offer him coffee, then turn around and get distracted, and forget to finish making the pot or sometimes I fail to even begin. this has happened repeatedly and is kind of a joke when he’s over.
But today he was here for lunch, and because I had your blog post fresh on my mind, Ian got his coffee, and I think he even got a second cup.
Here’s my guest blooper for the day: I was visiting with friends and, in theory, helping clean up after snacks this evening. I grabbed for what was left of the 3-year-old’s yogurt and…wow…who knew yogurt could fly that far when knocked over?
I wanted to fix something “Really Special” and settled on Shrimp Scampi. It looked and smelled great, but I had failed to take the shells off. Awkward!
I’ve never been a pineapple girl, but knew our guests liked pineapple. I got the outside off, but chopped the yellow stuff up…including the core.
All that’s to say I give people more than they can chew!
I’m sure I’m not the only one with “hungry teenage boy” stories. We went through a stage with three perpetually hungry teenage sons where I had to quadruple most of my recipes. One day I invited company for dinner. I had prepared a lovely roast ahead of time, and all that remained was to reheat it. I was actually feeling pretty good about having the meat done beforehand, but I guess pride goeth before a fall. When I took the roasting pan out of the fridge and lifted the top, all that was left inside was a bone! Since then, I tape “Do Not Eat” signs all over anything that I prepare ahead.
Nice to know there are plenty of other people to whom these things happen. I once served our guests a loaf of homemade bread that I had accidentally made without salt. Worse, I discovered that I had no butter in the house, just as I was setting the table. In a last-ditch attempt to save dinner, I set out little dipping dishes of olive oil instead. But olive oil also has no salt in it, so even with that impromptu Mediterranean flourish, the bread ended up tasting a lot like greasy library paste.
It’s good to remember, though, that most of us are happy to eat greasy library paste if it means being honored with an invitation to dinner in someone’s home. And, as my parents taught me, practicing hospitality does not require becoming Martha Stewart.
I read this post earlier today…fresh off a party on Saturday…I thought, “hmm, I hope I didn’t promise any drinks I didn’t deliver on!” Then, later today, I was looking out over my deck on a tree cut up in our backyard that had fallen over this spring….AND I spot TWO axes sitting out among the cut up logs!!! We had a trampoline sitting beside them and LOTS of little ones running around outside during the party! Now I’m wondering if I should send out an apology email. Major disaster averted…and I’m thanking the Lord!
OK, I’m about ready for a post on “Hostess Serendipitously Glorious Occurrences.” I’m having 11 people for lunch on Friday, and y’all are making me nervous with these stories of emergency room trips and near axe-idents!
So much for just having a couple folks over. Friends moving back to the States from Europe are coming by to get some stuff out of my attic. Another family is coming to lend some muscle. There’s my serendipitous glorious occurrence — divinely appointed circumstances forcing me to do some hospitality. And kindly appointed for a week with an extra day off so I could get lots of housework done yesterday!
How wonderful Valerie!
I have long been a fortunate Hostess. I have NEVER had the food run out. Never had any bloody accidents. Never caused any allergic reactions.
When I have guests bringing food or beverages, I have always had the proportions, and relationships between flavors work out perfectly and serendipitously.
Might I suggest a simple dessert, certain to impress despite it’s extreme simplicity? I have always found that having a strong wow factor in one aspect of any given event helps smooth over any mistakes and leaves me feeling like I have thoroughly welcomed my guests. Let me know…
These are funny!
Like Claire, we had a roast not cook, too, but ours was Christmas dinner and it was a standing rib.
And we’ve sat on coolers when we had guests at the lake cabin. This past weekend, our son pulled up his guitar amp to sit on. A pillow covered the handle and he seemed quite comfortable.
When serving people from other countries one has to remember to offer them dessert a couple of times. Middle Easterners and Africans I know will not say ‘Yes, please.” the first time something is offered. I have heard many of them say how they politely declined ice cream only to have to sit and watch everyone else eat it. Some countries will require you to say ‘no’ at least two times before agreeing. It is a hard habit for them to break, so it is good for us to keep this in mind.
I have failed to serve bread with a meal, only to have my guests college age son run down several flights of stairs to their apartment to bring bread up. As I heard one missionary put it, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but he certainly doesn’t live without it.’
Seeing the range of disasters above, I’m sharing one of my own now.
Three years ago, I invited a family we did not know very well to come and spend the day with us at the zoo (which is near my house) and then come for dinner afterward.
While at the zoo, my daughter sliced her hand open when she ran it over the top of a metal fence….this shortened our zoo stay, but we rejoined our guests at home once she was all bandaged up.
Then, at home we discovered that our well had run dry….this means no water at all, no flushing and no washing. This happens at our house perhaps once a year, and always creates an awkward moment!
Let me say again, we hardly know these people who were visiting, and I wanted things to look much more lovely than they were looking!
My husband ran out to purchase large amounts of water to get us through the evening. While he was out I was grilling chicken and some kids threw a ball which hit the leg of the grill, breaking the leg, and all the chicken pieces fell into grass and were buried by flaming coals.
My husband came home with the water, only to turn around and return to the store for some store roasted whole chickens.
We held on to our sense of humor, but I do remember that the next morning was really grim, as we still had all those dishes to finish up, still no water in the well, and it was Canadian Thanksgiving and I had more guests on the way for turkey. I have seen the photos of that Thanksgiving, and it all looked pretty fine. I don’t remember much about it, though.
Oh, Missy, that reminds me of the Christmas I had guests coming…and no heat!
Valerie, I wish you all the best with your crowd on Friday! I’m sure it would be fun to be at your house — I love how you play with words, so I can just imagine what great bantering and conversation there will be!
And summer food is quite fun too, and easy to boot, especially if you do salads and breads and cold meats and cheese and that kind of thing — less chance for cooking mishaps if you don’t have to cook! 🙂
Thanks, Franci! Yeah, I’m planning on doing a curried chicken and rice salad + sherbet or Italian ices for dessert. Simple and cool and quick and easy for the crazyhot weather we’re having this week and the limited time we’ll have together.
I can tell you are really a hostess extraordinaire incognito! Your menu sounds delish.
These stories are SO funny!
Well, I’m 50 and should know better, but I always forget to clean the oven frequently and I cook a lot because I have 9 kids. Got the picture in your mind so far?
My husband is a pastor with 2 churches. One Easter I invited my inlaws (mil is aka Mrs. Clean) and my parents (Mrs. Clean #2)for lunch. While I was gone with part of the kids to church #2, they were home warming a huge lunch which I had pre-cooked.
Somehow, something in floor of the oven caught fire and really freaked my mil and mother out! Well, that’s does happen sometimes and I just throw baking soda on it and laugh, but they were seriously upset and even thought about calling the fire dept.! When I got home, the kitchen had smoke all in it, the windows were open, and they were in shock!
In my defense, I keep a very clean house and it was really just a little smoke from something that had overflowed in the oven – probably some grease from the ham, so it wasn’t anything serious. I still think it’s very funny and tell them that it’s not a holiday at my house without a fire in the oven. For some reason, they don’t laugh when I say that!
This reminds me of a post I wrote last year titled “Humbling Hospitality” (http://tonyandshayna.blogspot.com/2009/04/humbling-hospitality.html)
Thanks, Nancy. I got my shopping done last night and decided those Italian ices needed sampling. 😉
So…anybody wanna guess who was still in the shower this morning when her first guests arrived?
Lovely stuff! I travelled to Britain this summer and had my first ever afternoon tea and scones, and it was so delicious I decided to try and make my own last week. I might have broken a few rules maybe – I found a bunch of random scone recipes here and made 3 different types! My friends were so happy when I invited them round for tea and scones, complete with real whipped cream. Great fun!