I have heard recently that it is perfectly ok - thoughtful even - that you take your own containers to a dinner party for the sole purpose of retrieving leftovers from your host.
So let me ask you this – when you go to the supermarket, do you take your own trolley? When you go to the mechanic, do you take your own engine oil? Do you source your own plaster of Paris when you break a limb? No, you do not.
I’ve been pondering the etiquette behind the concept of leftovers and I can’t come up with any good reason to bring your own Tupperware to an event in the hope of being tossed a bone. If I have a dinner party for four, I cater for four; I don’t consider what my friends may like in their lunch box next week. Similarly when I am a guest at a dinner party, I don’t say "here’s a bottle of vintage Brut and where would like me to put this bag of empty Chinese take-away containers for, you know *wink*?"
Before you think I am a rude host, I do offer leftovers. I may have a different agenda; I will happily divvy out my chocolate truffle torte because if its not outside a ten kilometre radius of my house I will hunt it down and eat the lot – but if I am passing on goods to my ‘customers’ I will provide them the necessary transportation tools.
If it’s a family function, it may be the norm that leftovers are handed around like the proverbial loaves and fishes, but be sure to make enough that everyone would get an equal and ‘of like’ amount. No couverture chocolate mousse for one Aunt and a bag of gnawed turkey bones for the other – even though the bones make exceptional stock. Of course, you could point this fact out to both Aunts and keep the mousse for yourself.
As a receiver of leftovers it is good etiquette to return your hosts containers at your earliest convenience. Maybe I’m bitter because I have lost many a vintage snap lock tub through my doggie bag generosity. The food is not the issue, it’s my Nana’s crystal bowl that is heading off down the street in the boot of my friends car that makes me break out in a sweat. And why? Because I wasn’t prepared.
Preparation is key. It is perfectly acceptable to arrive at your destination with a container full of say, coronation chicken and recycle this container to take home the beef burgundy but the general etiquette is keep your own tubs to hand out leftovers and return any that do not belong to you – vintage or not – unless otherwise stated by the host. Keeping the peace in leftover land is all about preparation.
Here’s my recipe for prawn and leek risotto.