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Worst meal at someone's home - Part 1


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Lilija,

My ex-MIL pulled that trick with the used napkins, too. She was always hinting to me that I should cover my oak table with placemats or tablecloth, and use linen napkins, that it was more refined. Right, dirty linens, refined.

She was always giving my 2 yr old daughter messages meant for me, like: "It's not ladylike to sit like that," and "Ladies always wear girdles." Message received, concept rejected.

She hadn't been my MIL for 15 years when she died a couple of weeks ago, but she's on my mind and in my life forever because of her recipes that are sprinkled throughout my recipe box. Not that she didn't cook some dishes that qualified for this thread: my introduction to Yorkshire pudding was a soggy slab of dough, flat as a pancake. "This can't be the way it's supposed to taste," I thought, and looked up recipes for it and learned to cook it so it baked into billows of crunchy brown.

Great stories you told. Welcome to eGullet.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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Welcome, Lilija.

I think you must have visited my in-laws' houses at some point, because those stories sound like they were taken directly from their kitchens. Oy, the food those people serve is an abomination.

The leftover dinner always stands out in my mind as one of the worst things ever. A piece of lovely Alberta beef roast, burned to a crisp. Some pathetic lasagna, also burned to a crisp. A bowl of salad, dressed long ago, which was sadly wilted and watery. There were other things that I don't even want to think about, much less remember.

Luckily, we were wise to this, and had brought along some frozen pizzas so that at least our kids would get something to eat. They were quite offended that our kids ate this and not the "wonderful food" that was on the table. There wasn't enough to feed 3 people there, let alone 8 of us.

The Christmas card we got from my SIL and family has a note that they hope we are visiting for the holidays. First of all, my husband doesn't get any extra time off except for next Monday and Tuesday, and it's a day's drive away. Why would we go there to eat something I wouldn't give my dog, sleep on an old air mattress with torn bedding, and be generally miserable?

No, we're going to my sister's country home where we'll have good food, good wine, decent and clean sheets, and lots of fun. And it's only 30 minutes away. Which would you choose?

:huh:

I don't mind the rat race, but I'd like more cheese.

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The "Adventures in Eating" board has become my new favorite, ever.

Longtime lurker, I had to register, and participate.

After that first night, one of our first stops the next day was the local grocery store, where we bought pounds of cheese, and various cured sausages, crackers, and other snackies. We'd run out to the car, every night, and feast out of the trunk, like fugitives.

I'm SO glad you joined!!!

This was a terrific first post, and we're looking forward to many more. Someone needs to start a thread on "furtive eating"---I just read Megan's post in the 3 a.m. thread---it, too, is hilarious.

GINGERBRICKS!!! :laugh::laugh:

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Haha, you guys are great! Thanks again for the warm welcomes :D

I could go on and on, about furitive eating.

We have an informal tradition, of stopping at White Castle, before going to dinner at my "Grandy and Grandmom's" house. The whole dinner thing (usually twice a year, requisite summer meal, requisite winter meal) has become something of a family event.

Normally, Grandmom will call us a week before the dinner is to happen. She calls myself, my aunt, and various other relatives from my father's side. Then, my aunt and I will break our fingers trying to call each other, right after. We often run into mutual busy signals, because we're so frantic to call each other, and gossip. The calls go something like this:

Me: "Did you get The Call?"

Aunt: "Yes...she sounded colder than usual this year..."

"Maybe they already hooked her up to the formaldyhide..."

"..." (she gives me the Look, over the phone)

"So, what do you think it's going to be? Anyone start placing bets yet? Summer meal was bratwursts this year, Melissa still owes me money..."

Then the betting ensues. You see, Grandmom has a very short list of recipes. Summer Meal is either "ribs" chunks of flaccid pork floating in diluted generic storebought barbecue sauce, or "brats" boiled till they're dead, and grey, with stale rolls, and canned sauerkraut. Both vile, in unique ways. I've considered converting to the Muslim faith, in the days prior to these meals. Winter meal is a shade more varied. We've gotten beef burgundy, lasagna sans cheese (Grandy does NOT like cheese) baked chicken, and some other forgettable meals.

So, we place bets. Side bets for dessert, bets on sides, and on "appetizers". We bet on quantities, too. 8 people, 8 ribs. 12 people, one 12oz bag of egg noodles. Once, it was 14 people, 10 chairs. My husband, and I, got to sit at the "kiddy table" two rooms away. We're in our late 20's-30's. That was a few years ago, and I have yet to live it down.

Then, we have competitions, to get there the latest, without being really late-late...and no one wants to show up, to be alone with Them, for too long. So, we circle the neighborhood, till we see someone else's car, coming up, sometimes we pass each other, while circling, where we triumphantly hold up our White Castle bags, and giggle.

We stay our 1.5 hours, perched on the edge of our fussy, fancy little chairs, baking in the dry heat, trying very very hard to keep a conversation going. Most of us drink water, while we're there, but They drink scotch, and a lot. Grandmom is an alcoholic, so by that hour she's normally blitzed, and things get icier and icier. It's the same, every visit.

Wintertime, we go home with a plate of Christmas cookies. The birds LOVE her cookies. Dry, hard, burnt spare little things, that get the barest hint of sugar, and not eve a whisper of butter. Brown ones, and light colored ones. My son unwittingly grabbed one, on the car ride home once... He was hacking and blowing crumbs all over the car, for the rest of the ride.

It sounds like I'm being cruel, but Grandmom is my dad's stepmom, and she genuinely hates "the kids" and by default my family, because we are "the grandkids". She also hates fat people. She makes all sorts of scathing comments about people's bodymass. "Billy, I see you're getting more and more robust, pretty soon, you won't be able to fit in an air plane seat...how will you get here?" But, she's nice enough to force us together, a few times a year, in the name of family. She stares at us like we're rotting onions, though. Being the first one there, is like being a worm on a hook.

I've got a million stories about Them.

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I have to say, I've generally been extremely lucky in this area (for which I am truly grateful!) The one experience I can recall off-hand is dinner at my MIL's in Florida, the one and only time I was there to visit her (she's now my ex-MIL). I was looking forward to some good seafood, and she said she had bought shrimp for shrimp cocktail as a snack after we arrived. I sat in her kitchen and watched as she took pre-cooked and shelled shrimp and proceeded to boil it for AT LEAST 10 minutes. It was excruciating to watch, I was itching to get up and take the pot off the stove, but of course I couldn't be rude so I just sat there. She served the beyond-rubbery morsels with bottled cocktail sauce. Yum.

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I hesitate to post this. I mean, the flavor was actually good. But this experience was definitely a "WTF-over" kind of thing.

I love-love-love my in-law. She only moved into our area about a year ago and we are getting to know her. She invited us over for brunch a couple week-ends ago. She's preparing omelettes for brunch for everyone and asks if anyone wants vegetarian or "the works". Well, we opted for "the works" so she takes this tupperware bowl out of the refrigerator. I offer to help but she has everything under control. I ask what is in the bowl. "Well, we went to the pizza place and they had a 2-4-1 special. We ate one and brought the other one home. I scraped the toppings off and put it in the freezer to use later." :blink: Um- that was the filling for the omelette, plus some extra chopped up meats. OK- so this really did taste quite good. But is is so off-putting to hear that they saved left-overs for this occassion. Honestly, we were dubious about the results and cautiosly poked in initially to make sure it tasted OK. :hmmm:

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It was excruciating to watch, I was itching to get up and take the pot off the stove, but of course I couldn't be rude so I just sat there. 

Oh Aileen, I hear you! I totally itch to pitch in when someone is cooking something (especially if I will be expected to consume it) and they are just butchering it! It is so damn hard to not say anything. My DH knows the look though and will shake his head know, ever so imperceptively, or give my leg a squeeze to give me the strenght and courage to shut up and enjoy!

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Haha, you guys are great!  Thanks again for the warm welcomes :D

  She stares at us like we're rotting onions, though. 

I've got a million stories about Them.

Where have you BEENNNNNN all this time...these are hilarious!!! But I guess it's a good thing you funny guys parcel out the humor without going overboard all at one time.

Between you and some of the regulars, I'm gonna owe Chris a new computer chair for Christmas...I hope this one dries before he needs it tomorrow.

PS---how do you ever smuggle White Castle breath past a Grandma?

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So, we place bets. Side bets for dessert, bets on sides, and on "appetizers".  We bet on quantities, too.  8 people, 8 ribs.  12 people, one 12oz bag of egg noodles.  Once, it was 14 people, 10 chairs.

Oh, God, does this bring back memories! Not of the worst "meal" because it wasn't a meal. But shortly after my uncle got married, we all (and I mean all... my family, an aunt, my grandmother, cousins) trooped over to his new home for an invited visit.

My aunt-by-marriage set out a bowl with whole pieces of fruit, apples and something else. Only enough pieces for the adults, one each. Nothing for the kids.

My grandmother had stopped at the bakery to get a cake; my aunt placed it in the refrigerator when we arrived and never served it.

She also rushed over to fluff up the cushion each time someone got up from a seat.

We got a feeling we were not wanted.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Racheld: Never really bothered to cover it up...Maybe that's why we get stared down? Never really put the two together, but it gives me something to think about...

Sorry about the chair!! :blink:

SuzySushi: We've been victim of that, too. I've been invited over to their house, for a "quick visit" at 10 am, a few times. Never one to arrive empty handed, I've showed up with a basket of bagels, and all the trimmings. The bagels get whisked away to the kitchen, and that's that. I've learned to eat my bagel in the car, on the way over.

They've stopped over at my house, too, and I've had a coffee cake, or something, and they just stare at it like it has hair sprouting from the center. They *always* turn down beverages and food.

She also fusses with the pillows, when we move from the couch, or whatever, I know EXACTLY what you mean. It's a very strange behavior pattern.

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My parents dragged me to dinner at some friends of friends of my aunt. The husband (70 years old) had eaten nothing but meat for the last 50 years, probably from being forced to eat veggies by his mother on threat of having them sent to feed the poor in Israel.

His wife, who was a notoriously bad cook, had discovered a cut called "eye of rump," which was apparently cheap enough to feed her husband every day. It was roughly the equivalent of eye of tubeless tire, in both texture and taste.

My grandmother, on the other hand, had four recipes: motzah ball soup, pickled brisket, La Choy chow mein and gribenies. The gribenies were great. She had the magic touch to know just when to pull them out of the boiling schmaltz, so that they would finish cooking on paper towels without being either soft or burnt. The chow mein was awful, and the brisket no less. Aah, but the soup.

Non-Jewish brides used to make biscuits for the new husband's first dinner. This required long, elbow-bruising mixing to make them light and fluffy, but "bride's biscuits" were famously leaden.

The Jewish equivalent is motzah-ball soup. My mother said that she spend hours whipping them to be feather-light. My father hated them and wanted his mother's. They were the size of small grapefruits and had the consistency of golf balls. Also, she served them in soup plates 11" wide and 3" deep. The chicken broth was made with Herb-Ox cubes. You had to chase the motzah ball around the edge of the plate, sloshing soup on the table. Eventually you managed to wedge the ball against the side of the plate with a spoon, plunge a fork into it and carve it like a turkey. Believe me, it wasn't worth the effort.

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I think I got a new one... aside from the stuffed intestines and stomachs I posted about recetly, which don't really count as they are a local favorite where I [was forced to] eat them, I had a pretty awful Christmas meal, actually a series of them, in Greece. The sad thing was, it should have been good.

There are two kind of bad meals, I think...one where people use horrible ingredients and just really wrong combinations (shrimp cocktail over a lime green jello base comes to mind) and then the reall sad kind, where wonderful ingredients are completely destroyed.

In Greece, the meat of choice for Christmas is pork, and since it is virtually unavailable in Turkey, I was looking forward to it.

I should have known better. My friend's wife is a wonderful woman in every area except anywhere within 10 meters of a kitchen. Her nickname should be "Bessemer Betty." Everything is cooked hot, fast, and long. Vegetables are goaded along on their eventual conversion to petroleum by hours on high heat, shrimp become chewy white fibrous polyps, soups fairly erupt from their pots. I wonder what previously unknown elements have emerged from her cooking.

So the main course consists of two meats: 1) a huge pork roll stuffed with prunes, dry apricots and garlic, and 2) traditional Greek pork sausages, as well as one with a hint of orange peel in the meat.

The pork roll went in a big pan, and was covered with half a kilo of butter, and was put into the oven (200C) at 4 in the afternoon. It came out at 9, dark brown, and of course the meat was cooked hard and dry. I ate it thinking how delicious it could have been. The sausages were deep fried, for around 15 minutes, resulting in a chewy dry stick with a crispy exterior.

Next day was a roast suckling pig. Two years ago she'd done a suckling pig, and overcooked it in sauce, so it had completely fallen apart. I thought she might have learned from this experience.

Evidently she did: she did away with the sauce. :shock: The piglet was cut into fourths, put in a deep baking pan, covered with 750 grams of butter, and stuck into the oven (205C or so) at approximately 2:00 a.m. Her huband said "oh...putting a little butter on it, eh?" She quickly responded "I want no critiques of my cooking!" :)

The next morning, I got up at around 9:30 and went into the kitchen, which was filled with a light smoky haze. I didn't dare intervene, but opened the window, and the oven, several times. Niki got up around 10:30 and took it out. So lessee...suckling pig, cooked at 200C for 8 1/2 hours...yeah, I guess it was about done. She showed it to me, proudly, and said "remember what it looked like last night?" (Yeah, I thought, something that would taste really good!) It was basically a stratum of dried skin and dried meat protruding out of a lake of melted butter and pork fat, with ribs and some other bones protruding into the air.

There was a selection of "salads," as they call them in Greek. Eggplant salad (the modern version of which is about 1/3 mayonnaise), "Russian Salad" which is diced vegetables mixed with plenteous mayonnaise, and "Ham Salad," which is dice ham, mixed with nearly equal parts...mayonnaise.

She also made a special new salad she was really excited about: it was a Waldorf. :) She actually changed the recipe and added lots of cabbage and grated carrot, it wasn't bad because the large amount of cabbage diluted the seemingly improbable amounts of mayonnaise.

The meal was at her sister's house, and also featured roast turkey, which was also well-dried out but not quite as spectacularly as the pork, a kind of sausage called "babo" which is black and stuffed with liver and spleen and lungs and rice, but is remarkably tasteless considering...how do they do that?...and a meat pitta that tasted strangely plastic-like. I stopped trying to figure out why it tasted like that, and just ate around it. Niki's mom makes a wonderful Vasilopitta for New Year's, but unfortunately I had to leave before then...

The wine was really nice though, as were the chi-chi tortes they brought from one of the better pastry shops in town. Just having those around the house for the next couple of days made up for whatever else we went through! ;)

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Every year we're invited to a Christmas dinner at a friend's house. Every year she goes to the best butcher in town and spends a fortune on a beautiful boneless rib roast. Every year she says she loves rare roast beef. And every year she manages to cook it to a dry, grey hunk. Next year I'm staging a kitchen intervention.

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I don't know if this counts but....

I went to a British boarding school where the dire food was reputed to be some of the worst in the country.

We thought we were tough (congealing grey globby mince on toast was a particular teatime special , as were "eggs florentine" on a bed of cold cabbage, using the left over fried eggs from breakfast) but even us hardy gals could not stomach the food when everything started to taste of cigars.

We complained and were punished for complaining until the dishwasher packed up. The plongeur had been chucking his cheap cigar stubbs into the pot next to the dishwasher and the whole lot had fallen in and slooshed around with the cutlery and crockery, imparting a delightful and lingering "je ne sais quoi", for weeks. As they never cleaned the filter out on the dishwasher, it was only when a second (or third :blink:) fell in that that penny dropped.

But on the bright side, I now have the dietary constitution of an ox.

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I live in fear of encountering a meal I've served described here! Okay, first post, and I hate to make it complaining about other cooks, but I must make an offering to everyone else who shared their stories. Names and situations have been changed to protect the innocent.....not really.

One of the most disturbing things I've ever been served was Rappie Pie, an Acadian specialty. I'm sure it was cooked correctly, but the look and texture were unlike anything I'd ever encountered previously. My best friend from university is a great cook - especially comfort foods like meatloaf, meatballs, etc. So I was happy when he invited me over to try a family tradition- Rappie Pie. This pie is made by taking mashed potato and squeezing the starch out (only God and my friend know how), mixing with various "meats", in this case, salt pork (in strips, uncooked) chicken, and (I think) cod. All of this was suspended? pressed? into a pan, covered with margarine, and baked. Is this an authentic version of Rappie pie? I know not. I just remember the queer, gelatinous taste of the potato in my mouth. My friend offered ketchup as a suggested condiment, but all the Heinz in the world couldn't make this go down. Why would it ever occur to anyone to do this to potato? What did they do with the starch that came out? Was it needed for anything else? I've always wondered this - any Acadian food historians out there?

It was with more trepidation that I approached a Christmas Dinner cooked by my brother's (then) girlfriend. Since she seemed to survive off of boiled eggs and cigarettes, I wasn't optimistic about what was to come. Sure enough, when we got there, all that was on the stove was a giant pot (what we'd use to boil lobsters in - I'm not sure of the exact dimensions, but it was the size of a small garbage can). Inside? A whole picnic ham, potatoes for 10 people, and - wait for it - a whole head of cabbage, bobbing listlessly in brown greasy water. The cabbage looked like a brain. She'd put it on to cook the night before, and left it boiling all night. All colour and flavour had fled the original ingredients, and they had to be lifted out of the pot with a slotted spoon. The water may have had some flavour, but the massive amounts of salt from the ham obscured everything else.

Just....dire. In her defense, I don't think she had any malicious intent, and her side of the family seemed to enjoy it a lot.

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One of the most disturbing things I've ever been served was Rappie Pie, an Acadian specialty. I'm sure it was cooked correctly, but the look and texture were unlike anything I'd ever encountered previously. My best friend from university is a great cook - especially comfort foods like meatloaf, meatballs, etc. So I was happy when he invited me over to try a family tradition- Rappie Pie. This pie is made by taking mashed potato and squeezing the starch out (only God and my friend know how), mixing with various "meats", in this case, salt pork (in strips, uncooked) chicken, and (I think) cod. All of this was suspended? pressed? into a pan, covered with margarine, and baked. Is this an authentic version of Rappie pie? I know not. I just remember the queer, gelatinous taste of the potato in my mouth. My friend offered ketchup as a suggested condiment, but all the Heinz in the world couldn't make this go down. Why would it ever occur to anyone  to do this to potato? What did they do with the starch that came out? Was it needed for anything else? I've always wondered this - any Acadian food historians out there?

I had this dish in Nova Scotia, and it was pretty good, actually. If you've ever grated potatoes for latkes, you'll know that they put off a ton of water and starch. With rappie pie, ideally you are going to squeeze this water out of the grated potato (by putting it in a clean tea towel or something). You then rehydrate it with a flavourful liquid like chicken stock and optionally add meat or whatever (the one I had was just chicken). While you can eat the resulting dish out of the oven, it's good cut into pieces and refried. It's hearty and filling, good for cold weather.

As for why this was invented, why not? It uses techniques found in many cuisines: a starchy, bland product is cooked in stock to improve its flavour. Meat is used as a flavouring rather than the substance of the dish, to make it go further. Nothing strange about either of those things. There are heaps of potatoes grown on PEI, so it would make sense that local cooks would try to utilize the products readily available to them in different ways.

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The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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Ah yes...well, I thought there may have been an alternative use for the starch, that's all. Did the one you try taste like...potato jelly? I wasn't sure if was the Rappie pie itself that was strange, or if I was eating a poorly executed one. Perhaps ours was straight out of the oven...everything improves when it's fried in butter. :biggrin:

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Ah yes...well, I thought there may have been an alternative use for the starch, that's all. Did the one you try taste like...potato jelly? I wasn't sure if was the Rappie pie itself that was strange, or if I was eating a poorly executed one. Perhaps ours was straight out of the oven...everything improves when it's fried in butter.  :biggrin:

Kind of like son-of-polenta-meets-mashed-potatoes, IIRC. Refrying slices in schmaltz strikes me as an excellent idea, come to think of it. :biggrin:

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  • 4 weeks later...

Time to revive this thread... two family occasions to report on:

1) Dad's wife, born and raised in Wisconsin, recently served my Jewish family ham, green bean casserole, jello mold and white bread. She was in one of those "be prepared/I don't want to have to worry about putting together a meal later" moods, so she put everything in the oven at 225 at 10am, that way she could just pull it out and serve. When we arrived at 6pm, the designated time for dinner, it was on the table in a jiff. My son's eyes went wide, in horror, as everything she put on the table had a green tint to it, except the casserole. Everything was inedible and probably toxic to boot. This experience definitely kicks the "Midwesterner's overcook everything" stereotype up a notch in my book!

2) We went to my Aunt's for a turkey dinner around Christmas. Known to be the "foodie", I was asked to carve the turkey. It looked suspiciously overdone, and the moment the knife touched the breast, it exploded into a cloud of dried turkey dust. Another case of misreading the temp and time table for a stuffed vs unstuffed bird. At least her green bean casserole was still green - or as green as cream of mushroom soup would allow!

Sitting on the fence between gourmet and gourmand, I am probably leaning to the right...

Lyle P.

Redwood City, CA

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I just went to a birthday party for my friends daughters 1st birthday. We don't have kids but they siad it was an more of an adult party as a lot of their friends don't have kids yet and its a friday.. It was from 5pm til 9pm. We all rushed after work thinking good excuse for a happy hour. The options were diet coke or water to drink.(they do have a full cooler full of wine not offered) And for food, pretzels and 1 tube of pringles for about 18 adults. That's it!! Needless to say a group of us excused ourselves early and walked into the nearest place were we could get some real food & drink.

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I just went to a birthday party for my friends daughters 1st birthday.  We don't have kids but they siad it was an  more of an adult party as a lot of their friends don't have kids yet and its a friday..  It was from 5pm til 9pm.  We all rushed after work thinking good excuse for a happy hour.  The options were diet coke or water to drink.(they do have a full cooler full of wine not offered)  And for food, pretzels and 1 tube of pringles for about 18 adults.  That's it!!  Needless to say a group of us excused ourselves early and walked into the nearest place were we could get some real food & drink.

Wow, were gifts brought or expected??

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