Planning for Waste...
In what has become a tradition, every September I hold a party where I bring together my disparate groups of friends and see what happens. There are those the swim, my tri friends, my work friends, my college friends and my friends of friends or friends I meet through other avenues. Needless to say, the shindig can get to be moderately large, in this case about 45 people (that freaked me out when I saw how large the evite had grown to be!) But being a good host, I tried to plan accordingly, the operative word her is plan. I partly put myself through college working for campus catering. I often wonder if I had not been raised so technically inclined, would I have considered a career in hospitality. So I can put together a function (listed on our call sheets as "f(x)" -- dang I went to an overachieving college) fairly well. I know that there is a 10 - 20% flake rate, until there isn't. So I planned for the RSVP case plus 50% of the maybes. I provided the staples, drinks and an assortment of snackables.
I like themes and constraints, and this time I created the theme of "citrus" in the tradition of "Iron Chef" asking guests who cared to participate to bring a dish with a citrus element. It was fantastic, people concocted some very clever and more importantly tasty dishes. But here is the rub, some people felt obligated to bring store made food, that wasn't citrus related. Now, I know good manners is good manners, but oddly the guilt leads to waste. Store bought foods tend to be super sweet, meaning most people take a little of the food leaving a lot left over. Some of this food goes to waste and let's not forget all the packaging. For some reason, home made food does not seem to stay as long.
The other aspect is that when people don't show up, the host inevitably buys more food than is needed and guess what, that might go to waste as well. So the irony of planning is that it can backfire. So if you give guidance, give true guidance. And while I understand that etiquette and manners is often a set of rules, it's also a set of values. And understanding the values is more than understanding the rules.
So as we hit peak giving season, and the economy continues to go to pot (the etiology of this is that when a work animal is no longer useful, it well becomes dinner being cooked in a pot) don't feel obligated to give gifts just to give a gift. Understand what is useful and meaningful. Meanwhile, I'm still eating out my leftovers.
There are superficial manners and there