Guest etiquette question.......

pfmastinNovember 27, 2006

My husband and I are participating in a church dinner group for 4 couples where one couple hosts the dinner and provides the entree, another brings a side, a salad and dessert. I received my invitation phone call tonight and was told the menu is Baked Ziti or Spaghetti, salad, bread and dessert and was asked to bring the salad and so on. Here's my sticky situation...I don't eat pasta. I know that's weird, but I just don't. Should I just have something before I go and enjoy the salad and bread? Should I say anything when someone asks me why I'm not eating the entree? I couldn't bring myself to say anything when they called and gave me the menu. How would you handle it? Thanks in advance.


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Gosh, I don't know.

Obviously, you don't want the host to make something else do to your 'pickiness' but, at the same time, they may be mad you didn't mention it and won't eat it. Sort of a no win situation. I can eat almost anything, even things I don't like. Can you eat it or will you actually vomit? If you can swallow it, but just don't like it, I would maybe put a little on your plate and force it down. Sorry, I personally just don't get food aversions.

If you really can't stomach it at all, I'd just eat the salad and bread and go ahead and tell them the truth if they ask especially since this problem will probably come up again at another dinner. If it were a one time deal, you could maybe white lie your way out of it but considering it's a dinner club, pasta is bound to come up one way or another quite a few times.

People don't usually mind catering to food allergies or medical restrictions, and even a strict vegetarian is somewhat respected, but people who are just 'picky' eaters are often frowned upon. I hope for your sake this is your only food aversion. Hopefully, you're not going to turn your nose up at the lobster bisque or lamb chops next time. ;)

Good luck. Since you are making the salad, I'd just make some extra knowing you may be eating a lot. A salad, bread and dessert should be enough for you. Have a heavy snack before you leave if you think you may be hungry.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 10:39PM
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Gosh, I didn't know I was going to get a lecture. :)

You're right, I would never want the host to make something different because I don't eat what they're serving...that's why I posted this question. Yes, for my sake, pasta is my only food aversion. I have eaten everything from buffalo to pig testicles and do not consider myself a picky eater...just a no go on the pasta. And yes, I will's a texture thing....and why would I want to choke it down? I'm 56 years old and have tried throughout my lifetime to learn to eat pasta with no success. I was simply wondering if anyone had a better idea than I because I didn't want to be rude to my hosts. Thank you for your suggestions.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 12:15AM
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Sorry, didn't mean to lecture you. It's just you're in a bad spot, and I was worried it may only become worse. (Most people I know with strange food aversions are just picky eaters). My husband, for example, won't eat real whipped cream on strawberry shortcake, but he'll eat cool whip and he'll refuse to eat homemade stew, but I've seen him eat some from a can once -- go figure! It's actually quite embarrassing going to a friend's house to eat with him so I guess I'm just oversensitive to the issue.

I did offer some suggestions mixed in with the lectures, though. :) I would just eat a big snack, skip the pasta and if asked, come clean so you won't be in an uncomfortable spot again. And, even if not asked, I would call the host doing the main meal next time and let her in on your secret before she plans the menu. Again, sorry I was rude. Let us know how it goes.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 9:51AM
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I think you should fess up right away. I would feel horrible, as a hostess, if my guest could not eat what I served. Much rather know in advance and change the menu or prepare something special. She is going to find out regardless, I would not want to tell her in front of everyone and have her feel terrible all evening. I'm sure she would be thinking "why the heck didn't she tell me".

Call her and tell her that you wanted her to know that you can't eat pasta but that she should not worry about that, tell her a salad is plenty and she isn't to cater to you. She probably will but that's OK.

Even go so far as to tell her that pasta is one of your husbands favourite dishes and he never gets it because you don't cook it. hope thats true, if not stretch the truth and tell him to have two helpings!! .

Tell her you just wanted to tell her before hand so she wasn't taken off guard but that you really are fine with a salad , bread and dessert. She'll do what she does......

Actually I always ask my guests if they have any allergies, dietary restrictions or dislikes just to avoid a situation like this.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 10:20AM
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I have been cooking for a lot of people for a lot of years. And I have never seen nor heard of anyone who flat out won't eat anything made from pasta...
I would ignore it...refuse the main course, eat bread and salad, you won't starve. But don't call attention to your "disability"...pretend you are low carbing....
I don't know how to ride a bike....but I try not to bring it up. Somehow it just seems un American not to be able to ride a not eating pasta....Just say "no thank you" when the pasta is passed. If someone says hwy? just say "I don't care for any pasta today...the salad is enough."
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 11:32AM
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This is something else to consider.

Normally, I may tend to agree with chase, but I think the time may have passed to inform the host in this case. I know if I were host, I would want to change the menu so that eveyone could eat and it would just leave me frustrated if I didn't, but I'm not sure your host can easily do that.

Do you know if she is a good cook? I know I may be wrong about this, but it's one of the first things I thought...The fact that she is serving pasta (maybe spaghetti) to a dinner club makes me think maybe her cooking skills are not that big. Sorry, I just don't serve simple pastas to company as a main dish. The people that serve spaghetti in my circle are the ones that don't cook. Now, granted maybe she's a great cook with an exceptional spaghetti sauce and I'm wrong.

An experienced cook may be able to easily change the menu...offer you big meatballs on bread, etc.. or whip up a pork roast or roasted chicken to serve instead. Of course, the side dishes would have to change too. But, do you think she is an experienced cook, and would changing the menu be easy for her at this point, or not?

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 12:11PM
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I think this is a real dilemma because no matter what you do, there's a 50-50 chance it won't go over properly.

If you say nothing, it might go fine OR the hostess might be horrified that you didn't tell her and give her an opportunity to serve you something different.

If you say something, the hostess may or may not accommodate you, BUT she might feel put out if she gets the impression you were ASKING her to make you something special, even if you attempt to make it clear that you're fine with salad, bread and dessert.

So.... I'd look at the two bad scenarios and decide which one I thought was worse. And that might depend on how well you know the hostess. At this point, it seems like you don't know her very well, so I'd probably just go with the first option. I'd keep my mouth shut, eat the salad and not say anything unless someone asks. If they do, be honest. I don't see any point in lying if this group is going to meet regularly. I'd just say, Oh, I'm not a fan of pasta so the salad, bread and dessert will be just fine for me tonight.

As the group progresses, it will naturally become known that you don't eat pasta, and probably they'll work around that in the future. But for now, with a group of people you don't know very well, IMHO, this is the simplest route.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 12:36PM
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This may not be the best solution, but what would I do? I'd make a big, hearty green salad with some protein of some sort in it (chicken, nuts, pepperoni, lots of cheese). I'd take lots of salad and just a little of the pasta. I'd eat the salad and bread, and probably ignore the pasta, hoping others wouldn't notice. Depending upon the type of casserole, perhaps there will be something you can pick out and eat--cheese, meatballs, for example) If asked, I'd (like the chicken I am) probably claim to be too full, or dieting. If the topic had come up at dinner, I'd get the hostess aside later and try to explain diplomatically that I just can't eat pasta--and I'd hope she didn't quiz me on why I 'couldn't' eat it.

Don't know if that helps, but I wouldn't want to make an issue of it either before or after the meal if I could avoid it.

However, as someone else has said, it's likely this question will arise again, since most people love pasta, and since it's such an easy dish to serve a group.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 3:34PM
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Under these circumstances, I think I'd pick azzalea's option. With luck, no one will notice anything, and anyone who does notice the small helping of pasta will just assume you're cutting back on carbs, and anyone who notices you left pasta on your plate will assume you ate some. It would probably help the illusion if you leave uneaten a little of everything else on your plate, too.

In most cases, though, I really think that it is better to tell the hosts in advance if there is something you cannot eat. I stress "cannot eat" -- whether for religious, allergic (I would include such a strong aversion as yours as a functional "allergy" in this case), diet, or ethical (e.g. vegetarianism) reasons -- not "don't like," in which case I agree with the others that you just choke a little of it down! I have posted before (anyone remember the "Atkins emergency" dinner party?) that it simply drives me crazy when a guest shows up for dinner and informs me that s/he is a vegetarian (or whatever), is "perfectly happy eating the side dishes," and didn't tell me in advance so that I "wouldn't go to any trouble." But how did that save me any trouble? I went ahead and cooked a lovely dinner, and now s/he won't even eat it -- which not only makes me feel like I am a bad host to her, but also makes me (and any other guests) uncomfortable eating the offending food in front of him/her. I would vastly have preferred to change my menu so that I could be pleasing all my guests -- that's what hosts love to do, after all! -- and it is no more trouble. Now, I stress that I am NOT talking about a big party or wedding reception or a holiday like Thanksgiving with a traditional menu; in those cases, I think the guest just says nothing and eats around whatever it is; probably no one will notice anyway. But a small gathering where the guest knows that s/he is going to be one of the only guests, I personally think it is mean to set the hosts up for failure like that.

Again, though, I do agree that in pfmastin's case, that might not be possible, so I'd go with azzalea's suggestion.

Also, pfmastin, please don't feel that carla35 was lecturing you (and I hope you don't feel that I am, either). Posters often go beyond a response to the original question to discuss the broader issue. That extended discussion may be of use to someone else even if not to you.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 5:09PM
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Carla, Thank you for your reply. Of course, salad, bread, dessert will be more than adequate. Actually, it's not a dinner club per se...just a way for people at our church to get to know each other a little better. Maybe that will take the pressure off a little...knowing it's not "all about the food". top it off..I've never met this woman in my life so I don't know about her cooking skills and so wouldn't want to exacerbate the problem by throwing my problem into the mix.

What!!!! don't know how to ride a bike??? I've never heard of such a thing! I'm sorry for your "disability". Now you have a story to tell about the poor woman who won't eat pasta. .

azzalea, I like your idea on "beefing up" the salad. They told me just to bring the salad...they will have the dressing. I'll add cheese and take croutons to mix in.

I suppose if it's spaghetti, I'll pray for meat balls or meat sauce and if it's ziti, I'll eat the ricotta and cheese filling with the sauce. After we all get to know each other a little better, I'll 'fess up.

Seriously....everyone, thank you for your help. I'll let you know how it goes.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 5:45PM
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I don't understand the point of lying about this if asked. If the OP were alergic to the food being served, would you recommend handling it by lying? If she were a vegetarian, should she take a little meat on her plate and then just not eat it? I don't know of any rule that says it's not ok to admit that you don't like a certain food. Maybe because pasta is something that it is assumed everyone loves, but really, pretty much everyone doesn't like something.

I honestly don't see anything to be embarrassed about. And especially if this is going to be an ongoing social situation (I'm assuming that it is) why not go ahead and be honest about it? That way the future hosts can (hopefully) plan around this for you.

It's simple enough to say it in a polite way, "I'm not fond of pasta" or "I'm not a fan of pasta" or "I prefer not to eat pasta". Period. No other explanation necessary. If someone pushes for an explanation, just keep repeating the same phrase until they stop asking.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 5:58PM
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Bless you, lowspark.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 7:37PM
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The hostess said just bring the salad and she will provide the dressing.... that is the strangest thing I have ever heard. How would they have a clue what dressing may be appropriate to the salad......this whole thing sounds off to me.

You know what, I am reversing my original thought, I don't think it matters much.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 8:03PM
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HA! Chase! I think you're probably right. I was taken aback about the salad dressing thing, too.

I had already thought that if I was asked to bring a salad to one of these things that I would take take a green salad with apples, dried cranberries, walnuts and feta with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Oh well, I'm sure it will all work out and we'll have a good time.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 9:20PM
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I would make ceasar salad or something similar that goes with the pasta dinner (sounds like theme is Italian). I don't think the salad you describe would go with the meal, despite the fact that it sounds just scrumptious to me (its dinner time in my neck of the woods).

Don't eat the pasta. I don't think anyone will ask even if they notice. Most people just assume those not eating pasta are doing the low carb thing. Only caveat, if you eat the bread, you give up the low carb excuse.

Don't make explanations about why you don't eat pasta, if asked just say "no thank you" and "I am not a pasta person". Eat a little something before you go and then just have some salad at the dinner. If no questions come up, have a big piece of dessert:))).

Its more about the community and company of your church friends than the food.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 6:31PM
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Hi labmama,
I'm sorry, I didn't make myself very clear. The salad I'd mentioned wasn't the one I knew I could use...just one that I like to make. I ended up taking azzalea's advice and did a salad with green leaf lettuce, romaine, grape tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, pepperoni, and feta cheese. Everyone enjoyed it. When I walked into the kitchen with my dish, I realized why she didn't tell me to bring salad dressing...there were about 6 different kinds setting on the counter. So, there was a broad choice.

By the way, the dinner was last night and we had a great time with lots of good conversation. Everyone is looking forward to the next one. The entree was baked spaghetti and had some ground beef and cheese in it and I did take a little, ate the meat and cheese and pretended the spaghetti wasn't there. Everyone loved the casserole and the other dishes were great. Thank you, everyone, for your advice and comments.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 10:50PM
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Sounds like you found a perfect solution! I'm glad you had a good time.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 12:42PM
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Pam, I am so glad you had a great time. The salad that you took sounds delicious. I have a birthday dinner party every year for my husband's birthday (Dec 15th) and I plan to use your idea. I am doing pasta too since it easy to feed a crowd and this year is lasagne. I usually have about 15 family members so I am sure there is someone who will be watching those carbs!! What kind of dressing would you have made if you were able to make your own? Do share. I was thinking like a greek flavor with a lot of oregano because of the feta, but let me know what you were thinking? Thanks.

P.S. - I think you are a really good sport to eat a little, depsite pasta makes you think "yuk". Very, very nice gesture. I wish I had the reaction to pasta, not, I will take pasta anytime, anywhere any kind and it shows:)).

Have a wonderful holiday!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 2:36PM
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Thanks gellchom and labmomma.

labmomma, I have to say I hadn't planned a dressing at all and since I rarely serve pasta, I didn't have anything in mind. But....I did look through my Joy of Cooking and thought the Roasted Garlic Dressing sounded good. Along with the garlic, shallots, lemon, white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard and olive oil, it calls for fresh thyme and rosemary and I love the flavor of both.

By the way, don't feel badly....I have my own pet foods to gain weight on. ;)

I wish you a great holiday, too.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 10:29PM
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There are folks who have honest aversions to various foods and even more inportantly, have serious food allergies one of the most common being peanuts. Some people are determined that these problems are "in your head" and go to extremes to either hide these items or make a big issue of them. Have a friend who carries Benedril in case he inadverently eats strawberries. For health reasons, I can't eat anything with seeds including nuts and popcorn. I don't make an issue of the situation, I just don't eat those items.

We too are in a similar church dinner club. I think under a similar situation I would tell the host couple of your food aversion/allergy and simply suggest that you would be happy to eat the sides dishes. Unfortunately there may be those in attendance who will ask why you are not eating what ever. Good luck with rude people.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 9:22AM
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