Is your foodie sister-in-law insisting that everyone "elevate" the next family potluck by bringing fancier dishes? Never fear. We asked V.I.P. Delia Ephron for advice on how to handle this and other tricky family situations. Luckily, the author of Sister Mother Husband Dog comes from a large family of writers (she and her sister, Nora Ephron, co-wrote and produced You've Got Mail and Sleepless In Seattle) and knows which situations require diplomacy, and which call for more "creative" solutions.
This story originally ran on February 13, 2014.
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg. And let's welcome our Very Important Puzzler Delia Ephron.
EISENBERG: Now, I've been saying your last name as Ephron and I feel like that's how I know it but that is not how you pronounce it. Is that correct?
DELIA EPHRON: That's true. I pronounce it Eph-run.
EPHRON: And about five months ago I found that it wasn't pronounced that way.
EPHRON: A girlfriend of mine told me that. She said you're pronouncing your name wrong. I can't even explain this. Then I started calling my sisters - how do you pronounce our name? And they were all pronouncing it wrong. So, no, this is not...
EISENBERG: So are they all pronouncing it differently?
EPHRON: Well, we are the Ephron sisters.
EISENBERG: OK. Well, we're going Eph-run...
EPHRON: All right.
EISENBERG: ...going forward.
EPHRON: OK. Yes. OK.
EISENBERG: And you are part of a powerhouse family of writers. Parents successful screenwriters. You and all of your sisters are writers. Some writers go oh, I feel into writing or some say, oh, I discovered it but I love that you had said that you were basically programmed.
EPHRON: Yes. Both my parents were writers and every time I said something funny my father shouted: That's a great line, write it down. And the dinner tables were constant reinforcement of bring your stories here, tell them. And I don't think I would've been rewarded for anything else, you know. It's just - I mean, my sister Nora was born knowing she wanted to be a writer.
I was so frightened of the family destiny that I didn't become a writer till 29, Amy 39 and Hallie 49. So it's weird, right? Yeah.
EISENBERG: Right. And when everyone discovered it...
EPHRON: Yeah. Well, no, everybody just knew they had to do it but they couldn't face it.
EISENBERG: Now you wrote a very funny manners quiz for the New York Times.
EPHRON: Thank you.
EISENBERG: With multiple choice answers on how to deal with different family situations. And we took inspiration from that so right now, Delia, you're going to help us with a phone game. So let's hear from our caller. Hello, caller. You're on ASK ME ANOTHER.
STEPHANIE MARTINEZ: Hi, Ophira, hi, Delia. This is Stephanie Martinez in Grand Prairie, Texas.
EISENBERG: Hello, Stephanie.
EPHRON: Hello, Stephanie.
EISENBERG: So you recently got married. Congratulations.
MARTINEZ: I did. Thank you.
EISENBERG: How would you think your family would describe you? Are you the pragmatic one or are you the wild one?
MARTINEZ: I think we're still trying to get accustomed to one another. My daughter and I are a blended family with my husband and his three kids. So as wild as a pragmatic person can get, I'm probably right there in the middle.
EISENBERG: All right. Undecided. I like that. Undeclared. So Stephanie, this game is called Family Manners. We al have to navigate challenging relationships with our family members and Delia's made a career of exploring those relationships, so before the show we gave her some hypothetical family conflicts and asked her to pick one of several choices. And all you have to do is tell us how you think she answered.
MARTINEZ: Got it.
EISENBERG: And if you get enough right, we're going to send you a signed copy of Delia's book, "Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog, Etc."
EISENBERG: Yes. Are you ready?
MARTINEZ: Super ready.
EISENBERG: OK. Here we go. Your foodie sister-in-law insists that everyone elevate the next family potluck dinner by bringing fancier dishes. Do you, A, buy something with fennel or quinoa in it at Whole Foods and pass it off as your own, or...
JONATHAN COULTON: B, bring your usual tuna casserole but tell her the ingredients were locally sourced and that you sous vided the tuna for a better mouth feel?
MARTINEZ: I like the words mouth feel. (unintelligible)
COULTON: I like that word too.
EPHRON: Yes, I like it.
EISENBERG: So what do you think? How do you think Delia answered that?
MARTINEZ: I'm going to go with B.
EISENBERG: B? Delia, how'd she do?
EPHRON: Absolutely. She's absolutely right. I could not - well, in both cases I have to lie so that's, like, not great. OK?
EPHRON: But the first one I'm passing something off that's not my own so that was like not happening for me.
EISENBERG: Absolutely not.
EPHRON: Right. And in the second case, I mean, I'm making a tuna casserole? I've never even made it. Who makes tuna casserole? I mean, I just don't even - you know. So, like, I was a little thrown by that but it seemed to me that it was better. At least I was claiming it as my own although I was lying about how I made it.
EISENBERG: You were correct.
EISENBERG: You're going great, Stephanie. Here's your next one. Your mother always commandeers the remote and makes you watch four hour marathons of "NCIS." Do you subtly suggest something not starring a gravely-voiced Mark Harmon might on? Or...
COULTON: B, tell her Mark Harmon has 12 kids by 10 different mothers and doesn't pay child support but if she wants to spend her time watching him, that's her decision?
MARTINEZ: That's funny. I'm going to go with...
EPHRON: It's true. No, I'm just kidding.
MARTINEZ: Let's see. I'm going to with A.
EPHRON: Yes. Absolutely. Because actually I do that kind of binge watching all the time and I have great respect for it. I am now obsessed with "Law and Order SVU" which I call...
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)
EPHRON: Yes. So, yeah. SUV. And can't get enough. So, you know, yes.
EISENBERG: Your parents want to wait to celebrate your birthday until all of your siblings arrive from out of town a week later. Do you suck it up and wait? It's not a birthday without family.
COULTON: B, volunteer to pick up your sisters at the airport, then blow them off and stay home with a bottle of Riesling and a seven layer cake? Or...
GREG PLISKA: C, use the birthday party to announce that Angelina Jolie has just optioned your tell-all novel about your dysfunctional family?
MARTINEZ: I'm going to go with A.
EISENBERG: A, suck it up and wait. You're a good person, Stephanie. Delia, how did you answer?
EPHRON: You see, I wrote a novel about my dysfunctional family and it was optioned and it was made into a movie, so.
MARTINEZ: Oh, yes.
EPHRON: But not with Angelina Jolie, of course, but nevertheless. So I felt I had to be honest and answer it that way.
EISENBERG: Stephanie, you've got enough right to win a signed copy of Delia's book.
EISENBERG: So congratulations.
MARTINEZ: Thank you.
EISENBERG: And we got to learn so much about you, Delia. And we're going to have you later back in the show for your own challenge. Another hand for Delia Ephron.
EPHRON: Thank you.
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