Middle Class Problems: Should we ask before we take our Great British Bake Off pudding to a dinner party?

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The Independent Online

A nation clatters its pots and pans, oven thermometers can't be had for love nor money, everyone on the bus is sporting a bright blue finger plaster, and the smell of burnt bottoms fills the air so recently vacated by the heady fumes of charred meat.

Yes, The Great British Bake Off is back on Wednesday, which means it's time again to fool ourselves that we, too, can make a tart that will pass muster with Mary and make Paul's eyes sparkle with glee. Or at least impress the friends who've invited us to dinner.

But then a thought bubbles up, as unwanted as a curdled crème anglaise. What if they've also caught the Bake Off bug and want to make their own pudding? Should we ask before bringing ours? But it's meant to be a surprise. And if we ask they might say not to bother. And we'll say, "It's no bother," but then they might feel obliged to graciously acquiesce when secretly it was the part of the meal they were most looking forward to making. Suddenly a simple supper has turned into an etiquette minefield.

Mystifyingly, Debrett's has nothing to say on the subject. One solution might be to ask the host if they're a GBBO fan; if they are, we shall hold off on the haute; if not, we'll wax lyrical and ask if they'd like to sample the proof of the pudding.

But if you, in similar circs, do decide to wing it and just deliver something on spec, three rules apply: take something that will keep, don't absolutely expect it to be served… and definitely don't ask to take it home if it isn't.

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