Is it impolite to return an empty dish?
If you grew up in the South, you may be familiar with the 'rule' that you never return a dish empty. When a friend or neighbor brings you a yummy pot of soup, casserole, or bowl of potato salad you return his/her dish with an offering in kind. This courtesy seems to be widespread - we have an Italian friend whose mother also followed this practice. You can see how this could go on forever . . . and why so many cooks turn to disposable containers!
So, what's the polite thing to do? It is not impolite to return an empty dish, but it is nice to include something when you return it to show your appreciation. Some great, quick ideas: a short thank-you note, a small box of chocolates, an inexpensive plant (like the $2.50 African Violets sold at most grocery stores), etc. The point is to let your friend know how nice it was to be remembered . . . and to return the dish promptly.
To close, here's what's blooming in the garden today: