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Has Dear Abby lost her mind?

rworange Nov 9, 2008 02:25 PM

So for the first time in years, I read Dear Abby. A reader called "Some like it Hot" writes

"My wife accuses me of "acting pretentious" when we are dinner guests at a friends's home and I warm my plate in the microwave. What am I supposed to do when the food has gone cold or lukewarm and I want my meal hot?"

Abby responds that she likes hot food too and to handle it by asking the hostess if it is ok to take it into the kitchen to zap.

I'm sorry, but this is just rude. Suck it up. Unless this guy is eating weekly or daily there, don't insult your host by telling them the food is too cold for your taste.

Of course, they could be really, really good friends and this is sort of a compliment that you feel comfortable enough to be 'at home' at their table.

Still, there are better ways to handle it, IMO.

When these people are guests in your home, serve piping hot dishes and if one starts to cool mention how you dislike lukewarm food, apoligize and heat it up.

Or just bring up food temperature preferances in general conversation, not during dinner. Complain about a restaurant that served lukewarm food ... or how embarassed you were when a dish you served went lukewarm ... how you hate buffets because the food is too cold ... something. A savy person AND friend will pick up on this and make an effort to serve a meal that is warm enough for you. If not ... suck it up.

  1. KaimukiMan Nov 18, 2008 09:18 AM

    I have a friend who is well known to like his food piping hot. Because he makes a point of it when we are at his house or dining out we always offer the use of the microwave if he wants it (I prefer not to burn my tongue at every meal). As a good host isn't it more important that my guests enjoy their meal rather than have them push food around their plate for an hour? Especially if the issue could be remedied by something as simple as a zap in the microwave, or providing tabasco for the roast chicken (a friend's ex-girlfriend), or putting ketchup or A1 sauce on the table when serving steak or eggs.

    1. RShea78 Nov 18, 2008 03:46 AM

      I have held off long enough and decided to add my 2 cents worth.

      I wonder even if Dear Abby had half-a mind? ;-)

      1. Caroline1 Nov 15, 2008 07:29 AM

        If someone nuked food on one of my china services with a lot of gold on it, I'd probably deck him. Or her. as the case may be.

        1. s
          Sinicle Nov 13, 2008 11:38 AM

          It wouldn't bother me if someone were a guest in my house and asked me. On the other hand, were I the guest, I would suck it up.

          IMO the host does what is reasonable to best suit the guest. The guest does his/her best to BE a good guest.

          It boils down to the golden rule thing (as does everything else)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sinicle
            Ruth Lafler Nov 14, 2008 02:11 PM

            Exactly.

          2. f
            fern Nov 13, 2008 11:37 AM

            I would never ask a host if I could head into the kitchen to improve the plate of food they just gave me.
            This Dear Abby is a numbskull, though. Definitely a different column since she took over.

            6 Replies
            1. re: fern
              n
              NicoleFriedman Nov 14, 2008 01:56 PM

              Would you be insulted if you were the cook and a guest asked to nuke the food for a few seconds? Isn't this the same as someone asking you for salt or pepper? Everyone has different taste preferences, just like we all have different heat preferences. I'm still bewildered by why this is such a big deal. If I were the host, why would I want my guests to eat food they felt was too cold? I would not take that as an insult- food naturally gets cold away from the stove.

              1. re: NicoleFriedman
                Ruth Lafler Nov 14, 2008 02:11 PM

                A guest isn't supposed to demand that the host cater to his or her specific preferences -- this is a social gathering, not a restaurant with professional cooks and servers. Too many people don't understand that.

                Salt and pepper are considered to be standard issue for a dining table, but asking someone to handle your food differently than everyone else's for any reason other than dire health concerns is rude. Eating cold food, or eating off a cold plate, never killed anyone.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                  n
                  NicoleFriedman Nov 15, 2008 05:01 AM

                  If I am a guest and I demand the host cook me a separate entree [assuming the reason is not based on allergies], that is rude. Or, more on the topic, if I demand [emphasis on the "demand" part] that my host heat my food Herself, that is rude. But if I ask nicely and if I can do it myself, I would think it rude of the host to be so uber-sensitive that I should dare ask to do such a thing! [Look- if we're talking about a dinner where you barely know the host that is one thing but I am looking at this from the standpoint that you do know the host and have at least a friendly relationship)

                2. re: NicoleFriedman
                  Servorg Nov 14, 2008 04:57 PM

                  Hi Nicole. You and I would do fine dining at each others houses. You can choose to take offense at someones request because "you" would never do that, or you can choose to take it in stride. You and I take it in stride. Others don't. Hey, can I warm that up for you? ;-D

                  1. re: Servorg
                    n
                    NicoleFriedman Nov 15, 2008 05:02 AM

                    Absolutely:}

                  2. re: NicoleFriedman
                    f
                    fern Nov 15, 2008 10:50 AM

                    I would not be offended but I am pretty casual about entertaining. That doesn't mean I would be comfortable making such a request myself. As the guest, I am there to enjoy the company and the meal, but primarily the company. I can have things the way I most enjoy them on my own time.

                    This did get me thinking though, wouldn't the hosts be on to him by now and just do what they can to be sure his is extra hot? It's not always possible, I'm sure, but often it would be, I'd think.
                    We have a frequent guest who always waits until everyone is served and we're just sitting down to eat to request a cup of decaf coffee. After a couple of times I got with it and now am aways ready with his decaf. I try to be a good host and good guest, though I'm sure I blow it on both counts at times!
                    My bottom line is I would not make such a request myself but wouldn't freak out if you did.

                3. n
                  NicoleFriedman Nov 12, 2008 04:03 PM

                  Being rude or polite is not just what we say, but how we say what we say, Body language, tone of voice...those are just as important if not more so. If I silently take my plate and head to the kitchen, or say in a hissy tone "I have to warm the food", of course you are being rude. But if you ask if the host would mind if you use the microwave in a warm tone and your body language conveys the same warmth, I have no idea why there would be a problem. There are many things in life we should suck up but this is not one of them- because it is not a big deal!

                  1. Vetter Nov 11, 2008 04:47 PM

                    I was shocked by this column too. It's important to be gracious, and implying that your food isn't hot enough for you sure isn't gracious. This is the sort of thing you only do around family and best buds.

                    1. a
                      adamshoe Nov 11, 2008 04:07 PM

                      Frankly, If someone did this @ Chez Moi, I really don't think I'd care too much. I wouldn't do it as someone's guest; but I don't think it would ruffle my feathers. Maybe it's his/her way of saying "Gee, this is absolutely wonderful, but I think I'd like/appreciate/ savor it even more if I could zap it for a few seconds..." or maybe they're just big yakkers who let their food go cold while they flapped their gums. I am one of those nutty hot hot hot peeps who nukes their coffee right after it's brewed...no such thing as too hot, too rich, or too thin!! Adam

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: adamshoe
                        Servorg Nov 11, 2008 05:29 PM

                        Totally agree with you Adam. This is such a non issue for me the whole thing makes me laugh. I always tell my guests the same thing. Need something I don't have out like ketchup, mayo, hot mustard, salsa or something else that you like for your food? Just ask. Is your food hot enough? If not just let me know. I want you to have a good time and if I can do something to help with that then let me know what it is. Life is way, way too short to be counting coup on your guests every little bobble, eccentricity or social inventiveness.

                        1. re: Servorg
                          rworange Nov 11, 2008 06:38 PM

                          It really goes both ways. Out of respect to your guests you want them to feel comfortable.

                          Personally my own approach to guest is pretty much like in "To Kill a Mockingbird" when a kid pours major syrup over his dinner ... "That boy is your company. If he wants to eat that tablecloth, you'll let him."

                          It wasn't the action of the diner, so much as the advice that seemed wrong.

                          I'd personally be flattered if a guest felt that comfortable ... though a little sorry I let things get cold.

                          As some of the responses in this thread indicate, some people do mind.

                          I also wonder what his wife meant by him "acting pretentious". Now I might not be so flattered if some sort of attitude came with reheating the plate ... but even that depends ... if I know someone has 'quirks' it wouldn't bother me.

                          1. re: rworange
                            Ruth Lafler Nov 14, 2008 02:06 PM

                            I think it's pretentious in the "what's good enough for the other guests isn't good enough for me" sense.

                        2. re: adamshoe
                          s
                          sailrox Nov 13, 2008 07:26 AM

                          I did that once, soon after I started dating my now-fiance. He told me they weren't microwavable, but I honestly couldn't believe that anybody had dishes they couldn't microwave (we'r enot that type of family, I guess). Maybe I figured he just hadn't tried hard enough?

                          Let's just say the gold flake or whatever it was that looked like gold flake started sparking and light started shooting out from the microwave. We unplugged the microwave and ran before it exploded.

                          Clearly, he loves me anyways. And I bought microwave-safe dishes.

                          1. re: sailrox
                            Catskillgirl Nov 13, 2008 11:22 AM

                            I did that once by accident - I was reheating some take-out barbecue chicken and put the what-I-thought-was-paper bag in the microwave with the chicken still inside. I still don't know why I did that, many years later. Anyway, the bag had a heat-preserving lining of metal and it exploded, caught fire and killed the microwave. More importantly, it killed the chicken.

                            I learned the hard way.

                        3. FoodChic Nov 11, 2008 03:58 AM

                          If anyone microwaved my beautiful china, they'd have a whole new set of problems to contend with, and the least of all would be warm food. I'm just sayin'.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: FoodChic
                            BerkshireTsarina Nov 11, 2008 01:16 PM

                            So glad to see this thread! I really did think Abby's daughter had lost it. Any guest that pulled such a stunt would be off my guest list. Being as old as the hills myself, and raised among the dinosaurs, I am always amazed here on chowhound at the degree of entitlement lots of folks seem to feel about their behavior and eating habits. (Another word for it is chutzpah.)
                            There are rules for guests: smile, play nicely with the other guests, eat what you're given and be grateful (and if you don't like it, hide it among some lettuce leaves). You're a GUEST, not the Queen of England. Back in the longago we would go for dinner from time to time at friends whom we loved dearly. The wife was a delightful person, but she was a DREADFUL cook. (And proud of her cooking!) So we would eat something before we went, and then ingest a polite minimum. Nomad, you're on the right track, and you can be a guest at our house any time!

                            1. re: BerkshireTsarina
                              Ruth Lafler Nov 14, 2008 02:04 PM

                              The Queen of England would never be so rude -- I'm sure she's sucked it up on many an occasion, as have most people who find themselves in ceremonial or otherwise obligatory eating situations.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                k
                                KevinB Nov 17, 2008 09:22 PM

                                I'm sure the story is apocryphal, but before becoming King George VI, the then Prince of Wales is said to have held a dinner party at which fingerbowls were brought out between two of the courses. The guest of honour, unaware of their use, lifted the bowl to his lips, and began to sip the liquid. The quick-thinking Prince, to avoid embarrassing his guest, immediately lifted his bowl, and did the same. Now, that's sucking it up, in more ways than one!

                                1. re: KevinB
                                  BobB Nov 18, 2008 07:14 AM

                                  It is apocryphal, and in its various incarnations has featured everyone from Queen Elizabeth to Eleanor Roosevelt as the protagonist. Usually the misguided guest is described as either a country bumpkin or a foreigner unfamiliar with local customs.

                                  But it's still a good parable about manners and making your guests feel comfortable.

                          2. operagirl Nov 10, 2008 08:06 AM

                            I'm in complete agreement that it's best to just suck it up and eat the lukewarm food.

                            However, your suggestions for covert, politer ways to get your hosts to take a hint seem pretty passive aggressive. Since it's such an unimportant issue in the grand scheme of things, why not just let it go, rather than sneaking the topic into "casual" conversation? Seems like a weird and contrived way to go.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: operagirl
                              rworange Nov 10, 2008 08:35 AM

                              Ah ... passive aggressive ... I've so longed to pull that off but just can't seem to master it. No, it is more cowardly, avoiding confrontation and offending someone. It was more a thought for the person who asked Abby since it seemed an important thing for him.

                              As dismissive as I've been about it, some people just can't help it. They have some thing that is impossible for them to suck up. It goes beyond manners. Maybe this guy just CAN"T eat warm food. The whole thing of actually going to the microwave to heat the plate just seems beyond weird to me. Either the guy is truly a self-centered, unaware gnat ... or has a compulsion. If it is the latter, than some sort of other tactic needs to be used.

                              1. re: rworange
                                oldbaycupcake Nov 10, 2008 09:34 AM

                                If it's just his thing & unavoidable, I'd recommend giving the host a heads up prior to the event. Make sure they know it's not a reflection on their host skills, it's just an odd compulsion. A gracious host would accomodate him in a way that would make him comfortable without drawing attention. A simple phone call would make the situation less awkward for everyone.

                                1. re: oldbaycupcake
                                  q
                                  queencru Nov 11, 2008 06:49 AM

                                  I don't know how this is going to help. Most hosts plan on putting the food out when it is hot, but sometimes things don't happen that way. Especially when it's family style and multiple people have to serve themselves from several plates, one or more items may be cool when they come to you. Plus, not all homes have plates that are microwave safe, so the microwave is also not always an option.

                                  1. re: oldbaycupcake
                                    im_nomad Nov 11, 2008 07:25 AM

                                    ohhh...boy...really? I think if a guest called me ahead of time to alert me to their needs of having a scorching hot dish, it wouldn't make me feel gracious. Can you imagine if every guest did this?

                                    Seriously, i wonder why some people bother to dine out at all, if they're going to be that particular. If your needs are really that high, and you still want to hang out with friends, blowtorch something at home and eat it prior to the dinner party.

                                    1. re: im_nomad
                                      oldbaycupcake Nov 11, 2008 02:13 PM

                                      The suggestion was made in response to RWO about taking another tactic if the requester had a legit, uncontrollable compulsion. My original post said to suck it up but RWO then posed a completely different situation.

                                      BTW, I also appreciate a heads up when a guest has accepted an invitation if they have food allergies, dietary issues or are vegan. People invited to my home for a social event should feel confident that I will extend them my hospitalty, not my judgements.

                              2. a
                                adamshoe Nov 9, 2008 05:59 PM

                                I gotta say, I've been tempted to do this (even at restaurants), but as a former restaurateur and general good guy, I haven't and probably wouldn't. (Unless I'm dining @ Chez Parentus or my SO's mom's house) Let's not gang up on Abby's daughter, though. Even the "experts" can fu*k up once in a while. No? Adam

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: adamshoe
                                  tatamagouche Nov 10, 2008 05:23 AM

                                  If you're at a restaurant and your food isn't heated properly, that's a different story. You're a paying customer and properly heated food is a cornerstone of adequacy. As a guest at someone's home, they've shelled out the bucks to feed you, all for the honor of your supposedly pleasant company, not to be judged on their cooking/serving skills.

                                  I've said in Dear Helena threads I don't stand on ceremony much as a hostess myself, and probably wouldn't take much offense to this kind of thing as I want guests to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves, any more than I'd object to their seasoning their food. But as a guest I certainly wouldn't do it. I suppose it's the aspect of disruption that's most problematic—someone breaking the rhythm of the meal/conversation for their own aesthetic sake.

                                2. susancinsf Nov 9, 2008 05:26 PM

                                  I'm with you; it is rude. I don't ever say anything that could be deemed critical about a meal I am offered, even at a close friends. your suggestions of alternatives make more sense. I was reading the Sunday paper to hubby today, and said exactly that, "I think Dear Abby has finally lost it".

                                  Hubby being hubby, he first remarked that "Dear Abby is Dead" but then contended that it is only rude if one doesn't ask first, just in case the plate in question isn't microwable. Fortunately, I've never seen him do anything like that, but just in case, I gave him the 'please don't ever embarrass me that way' speech....:-)

                                  1. pikawicca Nov 9, 2008 05:22 PM

                                    I would die before doing this. It is totally rude. Who are the people who do this?

                                    1. oldbaycupcake Nov 9, 2008 05:12 PM

                                      Abby has lost it. Absolutely suck it up, enjoy the company, wine and music if not the food. I wouldn't even mention food temp in general conversation for fear of embarrassing or offending my hosts.

                                      I cannot remember what movie it was, but I remember a scene with a line of people going through an outdoor Thanksgiving buffet with two microwaves at the end to heat their food. I doubt that would really be an acceptable social event for Dear Abby!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: oldbaycupcake
                                        d
                                        dolores Nov 10, 2008 05:59 AM

                                        Is she still alive, Abby I mean? Her advice might now be written by a bot.

                                        Of course, the correct advice would be to suck it up.

                                        1. re: dolores
                                          rworange Nov 10, 2008 07:08 AM

                                          The original Dear Abbey died a few years ago and her daughter took over the column. Her mama taught her better than that.

                                      2. jfood Nov 9, 2008 04:33 PM

                                        the jfoods had a fantastic night at friends the other night. four hours of great conversation, politics, golf, kids, economy, plus an incredible amount of food pushing, ate just enough not to embarass the host, get the drift. And when they got home at 1130, they grabbed some bread, some PB&J and watched Letterman. A perfect night.

                                        The guest should never re-heat, re-sauce or do any of that stuff EXCEPT in homes where they are basically family. So for 99.9% of the time, suck it up and eat eanough to not embarass and never criticize temp or quality.

                                        Jfood

                                        1. im_nomad Nov 9, 2008 03:27 PM

                                          I agree, depends on how close the friendship/family connection... and how casual. It could come off as complaining about the host and how swift they are in the kitchen.

                                          This could cause a major disruption in the meal. Not all plates or bowls etc, CAN go into the microwave, and therefore the food would probably have to be transferred onto some other heating dish, taking the host away again etc.

                                          Besides...sometimes we use that space in the microwave to hide stuff.... XD

                                          1. diablo Nov 9, 2008 03:27 PM

                                            I always prewarm the plates in the micro unless it's a cold meal. I would not rewarm any meal in the micro as most of the things I eat suffer from microwaving (I.E. meat, fish, chix), even if at a very close friend's home. My uncle regularly send soups back in restaurants because they are not hot enough for his liking. He is very specific, though, when ordering: "I want it PIPING, PIPING HOT. I mean PIPING HOT". I'm never embarrassed because he did specify to the waitstaff so the owness is on them as far as I'm concerned. Myself, I usually just suck it up.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: diablo
                                              rworange Nov 9, 2008 04:11 PM

                                              I agree there are few things I would re-warm in a microwave ... and I'm a microwave fan. I also have no problem with specifying temperature at a restuarant. However, as a guest, it is a different thing.

                                            2. Stephanie Wong Nov 9, 2008 03:03 PM

                                              As you say, depends on how close the friendship is and how casual the occasion is.

                                              With close friends, we're probably in the kitchen helping and offer to warm their dinner plates in the microwave before they plate the food. And we help run the plates to the dinner table so everyone can sit down together and enjoy hot food while it's still hot.

                                              Otherwise, suck it up!

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