Dear Tell All: Something has been bothering me lately, and I'm not sure what to do about it. You see, I love to cook and entertain; absolutely love it. That being said, I'm wondering how to get my invited guests to not bring food. I plan my menu carefully, I shop carefully, I prepare, sometimes for days, and when everyone shows up with something in hand I feel defeated.
Am I wrong to think that if I wanted my events to be a potluck I would express that in my invitation? Do I really need to spell out "please don't bring a dish"? I don't want to sound ungrateful, I know everyone means well, but it honestly makes me wonder if I should just stop hosting events since I end up with a fridge full of uneaten food and a sink full of dirty dishes to show for it.
I'm planning to host my new in-laws and some family friends for dinner this fall, and I'm squirming at the thought of a random side dish or second dessert showing up. Thoughts?
Dear Chef: I'm sympathetic to an artistic temperament, so I understand why you feel frustrated when your beautifully planned meals get messed up by well-meaning amateurs. As an advice columnist, however, I can't in good conscience tell you that it's okay to order your new in-laws not to bring a dish to your upcoming dinner event. They will start calling you "that weird lady with the artistic temperament" behind your back.
So how about a compromise: Put up with the potluck structure for casual get-togethers with family and friends who don't really get your perfectionism. But plan special meals for those who do get it, and who will appreciate an exquisitely crafted evening with your personal stamp on it. It just so happens I'm free next Saturday.
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI, 53703. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.