When Can We Come Over?
Recently, I had the opportunity to entertain my in-laws at my house. My partner and I usually visit them at their house, but my mother-in-law had been practically begging for an invitation for weeks. Every time we saw her, she would ask, "When are you going to invite us to your place?" or "We'd really love to see your place, when can we come over?" She even went so far as to write this nagging question in a thank-you note after Christmas! Finally, I relented and we invited them to have dinner at our place.
Entertaining the In-Laws
You could say that the first thing I did wrong was to invite them over at all, but at the time I felt that it really couldn't be avoided. If I didn't entertain the in-laws, they would just keep on asking until it gradually became awkward, and then I would have a situation on my hands that I really didn't want. And now, I'm glad it's all over with, but on the whole the night will go down in history as one of the more irritating evenings I've hosted. Of course, any good host or hostess knows that if an evening isn't fun, it's her or his fault, because she or he was responsible for showing the guests a good time. I feel that way in this case, too, but believe me, they aren't the easiest people in the world to please.
My Tacky Mother-in-Law
My mother-in-law in particular is known for being extremely judgmental. Although she is a woman of pedestrian tastes, she thinks that she is the height of fashion, so anyone who doesn't share her fondness for the banal and tacky, she takes for an underdeveloped cave-dweller. Even worse, she's from the backwaters of a Midwest state, so she knows (or thinks she knows) that anyone who doesn't agree with her is simply uninformed, and she adopts a very patronizing tone when she gives people instructions on how to dress, live, and behave. In other words, inviting her over was a lot of pressure, and I wanted to serve something really delicious.
My father-in-law is on a gluten-free diet, and I'm a vegetarian, so my cooking options were limited. Ultimately I settled on a recipe that I made once, several years ago, and that was a big hit. It was a recipe for Scalloped Potatoes and Fennel, and I thought it would go over really well. I followed the recipe meticulously, but for some reason it just didn't turn out very well. It was sort of bland. To make matters worse, the Olive Tapenade that I made for the occasion was overly strong, on account of the fact that I had never made it before. Suffice it to say that I would have had much better results if, instead of trying to wow them, I had gone with something I knew would turn out well.
The after-dinner portion of the evening didn't go much better. The in-laws didn't seem to like the music I had chosen, my mother- and father-in-law took turns monopolizing the conversation, and by the end of the night we were all struggling to stay awake in each other's company. I should have prepared some conversation topics or activities in advance (not that my in-laws like to have fun), or at least instructed a friend to fake an emergency at an opportune moment.
The biggest lesson I learned from all this is never, under any circumstances, to invite my in-laws over for dinner. If I had to do it again, though, I would try to be a little better prepared. I only hope someone can learn something from my mistakes.