In the category of the kind of ethics controversy only families can devise comes this one, from an old friend from high school, who just e-mailed me for advice:
She is having her sister and her sister’s family, all adults, over for Christmas dinner. She is cooking all of it, turkey, stuffing, chestnuts roasting on a open fire, Andy Williams on a spit—the works. Today her sister tells her that her daughter will be bringing her own turkey stuffing, because she likes her recipe best. My friend said, “Fine,” and hung up. Now she is quietly fuming. She asks, “What kind of behavior is that? I’m inviting them to dinner. Who brings their own private courses because it’s their personal preference?” (She adds that nobody has ever complained about her stuffing. I can personally vouch for that: I’ve eaten it in past years, and it’s excellent.)
My friend thinks the whole idea is an insult and bad manners, and wants to call up her sister to say, oh, lots of possible things, like “You know Christmas Eve when we’re coming over to your house for dinner? Well, my daughter will be bringing hamburgers, because she thinks the food you serve is crap,” or, “Tell Phyllis she’s welcome to make her own stuffing and get her ass over here at 6 AM to stuff it in our bird, or she can live with what I’m serving,” or “Why don’t you all just bring your favorite damn dishes and we can just have pot luck?”
So it’s a two-part Christmas Ethics Quiz for the Ethics Alarms faithful:
1. Is the daughter’s conduct inexcusably rude?
2. Should my friend say anything about it?
Hurry up with your advice, because a battle seems to be brewing. My take: yes, it’s rude, but really, so what? It’s a family Christmas dinner; if the picky daughter’s own special stuffing will make her merry, why turn it into a family feud? After Christmas, like a few days after, it would be kind to then explain to Phyllis that she missed a class or two in Manners and Consideration 101: bringing your own food when you’ve been invited to dinner and aren’t under food restrictions for medical reasons is tacky. Setting off a Christmas Cataclysm by telling her to stuff it, however, is tackier, and shows a lack of proportion.