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Taking Compliments


ianeccleston
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Does anyone have trouble taking compliments when they cook for other people? I'm an avid home cook, and throw a lot of dinner parties. I'm known as the cook in our circle, but I still tend to blush when given a compliment about the food: I'm usually a little overly critical about the food that I served (e.g. it could have used a little more vinegar), think that they are just being polite, or a combination of the two.

It's not that I'm insecure about the meal - because generally it turns out OK to my tastes and I'm egotistical enough to invite just about anybody over to our house so I can feed them - I just tend to be awkward about the compliments. On the other hand, I'm not one to constantly apologize about the food being served, remembering Julia Child admonishing home cooks to "never apologize." There are of course those meals where everything turns out great, everyone has a good time, and I have nothing to complain about.

I recently told my wife that I didn't want her to tell all of our dinner guests that I've been "cooking all day" - I don't want to fish for compliments, and I don't want our guests to feel beholden for the meal that I want them to enjoy.

OK - this is turning into more of a confessional/psychoanalysis of me cooking than I'd like it to be, so I'll ask y'all the question: Do any of you have trouble taking compliments, are nervous to the point of constant apology, dislike or distrust polite compliments, or have witnessed this when dining at other people's homes? Any other comments?

Ian

Edited by ianeccleston (log)
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I'm much better than I used to be. I used to become quite flustered and not know what to do. Now I'm able to say "I'm glad you liked it," "no problem," and "my pleasure" at the drop of a hat - these reponses skirt the issue somewhat though.

Ian

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I don't think it's just with cooking. I've read many articles about people having problems accepting compliments in every realm.

My suggestion is to smile and say thank you.

"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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It's funny - the reason I might say it's too 'whatever' comes from an urge to get people not to compliment, or lessen the degree of the compliment or something ... but it does tend to make things more awkward, I agree. I think part of my motivation is humility, or an attempt at it.

I do take criticism well though - my goal is to be a super-duper cook at some point in the future, and I enjoy feedback on how to make it better. I'd almost rather have a discussion about the food rather than it be blandly praised.

Ian

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Not at all. I love compliments, and preferably they should be repeated several times with increasing fervor during the meal. Just once is not enough. And they must be sincere. To ensure that, I just don't cook for insincere people.

Also took Julia's advice to heart and never make disclaimers. And I only fish for compliments when I'm eating alone with Mr. Babyluck, and then I do so incessantly if he is not forthcoming enough with the praise.

Queen of Grilled Cheese

NJ, USA

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This is a funny thread. All these insecure cooks! It's just a cry for attention, huh?

When my husband finishes his meal in about 60 seconds when I'm just taking my second bite of salad, then it's "his way" of saying it was good. He does, occasionally, say something like "this is great!" which is a nice change.

I think we're at the point in our 15 year relationship that if he, out of the blue, said something like "Honey, you are such a wonderful cook" or "gee, you look incredibly lovely tonight" I would put a knife in his throat and say "OK, who is she?" !!

I love it when my friends compliment my cooking. I do sometimes say something silly like, well I should have used more blah blah blah, but usually I say "I know, isn't this great?!"

One of the best compliments I got was from my son Max. He was eating a Hershey bar in the back seat of my car and said "Mom, y'know how you always say there's a difference in chocolate, and really really good chocolate?" and I said "yeah.." He then said "This Hershey bar tastes like crap!" Last Valentines Day he got a $39.00 box of Lindt! Kids are expensive!

JANE

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These are occasions when the British sense of humour and irony can be useful. In response to compliments on the meal I can usually say something like, "I know, absolutely dreadful wasn't it but I'm glad you found something to enjoy" or, "Thank you, it wasn't bad for an amateur/beginner/supermarket takeaway". Wouldn't work in the US, they'd think you were being serious.

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I like to be thanked for the effort. as for compliments a little bit is enough, otherwise I find them a bit insulting. I'm not stupid enough to think that anything I cook is on par with the cure for cancer. A simple "this is good" or "I enjoyed it" will suffice. No need to say "YUM YUM YUMMMMM". If you do you may not be invited back.

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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I love to have my cooking complimented - moreso the effort that I put forth in doing it, rather than the specific dishes. In fact, I have no problem eliciting compliments if they're not forthcoming! (Even if they don't like my latest try, they can at least commend me for my efforts.)

Sometimes, I'll elaborate and tell a story about a certain recipe and where I got it, the time or difficulties I might have run into.

You can generally tell if people are complimenting your cooking out of courtesy or genuine delight. The ones who are delighted usually appreciate some story telling and/or swapping of recipe hints. For the others a simple thank you and smile will suffice. :smile:

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If I compliment someone on anything (a dish, a piece of clothing, whatever) and that person responds with a negative comment about what I've complimented, I feel as if my taste has been insulted. I wouldn't have made the compliment if I didn't like it, and the recipient saying it's *not* something to like seems like a deliberate comment on my opinion.

The preferred response to a compliment is "Thank you."

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My mom used to feel bad if my dad and I didn't compliment her cooking, so I got used to saying "This is good!" after the first couple bites or so, and it usually was good...

but now I carry on that expectation when I cook, and I look at my fiance expectantly when he takes a bite of something, and he isn't one to give compliments. Problem is, he'll eat anything agreeably as long as it isn't underdone or really horribly wrong, so I never know what he thinks unless he *really* likes it, and then he'll usually say, "Well, you've outdone yourself!" or something like that.

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You can generally tell if people are complimenting your cooking out of courtesy or genuine delight. The ones who are delighted usually appreciate some story telling and/or swapping of recipe hints. For the others a simple thank you and smile will suffice. :smile:

Great topic, Ian.

I agree with how NHCG put this. Like a few other people, it's taken me a long time to get comfortable with NOT apologizing and just smiling and saying thank you. I tend to be my own harshest critic, but I try to be gracious no matter what I thought of it. If people are really interested, I'll elaborate on the concept, the technique, the ingredients or whatever - little details that might let them enjoy the meal even more.

A handful of times, when it's been a grand slam home run of a meal, amongst the closest of friends, there hasn't been much talking - maybe someone will exclaim "Oh, come on!!" and I'll respond with "Yup," a smile, a shake of the head and a clink of the glasses... or rarest of all, a giggle of glee. Dammit, I love food.

~Tad

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Never had a problem with that. (while I was still working as a chef).

Years ago, when a guest stuck his/her head in the kitchen door, and complimented the food, four words rang out in unism coming from the crew: 'Say it in 'Schaefer', meaning: Buy a round !

The place I worked at, it was the owners policy that no one cook/chef was singled out. Either you buy the 'kitchen' or none !! And that included KPs.

When I cook today at home, I only invite guests that are not too sophisticated to know what is real good, so they have to and always will compliment. (Just kidding)

Peter
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"Thanks" and a smile is probably the most dignified response - but then, as other people have pointed out, there are those outrageous (often boozy) compliments that can't be left alone. I got one last night: (Sicilian - arancini, eggplant parmesan) "You cook like a professional chef!" You can't (or I can't, at least) just smile and say "thanks." I did think of all the posts on this topic and considered letting it lie, but said "No, come on." Not what people had recommended saying, but... he was not offended at my reply, and didn't expect me to accept it, I think. Not that I didn't appreciate the sentiment. :)

Interestingly, in Chinese the standard response to a compliment is usually "that's not true" (Bu Shi) or "I can't even see what you're complimenting, let alone be in a position to accept your compliment" (it's shorter in Chinese Mandarin) or "You're too polite". I think it's considered rude to accept a compliment immediately at face value - it's what those damned arrogant Americans would do. (anyone who took Chinese for longer or more recently than me, or is Chinese please feel free to correct me or elucidate).

Ian

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Your not alone Ian, I admit I'm bad at accepting compliments on any topic. I'm not trying to milk the subject or insult the person complimenting me....not at all! I just have a horrible habit of saying exactly what comes into my mind with-out filtering it and I'm certain nothing I do is that good. Compliments always make me feel aueward and aueward = babble.

My hubby straightened me out and taught me to just say thank-you and accept kind words. It actually feels better accepting them then deminishing them.

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Hmm, I can accept a compliment, but I do tend to overanalyze the meal. It drives my wife nuts when I say, "I think I oversalted the water," or "next time I'll try long grain rice rather than arborio."

I'm not fishing for compliments or disparaging the meal, but after the first couple of forksfull I'm already skipping ahead to the next time I make the dish and figuring out what I'd do differently. We still bicker about it, she feeling that she's already praised the meal and that I'm plumping for more ego inflating. Not so. I can appreciate that something tastes good -- and accept the compliments graciously -- and still find things to try next time.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Hmm, I can accept a compliment, but I do tend to overanalyze the meal. It drives my wife nuts when I say, "I think I oversalted the water," or "next time I'll try long grain rice rather than arborio."

Sometimes the trick is to keep those observations to yourself. With a tableful of foodies, of course you're going to overanalyze the meal. That's part of the fun. But with a regular audience, it can be confusing.

Bruce

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  • 7 years later...

I always denigrate my cooking a little before I serve something,and especially if I receive a compliment. "It's sort of ugly, but I swear it doesn't taste as bad as it looks," or "Really? You like it? I was afraid it would be too sweet," etc. etc.

I think it's in part because I'm Asian, and Asians are not trained to just accept compliments gratefully, but also because I'm hyper-critical about my own work (after I made a critical remark about something I had done, a friend once said, "Oh, Rona. No one is harder on you than you are. . . except your mother." :laugh: ).

I wonder if, to the people giving the compliments, it's annoying?? I know if I pay someone's food a compliment, and they brush it off, I don't mind because I'm the same way. But for other people who don't do that, do you get annoyed when people brush aside your compliments?

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I tend to deflect compliments, but I'm like that in general. I'm not one to crave being the center of attention and I think that's part of what caused me to choose cooking as a hobby. I can secure myself in the kitchen and let the product be the focus afterwards.

But compliments can be tricky things sometimes. My wife will compliment anything that's not clearly botched (and even then she'll look for a silver lining). My son will let me have it straight. I appreciate that and am much more comfortable in my reaction with him.

But beyond that inner circle, I'm not sure what level to ascribe any given compliment. So it's usually a generic "Thanks, I was worried that X might not've worked, but I wish Y had worked as I'd expected." Or, the more generic "Well I'm glad you liked it, thanks."

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