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What would you have done?

I decided to host a party early in the summer and invite a group of friends that we spend lots time time with because our kids are friends. The kid relationships are the prime reason we have gotten to know each other, so the parents constitute a motley group if there ever was one. I decided to cook a nice buffet meal after a week or more of planning. Everything turned out the way I wanted, and I was sure that I had covered my bases regarding the different preferences of all of my guests. Some of course, hate seafood, some love it, some don't eat grilled veggies, etc. You know the drill.

There were five main coures to choose from, and one of them was Shrimp Creole. It was the only dish that was a little spicy because I had added smoked red pepper flakes to it. Not hot, just a little heat. Well, one of the mothers immediately started yelling "THE SHRIMP IS REALLY, REALLY HOT!" over and over, in a loud voice (it wasn't -- even my DH was able to eat it and he can't eat hot food). She managed to scare most of the teenagers away from it, and finally one of them tried it and ended up telling the rest of her friends that it was fine -- but not before most had eaten everything else, leaving the shrimp to stand in the steamer tray, uneaten.

What would you have done? I was too busy, unfortunately, to make a joking comment about how she was really exaggerating. It would never occur to me to start whining and complaining loudly over someone else's food. What would you have done?

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  1. With a glint in your eye and a knowing smile, one might tell that guest (loud enough for the teens to hear): "Well, we've also got some really tame and bland items for older palates and young children. Let me see if i can find something more suited to your taste." -- (p.s. - no offense meant to older palates here on Chowhound ;-)

    1. This has happened to me before as being part-Indian I have a tendency to put chilies in all my food. On one ocassion I had a guest whining about the fire in her mouth from an ancho-chipotle chocolate mousse I made. It actually was too much heat for her as there were tears in her eyes, but I used some gentle pressure and humor to try and get the other guests to just try it. And once I had a few takers, the rest new that the food was fine.

      This tactic works especially well if there are men in the crowd as they tend to respond ideally when you question their cojones when it comes to tolerating spice.

      15 Replies
      1. re: JungMann

        I live in a family with a very very low tolerance for heat while my wife and I like some heat sometimes. My mother is always the one to chime in that something is hot and then the rest of the family follows suit and doesn't touch it. I really think it all has to do with our own personal tolerance for heat. My wife and I often look at each other like my mom is crazy when she says something is hot as we don't even taste the heat. She's stated before that a mild salsa was too hot. Just recognize that some people have basically zero tolerance to heat and for them the shrimp were really really hot. To her they were apparently hot enough to warn other people.

        1. re: Rick

          Rick, I agree with you that some people just can't eat spicy foods. My sister is one of them. She thinks Taco Bell nachos (the glorified tortilla chips and nacho cheese in a dixie cup variety) are super, super spicy. But I think that the OP's guest was rude. She could've been a more tactful in her response to the food. She should've let the other guests make their own judgments about the food instead of loudly proclaiming hers.

          To the OP: Since this lady is part of your extended social network, I wouldn't necessarily ban her from your future get-togethers. But I would certainly make a point to pull her aside the next time she's at one of your events to walk her through the menu and tell her all the long details of each and every seasoning in every dish since she seems to have both a sensitivity to spicy foods and to politeness at parties. That's my very passive-aggressive way of telling her to be a good sport.

          1. re: misswills

            Oh, I love your suggestion. Great idea. She will probably be here again in the coming months, and I have no intention of serving white bread.

            1. re: misswills

              Yes, I do agree that she could have been more tactful in her approach. Just trying to help the OP understand what could cause someone to do that. To some people spicy food is downright offensive. I'm certainly not one of those people!

              1. re: Rick

                If you knew how much planning and effort was involved to come up with the menu, you would be amazed. It is hard for me to believe that anyone could have been offended. Most people thought I had the party catered and I worked very hard to make sure that there was something for everyone. She even asked if it was catered, and when I told her that I had cooked everything, she was really surprised. She knew I was the cook before she tried any of it. I just thought it was rude for her to declare that the food was so hot that no one who heard her would eat it. However, as all of the posters here have pointed out, there are different tolerances for heat, so perhaps she was just overwhelmed when she tasted it. Maybe one of those little red pepper flakes got stuck in her craw!

                1. re: RGC1982

                  If someone proclaimed a particular buffet dish to be too hot, I'd be first in line for it!

                  1. re: mojoeater

                    obviously it wasn't hot enough if she could still speak...
                    and I'm second in line!

                  2. re: RGC1982

                    She's probably one of those people who isn't used to chilies and can't tolerate the heat... shouting it out was pretty rude, but now you know about her preference - if you have her over again, just warn her not to eat the shrimp because it's spicy, and then she won't need to make a fuss over it!
                    I have a very low tolerance for heat in my food - I'm fine with ginger or pepper (I love them!) but 'hot' food sets my ear canals on fire from the inside, and it's a most unpleasant sensation.

                    1. re: RGC1982

                      Some people just don't have social grace.

                      Whether or not the dish was too hot, she is one of those people.

                      Nothing you can do about it... but sigh and move on.

                      But I wouldn't do anything special for her next time.

                      1. re: RGC1982

                        hmmm...maybe she felt a bit jealous that you could pull off cooking all that food so she (unconsciously?) was trying to put you down?

                        1. re: excuse me miss

                          There was nothing unconscious about that behavior.

                      2. re: misswills

                        i agree about keeping her in the circle. when she's over again you can holler across the buffet that she should be ok with the mac and cheese and crudites since it's not at all spicy...

                        1. re: misswills

                          If she was like this in this case, what next? I would have jokingly told her to quit being such a wuss and get over it... if she couldn't take that and the chiles, then she's sailing along the edge of my earth...

                      3. re: JungMann

                        JungMann give us the ancho chipolte chocolate mousse recipe please....

                        None of our friends have the cojones to eat the food we make we do our best to make things unspicy but people who come over now know what to expect - I always have one bland dish for the potato people but I guess you do have to nip that behavior and that goes for any kind of reaction whether someone thinks a dish has too much pumpkin in it (as if) or whatever - it all comes back to how an overreaction can ruin the mood at a party and in your case the shrimp dish you made was well thought out and not cheap to put together.

                        But

                      4. Pour a glass of ice water over her head.

                        What? Too much?

                        OK then, just hand her a glass of ice water then.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: PeterL

                          A waitress at a Mexican restaurant once told me that ice water makes it worse. She recommended bread to dissipate the effects of too-spicy food. Don't know if it works because I've never had to test it, but I've always wondered about it. Anyone know?

                          1. re: marcia

                            Bread works better. Dairy is best. Drink milk or eat a hunk of cheese or spoon of ice cream/cottage cheese/yogurt.

                            1. re: marcia

                              water just dilutes the capsicum and spreads it around your mouth. Capsicum (the stuff that makes it spicy hot) is fat-soluble, not water soluble. So the best thing is bread with butter! (although yes, plain bread IS better than water...)

                              My Mexican friends taught me that trick when I lived there. Then when I got back I used to bet my friends that I could eat jalapenos whole without drinking anything (yes, those were college days and I'm sure there was alcohol involved somehow...).....but I never said anything about eating bread with it!!

                              1. re: janetofreno

                                I thought it binds to carbohydrate chains, as well. I had no tolerance for spice as a kid, so when my father trained me to eat Indian food like a proper desi, the table would be covered in lassis, naans and desserts for me to dissipate the heat on my measly rogan josh. One gulab jamun for every two bites of "spicy" rogan josh made me very fat by the time I was able to tolerate heat.

                              2. re: marcia

                                Yeah but a piece of bread over her head don't have the same impact as a glass of ice water.

                            2. It seems like it could have been some sort of immediate reaction to the heat. She has no tolerance for spicy foods and just blurted something out because she was shocked to find that the dish was spicy. Plus, sometimes I think it's hard to gauge how much spice you can handle when compared to the rest of the population. My mom says she can't handle spicy food at all but I've seen her eat some moderately spicy foods with little difficulty. For other people, not handling spicy food means even the littlest bit of heat is too much.

                              1. She might have gotten hold of a bit with more pepper flake stuck to it. I love spicy foods (really spicy), but there is something about red pepper flakes that always seem hotter to me. I generally substitute cayenne because I hate getting the "hot bite".

                                Obviously, she should have known better than to make such a fuss, but don't worry too much about it. There is no inoculation against idiocy.