Q: In our neighborhood, there are two families my wife and I are very close with. About ten years ago one of our neighbors invited us for dinner, a “bring your own meat” meal. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I sure hadn’t. Anyway, I bought two beautiful inch-and-a-half New York strips for us to bring. I worked late at the office and by the time I arrived there was one scrawny cooked-to-death half-inch sirloin left, so I just made a plate of sides and sat down at the table. Then I noticed the others were eating my strips. My wife did manage to snag half of a strip and offered me part of hers, but I declined. My mind wasn’t right. In the years since, both families have continued hosting these types of dinners and now it has evolved into “bring your own meat and a side.” I will say, I am always on time and never let my meat out of my sight. I have refused to host a such a dinner myself. I figure if I invite someone over, then I’m responsible for preparing the full dinner. Am I wrong or should I acquiesce and have a “bring your own damn meat and a damn side” dinner?
A: The Texanist senses a festering irritation in your letter. And you are not wrong to be somewhat chapped at the way things have unfolded there in your neighborhood. The Texanist, as has been observed, is both a social butterfly and a voracious eater. As such, he’s always happy to be invited over to friends’ houses for convivial fellowship and a free meal. Unless it’s those new people down at the end of the block. They’re not very good cooks. And their house smells funny. And they have that overly amorous bullmastiff that always seems to make the Texanist the sole focus of his aggressively libidinous desires. No, thank you. But if it’s anybody else, yes, please count the Texanist in.
“BYOMeat” dinners like the ones you have described are not a new phenomenon. In fact, they’ve likely been irking folks and stirring debate since Grok and Urhg were inviting nearby dwellers over to their cave for dinners back in the Stone Age. The concept is simple, and when executed equitably can make for a fun, fair, and fulfilling time with friends. The problem is that as often as not someone ends up with the short end of the stick—or, more accurately, the thin, gristly, overcooked piece of mystery meat. “Honey, is that mutton? Pork? Wait, it kind of looks like it used to be a T-bone. Hmm.”
In the Texanist’s experience, such meals are typically one-off deals—or seasonal affairs, or, at least, few and far between—with guest lists that vary. Pete and Terry, Rich and his new girlfriend, Jim from the office, and the Millers. Properly executed, they’re not a bad way to defer costs. But what you’ve got going with the two families in your hood seems to be a more regular occurrence—and an increasingly unwelcome one. This potluck of sorts has gone to pot. No man should have to worry about sitting idly by and watching another man enjoy the juicy beef cuts he intended for himself and his mate.
It’s the Texanist’s opinion that the time has come for you to do something daring. It’s time for you to hold your own dinner party and set a higher standard for everyone involved by, as you suggest, preparing the full dinner yourself. This means appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, drinks, a solid playlist, and general good times for all.
Let’s start with some prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus. Then we can sit down with Mrs. Name Withheld’s famous mixed-greens salad with the walnuts, strawberries, gorgonzola crumbles, and that delicious homemade dressing of hers. And let’s do those big strips you like. Remember, Mrs. Soandso likes hers a little on the done side. We can side them with those garlic mashers and a medley of steamed veggies. Don’t forget the warm sourdough dinner rolls and the herbed butter. And for dessert? An assortment of hand-cranked ice cream. The Texanist likes peach.
If you pull this off with the sort of panache that you seem to regard as every host’s obligation, your cheapskate friends will be shamed into following suit. And soon enough all will be right in the neighborhood.
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