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Good friends bad cooks...advice needed.

We have some friends who love to cook. A fun couple, they’re always inviting us over for dinner.They are very very proud of their culinary ‘skills’. In fact they installed a gourmet(for lack of a better word) kitchen in their house. Which is nice except for one thing…they are horrible cooks. Dinner inevitably means staying up all night with indigestion.

We’ve tried suggesting restaurants, but always feel they can do better. We’ve stopped inviting them over for dinner because that will ultimately result in a reciprocal invite just what we don’t want. We’re beginning to run out of reasons not to go over. Nor do we want to stop hanging out, just for them to stop cooking for us.

Any advice on how to handle this situation?

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  1. You could tell them the truth.
    Or, you could say, "we don't eat that way anymore" (e.g., heavy food, butter, all carbs, or whatever it is that is giving you indigestion) - we're trying to watch our cholestral, weight, or whatever -- and then make plans with them other than dinner at their house.

    1. This made me giggle. I was once invited to a "barbeque" where the hostess opened a pack of chicken breasts and slapped them on the grill, still frozen in the shape of the styrofoam container they came in. She then proceeded to pour a bottle of bbq sauce on top, which immediately began to smoke and scorch on the frozen meat. We are still friends, but everytime she invites over for a meal I find a convenient excuse.

      Perhaps you can be "busy" every time they invite you over and they might eventually get the message? Be sure to invite them to lots of activities on more neutral ground so you can still maintain your friendship.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hrhboo

        hrhboo, Your story reminds me of college (where no one knows how to cook). My friend's girlfriend was given 3 lbs of fresh caught shrimp and invited us for shrimp, salad and bread. She boiled the shrimp for and hour and a half "to make sure it was done". Ironically, the shrimp did not completely disintegrate; they just turned to the texture of Creme Of Wheat.

      2. My oh my, what a predicament! One idea I had was to blame a new diet or health plan of some sort, but then you risk other social engagements around food where you'd be eating and run into eachother. I'm assuming you can't quite say, "Hey Jo, I don't know what it is, and I feel bad telling you this, but the last few times I ate at your house, I had really bad heartburn/indigestion/whatever. Is there a special spice, or a family secret ingredient you use that might not agree with me, or that I might be slightly allergic to that I don't use myself?" I don't know but maybe blaming a *mystery ingredient* may come off as less challenging or less offensive. Another altenative may be to say, "Hey Jo (it would be funny if one of their names were in fact Jo!), we love hanging out with you guys, but it's always centered around food/a meal. Lets try to get more creative, and do other things." I hope you resolve this - no matter how you decide to do so. Let me know what you think; I'll keep the wheels turning in my head too :)

        2 Replies
        1. re: enbell

          My old boss's wife was lovely and sweet and used to try very hard to cook special meals whenever I came to town. Unfortunately, she was a terrible cook who served crunchy rice and spiceless burnt food on a regular basis. I knew I was in trouble the minute I would notice that she had a cookbook open on the counter to "try something" out on me. Even her kids requested frozen dinners or mac and cheese on those nights, often right in front of me. I used to wish I could have the mac and cheese too. My boss ate everything, and I have no idea how.

          I just pushed the food around on my plate and ordered late room service when I would get back to my hotel. There is just no way around this. You really don't want to hurt their feelings.

          If you must give an excuse, I agree with enbell's approach. Blame some mysterious ingredient that caused you indigestion or even the late hour of your dinner. It does happen more often as you get older. That's why most old people eat early in the evening.

          1. re: RGC1982

            This is a great suggestion. Perhaps you could eat beforehand and pretend that you've got upset stomachs following the previous night's dinner and can't eat much. Of course, you can only use this excuse once!

        2. Oh yes this can be a very touchy situation. I have friends that have since moved out of the area, that I rea;lly miss. We had the most fun engaging conversations, and they are just really sweet people. I absolutely enjoyed their company (and would still) so it was really difficult to go for dinners at their house, but I would.

          Of all of us, I was the best cook, and would have them over and of course they would want to take their turn and reciprocate by cooking for me.

          I'd say they were really bad cooks too, alot of boxed foods, not my taste with a meat either fried or cooked on the bbq. I often was sick afterward, and I couldn't figure it out. I knew that they were not the best housekeepers, so I thought maybe that and the fact that they were very frugle keeping things past an expiration date perhaps, and that also might very well have contributed to my stomach problems.

          One particular evening, while chatting and continuing the conversation, I followed the husband out to the BBQ watching him as he put raw marinated chicken on the bbq. I watched him cook it and watched him take ift off, then placing it back into the same container with now the contaminated marinade which held the raw chicken.
          I had to say right then I turned a little pale. But I also very quickly let him know the chicken had to be cooked some more at least long enough to cook the contaminated marinade.
          I know I embarrassed him, I tried to laugh it off telling him that I was sure I distracted him I took any blame I could, I really don't think that he or his wife, knew the danger. They were trying to be good hosts and wanted to cook for me was all.

          So the best way to handle these types of situaions with anyone good friend or not, is gentlty and honestly. With a little humor placed appropriately.
          Making excuses or being busy is going to possibly send another message that you don't want to be around them, I don't think you want to do that from your op. I also don't think lying to anyone is a good idea, you could be at a gathering and seen eating exactly what you said you no longer ate, I surely wouldn't want to be in that uncomfortable situation.What you can do is offer them cooking tips, and share recipes with them. Good friends are too hard to come by.

          6 Replies
          1. re: chef chicklet

            "So the best way to handle these types of situaions with anyone good friend or not, is gentlty and honestly. With a little humor placed appropriately."
            **** "Good friends are too hard to come by.****

            These statements are SOOOOOO true, and SOOOOOOOOOOO important!

            My hope is that they are good enought friends that they will be able to swallow a bit if their pride and then move on if you choose to take the gentle honesty path. Again, good luck.

            1. re: enbell

              It would be easyer to tell them their kids were ugly.

              1. re: Withnail42


                But then we're lucky. No one tries to run away when I cook; and no one can believe that I could have had anything to do with coming up with our (beautiful) daughter.

                1. re: Withnail42

                  YA know, if their kids aren't so cute - maybe you should break it to 'em now. Better coming from a friend, I say (just kidding). Geez, it's a bit stickier than I thought. So what about suggesting gatherings not centered around food? Just be sure, like jfood said: friendship first, food second. GOOD LUCK

              2. re: chef chicklet

                I watched a woman turn raw marinating chicken breasts with a fork, then pop the fork into her mouth. I told her I was horrified--you know--it's RAW CHICKEN. She said that when I had kids of my own I'd put lots of nasty things in my mouth.

                My oldest is 6, and I have yet to intentionally (or even knowingly) ingest raw chicken juice.

                Come to think of it, we did get sick often after eating at their house. . .

                1. re: mamaciita

                  I literally just gagged and retched when I read that.

                  I was friends with a couple. The one girl knew how to cook relatively well (college student living on her own level of well); the other girl thought she knew how to cook. One time, we were making dinner at their place, and Girl Who Couldn't Cook jammed a fork into raw chicken, then jammed it directly into a container of roasted garlic. I loudly shrieked "D-- YOU CAN'T DO THAT," and argument ensued until her girlfriend came in, heard the story and also loudly shrieked "D-- YOU CAN'T DO THAT."

                  After they split up, Girl Who Knew How to Cook said "man, I used to wonder why my stomach was upset all the time after eating D--'s food."

              3. Could you help out with cooking in their kitchen? You could ask on the basis of enthusiasm for their gourmet kitchen. You mght have a solution if you could just influence the preparation a few initial times.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  A good idea...perhaps suggest cooking parties rather than just dinner parties. And, perhaps, continue with some tolerance for less than great food as long as you are not actually ill from it.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    I've offered to help but for them it's a matter of pride. The cooking party might be worth a try.

                    1. re: Withnail42

                      withnail42, if these are dear friends and this dilemma has happened more than twice chances are good your friends are clear that you and dh don't like their cooking-perhaps they are just happy being "that way."

                      as all things jfood-friendship rules over any meal no matter how prepared.
                      ...and humor is a great place to start (and keep) any friend.

                  2. Jfood will repeat what he has stated numerous times. It's only food. Get over it and enjoy the night with friends. Not every meal has to be stellar, and having a great time with friends is waaaaay better than a great meal with lousy people. It's just a meal.

                    Have a light bite before going or plan on a late bite afterwards. Telling someone you will not eat the food they have graciously prepared and invited you to their house is completely and totally unacceptable. Talk of the ultimate me-only theory.

                    Sorry to be harsh but when food becomes more important than the company then the people need to reassess their priorities.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      Ah, the all-encompassing Jfood wisdom. I couldn't agree with you more.

                      1. re: jfood

                        Agree wholeheartedly with jfood as well. Good friends are rarer to come by than good eats... As for the ensuing and inevitable heartburn mentioned by the OP, some of my favorite/well-prepared meals (pizza) often end up with heartburn. I just eat three slices (instead of the 6 that I crave), and minimize the pain...

                        1. re: silence9

                          And if heartburn is the main problem, take on of those OTC solutions before you eat. They work.

                        2. re: jfood

                          Then you haven't had my in-law's "traditional holiday meal," which (EVERY DARNED YEAR) involves a menu so awful I hesitate to describe it - no one who has married into the family even bothers to take any "babaika balls" (don't ask) or "sauerkraut and mushroom soup" (I'm not making this up).

                          Fortunately, after years of seeing me disappear off to the quickie-mart just before dinner for a couple of chili dogs, my mom-in-law "mysteriously" started to add some more mainstream items, just for us new folks who couldn't appreciate the family traditions.

                          1. re: wayne keyser

                            Oh man, I am so lucky. My boyfriend's mom is a caterer and cooking instructor and my parents just let me cook whatever I want for family gatherings. My mom finally acknowledges she's not a particularly good cook, and my dad likes not having to do it all himself.

                        3. Maybe I'm a rare one, but I look forward to critiques...somewhat. If I make something awful (and who hasn't) I like to know. But there are also times I make something I know I like yet don't know someone else may not like. Too spicy, too bland, etc, but without appropriate feedback how are the cook's to know the preferences of the diners?

                          I say be polite, ask if you can help in the kitchen, offer constructive criticism. When I cook for others, I can only make what I think they'll like. Without their honest input I may not deliver what they like. If they are all the way around bad cooks, offer to go to cooking classes with them at a culinary school. You'll both learn and have fun doing so.

                          1. I have the same problem. . . but the cook is my mother. I can't say her food gives me indigestion-- it's far too bland for that -- but most of the time it's pretty bad (I'd rather eat storebought bread than her home made, eg.) But you know, I wouldn't hurt her feelings, so I eat a little, tell her she's filled my plate too much, and then eat toast or a sandwich later on.

                            1. I don't have any advice, but it's a good reminder for others who wonder why their friends don't reciprocate... maybe that's not a bad thing. I don't like to cook, I don't really care to improve, and I know my food isn't that great. That's why I love eating at other people's houses and I'm very happy when people come to my house to cook, but I almost never invite people over to eat my food (sometimes I'll invite people over to eat my DH's food).

                              1. Do they have dogs?Suggest to let them out cause you love animals.Then wear a heavy shirt with a front pocket and slide handfull
                                s of the food into ziploc bags.Then on your way to go potty,give the dogs the food or flush it down the toilet for plan b if they won't let the dogs out.

                                1. Jfood is dear (as usual) in his reply as is chicklet. Good friends are rare. I wonder if it is the best thing to stop cooking for them. If there is a dish they have enjoyed in your home, offer to make it together, step by step, with "Jo" next time you're over at their house. Maybe even have a printed recipe on which she can take notes. Perhaps hanging out with Jo in the kitchen as she's preparing food and "catching up" on news will identify the source of the indigestion. I find gentle feedback is often well-received, something as innocuous as "Something we ate last night didn't agree with Charles and me. I wonder what it was. But we really enjoyed your company." That being said, eating beforehand is always good. Or planning outings -- to a museum, to the beach, to the movies, etc -- instead of occasions centered around meals. Some folks aren't foodies but still wonderful folks.

                                  1. I would just tell them that lately I have been having stomach trouble and that it's gotten to the point that it's difficult to eat away from home much. Admit to being a bit embarrassed by the whole thing and ask if they'd understand if you just couldn't do the dinners together. Explain that you love being with them and hope that they will be game to spend time together playing bridge, visiting by the fire, seeing a show, whatever it is you enjoy, and just having snacks or desserts or something. Damage control, don't you know. It's pretty much honest and allows you to continue socializing without a meal being involved. I do think you need to address the food issue, rather than just suggest outings that avoid food. They will continue to invite you over to eat until they know that your stomach troubles won't allow it. No way would I trade away friends I valued. ( I know you weren't suggesting that you would!) Rather, I'd do everything I could to avoid hurting them while doing what I must.
                                    Good luck. It's difficult, I know.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: xena

                                      personally think that's the best idea.

                                      1. re: xena

                                        "I would just tell them that lately I have been having stomach trouble and that it's gotten to the point that it's difficult to eat away from home much."

                                        Unless you plan on never eating out again, I'd refrain from using this tactic because it means you have to continue to lie for the remainder of your relationship with these people (I'm not clever enough, and would eventually give myself up... and for me that would be as uncomfortable as a full-on "your food sucks" confrontation!).

                                        I'm not big on confrontation, so I wouldn't be comfortable telling them the truth if I was in your situation. I'd go with the advice of people who suggest eating a snack before going and just nibbling on what they offer (claiming an effort to improve my health by reducing caloric intake, or something equally vague if called out). Small price to pay for friendship!

                                        1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                          you only need to say that once. i think that if they are your real friends they won't push it. they will understand that you tried to be subtle about not wanting to eat their cooking.

                                      2. jfood wins the thread.

                                        However, if you still don't want them to invite you over do the following:
                                        1. Invite them to your place for dinner.
                                        2. Prepare horrible meal.
                                        3. Notice they never invite you again for fear that "that will ultimately result in a reciprocal invite".

                                        1. My stepmom is a wonderful woman. She has many extrordinary talents - best of all she makes my dad a very happy man. But the poor soul can not cook. She doesn't like to cook, she doesn't really have a taste for food, and it is refelcted in her cooking. When they first married my brother and I thought we were going to either starve to death or die of food poisoning. Somehow over the years people - mostly two teenage boys - saying things like ... UHHHH... what is that anyhow? then nervously pushing their food around the plate aimlessley, she did get the message - eventually. She is still not a great cook, but she has learned to keep things simple and that in general food can not go straight from the freezer to the stove or oven - no matter how hot you cook it. So don't give up hope. You can't be the only friends of theirs in this dilemma. With enough time and a few strategically placed polite comments (oh my! I've never seen blackened chicken before... and so... umm... rare in the middle) they may finally catch on. In the meantime eat around the edges or the middle or whatever seems the least harmful and enjoy the company.

                                          Of course you could always casually mention how much you have learned about food on the Chowhound website .....

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                            Or invite them for a meal and cook one thing really badly.
                                            EIther the ingredients are wrong or you read T for t in salting or spicing.
                                            And then talk about it, and try to figure it out.

                                            You might open some conversation pathways that way.

                                            OTOH, if they just use way, way too much oil in cooking....and we know someone who does.....maybe calorie counting could be the answer.

                                          2. Usually those that are truely horrible cooks don't think they are gourmet cooks. Can you give us some examples of what type of food they prepare and what gives you indigestion?

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                              my sister in law is a terrible cook, bland, always the same undercooked chicken, poorly cooked vegetables, mounds of lettuce and bought in desserts. So the family idea now is that when she offers to host family functions (she has a good size house for it) we make it a potluck and tell her to do nothing but set the table and provide the sodas.

                                              1. re: smartie

                                                That's a great excuse to eat the salad (lettuce) and "bought in desserts" - commit diet virtue and vice simultaneously, maybe they'll cancel each other out. Plus you get to stick to stuff you can stand.

                                            2. Okay, you want to keep your friendship but avoid the food.

                                              I don't have an ideal or permanent solution, but I always find that "no" goes over better as "I would but I can't, it's not my decision."

                                              As in (after eating as much as you care to of the items that aren't awful, and a tiny sample of the offending items) "That was so nice, thanks for the dinner. The canned spinach was especially good. (Or at least praise what you can without actually lying - or, in a pinch, lie your head off) What? Why did I leave most of the curried Jell-O and the Grits-with-Pesto sushi? Truth to tell, my stomach has been really off this week - must be all that stress at work - I can barely get down a piece of toast without feeling it all night, you'll have to forgive me."

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: wayne keyser

                                                So, that's what you do with the mushroom and sauerkraut soup?

                                              2. Aside from the indigestion, how is the food? Does it taste good? Do the flavors balance/blend/match one another? chef chicklet's response got me thinking that maybe they're not *bad* cooks, but really are *unsafe* cooks. If they're not practicing basic food safety, that could be the root cause of your indigestion (and quite possibly set yourself up for much worse).

                                                If you think this is the case, perhaps the next time they invite you, insist on being able to watch how they prepare the meal, perhaps on the pretext that, "I simply MUST see how you make your grits-with-pesto sushi". That way, you can make note of potential cross-contamination issues, and in doing so, do your friends a favor by keeping THEM safe, too.

                                                If the food is just plain bad, then maybe you can twist the reciprocity thing to your advantage. Insist that your friends TEACH you to make the pesto-grits sushi, then YOU will be obligated to teach them to cook something. Their skills improve, their feelings are saved, and you get to spend quality time with friends. Wins all the way around.

                                                1. First, as has already been stated, you need to consider which is more important, good food or good friends.

                                                  That said, I'd take a pre-school teacher's approach, and praise the heck out of that which is good. Find that which you like best about the meal and tell them about it, being sure to tell them why ("Such delicate use of salt!", "What clean, fresh flavor!", "You must have worked hard to find suck great produce!" etc..) and trust that over time these techniques will be reinforced.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: andytee

                                                    This approach does work. I know. My husband was a poor cook when we met, and particularly bad at putting together a full meal, but he has gotten much better over the years since we've been together. Some of it has come from just watching and learning from me, but I think more of the improvement has come from the fact that, even when he seeks feedback, I always concentrate on praising what he does get right, even if it is as simple as commenting on the quality of the produce.

                                                    This works on several levels. First of all, he gets that I am not as happy about the items I don't mention (without any hurt feelings!), but more importantly, the praise is motivation, and he really does learn from that positive reinforcement.

                                                    Just tonight he cooked a nice dinner with a lovely spinach salad and home made salad dressing, brown rice, perfectly cooked brussel sprouts, and pork chops. The pork chops were slightly overdone, but they were good quality pork, and tasty nonetheless, and I let him know I appreciated the effort he took to pick out such good ones!

                                                    and so what if it was slightly overcooked: I came home from work, was able to relax, have a glass of wine, and get served dinner without lifting a finger to help! As jfood points out, some things really are more important than food. :-)

                                                  2. I also agree with Jfood. If they're not the kind of friends where you can say "Wow dude you really can't cook!" and laugh about it, then eat beforehand and try to pick and choose the least offensive of the offerings at their dinner. Have a good time with your friends and try not to sweat it too much.

                                                    I'd always avoid lying about food problems/allergies/etc when possible. It's a hassle to have to remember your so-called allergy, and it's not nice to get caught out. At worst, you could always just say you're not feeling terribly hungry today.

                                                    1. I have this old friend which is such a bad cook, but she doesn't think so. As a close friend, I can tell her almost everything - for instance, when she doesn't look good, if she gained too much weight or when she's wearing something that makes her look older. I know I could even tell her that her children were ugly (but it's not true, the two cute little boys became such handsome young men...). But she's really so sensitive about her cooking! Maybe it is because deep inside she knows how bad it is. She enjoys making those weird recipes mixing all kind of ready made things. Just like Cher in that movie "Mermaids". Her guacamole is a crime! And there's a disgusting green cake made with lemon jello, grilled (?) chicken marinated in Coca Cola together with brodo (forgot the english word for brodo) cubes, and so on. Mostly, I try to avoid her place at meal times, or invite her for my place or a restaurant, but... it's not always possible. I don't know about you friends: mine is worth it. 30 years of friendship. Someone I can count on. I'd eat a bucket of that weird guacamole to keep her (please, PLEASE, don't tell her!!!)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. Yes, honesty is the best policy, but sometimes you don't know who can take constructive critism and who can't until it is too late. Anonomously send them a copy of this thread. Chances are you are not the only people in thier lives who feel this way and they won't have any idea who sent it.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: bythenumbers

                                                          ouch! please do not do that. that would devastate any sensitive person much more than being told to their face.

                                                          1. re: bythenumbers

                                                            Oh, no! I recommended telling them the truth and I would not send them this thread. First, if you have to do it anonymously, that should tell you it's wrong. Second, even if you disclosed that you were the source of it, that would be cruel. There are so many nice ways to be honest.

                                                          2. I wonder if they would be receptive to a cooking class? It might be a "fun" activity the four of you could do together. Check out a local culinary school and see what classes they offer; hands-on classes are usually the best. It shouldn't be taken as criticism of their cooking skills if you all do it together.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: rednails

                                                              Funny that you mentioned that. We we're thinking about that a group cooking class. This so far is the best idea so far.

                                                              1. re: Withnail42

                                                                Then you are a generous and loyal friend. I was afraid that you would reject such an idea because of the disparity between your cooking skills.

                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                  I've never said I was a great cook. As it is I enjoy taking classs from time to time. If anything I'm worried that they will reject the idea thinking, while it might be a good idea for me, they already know how to cook.

                                                                  1. re: Withnail42

                                                                    Maybe you could try for a cooking class in a particular technique or cuisine -like grilling, Thai, cooking with wine, etc. And discreetly ask the instructor to go over food safety basics in a matter-of-fact, face-saving, but clear and fim way.

                                                                    Men over forty-five (or so... I'm married to one of them) and people who didn't attend public school are likely not to have attended Home Economics classes where they *hammer* on food safety. I learned some at home, of course, but Home Ec class really made it crystal-clear.

                                                                    Your county public health service or state ag program may have some excellent food safety brochures. I am stuck on thinking how you could introduce this to people who don't think they need it. That is a tough one.

                                                                    The one thing I can think of would be to "enact" a food safety lesson in front of them. Be able to use something contaminated with raw meat germs and either correct yourself aloud or have your spouse do it... "Jesus Christ, Honey, you can't use that.... it has THE RAW CHICKEN GERMS on it!" Drop it like it's a hot coal and discard, wash it up properly, etc. as appropriate. Pre-arrange this with your partner though, so they will know their part.

                                                              2. re: rednails

                                                                Great, fun idea! Love it! And, because they have a new "gourmet" kitchen, I bet they will love it too -- these folks want to cook! I think this is a great idea.

                                                              3. Tell them you'd love to get together but that you think it would be fun to help them cook. Then try to take the lead and show them how to cook properly. For Christmas or a Birthday give them a good book on proper cooking and hope they read it. Failing that show you are a real friend and go over anyway just eat sparingly and try to tactfully offer suggestions. Use phrases like "my aunt made something like this which turned out so good and she said her secret was...."

                                                                I find lots of people think they're good cooks but most aren't (myself included) and instead we can all learn something from others. This is especially true the more opinionated a person is.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: oerdin

                                                                  A variation on this may be to invite them to your house and ask them to assist you. That way you have a little more edge when you say you want things done a certain way. It also means when they next invite you over, a door has been opened to exchange cooking techniques.

                                                                  I think the cooking classes are a great idea too. But I rreally feel sorry for anyone who invites a Chowhound reader to go to cooking classes anytime in the next couple of months.... they are going to think they are the couple who can't cook.

                                                                2. "Nor do we want to stop hanging out, just for them to stop cooking for us."

                                                                  If they are fun find another activity that you can share where they don't feel compelled to cook.

                                                                  1. I've succumb to the right answer in this situation...tell the truth if you don't like there food tell them don't pretend to like it thats straight out deception.Give them some cooking tips.It'll save someone else a lot of hassle later and it's just right.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: widehomehi

                                                                      I agree,I don't think it's a good idea to lie to your friends. The truth always comes out, and if the relationship isn't strong enough to survive honesty, then you have bigger problems than bad cooking.

                                                                      1. re: foodstorm

                                                                        Very true, but sometimes it is a whole lot easier when good friends find a gentle way to help you discover the truth yourself.

                                                                    2. I don't have an answer...I doubt I could break this news to my good friends....so that would be way down my option list. The cooking class is a great idea - put it out there as a "group activity" and play down the "cooking". But the bottom line for me is that they are making an effort. I don't mind if it's not totally "homemade", and it may not be my taste, but I will always appreciate that some effort has been put forth. I know I spend waaaaay too much time (and expense) when I'm entertaining, and not everything is wonderful, but it is so nice to have guests appreciate you've put out for them!!! I think you have to suck it up and eat less.....have Gaviscon in the car for the ride home!