What is the best hostess gift? It’s a question that plagues us every holiday season. Our very clever, very clothed Never Cook Naked columnists, Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein, answer.
Best Hostess Gifts
Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: Can we discuss the best hostess gifts one ought to bring? Something to eat or drink that night? Or something for them to enjoy on their own?—Rather Not Be Empty-Handed
Dear Handed: We majored in deportment at finishing school. It was either that or dressage. We think we chose the better part of valor. So you’re about to witness our prim side—and our rules on what to present to hosts and hostesses.
1. Forget flowers. They’re the cruelest hostess gifts. No host wants to be fussing over flaccid tulips while greeting other guests, taking coats, and shaking cocktails. If you insist on flowers, send them earlier in the day—and yes, you must splurge to have them arrive arranged in a vase.
2. Unless you were asked to contribute something, don’t bring anything edible to serve that night. The dinner has been planned. Everything’s got its place. This isn’t a family reunion.
3. Avoid gifts for children or pets. People have rules on what the wee ones can play with or eat. Sometimes they’re the same rules. Regardless, steer clear.
4. Bring a discreetly packaged food gift, but don’t assume it will be served that evening. May we suggest a choice bottle of vodka, bourbon, or rum? Maybe an artisanal food find? A box of handmade chocolate bark from a local candy store? You get the idea. When in doubt, think local. If you bring wine, remember that your hostess may have already selected the evening’s pour and will enjoy your bottle at another time. Besides, it’s a tad self-serving—nay, tacky—to show up with something which you intend to quaff yourself. To save myself from your swill, I have brought my own. It doesn’t seem to set the right tone.
5. Bring something for breakfast. Nothing’s more appreciated than can’t-stop-at-just-one muffins from a local bakery or some homemade granola and a container of ridiculously pricey Greek-style yogurt. Chances are your host or hostess has spent all day cooking and will be up half the night cleaning. The last thing that person will want to do the next morning is make breakfast and then clean up afterward. Although if you’re spending the night and not sleeping in the guest bedroom, this is an entirely different situation, in which case you might consider something a little more . . . well, never mind. That’s a scenario that’s a little less than fit for a family-friendly column.
Our very clever, very clothed Never Cook Naked columnists are at your disposal, able to troubleshoot everything from questionable table etiquette to tricky cooking techniques (as well as, natch, proper cooking attire). Curious to learn more solutions to culinary conundrums? Just ask! Drop us a comment below.
Originally published December 10, 2021