Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No, Thanks

After yesterday's post about Menu Management, I got to thinking about the flipside of that dilemma. What if you are the guest who can't/won't eat what is on offer?

I was in this awkward position several years ago. I attended an event honoring educators in our city, which featured a banquet celebrating Chinese New Year. Around that time, I had done a favor for a family who lived in Chinatown and whose children attended school with mine. During the banquet, the mother, who was helping serve the feast, asked if she could make me a plate. It was generous of her to offer and it was clear that she wanted to do something nice for me in response to my previous good turn. Of course, I accepted her kindness. Imagine my dismay when she ceremoniously presented me with a carefully carved pig's ear--apparently a prime cut and an honor reserved for special guests.

Now, I'm certainly no vegetarian, and, being married to a southern boy, ribs and other robust cuts do not deter me. But an ear? This was extreme. The expression "in a pig's ear" came to mind, but clearly that was not the mot juste.

What's a Grace to do?

Well, we fake it. Remember the value of the little white lie? Drag it out in full regalia here. I thanked her profusely, hacked off a nugget, and sent it down the hatch. Fortunately, her duties as co-hostess required her to be elsewhere pretty quickly, so I was not under her watchful eye for more than a bite.

In the event that you are seated at a table with food that simply does not work for you, take small portions and move the food around on your plate. You will not endear yourself to the hostess by declaring as she offers you the offal stew that you don't eat innards.

Much better to say something like:

  • "I had a working lunch today and my boss does not take 'no thank you' when offering the tray around. He takes it personally if you eat less than a 12 inch hoagie, so I had an enormous and late lunch. Bad luck, but unavoidable. I'd just like a tasting portion since I'm still pretty full."
  • "I ate so many of your delicious appetizers, I am almost at capacity. I'll just have a tiny scoop so I can save room for dessert--I hear your pastry is legendary!"
  • "I'm not a huge meat eater--no worries, honestly. I'd love some more potatoes, though."


Chris said...

I have the (maybe bad) tendency to claim vegetarianism when the menu is mostly food I don't eat. I'm not one, but I am picky with my food. I'd rather claim I don't eat ALL meat than make people feel bad about serving the one or two types I don't eat.

And if you're at a wedding or other such function, sometimes the kitchen will make up a plate MUCH better than that of the "normal" guests. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be more graceful to tell the truth? I don't think the host is as fragile as you may think.