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TDG: The Compulsive Cook: Being a gracious guest


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I believe that the hardest thing for a good cook to do is learn to accept others' praise.

When I was acting, people would come backstage to tell me how wonderful I was -- because that's the polite thing to do after you've seen someone you know in a play -- and I would behave attrociously. I would say "Oh, thanks, but I thought it was just.........that thing in the second act, with the clock, that worked so much better the other night. And in the scene with Schmendrick, I was just NOT connecting, you know? Blah blah blah." My mother finally knocked my head against the wall and explained that PART OF THE JOB was saying "Ohhh, thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed it." And then shutting up.

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Your mother is right, mags. When I've played a concert, I always thank people for complimenting me. After having thanked them, I may ask some of my closest friends, out of earshot of the rest of the public, for their specific opinions on various aspects of the concert, but they have to be close friends of whom it's reasonable for me to ask for specific comments, and whose views pro, con, or neutral I respect. I really try hard never to let on if I think my performance sucked, except later, to my folks and such-like. And they usually disagree then, too. :biggrin:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I get a lot of satisfaction from preparing multi-course dinner parties of reasonable complexity for 6 to 8 people. I will admit that I prefer guests that just say, “feed me,” and don’t have any special dietary needs. It’s more difficult to break stride to prepare a separate meal, though I routinely do it. On the other hand, I get very annoyed with hypocritical guests. For example, one guest once informed me that she would not eat butter (painful to hear), but then consumed a chocolate dessert rich in butter. She couldn’t see the butter in the dessert, so she ate it. She’s history (for various reasons).

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  • 3 weeks later...
Booyah, JAZ, booyah!!  Fortunately, most of our guests are always very appreciative.

The one other pet peeve that I have is when I inform folks it's time to sit down for dinner, and 5 minutes later, when I'm ready to serve, all of them are still standing around.

Also, anyone out there ever NOT have unexpected vegetarians show up?

kcd

I loved the article. I would emphasize the above point about timeliness. One of my serious peeves is the common confusion between an "open house" style of party (coming and going at will) and a dinner party. When someone is cooking for you, coming on time is a better sign of respect and appreciation than any wine. (Mothers with infant children excepted.)

kcd

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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"Also, anyone out there ever NOT have unexpected vegetarians show up?"

My mom's SO's family is really picky and each in a different way. We have trouble remembering who is a vegetarian (but will eat seafood), who likes everything but chicken, who doesn't do dairy, who doesn't like spicy food, etc. And we're only talking about 5 people.

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JosephB's story of the guest who refused butter reminds me of a good friend of mine who was hosting her in-laws. She called me to consult on a chicken recipe with lemon and garlic and herbs - yummy and easy. On Sunday I asked, in front of her m-i-l, how it turned out. Friend said, "I enjoyed it..." Later I asked, and she said, "Oh, my m-i-l just doesn't like anything I like to cook. She doesn't like onions or garlic or anything spicy." I said, "You could have just prepared it with lemon juice and olive oil" and she said, "Oh, she doesn't like lemon either." I had to give my friend credit for self-restraint in dealing with her mother-in-law.

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This was a great article. It always amazes me how some people are clueless to appropriate etiquette.

Reading the thread reminded me of one my strange entertaining tales....

My husband likes to arrange the seating at the meals we host. He doesn't seat spouses next to each other as he feels they'll talk between themselves and the ideal is having everyone at the table participating in the conversation. About a year ago, one of our invited guests called to RSVP. In the process of the conversation she inquired as to who the other guests would be. I thought it was brazen, but told her. To which she said "please don't sit me next to X because I sat next to him last time we were at your house."

First, it would never occur to me to ask who else will be there. Second, I think it's presumptuous to request where you sit.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I guess I am less tolerant because I eat anything.  I appreciate that in other people because I see it as a sign of not only graciousness as a guest, but versatility.

I guess I don't understand why what I eat somehow equates to being rude or gracious to you. I can certainly understand how I CAN be rude to you with reference to what I eat, like the woman who insisted on having her chicken skin removed. But if I choose to keep kosher or be a vegetarian, if blue cheese makes me gag, how on earth is that not being gracious to my host?

This all reminds me quite a lot of the thread about customers making special requests in restaurants, which ultimately seemed to me to be about control -- about who gets to control the meal. And you seem to be saying that if I exercise any preferences -- if I opt not to eat porkchops or pasta or blue cheese -- I am rudely stealing control of the meal from you. And since it's MY mouth that this meal is going into, I don't really see where your control comes into it.

Again, if I make some kind of fuss, it's a different story.

First off, if you're keeping kosher, you need to tell your host/hostess, and if they are not following your dietary laws, you're just out of luck in my opinion, unless they decide to accomodate you.

By that same token, if you know you have a long list of "don't eats" again I think the host/hostess deserves ample notification at which point he/she can either accomodate or not. If the menu has been planned, you may have to wait for the next round of invites when kosher/vegetarian/vegan/etc might be served.

I don't see it as a negative "control" issue so much as quite often someone may decide to try a particular menu out with some friends and I think the choice of that menu is up to the cook. I don't think the host is obligated to accomodate because it may not be in the best interest time or budget wise. I think the person offering to go to the effort deserves that much control. If the cook wants to make a separate meal to accomodate each diner's preferences , then go for it. But if that menu isn't suitable to you, then as I said, just wait and see what's being served next time around. Part of this also depends on how well you know the host. A very close friend or family member will likely accomodate. :smile:

If you're vegetarian, you probably wouldn't dine in a steakhouse that didn't so much as have a salad bar, so why go to someone's house and sit through a meal that will go against your prefences or worse, make you gag? It may be best to drop by for coffee and dessert afterwards instead. :smile:

Edited by jersey13 (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...
I guess I am less tolerant because I eat anything.  I appreciate that in other people because I see it as a sign of not only graciousness as a guest, but versatility.

I guess I don't understand why what I eat somehow equates to being rude or gracious to you. I can certainly understand how I CAN be rude to you with reference to what I eat, like the woman who insisted on having her chicken skin removed. But if I choose to keep kosher or be a vegetarian, if blue cheese makes me gag, how on earth is that not being gracious to my host?

This all reminds me quite a lot of the thread about customers making special requests in restaurants, which ultimately seemed to me to be about control -- about who gets to control the meal. And you seem to be saying that if I exercise any preferences -- if I opt not to eat porkchops or pasta or blue cheese -- I am rudely stealing control of the meal from you. And since it's MY mouth that this meal is going into, I don't really see where your control comes into it.

Again, if I make some kind of fuss, it's a different story.

First off, if you're keeping kosher, you need to tell your host/hostess, and if they are not following your dietary laws, you're just out of luck in my opinion, unless they decide to accomodate you.

By that same token, if you know you have a long list of "don't eats" again I think the host/hostess deserves ample notification at which point he/she can either accomodate or not. If the menu has been planned, you may have to wait for the next round of invites when kosher/vegetarian/vegan/etc might be served.

I don't see it as a negative "control" issue so much as quite often someone may decide to try a particular menu out with some friends and I think the choice of that menu is up to the cook. I don't think the host is obligated to accomodate because it may not be in the best interest time or budget wise. I think the person offering to go to the effort deserves that much control. If the cook wants to make a separate meal to accomodate each diner's preferences , then go for it. But if that menu isn't suitable to you, then as I said, just wait and see what's being served next time around. Part of this also depends on how well you know the host. A very close friend or family member will likely accomodate. :smile:

If you're vegetarian, you probably wouldn't dine in a steakhouse that didn't so much as have a salad bar, so why go to someone's house and sit through a meal that will go against your prefences or worse, make you gag? It may be best to drop by for coffee and dessert afterwards instead. :smile:

I pretty much come back to the notion that both the guest and the host have some responbility for all this. The guest should A) make his dietary needs clear ahead of time, and B) either eat what's put in front of him (while making enthusiastic noises) or quietly and inconspicuously avoid it. Meanwhile, the host should A) take his guests' needs into account as much as possible, and B) butt the hell out of which of his dishes his guests ultimately choose to eat.

If I have invited people to dinner and I know that one or more of them keeps kosher, I can't imagine choosing to serve pork or scallops. That seems to me to be staggeringly rude, a deliberate decision to ignore my guest's needs.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Do any of you find it interesting that people just don't seem to entertain all that often any more?  We entertain all the time, and I gather that the same is true for many of the readers here, but very few of my friends and associates do.  This is not to say that I expect reciprocation, but I find it extremely interesting that many people who clearly enjoy and apreciate this kind of activity nevertheless can't be stirred to do it themselves.

This may belong in a different thread, but I host a lot of dinner parties because I feel bad about making big meals for just my fiancee and I. However, the one thing I dislike about entertainning is having to sit down and eat. I find nothing more distracting than having to take of the apron off and sit down and make conversation. I wish I could just cook and then do dishes while others eat.

:wink:

-- Jason

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And of course the host has obligations as well, as several people have noted, which I'm tackling in my next column. A host should never draw attention to a guest's not eating something, and never call them on it. But that's for next week.

What ever happened to the next installment? Did I miss it? I'm waiting to see if I make the grade as a decent hostess. :unsure:

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What a timely topic. We had guests the past weekend at our summer cottage. These guests are my daycare provider and her husband. They kind of invited themselves out to the cottage, but we had planned on inviting them anyway, so no matter.

I love to cook for people, but knowing that these people were very fussy, told them what I had planned for 2 days' worth of meals, and that they were welcome to bring any food or drink they preferred.

Well, it was interesting, to say the least. We had herb-marinated chicken and grilled potatoes for our dinner one evening. They turned their noses up at the chicken because it was "too spicy" and had hamburger patties on white buns. Well, my 5 year old is not fond of this chicken and asked if he could have one of the hamburgers. They had brought 4, enough for only the two of them, and the husband said that he would give up a burger if his wife would eat the chicken.

She said that it smelled too spicy and she would throw up from spices :unsure: They finally gave my little one his hamburger and the husband ate a portion of the chicken. He didn't really say whether it was good or not. They loved the potatoes, although they picked out the chives and grilled new carrots.

They also complained about the type of coffee we use and were just rather annoying. She is an excellent daycare provider, however, so we just sucked it up and dealt.

In the evening, they refused a glass of very good white wine as it was too sour and would make them drunk. Didn't stop them from downing most of a bottle of Bacardi limon and Pepsi though.

Are they rude or just fussy? I would never comment on someone's food and hate it when someone comments on what I am eating. I am pretty adventurous and take some interesting things for lunch to work, which causes lots of comments.

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AnneL,

Thank you for bringing us back to the original topic!

The story of your weekend guests was an excellent example of gracious hosting, but terrible guest behavior.

I think most people have some picky friends, and do their best to accommodate them. But people who say they will throw up from spices, and complain about good wine and coffee are beyond picky, they are ill mannered.

Bravo for "sucking it up". Good daycare is hard to find!

Elizabeth

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Oh, let me tell you it was hard to grin and bear it. But the annoying childish qualities that the daycare lady has are the same qualities that I think make her good at her job. My kids adore her, anyway.

However, if they want to come out again, I think we'll be "busy". We used to camp with them, but had separate camper trailers and sites. That's much different than having someone as a houseguest. We cooked our meals as wanted, and so did they.

Huh, just thought of something. They stayed 2 nights and 3 days, and did not use the shower or bath facilities because they didn't want to impose. Our cottage has a full bathroom with septic tank and a well, so we have no shortage of water. I know they shower everyday at home, so this is really strange to me. Smelling someone's unwashed body is more of an imposition, wouldn't you say? :shock:

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However, if they want to come out again, I think we'll be "busy".

I have learned to be "busy" to such people when they telephone and say they are coming to town. The story is that we are going to a wedding, or that a nephew or my parents are coming to stay that weekend. I always offer to find them a hotel nearby. And I say "find" not "pay for" a hotel!

My husband and I are not good at making up white lies on the spur of the moment, so our modus operandi is generally to say, "Sounds great! I have to check with [spouse] to make sure we're free," and then call back immediately thereafter to say, "Oops, I forgot that we have to go to a wedding out of town that weekend" or something like that.

There's a couple (my husband's college friend and his wife) for whom I will never cook again. The last time they visited us (for four long days), they were picky, picky, picky.

She looked at the five grape tomatoes in her salad and proclaimed, "Uhhhh, this is a bit much," before proceeding to transfer each slippery, dressed grape tomato, one by one, to her husband's plate.

Just as I had poured a bowl of beaten eggs into a hot skillet to make a batch of scrambled eggs for everyone, he walked into the kitchen, saw me scrambling eggs, and volunteered, "Oh, if you're making scrambled eggs, I like mine dry, very dry. I can't stand wet eggs."

Asked whether his two daughters (ages three and five) would prefer PBJ or tuna sandwiches for lunch (as in "choose one"), he said, "This one likes PBJ but hates tuna. That one likes tuna but won't touch PBJ."

She said her two daughters wanted to eat some apple. I got an apple and proceeded to cut it up. But it seems I wasn't cutting fast enough for her. She grabbed the knife from me and said, "Let me do that. I do it much faster." Greedy pigs.

Finally, they had said they would be leaving our house before breakfast on their last day because she would be having breakfast at the conference she was in town for. But, at the last minute, she decided to leave her husband and two daughters to have breakfast with us, and I was left cobbling up a breakfast I had not planned on having to cook and had not shopped for.

Ugh, I was so happy when the guests from hell left! :wacko:

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Um, why were 5 grape tomatoes "a bit much"? Hell, if they're particularly good, give me the container and the heck with the rest of the salad!

I can't wait for my garden tomatoes to ripen; I live in western Canada so it'll be a while yet. That is, if we don't get a big hailstorm or something.

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Does anyone find that picky people are more numerous than non-picky people, or vice versa?

Reading this thread makes me cringe, not for the subjects of the stories, but for those of you who got inflicted with these folks.

I'm not picky, but then again, my food tastes could sometimes be best described as "Mikey". (As in the Life commercial "Mikey".) So, I don't count.

If there's a heaven, then in your next life, you won't be saddled with picky guests. (By "your", I mean anyone who's posted thus far.)

Soba

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First off, if you're keeping kosher, you need to tell your host/hostess, and if they are not following your dietary laws, you're just out of luck in my opinion, unless they decide to accomodate you.

I know this was a couple of weeks back and is OT, but I have a serious question--if one's keeping kosher, is it actually OK to eat in the home of someone who doesn't? If the food is prepared in the home of the nonkosher person and not brought in from an outside, kosher establishment?

I have the funny feeling that it isn't ok. I have a pretty clear memory of our former neighbors--two adorable Orthodox Jewish boys--asking me for my honey cake recipe, and when I offered to make them one, they very sweetly and graciously told me that they greatly appreciated the offer, but couldn't eat food that hadn't been prepared in a kosher kitchen.

Anyway, back to the topic--our "guest from hell" who actually showed up was a last-minute addition to our formal, multi-course Thanksgiving dinner (described by Sam earlier in the thread)--one of our dear friends who was on the original guest list called a day or two before the fact and asked if she could bring her roommate, since his boyfriend was out of town and he had no local family and no one to spend the holiday with.

Well, the guy absolutely monopolized the conversation--all he did was talk about himself and get into a shouting match with another guest about whether or not the NY times music critics had been bought off by the Met! :blink: No one could concentrate on the (fantastic) food or the (otherwise wonderful) company.

Last time we say yes to a last-minute guest at a formal occasion, I can tell you...

K

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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