What to do if you’ve planned a casual dinner for six, the table is set, the dinner is made. But then neighbors drop off their daughter for the Halloween party in progress and end up staying a while and chatting, totally oblivious to the fact that dinner service is imminent… and they’re not on the guest list. How to resolve a situation like this without making anyone feel bad, or ruining the dinner I’ve worked hard to prepare?
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I’m a fan of giving people a chance to catch on, thinking surely they will see the table set and just waiting to have dinner placed upon it. How long must you wait? As long as what you’ve prepared can bear it, assuming that your other guests are sufficiently supplied with drinks and snacks. If the lasagna is drying out in the oven and still no light bulb has appeared over the heads of your drop-ins, try something like “Ah, there goes the timer! We’re just about to sit down for dinner and would love it if you would join us.” Likely they will refuse, but your gracious invitation -- issued with real sincerity, one hopes -- will leave your excellent neighborly relations intact. And if they accept, squeeze in two more place settings, cut the pieces of lasagna a little smaller, open another bottle of wine and it will be as though the meal was always meant for eight.