It's the BBQ Season — Come Bearing Summer Gifts

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It's the season of backyard barbeques and al fresco dinner parties. Good manners dictate that guests at such affairs arrive bearing a gift. But what to bring? Humorist Brian Unger has some suggestions.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

It's not just this weekend; Memorial Day actually begins the entire summer season of backyard barbeques and dinner parties and housewarmings. And as an invited guest, custom dictates you need to bring a gift.

In today's Unger Report, humorist Brian Unger has this advice on what to get.

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BRIAN UNGER reporting:

There is a quiet epidemic sweeping through America. In cities, suburbs, and rural towns, people are showing up on doorsteps of homes as lethal carriers of crappy housewarming and dinner party gifts.

Their arms extended to yours, passing to you a heinously toxic bottle of wine, a bouquet of carnations wrapped in cellophane, a candle that smells like damned souls; or the thing they always bring: you know, their known thing - their famous lemon squares, Waldorf salad or tater-tot casserole. These givers of their known thing unfailingly deliver to you a full-size three-bean nightmare, and you don't have the heart to reject it.

Conversely, the giver of the known thing is sick of giving it and tired of making it. Bitter from hearing you say how much everyone loves the known thing - when the giver made the known thing without love, only resentment.

If you, as host, could only bring yourself to say, please, don't give that to me again, it's nasty.

Regardless, guests will take from you every morsel of food you can cook or barbeque, leaving behind their gift as an artifact of their appreciation. By this gift, you will be judged.

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Housewarming or dinner party gifts are usually wine. It's what people bring to others people's homes. Gone, though, are the days of dumping a cheap-ass bottle with a pretty label, or unloading one you got from somebody else, because the wine you give is the wine someone will Google. They'll know all about your dressing up a $9 bottle in a foil wine bag and ribbon. You can't put lipstick on that pig.

As host, Googling wine may uncover an expensive, rare vintage. This is the mark of a classy, caring friend; or one who's not so bright - who gave away a great wine without knowing it. These nincompoops are good people to have in your life.

The gift of a great wine does cost you, but it can work for you. Upon arrival at a dinner party, simply say, I'm curious to know your opinion on this wine I'm giving you. I really, really want to know what you think about it. Before you know it, pop goes the cork and you're guzzling your own favorite vintage. It's like a gift to yourself.

Or, wait to see what's on the menu. Then, declare the perfect wine to compliment the dish is - coincidentally - the wine you brought. Everybody wins, but mostly, you win.

If you give flowers, aim higher than the A&P variety. Cheap flowers wrapped in plastic or paper signal you looked no further than the checkout aisle. It's like giving a pair of Foster Grants, a Slushy, or a pack of condoms to your host; it says I bought you the last thing I saw before I got here. Let's eat.

The best dinner party gift advice is this: bring something to talk about. And when in doubt, stay late and help clean up. In the end, you'll be mostly remembered not for the wine you brought, but for the dishes you helped wash.

And that is today's Unger Report. Happy Memorial Day! I'm Brian Unger.

CHADWICK: Oh, dear listeners, always wash those dishes.

The Unger Report is just one of many NPR features now available as a podcast. They're not all as funny as Brian, but some are. Try them at our website, npr.org.

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Unidentified Woman: (Singing) It's a woman who gets all the (unintelligible) leave behind. The reason I know so much about her, is because...

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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