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Was I wrong to not order anything?


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I'm interested in the opinions of the board. I was visiting my in-laws with my husband and the 4 of us went out to lunch at an "Arizona Family Restaurant" in a senior community south of Tuscon. The menu consisted of very standard sandwiches, breakfast all day, hamburgers and a few salads. As I've gotten older and more "into" food, I've found that I have become more selective as to what foods I will or will not eat. There wasn't anything on the menu that appealed to me....I really did try to find something! I did ask if I could order 1/2 of a cobb salad (although the picture did NOT look appetizing) and was told no. So....I chose not to order anything.

My mother-in-law made it pretty clear that my not ordering anything was not acceptable and that there were "plenty of things" to choose from on the menu.

So was I wrong? When you're with a group at a restaurant that doesn't have food choices you like, do you order something you don't want just to be polite?

Thanks,

Margy

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I'm interested in the opinions of the board. I was visiting my in-laws with my husband and the 4 of us went out to lunch at an "Arizona Family Restaurant" in a senior community south of Tuscon. The menu consisted of very standard sandwiches, breakfast all day, hamburgers and a few salads. As I've gotten older and more "into" food, I've found that I have become more selective as to what foods I will or will not eat. There wasn't anything on the menu that appealed to me....I really did try to find something!  I did ask if I could order 1/2 of a cobb salad (although the picture did NOT look appetizing) and was told no. So....I chose not to order anything.

My mother-in-law made it pretty clear that my not ordering anything was not acceptable and that there were "plenty of things" to choose from on the menu.

So was I wrong? When you're with a group at a restaurant that doesn't have food choices you like, do you order something you don't want just to be polite?

Thanks,

Margy

Totally wrong as it was a social situation. I would have had the salad but not finished it.

Living hard will take its toll...
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I'm interested in the opinions of the board. I was visiting my in-laws with my husband and the 4 of us went out to lunch at an "Arizona Family Restaurant" in a senior community south of Tuscon. The menu consisted of very standard sandwiches, breakfast all day, hamburgers and a few salads. As I've gotten older and more "into" food, I've found that I have become more selective as to what foods I will or will not eat. There wasn't anything on the menu that appealed to me....I really did try to find something!   I did ask if I could order 1/2 of a cobb salad (although the picture did NOT look appetizing) and was told no. So....I chose not to order anything.

My mother-in-law made it pretty clear that my not ordering anything was not acceptable and that there were "plenty of things" to choose from on the menu.

So was I wrong? When you're with a group at a restaurant that doesn't have food choices you like, do you order something you don't want just to be polite?

Thanks,

Margy

Totally wrong as it was a social situation. I would have had the salad but not finished it.

MargyB, As it was not only a social situation, but also a family one, I would have ordered something....a sandwich, a salad....especially in the context of where you were dining. Do your in-laws live in the senior community? Perhaps it was the only place they could take you? It was a small thing for you but maybe a bigger one for the in-laws. People matter more than food. Not worth upsetting family over it. :sad:

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My mother-in-law made it pretty clear that my not ordering anything was not acceptable and that there were "plenty of things" to choose from on the menu.

So was I wrong? When you're with a group at a restaurant that doesn't have food choices you like, do you order something you don't want just to be polite?

Thanks,

Margy

This is sympathetic laughter, Margy. :laugh: Geez, you described a situation with my in-laws, so very well. They eat at chain restaurants for lots of ridiculous reasons and no, I don't tell them they're ridiculous. They also get very offended and take it personally when I don't eat anything, even if I have a plate in front of me.

The attitude is theirs, and it won't change. You can't win.

To me, insisting that someone eat something they don't want to, is the same as insisting a teetotaler have a beer, or vegetarian a meatball, or a diabetic eat a cookie. Isn't being together the important part?

Edited by FabulousFoodBabe (log)
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You're your own boss, so if you don't want to eat what's on offer at the time because it's not to your liking, then I don't think anyone should tell you otherwise.

The only situation I think, in which you should really "force" yourself to eat something, however awful it may be, is if you're out as a pair. Having only one of the two eating is pretty rude and can often be a bit akward.

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I dunno......by not eating you put pressure upon the others in the party. They assume that you're suffering by not eating, and then your suffering transposes onto them. At some point they take responsibility for your decision. It may be your life, but it's theirs, too.

It also depends on the culture. For most Asians it would be unacceptable not to eat. You cannot visit with people and not eat something. I've been told pretty much point-blank in Mongolia that if I value my skin I'd better eat that piece of white stuff, regardless of whether it's hard enough to stone bears with or not.

The polite thing to do, as above, is to order something small (and inexpensive), and keep up the appearances of eating, while not doing much real munching.

That said, the above only matters if you care about the people you're dining with. I get subjected to these horrible "appreciation luncheons" at work, which consist of fried foods left out on the counter to chill, and various hosting points for food poisoning. I've just let it be known that I have better food back in my office, and I'm doing just fine until then, thank you. Some people get their backs up, but they're learning.

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If half a cobb salad was acceptable then you could have ordered a whole one and pecked around on it at least. Lettuce is lettuce after all. Yes, unfortunately that comes out haughty and rude.

I have a hugely finicky stomach but I could always find something to order. It's always much better to be polite in this curcumstance with in-laws in a place they obviously chose in a senior community. Your refusal to order indicates much more than you realize. Why all the drama? You're absolutley entitled to not order but now you got consequences to deal with. Feelings surely were hurt.

For an office thing where someone else is picking up the tab...and the someone else is an authority you're taking a risk again by not ordering.

For a business thing where it's every man for himself, you don't have to order. But you should tip nicely for your drinks & stuff.

Making nice wins over making taste.

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Sign me up with the (it appears thus far) nearly unanimous opinion that you were in the wrong. After all, what you were saying was pretty clearly that you think you and your taste in restaurants and food is better than theirs.

And it may be (and probably is), but it is rude and unkind and insulting and unnecessarily confrontational to point it out to them.

Turn it around. Say you invited them to dinner at your place, or to a restaurant that you like. And they refused to eat your cooking or, at the restaurant, said that they didn't see one single thing that they could possibly manage to choke down. How would you like that?

Others have said that a business dinner is different, but I'll bet had the person treating you to dinner been your boss, you would have been much less likely to risk offending. Relationships between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law are always tricky, and this certainly didn't help. Not to mention that you put your husband in a very awkward position, right in the middle.

So here's the bottom line: you didn't force yourself to make the huge sacrifice of politely eating a few bits of Cobb salad and then unobtrusively pushing the rest of it around your plate. But you have created an "incident" with your husband's family that probably will stick in their craw a very long time.

I guess you made your point, but was it worth it?

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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What I think is worse however, is (This happened to me a few weeks back) - Myself and two friends went out for lunch, on the suggestion of "friend B".

We ordered - I had a Beef & Stilton baguette by the way. Friend B ordered baked Penne, picked around the edges and then said

"I'm not actually hungry".

He then left the entire thing, simply placing his napkin over the top.

What the hell is that all about? I was absolutely bemused and couldn't stop thinking about it the rest of the day.

Edited by GTO (log)

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What I think is worse however, is (This happened to me a few weeks back) - Myself and two friends went out for lunch, on the suggestion of "friend B".

We ordered - I had a Beef & Stilton baguette by the way. Friend B ordered baked Penne, picked around the edges and then said "I'm not actually hungry".

He then left the entire thing, simply placing his napkin over the top.

What the hell is that all about? I was absolutely bemused and couldn't stop thinking about it the rest of the day.

:laugh:

That is so inexplicably peevish that I can't help but think that Friend B was in a snit about something else.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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To me, insisting that someone eat something they don't want to, is the same as insisting a teetotaler have a beer, or vegetarian a meatball, or a diabetic eat a cookie.  Isn't being together the important part?

I disagree. If you are allergic to a certain food, abstain generally from alcohol, are a vegetarian, or have a religious prohibition against eating a certain food, then you have a legitimate reason for abstaining from certain foods. If you have a medical condition which involves strict food consumption restrictions, then you may have an excuse for not eating at all. Outside of these circumstances, however, most people in our culture would consider it rude not to eat something in this type of social setting. Food is multivalent, and means more than simple nutrition.

My sister, for example, is a long term anorexic and extraordinarily picky eater. She has been for nearly 30 years. She avoids the social problems of her decision to not eat or only eat a very limited variety of foods by asking not to be invited to dinner, or at least to a social setting where she will be expected to eat what is put in front of her. It's not an ideal solution, but it does shows that she recognizes the social problem of not eating what she is offered. One could argue that the anorexia constitutes a medical condition, and perhaps this gives her some license. If someone insists on taking her out, she will list those restaurant where they carry food that she will eat. It's complicated. She is quite happy to socialize with people outside of mealtimes, and most of us just choose those kind of occasions to be with her.

If your problem is simply that this is not the type of food you wish to eat, but you have no particular medical/religious/philosophical position for not eating any of it, then in my opinion you should either find something on the menu you can order so as not to make people feel awkward or insulted (even if that just means pecking at it), or volunteer other sorts of activities that you could do together-- at least showing that you are happy to be with the people who have invited you.

As has been pointed out, in many cultures it would be considered a serious insult to refuse the generosity of the host. At least in this situation you had the opportunity to choose something fairly inoffensive.

-Rinsewind

"An' I expect you don't even know that we happen to produce some partic'ly fine wines, our Chardonnays bein' 'specially worthy of attention and compet'tively priced, not to mention the rich, firmly structur'd Rusted Dunny Valley Semillons, which are a tangily refreshin' discovery for the connesewer ...yew bastard?"

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HAH! Friend B is always in a snit - He's an awesome guy, I've known him for years but he's a touch pretentious - Very outspoken.

Here's another thing, which was brought up on 'Curb your enthusiasm' a while ago. If your order arrives before that of the other people on your table, is it OK to start? I think it is, if the food will not wait, fo whatever reason but I still try and refrain - arranging the plate, maybe discussing what's there, or even just checking the cutlery.

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Here's another thing, which was brought up on 'Curb your enthusiasm' a while ago. If your order arrives before that of the other people on your table, is it OK to start? I think it is, if the food will not wait, fo whatever reason but I still try and refrain - arranging the plate, maybe discussing what's there, or even just checking the cutlery.

I always sit there with my hands folded, making no move whatsoever toward the food. Someone else at the table will invariably notice and say something like, "Go ahead, and eat while it's hot."

At which point, my mannerly hestitation having been noted, and having been urged to go ahead, I do.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Not ordering made your inlaws feel uncomfortable so it would have been better to order something like the salad even if you left half of it. It was also wrong for your MIL to tell you you were wrong. So your even.

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My mother-in-law made it pretty clear that my not ordering anything was not acceptable and that there were "plenty of things" to choose from on the menu.

So was I wrong? When you're with a group at a restaurant that doesn't have food choices you like, do you order something you don't want just to be polite?

Thanks,

Margy

This is sympathetic laughter, Margy. :laugh: Geez, you described a situation with my in-laws, so very well. They eat at chain restaurants for lots of ridiculous reasons and no, I don't tell them they're ridiculous. They also get very offended and take it personally when I don't eat anything, even if I have a plate in front of me.

The attitude is theirs, and it won't change. You can't win.

To me, insisting that someone eat something they don't want to, is the same as insisting a teetotaler have a beer, or vegetarian a meatball, or a diabetic eat a cookie. Isn't being together the important part?

See -- you're wrong. When you won't order anything, you are telling them they're ridiculous -- or stupid or garish or low-rent or whatever -- far more clearly than if you actually said something out loud. Action/words...you know.

Barring a physical reason, not accepting somebody's hospitality is saying that it -- and by extension, they -- are not good enough for you. If that's not what you mean to say, choke down a few bites.

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Not ordering made your inlaws feel uncomfortable so it would have been better to order something like the salad even if you left half of it.  It was also wrong for your MIL to tell you you were wrong.  So your even.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

No, no, no, nobody gets even with mil, trust me on this!!

And all kidding aside, MIL did a great favor to express her displeasure. I hope she did it gracefully, but she was very right to say so.

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My mother-in-law made it pretty clear that my not ordering anything was not acceptable and that there were "plenty of things" to choose from on the menu.

So was I wrong? When you're with a group at a restaurant that doesn't have food choices you like, do you order something you don't want just to be polite?

Thanks,

Margy

This is sympathetic laughter, Margy. :laugh: Geez, you described a situation with my in-laws, so very well. They eat at chain restaurants for lots of ridiculous reasons and no, I don't tell them they're ridiculous. They also get very offended and take it personally when I don't eat anything, even if I have a plate in front of me.

The attitude is theirs, and it won't change. You can't win.

To me, insisting that someone eat something they don't want to, is the same as insisting a teetotaler have a beer, or vegetarian a meatball, or a diabetic eat a cookie. Isn't being together the important part?

Was there no side salad? The civil libertarian in me says you should feel free to do anything unless it is of obvious harm to another. I do find it horrible when a friend or relative, as in the above example, insists on always going to certain restaurants because of their unwillingness to compromise, especially if they expect other to eats things they find disagreeable or do not approve of for other reasons be they religious, etc. (I have a good friend who for years dragged me to the Cheesecake Factory against my objections). The person who get cranky in me when not fed on a regular basis can't understand skipping a meal, even if the food is sub par (I did eat at the CF although I generally felt ill afterwards). The repressed WASP in me would have felt awkward not ordering anything, as it is a social expectation. Perhaps another good question here is whether it is socially acceptable to veto the selection of a restaurant before you actually commit to eat there. I had one of the worst meals in my life at a sports bar in Pittsburgh because ONE person in the group (we were at a conference) was a pick eater.

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My mother-in-law made it pretty clear that my not ordering anything was not acceptable and that there were "plenty of things" to choose from on the menu.

So was I wrong? When you're with a group at a restaurant that doesn't have food choices you like, do you order something you don't want just to be polite?

Thanks,

Margy

This is sympathetic laughter, Margy. :laugh: Geez, you described a situation with my in-laws, so very well. They eat at chain restaurants for lots of ridiculous reasons and no, I don't tell them they're ridiculous. They also get very offended and take it personally when I don't eat anything, even if I have a plate in front of me.

The attitude is theirs, and it won't change. You can't win.

To me, insisting that someone eat something they don't want to, is the same as insisting a teetotaler have a beer, or vegetarian a meatball, or a diabetic eat a cookie. Isn't being together the important part?

See -- you're wrong. When you won't order anything, you are telling them they're ridiculous -- or stupid or garish or low-rent or whatever -- far more clearly than if you actually said something out loud. Action/words...you know.

Barring a physical reason, not accepting somebody's hospitality is saying that it -- and by extension, they -- are not good enough for you. If that's not what you mean to say, choke down a few bites.

From reading the initial post, I think it's pretty clear that in addition to not ordering anything, MargyB did say "something out loud."

According to her, her mother-in-law said that there were "plenty of things" to choose from on the menu (including breakfast all day). That comment had to be in response to something like, "I can't find anything to order. Nothing looks good to me." or words to that effect.

So MargyB didn't just plead off, saying that she had a snack right before she came, or wasn't hungry for some other reason, like her stomach being upset or something. She said she wasn't ordering because nothing suited her. "Oh, wait, maybe 1/2 a salad" (which as we all know, any restaurant would love to remake a Cobb salad).

(Perhaps she should have said that her stomach was upset. Then everyone might have thought she was pregnant, which would have had the effect of immediately deflecting attention from her opinion of the menu.)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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MargyB, As it was not only a social situation, but also a family one...

I have to agree that family matters in this case. I'll never forget the first time I returned from a semester in Italy, wishing to cook something during a visit to my step-family. Back then, wedges of Stella domestic Parmesan were the closest you could get to Parmigiano-Reggiano in rural New England, so I picked up a block reluctantly during a trip to the supermarket. It was interpreted as a snobby slap in the face by my frugal relative who would never spend that much on cheese in the first place, especially when there was a perfectly good shaker of Kraft Parmesan in the fridge back home.

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The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I know Jaymes has a similar story about a Mexican restaurant, but I was shopping with a self proclaimed foodie friend who insisted we go to lunch. I went. The place had a nice view and I knew I was in for a very not so good Italian meal. I was right. It was fine but I wouldn't go back under any circumstances. I was asked what I thought and I replied it was very good. What's the point? Do I need to teach this person a lesson? Well of course it gets back to everybody that I loved this place and it kept coming up. I wanted to correct the situation but in the end, so what? If someone had asked me point blank, I could have said, "I don't remember it being as good as Billie Jo does but it was awhile ago."

My point is sometimes you just have to roll with it and now you've given the mother a story to tell for the rest of her life!

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Was there no side salad? The civil libertarian in me says you should feel free to do anything unless it is of obvious harm to another. I do find it horrible when a friend or relative, as in the above example, insists on always going to certain restaurants because of their unwillingness to compromise, especially if they expect other to eats things they find disagreeable or do not approve of for other reasons be they religious, etc. (I have a good friend who for years dragged me to the Cheesecake Factory against my objections). The person who get cranky in me when not fed on a regular basis can't understand skipping a meal, even if the food is sub par (I did eat at the CF although I generally felt ill afterwards). The repressed WASP in me would have felt awkward not ordering anything, as it is a social expectation. Perhaps another good question here is whether it is socially acceptable to veto the selection of a restaurant before you actually commit to eat there. I had one of the worst meals in my life at a sports bar in Pittsburgh because ONE person in the group (we were at a conference) was a pick eater.

But these people were not friends, they were her husband's parents. And they don't go out to eat together all the time; she and the husband were visiting them at a retirement community south of Tucson.

Next time, MargyB, head south another 45 minutes and eat at La Roca in Nogales. Get the chicken mole.

Invite the 'rents to come with you, your treat.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Incrediblly Rude. So sad that the food wasn't "good" enough for you. I bow down to what must be astounding taste in your part that not even a side salad was "good' enough for you. What a wonderful, wonderful food snob you've become. I've said it before on egullet and I'll say it again. Food snobbery makes me sad.

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MargyB, As it was not only a social situation, but also a family one...

I have to agree that family matters in this case. I'll never forget the first time I returned from a semester in Italy, wishing to cook something during a visit to my step-family. Back then, wedges of Stella domestic Parmesan were the closest you could get to Parmigiano-Reggiano in rural New England, so I picked up a block reluctantly during a trip to the supermarket. It was interpreted as a snobby slap in the face by my frugal relative who would never spend that much on cheese in the first place, especially when there was a perfectly good shaker of Kraft Parmesan in the fridge back home.

Newtonian etiquette: for every faux pas, there is an equal and opposite faux pas.

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Ever the champion of the underdog, I'm going to side with you on this one. I don't find it unusual at all to go to a restaurant and not find anything that 'grabs' me on the menu. I would order a cup of tea or a glass of wine if it were an option, and just enjoy the conversation. If you don't want to eat anything, why does ordering food, not eating it and wasting it seem more polite? Plus you are risking having the server ask if there is something wrong with your food and then what do you say? "No, I didn't want it anyway but ordered it to be polite?" And some places would then remove it from the bill, thinking there was something wrong, so you've added to their waste and overhead.

I've been in a bunch of situations with co-workers, too, where they'll settle on the lowest common denominator trying to please everyone. If I go along and have some tea and visit with them, celebrating whatever it is we're celebrating, that's the whole point. Why on earth would I order food and not touch it? If it were an event honoring me and I got to pick the restaurant, and I decided on somewhere that served [what to them was] bizarre food, do you think they would order something "just to be polite"? "Aw, here, just try a bite of my ____ - a little won't hurt you!" Wouldn't happen, so why should I pretend order at a plastic food place. And before you think I'm snobby or feel sorry for my poor co-workers, they are the same people who carry on and on whenever a guest-worker from another country dares to microwave something that smells "weird" to them to the point of embarrassing the poor guy enough that he feels uncomfortable bringing lunch to the office. It's happened many, many times.

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