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Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Is It OK to Try New Recipes for Pot Lucks?



Yesterday, I was invited to a barbecue with the neighbors. I love to bake, and so I made a Betty Crocker recipe for Florentine cookies. It came out fabulous. Betty always comes through!

However, at our potluck, a neighbor asked me if I had ever made the recipe before. I replied no. Then he complained that I was using the neighbors as guinea pigs for my recipes.

Do you think it's rude for me to make a recipe for company without trying it first? I only make recipes from reputable sources from  Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens. And if the recipes fails, I would find a suitable substitute such as fruit.   

If this neighbor does this again, I will tell him he doesn't have to eat any of the food I bring. His wife said the Florentines were good! Maybe he's jealous.

Thank you for listening. Your feedback is graciously appreciated.

Dear Jean:  

Thank you for your inquiry.

Let me begin by saying that I am astonished by the mean-spirited comment of your neighbor. It was totally inappropriate--and irrelevant--for him to say anything about your making a recipe for the first time. Since the cookies turned out so well, he should have applauded your ability and the final product! I agree that he may, in fact, have been jealous of your baking success. Perhaps this person is an irritating "know it all" in other ways, as well?

There is no hard and fast rule about a rehearsal of a new recipe prior to serving the result to guests. Who has the time to do so on a regular basis? Most competent cooks forgo this trial run and read the new recipe carefully, make an educated guess regarding outcome, and have a Plan B in case of a failure (as you did with fruit as a backup).

Your thoughtless neighbor has lost sight of the reason for neighborhood potluck gatherings, and that is to get neighbors together stay in touch, share a meal and minimize the work of each attendee. Even if you had served inedible cookies, this person was out of line.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Nancy Mitchell


Social etiquette; Business etiquette; Entertaining etiquette; Wedding etiquette; Protocol, domestic (US) and international; Flag etiquette; Dining etiquette; Restaurant etiquette; Spa etiquette; Travel etiquette


Nancy R. Mitchell is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol consultant and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the field. She owns the firm The Etiquette Advocate and is an owner and founding partner of the firm Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses in the School of Business and the Career Center, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was director of special events and protocol at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other distinguished visitors, galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, Mitchell served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, embassies, academia and corporations.

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Mitchell is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by CNN, ABC Nightline, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the Associated Press and Washingtonian magazine, has been featured on ABC Good Morning America, Fox News and National Public Radio, and is an etiquette columnist for, etiquette consultant to Alexandria Woman and to Engaged! magazine, and technical editor of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

B.S., University of Utah, 1969

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