Or cultural. I grew up at the edge of the "ladies do not eat much, and when they do, they eat delicately" prohibition, which was reinforced by older fiction of the sort that is long forgotten now. Being offered several times, refusing politely, then at last "Maybe just one, they look soooo good!" was supposed to gratify the hostess into thinking that she really was such a good cook, she'd managed to overcome the ladylike appetite ("I only exist on air") of the visitor, and the visitor maintains her rep for not being greedy.
It was such a RELIEF in the early seventies to be able to indulge guilt free, but enough of the guilt lingered on that I was aware that I was guilt-free, in effect.
Yes. My mother grew up slightly farther toward the middle of that prohibition (oh, the midcentury American South, may its heirs and assigns DIAF) and I'm very glad she made an effort to keep it away from me.
The person who mentioned it seemed to have a perception of it as regional, and if anything, I have a perception of the Upper Midwest as less prone to delusions of female delicacy than the rest of the US.
This may be related to both of my grandmothers coming from farm families, but I'm not sure that's all of it.
Yes--judging from diaries of pioneer women and other stuff, I think it was a city thing, as well as a class thing. Pioneer women thought women who tried this stuff were putting on airs . . . though a really charismatic woman could get everyone to buy into it, in order to belong to her exclusive circle.
Now you have to explain "inexplicable cinnamon and prunes" or at least tell the story behind it. :)
Oh, I don't know. It's just that it seems like people who aren't me offer completely inexplicable late-night snacks, whereas my late-night snacks are always completely explicable.
I'd heard that "offer three times" thing, but not assigned to a location, I only knew it wasn't my culture. But there are several cultures existing in the same city I grew up in; maybe there are people who do that style of thing, along with the more straightforward people I know.
Late in life my Grandma Pauline would press cake on us when we visited. Her doctor had told her she couldn't have those sweets anymore, so she enjoyed them vicariously by feeding her family, especially her grandchildren. This wasn't about showing off her baking skills; the cakes came from the Entenmann's bakery. It was about seeing us enjoy them, and maybe about knowing that she had enough, that she and her children and grandchildren weren't going hungry, and had money for things like chocolate cake.
That's pretty much what I grew up with. People didn't keep offering things because they thought you were refusing to be polite, they kept offering because they wanted to feed you as a way to show affection, and the sooner (and more often) you accepted the happier they'd be. (My mom and grandmother were pleased when I brought my husband home, because he wasn't a finicky eater and, unlike me, always cleaned his plate.)
I have never heard of such a rule of etiquette, and those that hold to it ought not to come over to my house, because I typically don't offer more than once. If someone says they do not want a cookie, I believe them.
See, for me the problem doesn't go like this, extended over half an hour or more:
Me: Catherine, do you want some cookies?
You: No, thanks.
Me: How 'bout some cookies?
You: GAHHHH! NO!
It's more like this, again, over an extended time frame with conversation in between:
Me: Catherine, do you want some cookies?
You: No, thanks.
Me: Could I interest you in a cup of tea?
You: Oh, no, thanks, I'm good.
Me: How about some lemonade?
You: I'm fine, thanks.
Me: Would you like some raspberries?
You: No, thanks.
Me: A glass of water perhaps?
You: Had some just before I came over. But thanks.
Me: We have some trail mix.
Me: A sandwich?
You: Wait, has this been an extended Young Frankenstein reference?
Me: If I say yes, do I get to pretend I've been doing it to be funny?
Because I totally believe you that you did not want cookies. Absolutely. No cookies for you, check, got it. But surely there must be something! Surely! I MUST HOST YOU! I MUST!
My other mode of coping with this--other than showing people where things are and instructing them to help themselves, I mean--is to put not-very-perishable fruit out on the counter in bowls where it will be an explicit invitation. "EAT THESE GRAPES," it will say, and then I will not have to stand there and say it myself.
LOL. I think I could handle this. But I am completely baffled and a little nervous about a guest who would refuse something she really wants, because she thinks I will ask her two more times. Ack. Maybe putting them out is the right solution. I can say, "Would you like a cookie?" and then just put them on a plate on the table with, "Well, if you change your mind, please help yourself." That probably doesn't constitute an extra two offers, but it's the best I can do.
I MUST HOST YOU! I MUST!
This is also a common syndrome in the Deep South.
Way back when I was in my senior year of college, S, a roommate of mine had a Lebanese boyfriend (later husband). His family moved over from Lebanon that year, and she reported to me that his mother had that I MUST HOST YOU! I MUST! thing in spades, to the point of not accepting a refusal. S had to be continuously eating at their house, or SOMETHING WAS WRONG. It would go something like this:
*Mother notices that S's mouth has been empty for, say, thirty seconds.*
Mother: Do you want some peaches?
S: Oh, no, thank you, I'm fine.
Mother: We have some wonderful peaches.
S: No, no, thank you, I couldn't.
Mother: Are you sure?
S: Quite sure, thank, you.
Mother: You should try some of the peaches.
S: No thank you.
*Someone else in the room gets up and goes to the kitchen to get a drink*
Mother: Get S some peaches!
S: No, please, I'm fine!
Mother: They're wonderful peaches. You'll love them.
*S is given a bowl of peaches*
She told me that having to be constantly eating wasn't that bad when it was peaches but much worse when it was, say, Kit-Kats.
I am also a genetic recipient of Hosting Syndrome. The 'help yourself after your first visit' rule generally applies around here, too, although it does not stop me from cooking unnecessarily elaborate dinners for, say, my husband's D&D group, who are appreciative though baffled.
Incidentally, my chromosomal hosting heritage comes straight from my maternal line, who were innkeepers in Poland until two generations ago. The family name was Solomianski, and my mother has a faded sepia portrait of the entire clan standing in front of the inn, with the sign visible: "Ristoranski Solomianski." I'm thinking of getting a plaque for my dining room. ;)
But surely there must be something! Surely! I MUST HOST YOU! I MUST!
Hey, I do that!
I think possibly not to the same extent.
I think this is part of why I often will accept a cup of water or tisane: because even if I don't actively want one, I can't really think of a time I actively don't want one, and then I have accepted a thing and everybody can be happy and relax.
Also possibly why I don't go to Greece, because of those things I only really like olives, and then only sometimes. Zucchini is sometimes all right I suppose, and shrimp if you let very talented Chinese cooks prepare it.
Edited at 2010-06-11 07:24 pm (UTC)
I had an unpleasant experience once with someone who was self-consciously Celtic, and who offered a "host cup" as one entered her house- and woe betide you if you didn't drink it! to the point that one time I DID, because I knew she had this fixation, and her husband then refilled my cup, and then she was convinced I HATED her because I HADN'T DRUNK THE CUP. Ye gods.
I will admit to being susceptible to the I WILL HOST YOU!!!! thing, though.
Oh boy, have I lived through the second.
As for the first, it's been ten years and I'm still waiting for my mother-in-law to realize that I don't drink tea. (Though, um, I may be starting to do so. Which will really just scuttle any future attempts to convince her I don't consume Food or Beverage X.)
On the topic of bowls in the open: and yet, people seem reluctant. I just don't get it.
I have noticed that sometimes people have to ask me three (or, um, more) times before I will say yes to something I technically do want. However, it's usually things that I don't need (or want very badly), am not certain they are offering from anything other than politeness, and believe would be annoying or inconveniencing for them.