Saturday, September 18, 2010

That's Entertaining! Invitations, Love 'em or Leave 'em

Photo by Silver Starre
by Barbara Burtoff

Dear Barbara:

I was invited to an end-of-summer barbecue party at the home of a longtime friend. When I called to RSVP, she said, “Please bring your sister. There will be several people here that I think she will enjoy meeting.”

I thanked her and phoned my sister. Her response was “I don’t accept secondhand invitations.” I felt caught in the middle, but I dropped the matter. What’s your opinion about this?

Caught In The Middle

Dear Caught:

There are two kinds of people: Those who are more relaxed and casual about life, and open to new experiences, and those who are rigid but self-satisfied at being able to stick to the rules they’ve set for themselves.

You could have said to your friend, “Thank you. That is lovely of you, but could you please call my sister directly and ask her? Here’s her phone number.” But don’t be surprised to hear that your sister turned down the invitation anyway. Some people do not like going to parties, especially big crowds, when they only know the person or couple doing the inviting. They are not good at starting a conversation with strangers and/or find party small talk a big bore.

At the other extreme are the people who love, love, love all party invitations. It gives them a chance to make more friends. It gives them an opportunity to learn the latest going on in their community: the fact a new bakery has opened and they’re having daily specials for a month so that people get to know them; the buzz that some NYC clothing designers have been giving their overstock to a local thrift shop; or, perhaps, the best kept secret of your neighborhood that there are residents who are collectors (toys from the early 1900s, hundreds of Santa tree and room decorations, cookie cutters, cufflinks, ships in bottles, etc.) and once a year open their homes and do presentations of their collections as fundraisers for charities. Parties are great for job networking, too, though there’s a fine line between saying nothing but smiling ever so slightly when you learn something that could change your entire work life and pressing to the point that you scare people away.


A Great Resource for Incomplete Table Settings

Have you ever gone back to a china shop to order two extra settings of your pattern only to learn it’s been discontinued? Did you ever have a silver or stainless fork accidentally meet your disposal? Did a dinner guest ever drop a crystal wine glass that was part of a set inherited from your grandmother?

If you don’t already know about Replacements, Ltd. in Greensboro, NC, take a look at their website. (Phone: 1-800-737-5223) In 2010, they claim to have 13.5 million pieces of china, stoneware, crystal, silverware and stainless flatware covering 300,000 patterns, some more than 100 years old. Don’t know the name of your pattern? Send a photo; they will identify it.

Did I ever order from them? Yes, when I wanted two additional dinner forks and four butter knives for a stainless steel flatware pattern purchased many years earlier and no longer available at local stores. I was told that another company now had the pattern and they were manufacturing it in a different country. Did I want to order the original made in Holland that cost more or order from the current supplier, a manufacturer in Japan? I chose the original maker because I had also been told the new company was turning out place settings slightly shorter in size. I was impressed that they could offer both. I have also bought a saucer to replace one that came with an English bone china tea cup and had broken. I was pleased I could order the saucer without the teacup.


Barbara Burtoff spent 10 years as a food writer and editor for the Boston Herald daily newspaper. She visited farms and markets, attended culinary schools and cooking contests, and covered parties of all sizes from large, gala fundraisers to small gatherings at home. She then left to finish an M.S. Education degree, expanded from one paper to national syndication focusing on consumer/shopping issues, nutrition and psychology of eating topics.

That's Entertaining! is published by the Cleveland Park Listserv. (c) 2010 Barbara Burtoff.  Questions and comments are welcome in the comments section below.

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