guests bringing own food

teatime_2007September 6, 2007

Hi, I have had my mil over to visit me and my baby while we are in the area for a few months while my husband is away. She brought her own food to the visit. Now my fil is visiting, they're divorced and he said he is bringing his own food too...I know my mil told him to. I find this strange. I am a not a bad cook, I mean I would just be making light sandwichs or something. My mil brought cheese and crackers and a gross rotisserie chicken that was all withered. I think they are just trying to be nice and not cause me to have to work for them and prepare something, but I find it a little insulting because I was raised to enjoy entertaining guests and I guess some pride is attached to it. I told my fil that it wasn't necessary, but he insists on bringing all the food they will eat. I want to feed them and they were invited by me only they kind of picked when they would come visit. Maybe this is why they feel the need to bring their own food? They have zero eating restrictions so that is not it and I have no financial problems, so that is not it either.

Maybe I should be more formal with them and send invitations to the next get together? I've just never heard of bringing all the food to someone else's house, it's not a potluck, my child is almost 1.5, so I'm not exactly dealing with a newborn. If they are trying to make it easy on me they are not succeeding because my mind is boggled and by their behavior.

I think I may just ask straight out to my fil "Why do you feel like you have to bring your own food?" or is this rude. I'm interested in your opinions. Thanks!

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I think you probably hit it on the head that they are trying not to make work for you. Some people can't stand the idea of "taking" from anyone. Maybe that's how they are. Do you know whether this is the pattern with the rest of the family and/or their friends?

I am glad you are ascribing good motives, not bad ones, to them -- but you are better off not trying to guess their motives at all.

Just ask for what you want to have happen. You wrote, "I was raised to enjoy entertaining guests and I guess some pride is attached to it. ... I want to feed them." So just tell them that. Something like, "You all are always so considerate when you come, bringing your own food, but sometimes I enjoy entertaining. On Sunday I'm fixing a special treat for all of us, so this time please don't bring anything." Or, if you think they will feel too uncomfortable not bringing anything at all, ask them to bring soda or ice or something. People, especially relatives, often feel more like "insiders" if they contribute to the meal.

Most important, don't get into a discussion about whose way is right or wrong -- can you see what a non-starter that would be? -- and don't tell them that they are actually making it hard for you because it is boggling your mind. Definitely don't send them written invitations; I think most people would likely find it rather hostile and distancing to receive a written invitation to an ordinary visit at their own child's home. If I got that from a son and daughter-in-law, I would feel like they were trying to tell me I am a stranger to them.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 11:26AM
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My mom is the same way. Whenever she has come to my house to babysit for the weekend or even longer, she will bring her own food. She is also divorced from my dad and she feels as though we are a young family making ends met. I even try to fill the house with her favorite foods. Yet she still rarely eats my food. Now i will premake somefoods that she really enjoys. She hates to let good food go to waste. Your MIL is just trying to be kind. She doesnt want to be a fuss during her stay. Next time she calls tell her you have her favorite lasagna waiting for her.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 12:29PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

It is also possible that they have a reason they don't want to eat your food: cats on the counter, the place isn't clean enough for them, could be anything.
Is there any reason you couldn't just talk about it in a nice way? I would.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 5:23PM
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I would just come out and ask them...but if there is something like "a cat on the counter issue", you probably won't get the truth. Is there a chance your husband could ask? Where is he --why are you in the area for a few months-- could that be pertinent to this situation? Maybe they really just like to bring stuff with mom always brings stuff...but not food for herself to eat; she brings cookies and such for the kids to eat some other time. I find it really odd that your FIL is bringing his own food too. I can see a pushy food MIL, but a FIL?

I'm really thinking, though, that if your husband is away in the military or something similar, and you are alone with a small child that they probably really are just trying to help you out. It's close family; I think they're allowed to break etiquette rules from time to time. Enjoy the break in cooking.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 6:02PM
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She just wants to contribute to the meal....don't take it too seriously...she's just feeding you as you are feeding is love!
I almost always take something when I go to my kids' houses for a meal.....and they bring something to my house.
Don't sweat small least they come! Tell her thanks for the chicken but you have tonight's meal under control and will put it away for a future ues...
Then feed it to the cat if you like.
She means well....just trying to contribute to the effort.
Linda C

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 7:15PM
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Thanks for the advice. I think it is true they are just trying to make less work for me and I think I'll just try to enjoy it. We don't have any animals, cats on the counter, that's gross, and I'm a clean freak especially with the baby and food. I think the posts that say they are trying to be nice are more on point. I think I may just say how much I enjoy cooking and maybe next time tell them I am excited to cook for them and hopefully they'll let me! I think I should be grateful that they are thinking of making things easy.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 11:37PM
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My FIL visited 2x this summer with his own food. He eats a very strict mostly vegetarian diet and was just ensuring that he had what he needed. I made the dinners in accordance with his dietary considerations, but he took care of himself for B&L. It was fine. I was not insulted at all. I was just happy to see him.

MIL babysat years ago for a few days at a time when my DD was young and she too brought items that she absolutely "had to have". I had already bought them, but she was just trying to be polite.

These are your inlaws, just let it ride. Don't be insulted. Life is too short and I am certainly sure this is no reflection on your entertaining or culinary skills, but rather your inlaws just trying to be helpful.

BTW - all my inlaws eat everything I cook on a holiday:))).

Also, no written invitations - bad idea.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 6:16AM
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Why not invite them over and tell them you've made this new dish you'd like to share with them and to please come for dinner. See what they say to that?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 4:35PM
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I agree that next time tell them you will be making sandwiches and soup (or whatever) and to not bring anything.

I was very insulted once when I had a family dinner and my brother brought those meat/cheese/cracker type meals for his 3 kids (between 7 years and 13 at the time). He said they didn't like lasange which was my main dish, but I also had several other dishes plus appetizers. If my daughter didn't like the main dish at a dinner, I would figure she would fill up on other things (or just go hungry). I'd never take special food for her unless she had allergies. I didn't say anything to him, but I thought it was incredibly rude.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 3:18PM
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lydia - I agree with you to a point about bringing kids' foods. When my daughter was very young she was a very picky eater and there were certain foods she couldn't not because of allergies. I always fed her a dinner before going out if we were invited to a friends' or family's home. I even did it if we went out to a restaurant. I felt better because she had/has trouble gaining weight, and I didn't want to insult my hostess, especially if it was someone who didn't know of my daughter's health issues. I also enjoyed my dinner knowing that nutritionally she was fine even if she could eat nothing at the dinner party.

I guess what I don't understand about your post is that these children of your brother's are your neice and nephew. That is about as close as family members get. The fact that they came and you had a special family dinner I think is more important than the fact that your brother brought some things for the kids. You don't mention a wife so I am thinking he really didn't think about it being rude, and that it wasn't an intentional insult. I am sure your lasagne is delicious, but you know how little kids can be with foods. My 7 year old neice doesn't eat a thing when she comes for any event. Things can't touch on the plate. It's nuts, but my SIL is in charge of teaching her and is surely lacking in that regard.

Thirteen is a bit different. I do think children need to be taught to take a little of what served at a dinner party despite whether they like it, save allergies or other health issues. Perhaps if you and your brother are close, and he doesn't have a proper mother for the children, you would be helping him out by letting him know a better way to do it prior to a family dinner party, i.e., feed the 7 year old a little dinner before attending a dinner party rather than bringing snacks. If the mom isn't in the picture or is clueless herself, that's a big problem. The parents are the ones responsible for teaching the children the rules of eating out.

I guess I am much more tolerant since I have so many family members that are vegetarians, vegans, special diets, etc. that bringing what you eat isn't so insulting to me. If I am entertaining one of the family members who is following a different diet than most of the guests, I make a couple of extra dishes that they can and will eat - most times everyone enjoys a different dish as well.

Since cooking is my biggest hobby, I look forward to crazy eaters as it stretches my culinary muscles finding unique things to serve along with usual foods to make everyone feel special.

I hope the next dinner party is better! I know you must feel like you went to alot of trouble to make a very nice dinner and your brother essentially ruined it for you.

Maybe the kids could learn a little something before the next invitation.

Best regards.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 5:15PM
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Labmomma - my brother does have a wife (my favorite sister-in-law in fact) and yes, she was there that day...I think my biggest complaint is how they cater to their kids. We'll decide on a restaurant based on where the kids want to eat (even if it is one of the adults birthday's we are celebrating). I guess I just grew up believing that you eat what is served. My daughter has done so and managed to grow up to be a healthy well-adjusted 18 year old who recently ate escargo, duck and other unusual foods on a cruise and liked them!

The event in question was a couple years ago, we've had others since then and no special foods were brought thankfully. IF they had allergies or other dietary needs I would certainly try to accomodate them. They are just picky and spoiled when it comes to food! Good kids otherwise.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 6:48PM
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I totally understand you. My in-laws do the same thing with one kid. I almost wish they would bring her food, but they usually take over my kitchen and stove and my stuff to cook her something or ask me to cook her something special...when I'm trying to get the dinner out! I just don't understand.

My one son is a very picky eater. I have been known to feed him before events, or just let him go hungry at a party...he will not die missing a meal or only snacking on chips for one meal. The in-laws also do the b-day thing. They make the cake and food based on what this one kid likes, not the favorite cake or food for the b-day adult. I just fine it odd and think it will only backfire on the poor kid...when she grows up and the whole world doesn't cater to her, I'm not sure she'll know how to handle it. So sad that I don't think they see the whole picture.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 10:33AM
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I am courious. If a guest brings food and you cook a meal for the rest of the people, do they just put out what they brought along and only eat that?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 10:16AM
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