Donner Dinner Party and You

Fancy dinner

Greetings and Salutations my little kits (that is a baby bunny for those who wish to know these kinds of things)!

Welcome to my maiden blog post for 16MilestoHell.

Recently, on Madame Bunnie’s History hutch, we discussed the dreadfully tragic Donner Party. Lots of fantastic information was shared there that I won’t be repeating here, but you can tune in here to listen to it.

Interestingly, the Donner Party was not a pleasant get together between friends where they shared a lovely meal, but more of a matter of life and death between people who barely knew each other, in some cases, and didn’t like one another, in other cases. Luckily, while some things called a party are equally unpleasant, this is not the case for most party based enterprises.

Assuming you’d like to have a pleasant party, there are some ways you can make sure that the food you serve isn’t what upsets your guests. According to Emily Post’s 18th Edition Etiquette Handbook, a book I recommend any host or hostess keep on hand for any number of social questions, reminds us that a good Host has many tools to utilize in creating a pleasant dinner. For the purposes of the article from here on out, I’ll be alternating between Host and Hostess instead of constantly writing them both and boring you.

First, it’s ever so important that you make sure that any food allergies your guests might have are addressed, such as peanuts, shellfish, or other allergies. I have a friend allergic to cinnamon and another allergic to pepper! It can be hard to accommodate, but as long as you know ahead it shouldn’t make your meal any more difficult. In the case of a particularly difficult to avoid allergy, like pepper, you could opt to make that particular guest a separate meal. This action is both thoughtful and considerate since even people with weird allergies like to have fun with their friends!

Now, it’s important your guests know how to contact you. When you give them invitations, whether by paper or electronically, make sure you provide your number, an amount of time in which to RSVP, any instructions on dress and kids or anything else, and remind them to tell you if they have allergies. You can’t very well be held responsible for a friend that turns purple when you give them onions if they neglected to tell you they turn people when they eat onions, after all!

Now that you’ve considered that, on the food itself. You should be very careful when choosing your meat. Always consider people’s religious beliefs and whether or not the meat you’re serving is culturally acceptable. For instance, it’s usually not okay to serve people other people, and, generally, cannibalism is frowned upon except by the extremely-desperate-about-to-die-sort like the Donner Party and tribes who have yet to realize eating the flesh of the dead is bad juju, not good. For instance, NPR wrote about a tribe in Papua New Guinea in which women and children kept dying of a bizarre laughing disease. While it might sound like fun to die laughing, dying is never fun. It took a long time for people researching it to realize that it was being caused by eating the flesh of the dead! It’s called Kuru, and it’s terribly incurable and kills typically within a year. Plus, only people that eat human flesh can get it. That makes some of the survivors of the Donner Party very lucky they lived long lives after their trials and suffering, which would have only added insult to injury.

For those of you that have realized there are plenty of other meats to serve guests at a dinner party than people, the only other consideration for meat is that you don’t feed someone something opposed to their beliefs. For instance, if you’re going to have vegetarians as guests, make sure you have plenty of options for them but don’t feel like you need to avoid serving meat altogether. I suggest avoiding inviting vegans to a dinner party unless you’re all eating vegan because their diets are much more strict than others, plus, I hear-tell they like to make meat eaters feel guilty. We can’t have your other guests uncomfortable. They might not come back!

You might be wondering, at this point, why it is I haven’t mentioned how to behave as a guest. Well, you’re in luck! I was just about to help you with that. There’s nothing that will ruin a Hostess’s party for her like having a rude, inconsiderate, or thoughtless guest. And I know none of you would ever want to be the person to cause your Hostess distress that makes her sneak into her pantry and pull out her hair when no one’s looking, so I’m going to give you what guidance I can.

We’ll have plenty of time to discuss things unrelated to food in future posts, so we’ll focus only on the food portion of the dinner. There are a few ways, as a guest, you can contribute to the overall smoothness of the meal and the enjoyment of the other guests. For instance, food should be passed from left to right, according to Emily Post, but it can also go left to right, as long as it goes in the same direction. And, when you move to pass the dish, you should offer it utensils toward the other guest and hold it while they serve themselves. Unless, of course, it’s a particularly heavy dish, in which case you should set it down for them.

While attending a dinner, it is impolite not at least to take a bite of everything your Host offers you. After all, they have gone through a great deal of effort to create this feast for you, even if it’s not all your favorite foods. In a formal setting, you should always taste everything. But, in an informal setting, you’ll have a bit more leeway to pick and choose without offering offense. Also, if you know your Host and the other guests particularly well, then you’re safe to pick and choose. The reasoning behind this is that by refusing any food you’ve been offered, you could lead other guests to believe you are rude, or you think the food is not good enough for you. While I’m at it, never ask other guests if they mind you taking the last of something, or ask your host if there is more. To do so implies you think they haven’t provided enough food! Heaven forbid you leave a bad impression upon guest or host.

There remain but a few other odds and ends to be mentioned, which seem trifling, but do contribute to a smooth dinner. People seem very confused how to eat or handle bread, which is dumbfounding to me since we eat so much of it! Allow me to assist here. You should take a pat of butter and place it on your bread plate or the side of your dinner plate with the knife provided on the butter dish. Then, you break off a small piece of bread (by small we mean bite size) and butter it then put it immediately into your mouth. I’m assuming we all know to chew with our mouths closed. Never butter an entire piece of bread, or spread the butter onto the bread with the butter dish knife, or bite from the whole piece you’ve taken, that’s how we get crumbs. Surely you don’t want ants because that’s how we get ants.

That is all I have for you, this time, my little kits. My sincere hope is that you not only enjoyed reading this but that you also learned a little something.

As always, I welcome your questions and will do my utmost to answer them.

Be well and be good,

Madame Bunnie

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Madame Bunnie

Greetings and Salutations! I am Madame Bunnie and I host the History Hutch. I have a host of knowledge on a myriad of subjects, but I have a love of history, even if it isn't my only or favorite love. It's fun to learn about history and I'm here to share it with you in the History Hutch! I also love etiquette, so will be imparting good manners upon you all that coincide with our History Hutch lessons!

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