Do you ever eat what other people expect you to eat? Order something just to make a good impression on your dining companions?
"Offensively bad article in New York Times!!" is the title of a post on another board that's gotten about 150 replies. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429536 That allegedly offensive article says "In an earlier era, conventional dating wisdom for women was to eat something at home alone before a date, and then in company order a light dinner to portray oneself as dainty and ladylike" and goes on to state that today a lot of women order huge steaks just to show the men they are eating with that they can be one of the boys. Now this got me to thinking that there are a lot of situations in which you might order something to impress, to fit in, or to avoid making waves. If you're invited to lunch as part of a job interview you probably should avoid any dish that might spill all over your shirt even if it's something you really crave. (Okay I used to get interviewed by stuffy white-shoe law firms and order street food I usually shun, like lox and bagels, just for the heck of it. But that's not good strategy.) And if you're somewhere west of the Mississippi and your pals take you to a barbecue shack of rural route 59, it's probably not the right time to ask if they have a mesclun sanad with some arugula. If you're with a group of Chowhounds in that east coast multi-ethnic paradise of Flushing, NYC and you suddenly are hit by an urge to try the fries at McDonald's to see if they are as good as they used to be when they were made with tallow, just put that urge on hold.
So... do you ever choose what you order in a restaurant in order to make a good impression on your dining companions?
If I am paying, I order what I want, including a beverage. If someone else is paying, I will get something less expensive and only water to drink. Not to impress, but in consideration. Usually I know their financial situation.
With friends and family, I order a soup or salad, an app instead of an an entre and desert w/coffee. I love to eat but have a small appetite and am not fond of leftovers...
Back when I was dating, I ordered the same way...I never saw the point in making an false impression. When I was younger, I would order a drink if everyone else did (even though I've never cared for alcholic beverages), now I usually just get water or soda (although I get ribbed for this all the time).
If it's business or strangers, I order an entre. I'll get a salad only if others are getting salads/apps. Same rule for coffee and/desert. It's not so much to make a good impression and as it is to not be seen a 'difficult'.
If out on business, I order things that are easy to eat, not messy like spaghetti or stuff requiring my getting down and dirty like ribs or crabs.
Like the others who have posted, I will take it easy on people if they are paying, especially if I know that they are on a tight budget.
i'm frequently a guest at wine dinners. usually it's a set menu. but when it's not, i take into account what we're drinking, to better complement the wine and to show respect to the wine maker or vineyard owner, who is usually hosting the dinner. so i don't get oysters with australian shiraz or a ribeye with white burgundy.
as already mentioned, i don't get spaghetti on an interview, or too much garlic on a 1st date, lol. those things are just polite.
if people are worried they're being judged by what they order for dinner (unless, you know, it's like eating with diamond jim brady) i think they need either new friends, or a reality check.
The only times I've done this have been when someone else is paying. If my boss takes me out, then I order something pricier than I normally would because he'll tell me to go nuts. Similarly, when a good friend takes me out for my birthday, I'll get something expensive alongside my alcoholic beverage that might not go with my food. I'm sure it'll change as I get older, but at this point, friends are still buying me strong cocktails or huge beers at birthday meals, even if it's way too much or just doesn't go well with what I'm eating.
The situation does matter to me. If I am just meeting a new group of people (ie, friend's family, first time out with coworkers, etc.) I usually try to "fit in" with what I order. With old friends I could care less, unless they are paying. If I'm paying I usually splurge and urge others to do the same. Only live once...