Let’s be honest, everyone’s “Big Mama” cannot cook! Age does not mean that the macaroni & cheese will be free of that mystical black crust on the bottom of the dish. Auntee might just be better off buying the potato salad instead of making it, but maybe it is not your place to say “Make sure she buys the potato salad this year. Last year’s version gave me the runs.” That famous drunk uncle statistically may drink all of the punch and vodka, but you can’t call Cletus out and say “Keep your drunk hands off the Miller Lite, drink the Natty Light you came to the party with.”
Since I am a solutions oriented guy, I have come up with a few helpful hints from celebrations past that should help you survive the holidays and help out if the other family is a little off.
The Food Game Plan
You might have a general idea of how the relatives cook if you have had your significant other cook for you. If the significant other’s food is good, chances are that the relatives will know how to cook too. If your significant other has never cooked for you, stop reading this paragraph immediately & skip to the next paragraph. If the significant other’s cooking is not all that great, then either you need to figure out if you need to put them in Cooking 101 at the local community college, or you better get ready to do ALL the cooking if this is gonna be a long term relationship. Or your house will be littered with Chinese take out menus from the Golden Dragon.
If you have never been to the house where the event will take place, Google it beforehand. Make sure you are familiar with all of the neighboring food places and other surroundings. On holidays, there is usually a fast food place or casual dining restaurant open. I remember once going to a Christmas dinner and having to sneak out to go to O’Charleys for their Christmas dinner. Usually these places are empty and the food will come out relatively quick. If the place is crowded, then God bless you all. You all just need to buy shots and really be merry.
This brings up food etiquette for the actual tasting. It is proper to take small samples of food. Stick to the familiar items. Do not assume that Aunt Janice could not screw up canned cranberry sauce. You would be surprised. Keep in mind that cans have an expiration date for a reason. Also, watch the others eat first. If there are other people from outside the family, watch them eat. If they get large portions on their plate, the food is probably good. Tacky can be universal, but if perfect strangers are all eating, then the food is probably ok. If the family outsiders are sampling too, then enact the backup plan.
One would say, well how do I sneak out of the house to get a super sized combo? Simple…Volunteer!!! Garbage bags, ice, drinks, etc will all run out sooner or later. Step up to the plate and volunteer to go to the grocery store. That is your opportunity. You will look like a prince to the family for sacrificing to get much needed supplies. Since you Googled it, you should already have it programmed in your phone, printed out, drawn, etc.
The main thing is to make sure that you eat. Pray there is a dog nearby. Fido/Otis/Spot or whoever wants to eat too, so if the food is nasty, “accidentally” drop the plate on the floor. Please make sure that you are on hardwood or linoleum and never on carpet. Place the dog near you before your “accident”. He or she will clean it up in a matter of seconds. Make sure you reward the dog with excessive petting. Now, in the other family’s eyes, you are a dog lover, and not Michael Vick’s cousin.
When it comes to drinking, you may very well be tempted to drink heavily. Please resist that temptation. As we know, it is called “liquid courage” for a reason. The general rule is that there is a 5 year waiting period on telling the other family off.
This one can be a little tricky. Some people are social butterflies & can blend in seamlessly. Others are so socially inept that seeing them is like looking at Sarah Palin trying to explain the theory of relativity to a group of NASA scientists. Sure, the above mentioned “liquid courage” would help, but there are other tricks as well.
If you see someone your age and/or that you know from around the way, stick with those people. Speak to others even if they do not speak to you. Grins are better than smiles. It keeps people guessing. Stick with whom you know, until you really get to know them.
Once someone tells a joke, giggle unless it is really funny. If they are trying to make you the butt of the joke, do not be so quick to go off. Take it. The family might take it a little serious if you point out Grandpa’s grown up Huggie & Pro Keds special shoe. If Bomquisha makes her knees touch her elbows, God bless her and the size 8 red dress she has on that used to fit in 1998. Remember the 5 year waiting period. Save that negative energy until that period ends.
Remember it, write it down, take a picture, I don’t care. Then unleash once the 5 years are up, or during the break up argument.
Play with the kids from a safe distance. You do not wanna get too close to the kids too soon. There is a reason for sex offenders lists, and you do not want Lil’ Junebug with the sippy cup saying you touched him. If they get close to you, resist the urge to pick them up. If they kick you with those hard bottom Gymboree shoes, take one for the team. And PLEASE no excessive looking at your watch/texting/facebooking/talking on cell phones. Last thing you need is for Miss Patty to start a rumor that you were talking about the family to your “jump off”, when call records would show you were really talking to your mom.
At the end of the night, make sure you tell them thank you. Be nice and shake hands or do the soft pat on the back hug. Then make sure that you get repaid for the family gathering. Let’s be honest, a root canal with no anesthesia would have been less painful. Make sure you tell your significant other how much fun you had. Please be believable when you say this. Last thing you need is to start more drama than you have just had to deal with. And ask for a payoff, whether it is alone time to watch the game, go to the ballet, or just a nice long night in a suite with jacuzzi tub, champagne, strawberries, soft music, rose petals, hot oils, maybe a midget, you get the drift…
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