Some moron in the 12th century came up with the idea of offering a gift to someone who invites you to dinner. There is nothing wrong with this concept, but how do you know what kind of an event it will be, and you’ve already given them a thank you gift before you know what you are thanking them for. What if the food is lousy, the coffee is cold, the host spills his martini in your lap and the dog humps your leg all night? Hardly worth the $13.76 you spent on the gift, which, of course, you can’t get back.
When this tradition was introduced to yours truly several years ago, we would take a bouquet of flowers from our garden. This did not necessitate a 45-minute shopping nightmare trying to find something unique and clever, different from all the other offerings to be displayed on the cook’s counter.
There are two issues here: pocketbook and pride. First, how do you give something useful and yet inexpensive. If you go out and buy a bottle of fine wine, your bill could be upwards of $12-$15. If you purchase, not grow, a bouquet of flowers (those that won’t die four hours after sucking the vase water), the price could be close to $20. Secondly, if you buy something inexpensive, like my favorite, a package of cocktail napkins, you look like a real jerk next to the guy who popped for the Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape (vintage 1971, barrel #9,411).
There are more than 147 packages of cocktail napkins in our pantry decorated with everything from tennis trivia to ta ta jokes. The typical plastic wrapping makes them impossible to stack, so they keep slipping off the shelf. There are not enough shelves to line them up in rows so these “gifts” have become a source of serious stress at the old homestead.
Everyone knows that no one has the time or the desire to go out and search for just the right wine for whatever occasion, so all of the wine that is so carefully placed in fancy wine bags is nothing more than the first bottle that has been re-gifted over 100 times.
A better tradition might be to wait until after the dinner party to send a gift. This way if it was a first-class event, the gift would more accurately reflect the credit due. If the evening was a real bomb, then perhaps a Boone’s Farm or a Gallo Gris might be more appropriate.
— Sandra Moulin
Sandra Moulin, a freelance writer from Wilmington, N.C., is a retired master French and humanities high school and college teacher. She has self-published two volumes of humorous essays, Before and Laughter and Laughterwards. She writes for four local publications and gives humorous workshops and presentations.