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Jan 5, 2007 12:22 PM

How do you feel when a guest suggests changes to a dish?

The post on non-appreciative guests reminded me of a guest I had the other night. I spent quite awhile making a pasta and eggplant timbale (w/beef and and hard-boiled egg as well). Now, I've made this many times in the past, I know it's good, and my guest could see that I put a lot of effort into making the sauce, frying the eggplant, etc. When he tried it, he said "you know i could see putting some of that basil you bought in here." i had bought two small packages of basil at wf for $2.00 each and thought that might be enough. true, the dish could've used more basil but is that really an appropriate comment, especially since all the basil I had was in there?
i don't particularly like this person now for various reasons, but is it appropriate to comment on your friends' cooking like this?

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  1. You mention that even you thought the dish could have used more basil.
    A true friend is always truthfull, but it sounds like you have other reasons for not liking this person.
    I don't mind my friend critiquing my cooking, as long as they know what they are talking about.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Infomaniac

      I agree that a true friend is truthful, but offering an unsolicited suggestion is, I think, in this instance, rude. I wouldn't mind if it were a close friend, who at a later time (ie, not at my dinner party) said "That xyz was delicious, but I think it could benefit from more basil."

      1. re: Infomaniac

        A true friend knows *when* to be truthful.

        1. re: julesrules


          I'd apply that to your family as well. One thing my Dad never did was critize my Mom's cooking, ever. He knew better.

      2. Yes, Sometimes I appreciate a tip. Sometimes it's best to just ignore certain comments.

        1. If it's a good friend with whom I've shared many homemade meals - and we've usually shared in at least some of the cooking at each other's homes - I wouldn't mind at all.

          If it's someone I've not cooked for before, I would feel a bit insulted but would likely say, "Hmmm, you could be right about that," just to be polite.

          1. "Silence is golden"

            An unsolicited comment is unwarranted and inappropriate. If the host(ess) asks the guest (and feels that the guest might have some thoughtful input) if (s)he had any suggestions to improve or change the dish that's one thing. But to be a food critic at a social gathering is obnoxious.

            If they are real friends, probably the next time they're running, shopping, hanging out the host(ess) may ask, out of earshot of any other potential guests. But keep the conversation at the table to fun, thoughtful, entertaining, not critiquing.

            12 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              Silence at the table, particularly when one has gone to some trouble to cook and considers it a treasured pastime, is very undesirable.

              Sure, we're primarily looking for compliments : ) but this guest made an innocuous comment that seems to have struck a nerve because the cook regretted not purchasing more basil.

              "You know you could have put some of that basil in here" is an opening line for a friendly discussion of cooking and ingredients. "This is bland, it needs basil." would be and unfriendly unsolicited comment.

              There is a big difference between making conversation and critiquing.

              1. re: Kater

                "'You know you could have put some of that basil in here' is an opening line for a friendly discussion"

                This strikes me, not as an opening line, but a frontal assault. "You know" begins as very confrontational and condenscending, followed by "you could have" doubles down the rudeness.

                I agree with basicfoodgroupie's suggestion. Start with a compliment, i.e. this is really terrific, follow by a "may I add" similar to salt in chicken soup, and take one for the gipper and end with a "i like mine a little more XXX." This gives the host(ess) an idea for later consideration.

                The best managers in the world do not tell, they guide and likewise friends don't whack each other with unsolicited "I told you sos" and "I know betters" unless the friend is moving into danger. I do not think "more basil" enters the danger zone.

                1. re: jfood

                  The best managers in the world do not coddle, they guide. If a cook is so sensitive that any comment begining with the vernacular 'You know' constitutes a frontal assault then it's probably a good idea to draft a script prior to the event so that guests will know precisely what level of treacle should replace a normal conversation!

                  This guest demonstrated an active interest in the dish he was served. That alone makes an ideal guest. The guest also recalled that the cook had an ingredient that could make a nice addition in the future indicating an ongoing interest.

                  On Chowhound's roster of 'Bad Guests' this guy doesn't even make the top thousand!!!

                  1. re: Kater

                    Sorry Kater, but i never used the word "coddled" and would never except when referring to eggs. We agree on "guide" but this does make not only the top 1000 but probably the top 100 (and I'm probably kind at that number).

                    One should not confuse good manners with treacle. As many have stated here, both the delivery and the message are important. Someone spills red wine on your new white tablecloth, you do not scream at them and call them an idiot, you politely say "that's OK we'll send it to the cleaners."

                    Like fine wine, manners develop and are refined with age and the use of the vernacular "you know" strikes me as a 20's or 30's lingo, versus mannerly guidance. Maybe if "you knows", "likes", and "you hear what I'm sayings" would be removed from everyday linguistics, people would have better communication. OK, my rant is over and soapbox is left.

                    1. re: jfood

                      If people are determines to get their panties in a wad over such an innocuous comment, refining their vernacular is not likely to solve the problem.

                      It wouldn't make the top 1000 and might not even make the top 10,000!

                      Surely if we continue like this long enough, you'll come around to my point of view...

                      1. re: Kater

                        Over the years i have mentored many young Associates in their professional skills and social graces. One thing i have noticed is many of these A-type overachievers have spent so much time studying to achieve high grades to attend top-tier schools that their social skills were not as strongle developed. One thing about understanding these skills is that they are rich in history and as so many others on this thread have agreed, it is fairly common and accepted practice.

                        In your face rude might be the norm and acceptable behavior in a college dorm or a beer party but once graduation occurs people move into, and are expected to act more properly, in a social settings and have a greater understanding of acceptable versus rude behavior.

                        The individual in the OP was clearly rude and unfortunately does not understand that everthing on the brain need not reach the tongue and vocal chords. It is a trait that maturity will hopefully bring to him and those who think this is an acceptable norm.

                        There are few responders who think this was innocuous and i am not sure if anyone got "their panties in a wad". That being said I will gladly stay on this side of the proper vernacular, the proper respect, the avoidance of rudeness and the condenscating manner of the guy's response.

                        1. re: jfood

                          So true - after I left a large law firm I seriously considered starting up classes to teach young associates such things.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Thanks MM, i was fortunate that the dad one of one my roomate's in undergrad was the dean of the business school. he taught us all how to act at a business meal

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I am always amazed at the lack of social graces by persons at the top of their professions - law, architecture etc. who are totally lacking in table manners for instance, waving their fork in the air to make a conversational point; leaving a messy plate with fork and knife ascew; not using a napkin; eating with their mouth open. Ugh.

                            2. re: jfood

                              It is absolutely fascinating that you think your post avoid 'rudeness' and condescention.

                              More importantly, you're not doing anyone any favors by encouraging them to overreact to innocuous comments. Social skills are important to success in relationships and career. Overreaction and hyper sensitivity are absolutely crippling in both of these arenas.

                    1. I think, like so much in life, it is not what you say but how you say it.

                      It also depends on if you solicited comments and the amount of intimacy and comfort you have with the individual.

                      There are some people, even if they asked my opinion, I would have answered something like, "This is just lovely."

                      There are others that, only if asked, would I have said something like, "It was great. I might add a little more basil, but that could be my palate."

                      Rarely would I just go and say something like "This needs more basil" unless I have a very close relationship with the person and a degree of understanding.

                      Now, if someone said something like that to me, even if I was offended or didn't care for the individual personally, I would simply thank them for their advice.

                      If a person offered their opinion rudely, I might suggest to them another serving, but in a different orafice.

                      Patrick C=:-)
                      Your Basic Food Groupie