Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
May 28, 2007 11:39 AM

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?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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.