Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Western hospitality.

Southerners know some things that folks from different parts of the world don't. I swear, when it comes to social etiquette, you're two steps behind if you weren't born and bred in The South. Four and a half years in Nashville and it still boggles my mind.

When you ask a few friends over to watch football, don't be surprised if they each show up with at least two bags of chips and a twelver of beer. Even if you're like, we've got stuff here so just come on by. Be prepared to spend a full 10 hours drinking beer and eating chips only to wake up the next morning to find an untapped 5 liter box of Franzia Chillable Red in your fridge. Just be grateful no one discovered it the night before.

I love everything about Southern hospitality except for the fact that it makes reciprocation a little tricky. I mean, if we're invited to say, a grill out, what exactly are we supposed to bring? Meat to grill? A dish to share? A case of beer? All of the above? I'm serious. If you are rolling your eyes like, Duh, isn't it obvious?, No! It isn't obvious! Please, just tell me what I should do!

And while you're at it, could you tell me what I should bring to a friend's house for dinner? And don't give me the old, just bring a bottle of wine, business because folks around here are way more creative than that. Some of the things friends have brought to my house for dinner include: a salad and a few liters of home-brewed cider; sausage balls, a big bottle of Jack Daniel's and two bottles of wine; a box of gourmet hot dogs and a six pack of beer; and a complete ice cream sundae bar. Once some friends brought over everything you would possibly need to make sushi. For eight. A friend came over to help us fix our computer and brought along a basket of homemade muffins. Are you starting to understand how this could get tricky?

I'm an outsider trying to navigate this terrain that comes so naturally to the natives. Things like, If y'all are around this weekend, you should come by, roll of their tongues leaving me grabbing my pocket translator like, When you say this weekend do you mean Saturday or Sunday? Or Friday night? Is this like an invitation to something and if so, to what exactly? Is there a time involved? Will other people be there? Oh, and uh (gulp), what should I bring...

I can't imagine how much we've missed out on just because the invitation got lost in translation.

Earlier this week we were invited to dinner at our friends' house for the very first time. We knew they were making chili so we wanted to bring something that would complement the meal. Cornbread is the obvious choice but I've done that before and regretted it. My Jiffy muffins were a pathetic offering next to a piping hot batch of cornbread made from a recipe that had been in our hostess's family forever. (Who could have seen that one coming? I thought everyone knew that Jiffy cornbread muffins are the undisputed champ.)

I talked to Bill about it and we decided on beer. I asked him to pick it up on the way home leaving the age-old dilemma of how much up to him. A six pack looks good, is easy to carry and seems appropriate for a weeknight. But really a six pack is only enough for one and a half beers each. If the beer we bring is the only beer and everyone is drinking beer well, you see how this could be a problem. But showing up to dinner with a twelve pack and a two year old on a week night seems a little, oh I don't know, lush?

To put myself at ease, I made some chocolate chip cookies to bring along for dessert. They're kid friendly, easy to make and don't require plates or forks. And who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies? (No one, that's who.)

I wrapped them up in a colorful take out container which looked cute and was easy to carry. Along with a good six pack, this felt like a perfect bring along for dinner with friends.

Take out container, World Market: $1.
Not leaving another dish behind to be lost forever: priceless.

Here's the recipe I used. It is what came up first when I googled easy chewy chocolate chip cookies. Thanks Cooks Country!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 sm. pkg. chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. nuts (optional)

Mix well and bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes or until barely turning brown.

If you forget and bake them a little longer, they're crunchy, not chewy. I did a chewy batch and a crunchy batch - totally on purpose - and they were both good.


Sip said...

I have some advice for you. Take your chocolate cream cheese cupcakes (aka Maggie's Marvolous Muffins) to any party/get together and you will never go wrong! Sooooo good!


sunny @ hooprama said...

were we the sundae bar??? did I bring cherries? can't wait to try your cookie recipe- yum!

Maggie Conran said...

yes, you were the sundae bar! and you brought EVERYTHING...

ae said...

Maggie - You, Bill and anyone you know are welcome to join us at the skating rink - we've found a small group that are willing to put wheels to wood, and the results range from magical to terrifying. I'll let him know when we go next.

Love the blog.

And yes, as a native of Atlanta, I have to tell you, the correct response to any invitation is, "What can I bring?" If you really don't want them to bring anything, the best response is, "Just yourself and a smile". Doesn't work, but - eh, what can you do?

Girl Healthy said...

Oh you seem to have this all figured out.

Alcohol is always a welcome addition for any occasion. Case in point, I was once invited to a baby shower where I was asked to bring a gender-neutral gift. So naturally I brought Jack Daniel's... it was a hit! But what's this I hear about chocolate cream cheese cupcakes? OMG, um, I'm gonna invite you over just so you'll bring those!!

LClaire said...

You are the best of hosts AND guests! Anyone who gets the benefit of your company (and cookies) is lucky!!!

sunT said...

i keep meaning to tell you those cookies were AMAZING. i dont even usaully care for nuts but the next day i went to get more and jared had eaten all the rest thinking i wouldnt have liked them!!!! you can bring those anytime!!!!!!!

MarvelousMOM said...

Yikes, I would be confused too. I would have just as much of a hard time if not more. I am terrible at thinking of fun things to bring to peoples houses! Those cookies look yummy. It is only 7:30am and I know want a whole dozen to myself!