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Sep 18, 2006 07:01 PM

entree altruism: plate-swapping...

Hello... Sometimes while ordering at a sit-down restaurant, I'll watch the process unfold as my wife will hone in on an entree choice that I'm reasonably certain she will ultimately not enjoy. Despite subtle alternative recommendations from myself or gentle dissuations from a helpful server, the wife will (2 times out of every 10) order a plate full of food that will not suit her. The look on her face, as the ill-chosen entree is set before her, is classic: a co-mingling of fear and shock and regret/remorse. It is a touchingly poignant moment to see her proceed to cheer herself up and make the very best of her selection by eating what she can, with a very brave face. Not wanting to make things worse, I might try to offer large tastings/sharings of my own entree. Be even well before this occurs, while still mulling over our respective orders, I'll find myself in the following mindset: I'll scan the entire menu and try to find an entree (ostensibly for myself) that, once my wife realizes the folly of her own choice, might appeal to her as a substitution. I actually want the pork cheeks braised in mustard. But I'll go ahead and get the trusty roasted half-chicken with garlic mashed potatoes as a pre-emptive way to offer a plate-switch, once her own selection bursts the anticipatory bubble. And I'll take on her own selection since, well, I'm much more easily pleased and will eat just about anything. Sometimes this is a win-win situation, but just as often it's an unspoken compromise frought with longings for a happier ending. I cannot and will not foist my (at times) more informed opinions on her like a chowish brute, prior to reception of the grub. But afterward, I wonder if i am just a culinary enabler. Is it wrong for me to not follow my own appetite and put my own inclinations first? Is it bordering on the ridiculous to try to side-step menu minefields, by looking out for the best interests of one's dining companion in so serpentine a manner? Do YOU ever order something for yourself, because it will ultimately end up upon your companion's fork? Has the world gone mad, or merely the world within my skull?

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  1. My SO and I usually decide on our entrees together, knowing we'll want to share--and that he doesn't want to get something I'll be allergic to, like clams. By the end of every meal, we usually announce a "winner" of the evening, whether it's mine or his.

    6 Replies
    1. re: MuppetGrrl

      We're like you, but once in awhile my brain goes crazy on me and I think I want something really strange. Sometimes SO will feel crazy enough to go for it, other times he'll tell me I'm nuts and whether I wouldn't rather have X. When the latter happens, I usually frown at him, try to rationalize why I want it, but decide better of it when the server reappears (or not). He's usually right.

      It happens the other way around too. Sometimes he wants something that I think sounds absolutely horrible, and we have to just see who wants his/her way more.

      1. re: Pei

        Yeah, we usually consult each other before ordering to make sure that we aren't ordering the same thing or need help deciding between two choices. But we never feel obligated not to order anything we know he won't like (He has texture issues, I have strong taste issues, so our yuk list is very conflicting). But even if he orders Lamb, or I order the Calamari, both our chowish tendencies will lead us just to take 'a bite' :)


      2. re: MuppetGrrl

        We do this as well. People think it's some kind of sappy romantic thing, but really it's just about trying more options. We tend to have very similar tastes, so our top two are often the same, but he is more of a red meat person than I am. Usually, if there is some disagreement, it is decided in favor of the more unusual choice (that is, if one option is a special, it automatically "wins." Or, I can get a shrimp dish more often than he can get, say, beef cheeks.) It works out well, so I rarely notice the compromises I make. I figure it more than evens out in the end.

        1. re: meg944

          We consult one another before ordering as well, but no one would confused it for "sappy and romantic" when they hear my husband say "if you order that salmon you won't be getting any of my calamari."

        2. re: MuppetGrrl

          We're the same as well, and although it's not about being sappy and romantic, we are that too! ;-)

          1. re: Katie Nell

            Well, OK, it’s true that we can also send people into sugar shock! :) But that is honestly not the reason for the plate-swapping.

        3. I feel for you. My situation is not identical, but the similarities are there: the constant dining companion with the hesitant palate, the unasked-for concessions that lead inevitably (and unfairly!) to resentment, however short-lived...

          My boyfriend was born in northern coastal Russia and has the classic flavour-tolerance profile of the Baltic peoples, i.e. herrings, potatoes, boiled meat and dill. While decades in America have broadened his palate a little bit, this is basically what he wants to eat.

          I, on the other hand, am from Hong Kong. Which means that I (a)will eat anything; and (b)eat a lot of family-style shared Asian meals. I can no longer keep track of the number of times I have gotten excited about some Chinese restaurant, arrived for the eagerly-anticipated meal, and then ordered a bunch of mild gloop so as not to horrify him with braised unidentified glands or snouts or something else that doesn't fit into the meat+potato school of dinner thought.

          The sad thing is that he would probably be more than happy to try whatever traditional Chinese oddity it is that I've been craving, but I've silently made the decision to "accommodate" his palate before he's even had a chance to offer to accommodate mine! Later, as I feel frustrated that I haven't eaten whatever it was that I came to eat, I realise that it has nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.

          Follow your appetite!

          1. I have several responsibilities when look and order time arrives. First I need to choose my first choice and my back-up entree. Then I help my DW in her choice. We go through which item i think she would like, a few other items that she may like and then await for her final decision. If I think there's a chance that hers just won't work, I go with my back-up, which incidentally is one of those i thought she would like. Only a couple of times we needed the actual swap of entrees, but heh, DW more important than any entree I can think about. And besides I travel a bunch and can basically order whatever I want on these occassions.

            1. Once I ordered goat in a Mexican restaurant, partly to prove what a chowhound I am. As soon as it arrived, I realized that I could NOT eat it. My SO had sensibly ordered shrimp and when he saw the look on my face, offered to switch with me. That is love. I was so grateful. However, as I said, I've only done that once.

              1. Cute post, and it gave me a surge of gratitude that my SO and I don't have such issues (we both eat practically anything, with gusto). Here's my Two Cents:

                If you order what you think you'll like, and your wife orders what she thinks she'll like, it's a gamble regardless. Sometimes it's fabulous, sometimes it stinks.

                My advice is to order what you want to order (don't even think about your backup plans) and encourage your wife to do the same. You're both taking the same gamble; and if anyone is disappointed, you two can make the best of it.

                If she is repeatedly disappointed in her choices of entree, it will help educate her about her taste and palate. Plus, if she's hungry enough she might try those pork cheeks and realize how delicious they are! You'll be doing her a favor, really.

                Anyway, please remember that food should be about simple pleasure, not pre-emptive ordering! Life's too short to eat roast chicken all the time (not that roast chicken isn't delicious...)

                7 Replies
                1. re: Absonot

                  You said it perfectly.

                  The OP, while a loving husband, is a culinary enabler. He should order what he loves, and encourage his wife to order things he knows she will like. ("Remember last time, honey, when you didn't care for raw oysters?") If she gets somethign she doesnt' like, she'll learn, she's an adult.

                  1. re: Covert Ops

                    Hi, OP here. Yeah, tuff love, I like it. She (the wife) WILL learn, but she's also stubborn and a redhead to boot (to quote Barry Fitzgerald, speaking of Maureen O' Sullivan, from 'The Quiet Man': " That red head's no lie!". But I'm not the only enabler, by a long chaulk. Notice that dessert-for-one with two forks at so many tables?? Just who started that romantic runaway juggernaught? I usually don't want dessert in a restaurant; but when I do, I'm usually up for the whole thing. But if I never have to go round and round over who should finish the last spoon of the pumpkin creme brulee, that shall not be soon enough! :-)

                    1. re: silence9

                      Yes, there are downsides to sharing. My husband is more the culprit than me, though – I can’t tell you how often he has said, “Here, let me help you with that,” (whether I want help or not.) Or if I protest, he pulls out the always successful, “Well, it looks like Team Ourlastname has excess dessert/sparkling wine/cheese/etc.” Luckily for him, he is about twice my size, so I am generally happy to cede 2/3 of both our meals to him.

                      p.s. And I am a redhead as well, but apparently just not quite as fiery!

                      1. re: meg944

                        Hey! I'm a redhead with a husband twice my size as well.

                        Generally, though, I get the lion's share of the dessert. Plus I'm the only one who drinks wine. I think I account for about 2/3 of the bill. Quite frankly, anyone watching us would be confused as to how he can outweigh me by about 120 pounds when I appear to out-eat him!

                      2. re: silence9

                        We always share desserts because we simply don't have room for one dessert each--and then, generally, I get to decide. :)

                        1. re: MuppetGrrl

                          We are couple soul mates! :-) I always get to decide the dessert!! And I always get the tip of the pie, cake, whatever... it's my favorite part!

                        2. re: silence9

                          Yes, I think you're an enabler. I feel your pain. Everyone should be entitled to his/her own dessert. If someone is too full to eat a whole portion of dessert, they can have the waiter pack 1/2 of it to go. Or just leave the uneaten portion. My husband knows that I will not share dessert (maybe one forkful to taste...), but I am generous with other things.

                          RE the entree... Are you willing to order a third entree? If your wife doesn't like her order, ask the waiter to bring an order of roast chicken.

                          I hope I'm not being presumptuous, but I suspect your wife orders what she considers nutritious or non-fattening, rather than what might be tasty. If so, she might request a simple grilled fish with vegetables. Any restaurant can serve that.