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jaybee

Reciprocating

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jaybee, i do TRY to be blind, deaf etc., but, trust me, this is always a struggle and sometimes i get mad at my friends anyway :wink:

one of our dearest friends had a very bad reputation among "the group" [5-6 couples who have been entertaining each other for years, always with delicious from-scratch foods, each couple contributing some special dish to every gathering].  said friend quickly became a pariah when, after the 3rd or 4th time volunteering to contribute a dessert, she showed up with a sara lee frozen pie picked up at the grocery store on the way to the party.  this might have been excused once, but her behavior was consistent.  other members of the group became catty.

a few years ago it occurred to me that the members of this group are all extraordinary cooks whose skill and passion are probably a little intimidating--i realized this because i too have been intimidated [i entered the group eight years ago as the second wife of one of the founders].  i think the nonreciprocator is intimidated and insecure, and instead of trying to get better she decided early on to opt out.  she demonstrates a form of "learned helplessness."

nonetheless, she and her husband are very close to me and my husband, and i have learned to do two things with her: compliment her generously when she does make an attempt to cook, and ask her specifically to bring a certain dish i know she can make well and easily, like a tossed salad.

in recent years she's doing a bit better, but she's still no match for some of the others.  but i for one can appreciate even a small effort, and i do agree with the other responses here that for some this isn't even about rudeness--it's about a totally different consciousness.

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You pretend that the person(s) has a brain tumor that causing them to behave strangely. When they act cheap, just tell yourself, "oh, it's that brain tumor acting up again!"

Weevils. Brain weevils.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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i have learned to do two things with her: compliment her generously when she does make an attempt to cook, and ask her specifically to bring a certain dish i know she can make well and easily, like a tossed salad.

Stellabella, you have a generousity of spirit that is an inspiration.  Thanks.

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Ohhh, I see - yes, Robert, I understand now - what a shame that your fellow diners appear to be ordering top-dollar items in anticipation of a split-down-the-middle bill. Eeek. Of course you are right that it is not a huge problem but it is a fascinating observation. Thank you for the clarification.

I do not think that I have experienced this  - over the years, I guess we have always dined with "Dutchmen". Typical of my experience is the example of my aformentioned group of 5 couples. We always spend a good ten minutes with the bill calculating each couple's actual total. I like this as I drink little, my husband drinks not at all and we never bother with apps (Hubby Vlad makes up for it by ordering prime rib whenever he sees it.). That we have a tax accountant with a surgically attached calculator in the gang is to our advantage - that he plays hockey and suffers frequent concussions may not be, however.

Another advantage to actual bill-splitting is that there is no group decision about the tip. We tend to be lavish tippers as we both were servers in past lives and know that rewards are hard-won regardless of the state of the economy. I never cease to be grateful that I just get to sit there while someone brings me bread, water, wine, dinner, dessert, more water etc. in a million little trips. Thank you, all you dear servers out there.

Of course, going as Dutch as we do also relieves all of us of the rotating responsibility of entertaining at home (and of that devilish problem of reciprocating! :). Of the 5 couples, we are the only ones with adequate seating and kitchen facilities for us all. I would not ask the remaining gang of 4 to have us over were we to have them. (Say....here's a question - if I entertain four couples in one night, would I therefore be 'entitled' to 4 invitations back? Who does the math on all of this? Not my hockey-playing chum, clearly.....)

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What an interesting thread. And what a bunch of nitpickers you guys are ! :smile:

I think this topic falls into three categories.

1. People who are cheap.

2. People who do not know how to reciprocate

3. People who do not know, or are uncomfortable entertaining in their homes, or being hosts in a restaurant

I think things like Adam's Anglican friend expecting to be paid for falls into door number 1. I mean at least she coiuld make a speech about making it up to you someday, or even saying a few special prayers so you'll get nice seats in heaven. Cheap is cheap, whether it be in money, gifts or words. When I was young and I didn't have any money I used to have many friends who were sticklers for splitting up the bill exactly, including assessing the tax (assess is the right word no?) And this was a  couple who were almost living together. And even when they started making enough money to discard that habit, they still did it. It drove me crazy because I wasn't really looking for an assessment as to how much Pelligino I drank versus anyone else. Dinner is a social occassion that everyone shares the burden of and if you happen to order the $16 chicken entree instead of the $21 Pork Roast, that's just the luck of the draw. The roles could be reversed the next time. And it isn't that I don't understand that people are on tight budgets. But at some point pettiness outweighs being prudent. Penny wise and pound foolish I guess is the phrase.

My wife and I are very familiar with door number 2. Some people just do not know how to reciprocate at all, or adequately. There is a couple who we let have our very nice weekend home for a week every summer and the gift they leave might be a set of coffee mugs that cost $60. And while one can never have enough mugs, the gift is disproportionate to what they are getting. Not that I care about the gift. But I am certain that nobody evaluates how much it would cost them to rent a house like it for a week, or even how much they save if they were going to vacation in a place like Cape Cod etc. for the week. If it was me, I would take what I got into consideration and buy them a gift, or take them to dinner, etc. in a way that expresses more than here is the requisite gift I have to buy you for this favor.

As for people not inviting you into their homes, I have found that most people do not know how to entertain. And if you and your wife are good at it, they are even more uneasy about having you in their home. My wife and I entertain people in our homes all of the time. We cook extravagant meals for people and serve good bottles of wine. Yet aside from one couple, people don't reciprocate. When people have tried to reciprocate, I have been amazed many times as to how little they know about food or serving a good meal. As you can all imagine, if you come to our house for dinner we put on a production, going out of our way to buy top ingredients. But the types of dinners people reciprocate with are often lame at best. Like you go to someone's house in the Hamptons to find out that they have marinated the swordfish steak with bottled salad dressing. Or they bought rubbery Florida corn at the A & P when there is a stand down the street from their home that has hundreds of ears of freshly picked corn for sale. Sometimes it is so bad it is shocking.

As for me, I'm happy if whomever I am entertaining offers a proportionate response. We have a number of friends that we know from the days before I was a success in business, who can't afford to reciprocate in a manner they would like to if they could. And if they show up at my house with a cheap but interesting bottle of wine, or a tub of some artisinal hot cocoa mix that they picked up while touring the universe, or a box of knishes from Mrs. Stahls in Brighton Beach they picked up on the way out to our house, we really appreciate it. Offerings of reciprocity are as valuable as the thought that goes into them. And a $20 box of knishes that my guests know I will enjoy, and that we can eat all weekend together as friends is worth 10 times more than those nondescript coffee mugs that cost $60.

But nowhere does thus issue come to the surface more than over wine. Since I have a wine collection of a certain magnitude, if you are having dinner with me and it is at a BYO place, I will most likely show up with a few hundred dollars of wine. Sometimes you are dining with people who are wine collectors as well, and they can bring something of interest to contribute to the dinner. But most people do not have a clue about wine, or are happy drinking plonk. Nobody has ever asked me how much the wine I brought cost. Not a single person. And I say this not because I care, but to show that people are clueless. I am quite happy providing the wine at a dinner so I have people to open and share the bottles with. Expensive wine by yourself is a lonely habit. And sharing great wine with others is one of the great joys of life.

There is one couple we dine with about 3-4 times a year. The husband really likes 1990 Dominus and I would bring it with me for dinner, along with an older white Burgundy. Then one day his wife called me because she was planning a birthday party for him and she asked me how much it would cost to get that wine for the 30 people at the party. When I told her the per bottle price, she couldn't believe it. Well she decided it was too much to spend for the party, but since that day, when we have dinner with them and I bring wine, they pick up the check. Now they can easily afford it but that's not the point. Not everybody would be a mensch about it in the same way.

I think that keeping friends is a hard thing. There are so many issues to deal with to keep up a friendship. And when friends grow apart, it happens slowly. And it happens in a way that lags behind the friendship. There are usually small resentments about whatever, that don't get properly aired out (like Jaybee and his non-reciprocating friends) and they grow like mold on cheese until one day, poof. That's why with all of these things, cheap friends, ungrateful friends, awkward friends have to be worked out or forgiven. Or else, poof.

.

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Very nice post, Mr. Tenacious P.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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What an interesting thread. And what a bunch of nitpickers you guys are ! :smile:

I think this topic falls into three categories.

1. People who are cheap.

2. People who do not know how to reciprocate

3. People who do not know, or are uncomfortable entertaining in their homes, or being hosts in a restaurant

1.I always say  "cheapness is pervasive".  It informs all of a person's behavior and relationships.  So, its not the dinner, its all parts of the friendship.  Thats the problem.  People who are cheap are cheap with their emotions as well as their money.  Therefore, its a much larger issue.

2. "people who do not know how to reciprocate".  I don't quite get this.

3.The entertaining part I totally get.  Hosts in a restaurant-  what does this take other than money?  If there isn't money, well that brings us back to entertaining which, I  agree can seem overwhelming and way too much effort for some people.  People like to feel competent at what they do as well as appreciated.  If you, Steve, entertain in the way you describe, I can see someone not wanting to reciprocate by entertaining you in their home.   You just do it too well.

What's needed is generosity on all levels by both parties, thats pervasive too.

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2. "people who do not know how to reciprocate".  I don't quite get this.

That's because you don't have to think about it to be motivated to do it. But many people do have to. And it just doesn't occur as something to be thought about to many others. Or if it does occur and is thought about it falls into strategies of gain and loss instead of joy.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Or if it does occur and is thought about it falls into strategies of gain and loss instead of joy.

Jinmyo, yes, joy, well put.  Somehow I think we're back to generosity, especially of spirit.  Like you.

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""people who do not know how to reciprocate".  I don't quite get this"

Stefany-Reciprocating is not innate. You have to learn how to do it. For some people it's easy. My father would never show up anywhere without at least bringing a cake so I learned from that. But lots of other people have no compunction about showing up emptyhanded. It doesn't even occur to them to bring something, or send something afterwards.

"If you, Steve, entertain in the way you describe, I can see someone not wanting to reciprocate by entertaining you in their home.   You just do it too well.

But that's silly. We're happy if people grill up hot dogs and hamburgers. The issue with people entertaining isn't what they serve, it's the quality of what they serve. Hot dogs and hambugers can be great, but not when the chopped meat is from Pathmark.

Rachel-1990 Dominus is about $150 a bottle.

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For some people it's easy. My father would never show up anywhere without at least bringing a cake so I learned from that.

as my father always told guests:  "ring the doorbell with your elbows".  this was a humorous, but effective way of getting some less-than-clued-in people to bring something when invited to our house.

actually, it was my friend's dad who said that.  but it sounds better if i say it was mine.  :biggrin:

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We're happy if people grill up hot dogs and hamburgers. The issue with people entertaining isn't what they serve, it's the quality of what they serve. Hot dogs and hambugers can be great, but not when the chopped meat is from Pathmark.

Steve, (do you think all of the Plotnicks that I have known were originally Plotnicki?)

Anyway, here is another larger issue.  I'm telling you, there are innumerable people who feel deep in their souls that a hamburger made from supermarket chopped meat can make a hamburger every bit as good as ground Kobi beef that was flown in from Tokyo an hour ago (if there is such a thing).  I honestly think that in many cases they really cannot tell the difference.  I once had a conversation with my father-in-law about the fact that he felt no one could tell the difference in a blind taste test between butter and margarine!  

I run into this all the time in art.  I've had to respond to friends who think they can or their child can produce abstract paintings that are equal to those of the modern masters.  What can I say to them?  Of course, you are in a worse predicament if you have to eat the Pathmark hamburgers.  I can get away with just shaking my head and moving on.

Some people just don't have an appreciation for certain things.  In a particular subject area probably all of us are philistines.  We just don't understand, see, taste, smell, hear, etc. subtle differences in some areas.

How should we feel about this?  Its pretty tricky, me thinks. Should we pick our friends by how attuned they are to our passions? Food and dining and entertaining are all integral parts of friendship and relationships. Is Pathmark chopped meat an insult ?  I don't know.

All I know is that anyone invited to your place is pretty lucky.

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Very interesting new set of responses from SP and others on this subject.  I agree with Steve's three categories,  but would add a fourth--selfish.  There are people who are so self-involved that they don't think that an invitation to dinner or a weekend comes with an unspoken debt to reciprocate in some form, shape or manner, unless you don't care to see the other party again. There are takers and there are givers and takers.  A Yiddish word for this character trait is "schnorrer."  This is a person who takes all they can get from others with no thought of reciprocating.  There is a balance in relationships which helps keep them going.  When that balance is disturbed, the relationship can go "poof" as Steve says, unless you care enough to set it right.

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For some people it's easy. My father would never show up anywhere without at least bringing a cake so I learned from that.

as my father always told guests:  "ring the doorbell with your elbows".  this was a humorous, but effective way of getting some less-than-clued-in people to bring something when invited to our house.

actually, it was my friend's dad who said that.  but it sounds better if i say it was mine.  :biggrin:

Your father said "Tsk, tsk, tsk, that Tommy.  What am I going to do with him?  He just wants to get by on his charm and good looks and sit in front of that computer all day and laugh to himself.  He was so much better off when he was watching Schoolhouse Rock!"

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Typical of my experience is the example of my aformentioned group of 5 couples. We always spend a good ten minutes with the bill calculating each couple's actual total.

There's much to be said for splitting the bill with each paying for what he consumed. It's just not done in some circles. Do many people do it here in the NYC area? Does anyone do that in a very upscale restaurant. From my experience, there generally has to be some great inequity before most people will bother to adjust the bill, or am I dining with an odd group? I can't see a table spending ten minutes calculating each couple's actual total in Le Bernardin. How do you split the cost of a bottle of wine or is wine not ordered or drunk by any in the group?


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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"I'm telling you, there are innumerable people who feel deep in their souls that a hamburger made from supermarket chopped meat can make a hamburger every bit as good as ground Kobi beef"

Stefany-While this is true, what is also true is that people have come to my house for a BBQ and announced "this is the best hamburger I ever eaten." Two weeks later they call up to reciprocate and when you show up they serve you Puppy Chow. But it would be just as easy for them to say to us when inviting us that they enjoyed the burgers we served them at our house that they wanted to know where we got the meat from? You see, it isn't really all that difficult if you think about it.

I think most people don't know how to spend money on food (I am going to start a whole thread about this later.) I think they have preconcieved notions and habits that they just can't break. Many people would never in their right mind think of going into a place like Balducci's and plunking down the cash for top quality ingredients. Of course they like it when it is served to them in someone else's home or a restaurant, but they define eating at home a different way.

I think it's a leftover (good pun no?) from the way Americans organized their lives in the 50's and 60's which is when the great food consoldation happened in this country. Dining started with a weekly budget to be spent in a large grocery store. When purchases were pretty much confined to a single place, people got used to buying whatever it was they offered. As a result, quality dropped and items like margerine were able to make headway with a captive audience. Can you imagine margerine being a big item with an old fashioned dairy store? Of course not. It's a mass-market item. So your father's right. But that's because the food industry has confused the butter/margerine issue so badly, demonizing butter in the process, that people can't tell the difference.

"All I know is that anyone invited to your place is pretty lucky."

Play your cards right :biggrin:

Jaybee-I think selfish is just a variation on cheap. It just adds the component of self. Why someone's cheap doesn't really matter, Cheap is cheap.

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Jaybee-I think selfish is just a variation on cheap. It just adds the component of self. Why someone's cheap doesn't really matter, Cheap is cheap.

Not necessarily, Steve.  I've known cheap people who were otherwise very giving of their time and their energies.  They just had a thing about money.  And I've known selfish people who were willing to spend lavishly on themselves but were very withholding when it came to spending on others.  This had nothing to do with cheapness, more like stinginess of the spirit.

For some strange reason, most of the people we have retained as friends are neither cheap nor selfish. :smile:

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Bux-I think, and I think that most will agree, that dining is a social occassion first and an expense second. The cost of going out to dinner isn't really the cost of the food, it's the cost of the experience. And when two couples split a bill equally, even though there was some disparity as to the cost of what they ordered, it's a statement that says they equally had a good time. On balance, that equity outweighs the inequity in the cost of food ordered.

In any event, people on tight budgets can navigate their way through this by announcing at the beginning of the meal that money is an issue, they are watching their budget and they would like the bill to be split according to what they order. I do not know anyone, including me, who would be put out by this or find it offensive in any way. Unless they really could afford it and they were just being cheapskates.  But to go through an entire meal, only to have this issue come up at the end appears as pettiness because as you point out, that isn't the social custom in NYC.

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Bux-I think, and I think that most will agree, that dining is a social occassion first and an expense second. The cost of going out to dinner isn't really the cost of the food, it's the cost of the experience. And when two couples split a bill equally, even though there was some disparity as to the cost of what they ordered, it's a statement that says they equally had a good time. On balance, that equity outweighs the inequity in the cost of food ordered.

In any event, people on tight budgets can navigate their way through this by announcing at the beginning of the meal that money is an issue, they are watching their budget and they would like the bill to be split according to what they order. I do not know anyone, including me, who would be put out by this or find it offensive in any way. Unless they really could afford it and they were just being cheapskates.  But to go through an entire meal, only to have this issue come up at the end appears as pettiness because as you point out, that isn't the social custom in NYC.

Steve - you have completely hit the nail on the head...

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the consensus here seems to be that this is some sort of personality flaw.  i submit that some people just don't think in those terms.  their minds aren't aligned like ours when it comes to food and entertaining.  

i'm willing to bet that a vast majority of us hold the act of "breaking bread" in high regard.  i'm also willing to bet that a vast majority of the rest of the people on the planet don't look at sharing a meal with other people as such a sacred and wonderufl act.

with any luck, plotnicki will come around, restate the above in 2100 words or more, and we can call it a day.   :raz:

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From my experience, there generally has to be some great inequity before most people will bother to adjust the bill, or am I dining with an odd group? I can't see a table spending ten minutes calculating each couple's actual total in Le Bernardin.

bux, stefanyb, jaybee, i wanted to respond to all of you.  i posted about a very very very bad & ugly tipping experience a couple months ago.  bux, yes, there are some people who will disrupt a giddy tipsy jovial end-o'-meal conversation to whine, when the bill is presented [and this person is the only one who has bothered to go for it and carfully scrutinize it], "But I only had one glass of wine!!!"  :angry:

i think we all know one or two.  we can go on forever here about how, GOSH, no one could possibly be friends with a person like THAT!

oh, yeah?  you can pick your nose, but you can't always pick your friends.

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We once invited a couple - with their small baby - to our house on Long Island for the weekend. As a gift, they brought the free Flintstones glass they had gotten at the gas statio when they stopped to fill up the tank on the way. This still ranks as the most egregious example of hudspeh we experienced as hosts.


Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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We once invited a couple - with their small baby - to our house on Long Island for the weekend. As a gift, they brought the free Flintstones glass they had gotten at the gas statio when they stopped to fill up the tank on the way. This still ranks as the most egregious example of hudspeh we experienced as hosts.

that was meant to be a humorous gesture i'm guessing?

when we first started dating, i presented mrs. tommy with a can of SPAM one evening.  i couldn't find anything else btwn my apartment and hers.

it's the thought that counts.  :wow:

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when we first started dating, i presented mrs. tommy with a can of SPAM one evening.

Isn't SPAM uninvited male? (oops) I meant mail. :raz:

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