Q: I have a large family of children and grandchildren. They spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to get me for Mother’s Day. They always come and see me and take me to lunch or dinner or call me. I try to tell them each year, I do not need any gifts. I decided a couple of months ago, I would put out the word that if they felt they had to give me something, I would prefer they “consider” (I did not say “make”) a donation to a charity of their choice instead. I thought it was a pretty good idea, but apparently one of my daughters-in-law decided it wasn’t and chastised me for dictating what I wanted rather than giving everyone the option. Did I really commit such a huge faux pas and do I owe everyone an apology?
A: No, you did not commit any kind of faux pas. You were not dictating, but instead offering a very nice option for them to consider and an opportunity for them to help others who are less fortunate. That’s a very important lesson in life. You do not need to apologize to anyone, nor do you need to feel obligated to further explain or clarify your comments.
Q: My daughter works as a server for large banquets. She and the other servers have been told to remove the salt and pepper shakers from the tables before dessert is served. She asked me if she should remove the salt and pepper from her own dining table before she serves dessert?
A: Whether you choose to remove the salt and pepper shakers from your own dining table is your decision based on the following:
1. If, for instance, you have eight diners at your table and you provide a set of salt and pepper shakers in between every two diners, and you have other condiment serving pieces, such as sour cream or gravy, requiring removal before the main course, then it is relatively unobtrusive to simultaneously remove the salt and pepper shakers along with the other condiment serving pieces.
2. If you, the hostess, is servicing your own dinner party, and if the salt and pepper shakers are decorative and would be the only condiment containers being removed prior to serving dessert, it is not necessary to remove them because it would be more time consuming and a bit disruptive to reach in a second time. Furthermore, the more guests see the hostess servicing the table, the more inclined the guests feel obligated to get up and help, which is something most hostesses do not want to occur. Having this happen not only totally disrupts the conversation at the dining table, but it also disrupts the hostess’s plan in her kitchen for serving quickly and efficiently.
3. If you have hired a professional server to assist with your dinner party, then having the salt and pepper shakers removed prior to dessert is more appropriate.
Q: You recently had someone ask about refilling water glasses. In a restaurant, I prefer to have the waiter pick up my water glass and refill it behind my back and then return it to the appropriate spot within my place setting. I feel this is a much better scenario than having someone reaching in and sloshing water and ice into my glass and often spilling it outside the glass. I think it is much better for the others with whom I am dining as well.
A: I prefer the method you describe of refilling my water glass as well. There are some diners, however, who do not want a waiter to touch their water glass any more than necessary. They feel it is possibly unsanitary. My feeling is as long as the waiter picks up my water glass by the stem, I do not have any problems. If the waiter picks up my water glass above the stem, I am likely not to drink any more water. And, if I see a waiter place a water glass on the table with his fingers around the rim of the glass, whether it is my glass or not, I will not take a drink from my glass. Handling a water glass, iced tea glass, or wine glass in this manner is totally, totally inappropriate.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.