My grandmother had a book on etiquette which I found in her basement several years ago and which has had a profound effect on how I arrange my place settings. There were a great many other things in the book which would be very much useful in the 1940′s (the publishing date of the book) and some still for today.
I can’t remember most of those.
Mainly, I remember the diagrams for setting the table for different occasions.
Failing to remember the details of the battle doesn’t mean I don’t remember the importance of the war, and so I decided to catalog a few things I’ve noticed great hosts do, along with an open and honest admittance of my failed attempts to reach those same levels of hostery genius.
The Private Facilities
Great Host: A great host will provide a comfortable and clean restroom facility, often with fresh towels and tasteful soaps and decor. In this most private of matters, guests should feel pampered.
Me: I make sure there’s a plunger by the toilet. That way, if things go badly in there, the rest of the guests just don’t have to know. There’s no worse conversation, after trying to flush 18 times and make up all kinds of sound-based excuses as to what could possibly be going on in the bathroom, than one that goes like this, :
“Hi…so…do you have a plunger handy?”
“Oh! I’m so sorry! Let me handle that for you!”
“I’d really rather you didn’t. I’d prefer to do it myself. I wouldn’t turn down a mop and Lysol.”
Providing guests with the necessary tools to avoid this horrific moment is the least I can do. I also provide a book of matches on the counter. In this way I say “Be my guest. Do your thing. I don’t want to know.”
Delicious Snacks And Treats
Great Host: A great host has delicious food to serve guests, whether it is fruit or as impressive as always having fresh baking on hand for those surprise visits. Whatever the guest, there is food and drink to be offered.
Me: I have some old baking in the freezer. My mom seemed to be able to materialize great treats from her freezer for guests, but I have less success. I’m not sure what the deal is with my freezer — there’s a tremendous amount of ice crystallization, leading to a certain amount of “soggy” factor. Perhaps I’m not using the right Tupperware containers; mom’s have a piece of masking tape with her name faintly visible on the tape. I just don’t know. I also have granola bars and Cap’n Crunch cereal, in emergency situations.
The Polite And Genteel Segue
Great Host: A great host always makes a guest feel welcome, but also has the ability to usher them to the door when the evening has naturally drawn to a close. Everyone feels welcomed even while putting on coats and shoes to leave.
Me: I’ve fallen asleep on the couch in the presence of guests before. I know, without question, that that’s not cool. There’s the over-used North Dakota “well I s’pose” thing we do which most NoDak folks know is the polite suggestion that it’s late and time for this to end. However, some people don’t get it and after saying “I s’pose” five or six times, I just feel stupid. What could I possibly be supposing that many times? I’ve started going with the “well, I think we’re done” or “OK, I need to go to bed” and that seems to work.
I don’t entertain much.