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  1. Gigi

    How to have a visiting relative wait until everyone is ready to sit down before eating?

    This is something that comes up each time my in-laws come to stay, especially at breakfast time. I like to make them cooked breakfasts. It’s a way I can show my appreciation that they are there to visit, and I like to do it – it’s not an obligation but a pleasure. But my father-in-law has a tendency to assume that the minute SOME of the bacon is cooked, or the first pancake is off the skillet, that breakfast is ready. He will sit down (I have the table set at that point) and start eating the other, cold, items (e.g. fruit, muffins) that I have put out. But I’m not ready to serve breakfast yet! I’m not done cooking and therefore I cannot sit down with everyone yet. Implicit in his behavior is that he thinks that I will be sitting by the stove cooking food and bringing each batch out as it is cooked. (To be fair, this is what my MIL does at her home, so he’s not actually intentionally being rude).

    Instead, I tend to get all the cold foods ready, table set, then cook hot foods, keep them hot in stove/oven, or simply not worry if the first-cooked batch of pancakes is cooler than the last-cooked (indeed, I stack the pancakes with the last on top, and they tend to keep the older batch underneath warm anyway). I’m pretty good with cooking and time it nicely so that, say, the last of the pancakes and the last of the bacon are cooked at the same time.

    Is there any polite way that I can have my FIL wait until the food is ready and until we can all sit down together? NOTE: My MIL is often a tad late (e.g. 1 to 5 mins after food is cooked) to the breakfast table, and of course I’m happy to wait for her. I’m just pointing out that simply fixing the meal for an earlier time won’t help.

    It sort of bugs me if people assume that just because I’m cooking, I wouldn’t be joining them at the breakfast table. But I want to handle this with good etiquette. I’m sure my in-laws must have made allowances for me at times that I’ve been unaware of, just as my FIL is unaware that I find his behavior a little rude.

    FYI – I have 2 little kids too (ages 3 and 5), although I don’t know if that has any bearing on anything.

    Do I just leave well enough alone, or is there a polite way with correct etiquette that I can stop him jumping the gun? Because when he starts sitting down and eating, others drift toward the table too and then I wind up not having a chance to announce that it’s ready, plus I wind up having to sit down and eat after everyone else is seated and started eating.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Is there a living room you can tell them to wait in and have some coffee while you finish cooking? You could also wait to set the table and just make a stack of plates, forks, etc. When you’re done or almost done cooking you can say “Breakfast is almost ready. Can you all please help set the table?” The non-set table will hopefully send a message that it’s not time to eat.

  2. Gigi

    Thanks so much! That sounds like a really great idea. And yes, I do like to have the coffee ready early, so offering him coffee to drink in the living room will probably work out really well for my FIL and me.

    I especially like your idea of making a stack of the plates and silverware etc. I had only thought of having the table completely set, or completely un-set – and un-set stressed me out! Plus, I’m sure my husband (maybe my FIL) and anyone else in the room at the time will be willing to help out with setting the table while I finish the last bits of cooking.

    Thank you again for your help, it is much appreciated. My in-laws are planning another visit with us soon, and thanks to you I’m looking forward to an easier breakfast-time with them!

    • Alicia

      Pancakes are dish that is best served hot off the griddle. Why not either put the cooked pancakes in the oven to stay warm or pick a dish like baked french toast where the whole amount comes out at the same time. Also you can do oven baked bacon ( which is actually easier for a crowd and equally delicious)By picking dishes where all the food comes out at once as opposed to foods that are best eaten hot off the oven you set yourself up for everyone eating together. Pancakes by contrast get bad when waiting and I totally understand how in a casual family environment the expectation would be to eat the hot pancakes.

      • Gigi

        Hi Alicia,

        Thanks so much! Changing the menu can also work, or putting pancakes in the oven to keep them hot, like you said. I just didn’t want to be the sort of person that NEVER cooks pancakes for company just because of the timing issues, but on the other hand, nor do I want to remain cooking after everyone else is seated. I know some people who do it, but I don’t like to do that – I prioritize togetherness over and above food perfection. If I make pancakes next time though, I will keep them hot in the oven. Great idea!

        I will have to find out how to do oven cooked bacon too! Wish I’d known about that years ago! Thanks for the idea!

  3. Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt

    I have a couple of friends that I only communicate with via email. What is a realistic response time? My rule of thumb has always been about a week. Is that reasonable? Shoudl it be longer? And when they don’t get back to you, should you send them a follow-up email? I don’t want to be pushy. How do you handle this nicely?

    • Nina

      Hi Lisa,

      I struggle with this one too–the wait always seems longer than I was expecting. I’ve found that if it’s a social email, a “hey, how are you? this is how I am” sort of thing, there is no standard response time. The more organized and interested in keeping in touch a person is, the quicker they will respond. If I’m worried the email got bounced or something, I might send a little follow-up to see if they got it, but otherwise there is not much you can do.

      However, if there is specific information you’d like, the email should give a timeline–like, if you’d like to have your friend over for dinner in a month, ask her to please let you know if she’s free within two weeks so you can plan accordingly. Then you can follow up if she forgets that timeline–sometimes via phone is better than another email.

      As well, many people seem to prefer texting or even Facebook for making plans these days. If you are not getting the responses you want and don’t understand why, maybe change your medium.

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