Thursday, September 05, 2013

The most important tip for hosting a dinner party

J. Bryan Lowder's article at Slate is a pretty good primer on how to accommodate different kinds of picky eaters at a dinner party. It's mostly irrelevant to my life, given how little I'm invited to (or would likely go to) the kind of Upper East Side-type functions where cuisine is the primary focus. But the overarching point here is relevant to any party involving food — hosts and picky eaters must meet in the middle.

I do this everywhere I go. I'm a famously picky eater, though not of a traditional, quantifiable stripe. My biggest bugaboo is creamy, white food. Also, seafood. And trans fats. And many other random things that aren't your fault (for example, I love potato wedges but hate mashed potatoes). It's enough to where I sometimes eat nothing at a fancy function; at my brother's first wedding, I ate only grapes. When that happens, I know it isn't my fault, and never make any kind of deal about it. If someone asks, I'll say I'm not hungry, which will be true, because I'm good at deferring my appetite until I can get food I want. Anyway, most of the people with whom I mingle already know my proclivities and usually indulge them by leaving mayo off at least one finger sandwich.

Side bonus: they've (mostly) quit making fun of my plate, which tends to have much less glop on it than everyone else's. I'm not so into glop.

That brings me to an important tip, perhaps the most important tip, left out of Lowder's article:

Don't be pushy.

If I refuse something, leave it at that. Take no for an answer. Don't make me explain why I don't want it. And definitely don't insist I'll like yours because you made it. Oh please sweet Food Channel Jesus, don't do that! It only makes it far more awkward for both of us. I realize many foodies invest their self-esteem into their creations, but there are better taste buds to validate such items. Everything I tend to like gets discontinued anyway. So you should actually try to make me not like your food.

The flip side is that if something does satisfy all my quirks, I will probably love it and eat a lot of it. But again, that's up to me. I won't make a fuss if I don't like something. But meet me (and anyone like me) in the middle. Don't put me on the spot about it, and we'll all have a bon temps.

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