laplumeDear Ms. Plume,

            If you are taking food to a dinner party, should you also take a gift? I overheard this debate going on between a husband and wife at brunch one Sunday, and keep forgetting to ask. The husband said no, that the food was enough. She disagreed. Who is correct?


Dear Lia,

            Technically if you are taking food to a party, that is sufficient, but it really depends on the circumstances. It never hurts to take the hostess a little gift just as an acknowledgement of all she has done to host the party. However, if you are taking a major dish, or she is your dear friend, then it’s not necessary.

            L. A. Plume

Dear Ms. Plume,

            I’m from that dreaded other side of the Mason-Dixon line and it seems that timing in the South is treated differently when you cross into this territory. If I am invited to a party at 7 pm, and I arrive at 7 or a tad after, everyone else is already there. If I go to a fundraising event that starts at 7, by 7 most of the food is already gone and people have been there for awhile. I was taught it is rude to arrive on the dot and up North we would never dream of being the first person to a party.

            Questionably Late

Dear Questionably,

            Interestingly enough, our icon of etiquette, Emily Post, was born in Baltimore, MD, which technically qualifies her as a Southern woman. She says, “Punctuality means different things to people in different locales. In general guests should arrive at or shortly after (fifteen minutes or less) the time stated on the invitation.”

            The Hospitable Host blog tells us, “Arrive 15 minutes late (but no later)…Unless your host is a super host who prepped everything days in advance and spends the last hour before the guests arrive killing time with a cocktail, most hosts appreciate a little wiggle room to finish setting the table, straightening up the living room, or changing clothes. It can be stressful when guests show up before you’re ready for them, but a slightly late arrival is usually perfectly acceptable and welcome.”

            And just in case you’re interested, and planning to go to a dinner party in Mexico, Frommer’s advice is, “Arriving 30 minutes to 2 hours late to a party in someone’s home is acceptable – in fact, coming at the specified hour would be rude.”

            So it seems that Ms. Post, as usual, nailed it when she referred to “different locales”.

            All that being said, remember that Beaufort is largely a military town and people operate on military time.

            A. Plume

Dear Ms. Plume,

            I have made friends with the loveliest of people, but when we are dining, this person talks with food in her mouth. I find this terribly upsetting as I’m constantly trying to find a way to sit on the same side of the table, or taking long glances out the window or at the far wall to avoid watching the food go round and round in her mouth. Has it become acceptable to eat this way as it seems to be becoming quite more common?


Dear Phill,

            Common is the correct word for that behavior. I have addressed this question far more than any other and seemingly to no avail. Emily Post said, “All the rules of table manners are made to avoid ugliness. To let anyone see what you have in your mouth is offensive…” If you think Emily might have been an old fuddy-duddy, just google the etiquette of talking with food in your mouth and you will see that Google has over a half a million responses saying: no, absolutely not. Let’s start a “fan” club! We can hand out little fans to people who do this and ask them to use the fan to cover their mouths while eating and talking. Who is in?

            L. A. Plume