Q: When is the proper time to remove your guests’ dinner plates – after everyone is finished? I have a friend that insists on helping out at dinner parties but she starts removing plates before all are finished. She also insists on putting away food from buffets within 15-20 minutes of the meal. I think it is better to leave the food out and let people browse for a bit. I prefer to not remove dinner plates for at least five minutes after the final course so no one is rushed and they can enjoy conversation. I do appreciate her help but it sometimes stops the conversations and makes the slow eater feel uncomfortable. Am I wrong in politely asking my friend to hold off. What is correct?
A: No, you are not wrong at all. Explain that some people feel bad or rushed when their places are cleared before everyone is finished, or they are left with a plate when no one else has one. Tell her you love her help, but need her to please watch for a cue from you, and to not start clearing without your ok, because you don’t want anyone to be upset. When she starts to clear the buffet, go to her and thank her so much for her help, but tell her you are not yet ready to have food cleared and if she is still willing to help a little later it would be wonderful, but not now. If she argues, remind her that this is your party and tell her she is upsetting you instead of helping you. You don’t have to be so sensitive of her feelings when she is disregarding your requests to cease and desist and you may have to be a little firm. If this means she doesn’t help you any more, so be it. At least the pressure will be off your efforts to be a gracious hostess.