Hot Chocolate Etiquette: Your Input Requested

Hot Chocolate

Elbow on the table? Legs crossed at knees rather than ankles? I’m sure not asking her about hot chocolate etiquette. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A neighbor invited my spouse and children over the other day for muffins and hot chocolate. When they arrived, they were served muffins, but did not immediately receive hot chocolate. My daughter alerted their host to this omission by saying, “Umm…you forgot the hot chocolate.”

My spouse was appalled. Back at home, we had a dinner-table conversation about what the most elegant and respectful way to handle the situation might have been. Unfortunately we had three different opinions, and we could not reach a consensus. I’d already returned the three etiquette books I had out from the library to help me polish my social graces (turns out I shouldn’t spit food into my napkin or use my butter knife as a mirror to help me when I apply lipstick at the table…who knew?), so I’m putting the question to you.

Which of these is the proper way to alert a host that he’s forgotten to provide a specific item he previously offered?

a) “Umm…you forgot the hot chocolate.” (my daughter’s actual response)

b) “When we were out shoveling snow a little while ago, you mentioned hot chocolate. May I please have some hot chocolate?” (my spouse’s suggestion)

c) Say nothing. It’s rude to request something in someone else’s home. If they remember, fine. If not, you must do without. (my suggestion)

Other suggestions are welcome. I’m looking for a best-bet response, something we can offer our daughter as a guide for her future behavior in a variety of similar situations. (Sure, I could Google it, but this is more fun.)

11 comments

  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama · February 17, 2013

    Personally I would tend toward C, but I like Kylie’s response the best, particularly if (outspoken) children are involved. It would be both polite and a casual reminder to say something like, “Yum, I love these muffins! It’s so fun to have muffins and hot chocolate with friends.”

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  2. Kylie · February 13, 2013

    I would say, “it’s so nice of you to invite us over for muffins and hot chocolate! Thank you!” And that would prompt her if she forgot. I space things like that all the time and wouldn’t mind.

    Pet peeve: When kids say, “I’m good,” when I offer them something rather than “No, thank you.”

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    • CJ · February 13, 2013

      I like that idea! It’s a memory jogger and an expression of gratitude all in one!

      And while I think the only people old enough to call me a “kid” anymore are my grandparents (eh, maybe my parents, too), I admit to saying both: “No, thanks…I’m good.” Maybe that means I’m at an in-between age.

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      • Kylie · February 13, 2013

        Maybe it’s because my first exposure to “I’m good” was from an anorexic who was clearly NOT good.

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      • CJ · February 13, 2013

        That would do it, I think. I’m pretty sure that most times, “I’m good” isn’t really the truth. I know it doesn’t mean exactly that when I say it. I can see not appreciating that kind of dishonest response. I’ll have to mull that one over.

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  3. Katie · February 12, 2013

    I’m going with (c). Elise recently did the same thing at a friend’s house where we’d been invited to dinner. She was expecting something in particular (which I’d been told was on the menu). It wasn’t an oversight, just a misunderstanding, so she didn’t get to have what she thought she would. What mattered to me more was how she handled it not being served, not that she asked in the first place. Thankfully, she is not Addie, and she coped fine with its absence. I did talk to her about what was appropriate (option (c), unless you know the hosts really well), but for a 7 or 8 year old, I think it’s totally fine to ask.

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    • CJ · February 12, 2013

      Thank you for siding with me, Katie. I suppose saying something breaks through the awkwardness of the situation, but I almost always err on the side of not making waves, especially when it comes to food (I make enough waves in issues around food without adding any more).

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  4. Ellery Davies · February 12, 2013

    O.K. This is a really interesting one!… I sure wish that I could have seen the situation. But, based on your description, I can imagine it as if I were there. 😉

    First, I would ask if your neighbor is friendly, straightforward or easygoing. (Not necessarily all 3, but any of these). If you sense even one of these character traits—or if they are “old friends”, of course—then I think that it is perfectly appropriate for your child or even you to just pipe right up as she did. In fact, if I were your neighbor 😉 and if one of you had not mentioned my forgetful offer, I would have felt terrible later on, as I lie in bed and realize that I totally forgot something that I had offered, and something which the children were probably looking forward to. (Upon re-reading your question, I see that you postulated this reaction. It is right on the money).

    Now, let’s look at all of scenarios…

    1. In the interest of politeness, you say nothing about a having a drink. We covered this one. IMO, a terrible idea. Everyone feels bad; especially the kids.
    2. Daughter or husband jumps right in and says “Hey, what about that hot cacao?” We covered this…definitely, the right approach!
    3. Ask for a drink but don’t mention hot chocolate. (?!!) Why on earth would you do that? Is this like a test to see if you can prod his memory?That forgetful neighbor could still forget that he even has it. The kids might get stuck with borscht and Ensure.

    The only caveat that I would add, is if your relationship with the neighbor is rather formal. Say, for example, the neighbor is an elderly spinster that rarely opens the door, or the scion of a global business empire and a bit intimidating. (a bit contrived, because such neighbors are unlikely to toss out casual invitations for hot chocolate while you are shoveling)… In this case only, I would suggest that one of the visitors politely remind the host out of earshot of the others. After all, if the relationship is not casual and comfortable (as most sociable neighbors are), then the situation calls for slightly more subdued tactics.

    But again, that last example certainly doesn’t fit the situation described.

    Finally, I might point out that in my mental picture of the described encounter, I see your neighbor as really tall, intelligent and charming! Oh well, two out of three ain’t too bad!

    I really had fun with this one!! Hey! Here’s an idea. How about slipping the web address for this blog to the neighbor. Then, he or can have a fun time adding their own opinion to all of us regular readers!

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    • CJ · February 12, 2013

      You know how much I value your opinion in matters like these, Ellery. Thank you for commenting. (And I didn’t even mention the other rude things my children did during that visit. Heathens, they are. That’s all there is to it.)

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  5. Courtney · February 12, 2013

    Oh man I definitely agree with bits of B and bits of C. I think if it was previously offered, then the person may feel TERRIBLE after the visit was over after realizing he (or she?) forgot to serve the cocoa. He may have wished someone would have reminded him. On the other hand, asking for a particular food or item when you are a guest at someone’s house is a little forward.

    I don’t know if it’s the right answer to teach a kid (lol), but what I would have done in that situation is politely ask for a drink, not necessarily name the hot chocolate, but just a drink in general. If someone is serving you bread or something else semi-drying, I definitely don’t think it’s rude to ask for a drink to wash it down! It would be my hope that the host would suddenly remember “oh! a drink! I forgot the hot chocolate.”

    Maybe that’s super passive aggressive but like you said, it’s a difficult situation! I like to lead people to something, make them think it was their own idea 😀

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    • CJ · February 12, 2013

      I kind of like the passive-aggressive solution. I’d still probably say nothing…but then, not eating gluten or dairy, I wouldn’t have expected to be served either.

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