One reason I liked being a reporter was that I got to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes you have to ask a delicate question that you know will make someone feel emotional, or embarrassed, or angry. Sometimes you want a certain answer so you ask the same question in different ways a hundred times. This was part of the fun, and asking questions always came easily to me.
But there is one exception. There is a question most of us ask without thinking. A question I ask time and time again. And every single time I ask this question when I am invited somewhere, it strikes fear in my heart. And that question is: “Can I bring anything?”
If I ask you this question, the correct response is: “No, thanks.”
Otherwise it opens a can of worms (okay, maybe not the best metaphor in a discussion about food) that nearly ruins the event before it even starts.
This is especially complicated when I don’t know the hosts or many of the guests. Such as the party I’m going to tomorrow. When I asked the question, as usual: “Can I bring anything?” unfortunately I got an answer. And unfortunately, the answer was, “An appetizer”.
Sounds simple. If you’re Rachael Ray. Or my friend Jane who brings fantastic home-cooked dishes to other people’s homes— making people like me look bad by comparison. Fortunately Jane is not invited tomorrow night.
But I am, and I immediately wonder if they will expect something homemade. If they knew me at all, which of course they don’t, that would be easy. Years ago I gave up the stress of cooking for other people’s parties. And I normally try to avoid the stress of cooking for my own.
Even leaving aside for the moment what actually constitutes an appetizer, there are still so many issues. Is anyone in this group vegan? Kosher? Paleo? Gluten-free? Diabetic? Allergic? A regular viewer of the Food Channel? Would they expect goose liver and truffles, or would they be happy with something from Costco?
It would have been so much easier if my assignment was dessert. At least that’s an area where I have some expertise.
Obviously I’m not the only one confronted with this problem. My friend once asked a hostess having a barbecue for a large group, “Can I bring anything?” And she was told, “You can bring the meat.”
Pricy. But easier than an appetizer.