Miss Manners: Avoid burning dinner guests when serving warmed plates

June 14, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I discovered last winter that my kitchen cabinets, which are along an outside wall, are cold, although my kitchen is usually warm. Future modifications to the house notwithstanding, I am thinking about heating my dinner plates, like the English.

Is there a particular etiquette I should be aware of, such as warning guests and family that their plates are hot? Is it okay to put a trivet or mat at each place to prevent burning the tablecloth?

GENTLE READER: First increase your insurance. Miss Manners gathers that you are planning to heat your plates to scorching.

Not a good idea. If the food needs to be baked or broiled in the dish in which it is served, that dish requires an underliner. Otherwise, what you want to achieve are pleasantly warm plates.

Before the English discovered central heating, which was somewhat later than the rest of the world, they kept themselves warm by standing in front of huge fires and, when sufficiently fried, turning around to defrost their backs. But people no longer tolerate being singed, not even for the sake of a hot meal.

So instead of putting the plates in the oven with the roast, use a soft, cloth plate warmer that folds on itself over and over, inserting plates between each fold. The plates are thus warmed, but not to a temperature that can damage your tablecloth or your guests.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 16-year-old daughter had a friend stay over Saturday night. On Sunday morning my daughter went to Sunday school and church service (10 to 12 o’clock) with her boyfriend. My daughter almost never goes to church.

I objected to her going, but gave in and told her she could go only for Sunday school. Due to an alleged misunderstanding, my daughter stayed for church service as well.

Her friend was hurt. My eldest daughter (dead-tired) drove her home because my youngest was not back in time to do so.

I think my daughter should have skipped her Sunday date (which had been tentative all along), and that I was wrong to give in and she to insist on going. She disagrees. What do you think? Are any apologies in order?

GENTLE READER: Not just apologies, but groveling apologies are in order. Miss Manners can imagine how that poor young lady felt, waiting around awkwardly for a hostess who decided she had better things to do.

Perhaps the religious angle befuddled you into condoning such an outrageous sin against hospitality. (Parenting tip: No, the incentive was the boyfriend.) But in that case, the guest should have been told in advance about the plan to attend church and invited to go along. If she chose not to, she could have departed earlier.

Your daughter, in apologizing to her friend, pretty much needs to plead insanity, that she doesn’t know what she was thinking, that she was confused about what everyone was doing when — and then blubber about how awful she feels, how she stupidly missed spending more time with her friend, and so on. She should then issue another invitation.

And you should instruct her thoroughly on hostess duties before permitting her to be one.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

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