The appropriate thing to do when you are staying overnight with friends is to bring a hostess gift. It needn’t be expensive or over the top. It’s a gesture, like most manners.
A classic would be something like a homemade or local jam or jelly. But in these days where flying with any sort of liquid or gel is a hassle, the go to gift must be something that passes security. My dear friend Richard always brings large cans of Virginia peanuts. In fact, he keeps a few boxes in the back of his car just in case. Smart thinking.
Since peanuts are Richard’s thing which I would never want to compete with, my go-to gift tends to be very good coffee. There’s some inherent risk with coffee (how to ground the beans? do they have their own grinder?), including the fact that I myself am not much of a coffee drinker. I prefer tea in the morning. But I recognize that I’m an outlier on that one.
If I fail to get a gift beforehand (insert gasps of offended Southern belles here) then it tends to be a bottle of wine. Or maybe treating the hostess to a meal. I figure that expectations on this front must have been lowered for me since I live amongst Yankees, right?
I also aim to have a small gift for the children of the host if I can. I grew up calling a small gift like this a “happy.” I recently learned from @katehable that in the Missisippi to Texas part of the South this would be called a “sussy.” Whatever you call it, I have a vivid memory of my grandmother’s friend Lorena Perry visiting us when I was a child. She brought me a happy, which was a packet of Koolaid. In retrospect, that’s an odd gift. At the time, however, I was thrilled, as my mother never let me have Koolaid. Good choice, Lorena!
photo by ppdesigns on Flickr.