Miss Manners: I changed my gift cookie recipe this year, and a couple of the recipients complained. Should I exclude them next year?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For about a decade, my partner and I have made homemade packages of treats for about a dozen households at holiday time. These have varied slightly over the years, but usually include nuts, candies and baked goods. Sometimes a cake, some brownies or cookies.

This year, I used a different flour that included the salt and baking powder, saving some time on measuring ingredients. I am the first to admit that this product worked fine for the cake, but made the cookies a little less tasty somehow. We mailed them all out anyway, as we thought the difference was negligible.

Apparently it wasn’t -- at least two recipients thought so, and let us know that the items weren’t up to our usual standards. Coincidentally, these are two of the households who have never sent us any kind of gift, not even a card, at any time of year.

I want to stop sending to these two next year, as I’ve been wanting to cut down lately anyway. My partner wants to ignore it and proceed as usual. Is it too vindictive to stop, or am I within my rights to do so?

GENTLE READER: As you cannot guarantee a better cookie next year (although Miss Manners has faith in you pulling it together), it would be thoughtful to spare these discerning recipients another subpar experience.

Rather than being vindictive, this can be your excuse if the cookies’ whereabouts are questioned. Of course, you may also take the high road. But if it results in getting reprimanded again, Miss Manners permits you to tell your partner you told them so.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister-in-law has started bringing her backgammon game to family weekends. She gets our brother to play with her, thus isolating him from the rest of the family. Comments?


GENTLE READER: Give her a present of a game that involves multiple players.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When dining out with my family, we usually take home any leftovers to enjoy at another time. We do this not only to avoid being wasteful, but because we genuinely look forward to finishing our meals whenever it suits us.

Occasionally I either make a bad menu choice or have leftovers that I’m certain neither I nor anyone else in the family would care to finish at another time. My preference is to simply leave these items on my plate and say “no, thank you” when asked by the server if I would like them wrapped.

My son insists that refusing to take home leftovers is insulting to the restaurant (or at the very least, makes the staff feel bad) and that we should take the leftovers regardless so as not to be rude.

Do you agree with this? Should we take home leftovers of a meal not enjoyed, just to be polite?

GENTLE READER: No. But if your son protests further, Miss Manners suggests that you manipulatively appeal to his sensitivity -- pointing out that this way, you will not be wasting a disposable container and harming the environment.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to