Kitchen Anthropology: 9 Essentials of Being a Great Dinner Guest — Part Two of Two
In the Eyes of a Private Chef
In my last post, I addressed the first five ways in which you can be the type of dinner guest that gets invited back, primarily by reducing your host’s pre-event anxiety and showing them your genuine gratitude. Now, let us look at four more that put the focus on both your and the other invitees’ enjoyment!
6. Put the phone DOWN
Oh my goodness — this one drives me bananas, and I see it all too frequently. The average dinner party is only two to three hours. Unless you have a babysitter who may reach out with an emergency (which in my opinion, they should be able to handle in an adult way without calling or texting you if you already see it fit to be paying them to look after your progeny for a few hours), there is no reason you need to look at your phone at all for that short period of time. Once you accepted the invitation, you accepted the commitment of time to be spent eating and conversing.
The greater problem with phone use at the dinner table is that it is, in fact, contagious. Once one person takes out their phone, creates the invisible wall around them, and devotes their attention instead to a palm-sized electronic device, it unconsciously gives the rest of the attendees permission to do so, as well.
Honestly, phone use at the table is a huge judgment-trigger, and may result in invitations drying up. If your phone addiction is that strong, excuse yourself and check it in the bathroom. Everybody knows when you’re trying to do it on the sly under the table, by the way…
7. Mind your alcohol consumption
“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.” ~ Dorothy Parker
Only you know your limits. Where one person will get tipsy after half a glass of wine, another can polish off a bottle before they start feeling silly. For goodness sake, follow the rule of thumb and have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink consumed. A drunken guest may be entertaining for a little while, but usually becomes embarrassing both for the host and the guest before long. (The guest may not realize it until the next day…)
I recently heard the “0–1–2 Rule” for drinking in professional settings: “0 if you’re driving — 1 glass of water per alcoholic drink — no more than 2 at a work-related event”. Private functions, you can likely be a little more liberal, but designated drivers should not be impaired when they hit the road. A fun newish piece of technology to help with that is the Breathalyzer keychain (http://www.amazon.com/BACtrack-Keychain-Breathalyzer-Portable-Keyring/dp/B006536ZXC). It will not report blood alcohol content above the legal limit, so it is not a way to see HOW high you can get yours, but it will tell you when you are below.
8. Leave the bathroom clean after you use it
This might seem silly to say — it’s common sense, right? But it isn’t. You may follow the rule “If it’s pee, let it be; if it’s brown, flush it down” at YOUR house, but this isn’t your house. Flush the toilet. Check the seat after you finish and clean up anything you wouldn’t want to sit in. Make sure the toilet paper isn’t trailing onto the floor, and if the roll is empty, replace it if possible or discreetly tell the host if it isn’t. Don’t throw paper towels on the floor next to the trash — make sure they go in. If you want to be extra awesome, straighten the reusable towel after you use it! Make the bathroom AS welcoming or MORE* welcoming than you found it.
*Funny yet true personal anecdote — As a throwback to my years as a chef on private yachts and all of the esoteric and idiosyncratic skills that come along with 11 years in that industry, whenever I use the bathroom at somebody else’s dinner party, I have a tendency to do two things: wipe out the sink after washing my hands, and fold the toilet paper into a sailboat with TP-Origami. Now THAT’S going the extra mile!
9. Finally, arrive ready and excited to have a good time and lovingly prepared food
“I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.” ~ Julia Child
Who among us doesn’t enjoy receiving a love letter, let alone an edible one? Before you go to your next dinner party, I challenge you to spend 2 minutes pondering the above quote, and how receiving that valentine actually feels. With an attitude like that, of knowing that you are loved, respected, and appreciated, your interactions with your host and the other guests are bound to be magnificent.
And I’ll bet this last point alone will gain your more invitations to more dinner parties.
What do you think? Do you have any more tips on how to win The Best Guest Ever Award?