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Hostess upset guests don't wait for her to eat

DEAR AMY: We have dinners on our deck and serve the meal buffet-style. Guests are served first, and I finish up by covering the dishes with plastic wrap after I have my plate filled. I am frustrated because guests don't wait for me to join them, but are halfway done with their meal before I even sit down! Last night I told the women in the kitchen I would cover the dishes and meet them on the deck when I was done. With only one roll of plastic wrap, this was time-consuming. Should I have asked them to wait until I got there to begin? Or am I asking too much? I do hear them asking where I am, but they are deep into their meal by then. When I am a guest I wait until the host is seated before I begin eating, but no one seems to notice. Should I ask my husband to wait? He goes with the group.

-- Hungry

DEAR HUNGRY: Some hosts hate to see people wait to eat because they fear the food will get cold.

Depending on your particular arrangement, here's what I think you should do: Bring all the food to the buffet table already covered before the meal (the last person through can simply replace the wrap or lid). Gather all of your guests together on the deck and join them there before serving.

Even if people are already eating by the time you join the table, you or your husband should "officially" start the meal on the deck with a toast or greeting, thanking everyone for coming. This will inspire people to stop stuffing their faces in order to take a polite pause.

Of course your husband should wait for you to be seated before he starts eating (he should also serve himself last occasionally). Eating alongside you is the least he can do to recognize the hard work you've put into the meal.

DEAR AMY: I enjoyed your "best of" columns while you were on vacation.

As always, these letters from "deep within the vault" are fascinating. For instance, the one from "Head over Heels," who wanted to date the boyfriend of her (not very close) friend? Ten years later, inquiring minds would like to know how that worked out.

-- Avid Reader

DEAR READER: I agree! I would love to hear from anyone who has had a letter published in my column. Tell us -- what happened next?

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