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So What Would You Have Done?

I have posted a bit on CH, and am known among my friends and co-workers as a pretty decent cook/hostess. Last weekend we spent the day at an out of town friends' home through dinner. We had agreed ahead of time to have dinner at home, this couple has been married a very long time, doesn't have children, doesn't cook too often. I volunteered to make latkes (potato pancakes), butter cookies and chopped liver for the dinner, as this would be a Chanukah celebration. All they had to prepare was some kind of main dish.

So, we arrive at their home about 11:30 a.m. expecting to go out for some lunch, a little shopping or visiting, etc. The friend's husband shoves a 5 lb. RAW brisket at me and says, please make this for dinner. I was a little taken aback. These people may have a gorgeous gourmet kitchen with state of the art appliances, but they are not cooks and I lacked quite a few major ingredients and tools. Anyone who has ever made a brisket knows you need to make it the day before, so you can de-fat the meat and de-grease the juices. We were planning dinner at 6:30 p.m. I knew I had to quickly get that brisket into the oven, and tried to make do with bouillon cubes (yech!), no celery, no chile sauce, less than perfect ingredients. Then the friend's husband stood over her to ensure she was taking notes (and pictures!) so she can replicate the recipe. AND complained that we didn't get out to lunch till 1:30 (by the time I browned the onions and the brisket, made the sauce, etc).

Truthfully, I felt like a schmuck. I should have put my foot down and had them get a flank steak or something way easier. Anyone been in a similar situation? This is your time to vent!

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  1. I've never had anything at all like that happen ever so I can't vent. Since HE'S the one who's the schmuck, I'd have wrapped that brisket in freezer wrap of some sort, gone to the grocery myself and bought said flank steak and just said "I'm in no position to cook a brisket today so this is what we're having." Jerks need to be dealt with firmly. Pussy-footing around will never work. Please practice in front of a mirror before going back for a repeat with these people. Sheesh.

    1. I'm speechless. Who does that? What an idiot. I'm surprised he didn't expect you to make lunch too.

      1. Hindsight's always 20/20. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

        Yes, you could have delicately informed him that cooking a brisket is a 24-hour proposition and declined to make it for that night's dinner. But instead you did your best to accommodate your boorish host. You made the best of a bad situation.

        Venting is a good thing. This guy's behavior was totally unacceptable. But you should take solace in the fact that you handled things as well as you did. What goes around, and all...

        Happy Holidays

        1 Reply
        1. re: alanbarnes

          I agree with alanbarnes, you did the best you could and were very polite about it, and now you know better than to accept an invitation from them to eat at their place again.

        2. This story is hi-larious! It is worthy of a sitcom, if Seinfeld was still on I'd suggest pitching it as an episode.

          1. Sounds like they think you can do anything; and it sounds like you can! So how was it? How was the brisket; how was dinner; how is your friendship?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Sam, yes it's true. There is no "S" for Schmuck on my forehead, instead it is "WW" for WonderWoman! Believe it or not, the brisket turned out pretty damn good. I cooked it for 4 hours, took it out of the sauce and stuck the meat in the freezer on the plate for an hour to cool down so I could slice it. I was able to trim off most of the fat from the meat, but wasn't able to de-grease the sauce as much as I would have preferred.

              The annoying thing is that because it worked out OK, my friend's husband laughed and thought this validated the bad preparation!

              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                i guess it would've been *not nice" to load his plate with the most artery-clogging fat.

                just fantasizing........

            2. I would have taken it as a compliment.. obviously they think you can cook...

              1. It sounds like they misunderstood you and thought you were cooking the WHOLE dinner... and they got the brisket on sale (or it caught their eye) and they didn't have a clue that it's something that really needs to be made in advance. I cook all the time and I wouldn't know what to do with a brisket to save my life. I don't think I've ever even SEEN one!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Kajikit

                  >>""I cook all the time and I wouldn't know what to do with a brisket to save my life. I don't think I've ever even SEEN one!""

                  After cooking brisket my first time, I concluded it was dog food, but even the dog whimpered off.

                2. DB

                  Great story and major kudos for your reputation and patience. Jfood is hiding right now because he is about to embark on cooking a meal planned by other to be non-appreciated by relatives. He bought some great pastries to eat at 10PM when everyone leaves.

                  And jfood has been thrust into this situation (other than the photos and the a-hole comments) several times.

                  Ask for an apron and look for the ingredients. Take a piece of paper and write what you need and tell hubby to make himself useful and go get these items. Then explain that the brisket will be less than perfect because of the cook-eat the same day. Then get to work.

                  At the end of the cooking say..."glad I could help and I can't wait for you to take me and hubby to XYZ restaurant as a token of your appreciation." Make sure you smile at this point and removing the apron while you say it adds the je ne sais quoi to the statement.

                  Good news is you have some latkees with you to nibble the frustration away and make sure either apple sauce is in the fridge or put that at the top of the list.

                  Happy Chanukkah

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    J, Happy Chanukah to you & yours as well. As I mentioned earlier, the successful, tasty brisket seemed for my friends' husband to validate that it is possible to make a brisket in an afternoon. I envy you living in the NE, as we in Ohio don't have access to the take out possibilities of good deli, European pastry or other stuff I would love to outsource now and then.

                    My reward will come on Thursday, making a 4 bone-in rib roast with chopped liver appetizer, latkes, roasted cauliflower, Chanukah sugar cookies and apricot cake.

                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                      You'll always be Wonder Woman to me from now on. Merry Christmas!

                  2. It doesn't sound like these folks are very good friends. You didn't communicate well from the get-go. The husband was rude and demanding (by your description) and you felt you couldn't say no.

                    What should you have done? Explain that you can't prepare a brisket that quickly. You know this. Then get some new friends.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: taos

                      Taos, I always try to assume innocence on other's part. Thanks for taking my side so strongly. In my friends's defense, I have known her for 45 years, she grew up across the street. She is a lovely, sweet person. . Even the husband, who has been demanding from the start (they have been married 28 years) has been a good friend to me through the years. He is difficult in always demanding perfection from everyone, himself included. Thanks for letting me vent.

                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                        You know it's not about the brisket, don't you? It's about communicating clearly. They don't have much of a clue about cooking and think you're a great cook (which you are) and can do anything regardless of time and materials (which you can't). You don't have the heart/guts to tell them otherwise. This scene has a high probability of repeating itself unless you communicate more clearly in advance next time there is going to be a cooking activity with two families.

                    2. Poor Diane!!! Well I think you are very nice and tolerant to have not just booked it out of there. They clearly think you are a whiz in the kitchen and even if you werent happy with the results, I bet they liked them. I wouldnt rush back to see these friends anytime soon. I bet I would have just sucked it up too but been annoyed. I do think it is funny that they were taking pics of the food prep.

                      1. God is smiling on you Diane! Be thankful that you are not the one married to that fella. I wonder why he was not taking notes for the next time one needs to be cooked.

                        Sometimes it is hard to react well when someone throws meat at you. I think you did spendidly (in that you did not tell him the unkosher place he could put the brisket). I am like you, I would be so surprised by the forwardness and bossiness that I would just do it and be fully pissed by dinner. I need to do like c. oliver sez and practice being a strong and powerful woman in front of the mirror. I always say "Oh, I shoulda..." the next day or when driving home. The good news, you have a very funny story to yap about on the Chowboards and a group of people to appreciate it!

                        I think he should have gone out and got you lunch. Who can cook on an empty stomach!?

                        1. Diane,

                          The problems that you outline aside, you may well have been fortunate, that they gave you this "Mission Impossible." Imagine how their efforts would have compared to yours. OK, you were blindsided, and were lacking, but it could have been worse - they could have cooked it. Be thankful that they gave you that responsibility and accept that "gift."

                          I'd have brought the host/hostess into the kitchen and enjoyed their company, while I did my best with what I had.

                          Hunt

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Excellent point, Hunt. Better to have been imposed upon than having to eat their dreck. :)

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Several times I "wished" that the host/hostess had handed off the raw ingredients to my wife and to me. However, then I've have fewer stories to tell...

                              Hunt

                          2. Apparently you are friends with my sister-in-law.

                            1. one Christmas eve, with 3 month firstborn in tow we went to my MIL's house around lunchtime to hang out and help her with dinner for 20+ people. As soon as we arrived she told me she had to go out but would I help her housekeeper with the Xmas dinner and she would be back soon.

                              About 6 hours later she returned, her housekeeper and I had cooked the whole thing from scratch. She checked it was all going ok, went up to shower and change for the evening and came back down as guests arrived. We had set the tables, and done the whole thing. Not once did she say thank you, nor did she publicly acknowledge my help.

                              Glad she is now my ex MIL!!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: smartie

                                Amazing. I read this first thing this morning and now just reread. Cause enough for divorce :) My MIL "hovers" and drives me nuts. But yours was worse. Yuck

                              2. No offense, but you're really the one to blame at this point. You should have stood up for yourself (in a polite way) and said there was too little time to properly make it. You should have suggested that someone run out and buy a chicken or something from the grocery store.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Jacey

                                  some folks really are clueless about cooking, though! and the rachel rayification of food programming sure makes it look like every last single meal, starters, soups, snacks and desserts included, can be neatly prepared in a half hour, with all dishes and cleanup done as well ;)

                                  i remember being asked to do low & slow bbq in under 2 hours :-P (with the wrong cut of meat, and a hibachi-style deck weber, no charcoal or hardwoods in the house)
                                  and being proudly presented with a beautiful frozen turkey, to be prepared for that evening's dinner (in four hours).

                                  Diane's had a long friendship with these folks, & she can judge-- but how would "laughing it off" work in this situation-- you know, what if Diane said (to her friends) something to the effect of "heeheehee, you all are just too much! --here's how i learned to make brisket, & it takes 2 days: blablabla-- i can try to do it in a few hours, but if it's edible at all, you'll be getting the 'war & peace in under a minute' version for sure! LOL" maybe it wouldn't go over well, i dunno, but many people might realize their own cluelessness and be able to laugh it off *with* you, and then you can get back to shopping and lunching and visiting and enjoying each others' company?

                                2. i sure hope they had a good wine cellar. so here's the brisket i'm supposed to cook, huh? well, let's plan all the wine for the courses. and of course, the cook needs wine. so, open the bottle!

                                  1. Another leg to this story, the friends came up to visit on NY Day for brunch. No offer to bring ANYTHING. When I requested they could stop at the bagel shop so we would have fresh, they couldn't do it, they had dog with them (have posted about how much I hate them bringing their female dog to my house, as we have male dog who outweighs theirs by 20 lb). OOPS! I refused to put out dog outside and he chased their dog for 2 hours, defending his food & water bowl to the end! Will have to re-think this relationship in 2009.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                      Thanks for the update. Please keep us posted as the saga continues.

                                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                        diane, have you told them not to bring the dog and they ignore you?

                                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                          Well, I guess this tells us that it's NOT because they think you're a wonderful cook - which sounds like you are - but rather they take advantage of your good nature. They can't pick up bagels because they have the dog with them? Please. One can't drive around the block while the other runs in for the bagels? Which we'd do even without the dog. And they continue to bring the dog (whether you ask them not to is irrelevant to me) knowing that it causes chaos? I love my dogs entirely too much but don't take them to friends no matter what they say. (Well, except one friend who makes it clear that we're not welcome WITHOUT the dogs!) Yes, Diane, I agree with you that this is clearly a relationship that needs thinking about and, at the least, some boundaries being set. You ARE a saint :)

                                        2. don't you just hate that? great stories from everyone here . . .

                                          i've never seen such a blatant case of this as yours, but this happens to me all the time in little ways every time i hang out with family. it happens because they think i am a good cook, and they think i will make tasty things, but every time it happens, i'm like, sheesh, you should have told me i was making dinner, i would have brought ingredients! do you really think i can do some sort of magic, or what? now i head this off by bringing ingredients when i visit - a bunch of fresh herbs, a bunch of lemons, some good cheese, etc.

                                          it's worse when they try to get me to "help" them with a meal that is already partially cooked - it's much harder to fix food than it is to make it good the first time around. once i start tinkering with it, i get invested in wanting it to be the way i would have done it in the first place, which is impossible at that point. i try to head off this particular issue by staying out of the kitchen at all costs.

                                          the sad thing is, i love cooking and i love cooking for my family, but these surprise settings are no fun. and i would be more than happy to eat a meal that someone else made for me - i'm not critical of food that other people make. isn't it wierd that people show love / respect by doing things that drive us so crazy?

                                          1. Oh my, you handled it quite wonderfully. I'm not sure I would be so forgiving. I have a friend who, like yours, proclaims loudly about her inability to cook. On the day of her son's baptism, she held a large (30 people) outdoor party. Well, as her close friend, I offered to bring some dishes that we agreed upon. I spent the day before the event making all sorts of side dishes to bring. I showed up to her house about 1.5 hours early (to help with set-up), only to find out that the sum total of her food preparation was to put chips in a bowl and to buy pre-prepared burgers to be grilled. That was all fine (if not a bit irksome to realize that she pretty much had me cater her event), until her husband threw a piece of raw chicken onto the table (I don't eat beef, so granted it was very thoughtful of her to buy chikcen) and stated "You'll have to grill your own chicken. I only know how to do burgers." I was a bit taken aback, and told them I'd be fine with the salads and sides (there was no way I was going to then slave over a grill for their shindig). Fortunately, a friend of the husband's was there - nice guy, who, also taken aback, jumped in and took over grill duties, including the chicken. The kicker was that, after all had eaten and were relaxing outside, I was helping to clean up (why? I don't know), and my friend proceeded to complain (quite vehemently) that another friend who was there had not done anything to help out and should really get up and come inside to do some dishes!

                                            Like you, I felt like a schmuck, and vowed never to be put in that position again.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Cachetes

                                              This story reminds me of a situation a few years ago. A neighbor, who is a single mom, and really not the best cook, wanted to have a high school graduation party for her son. I love to cook, so she about tormented me for weeks with ideas for what to serve. It had to be different; not dogs and burgers, etc. She's on a tight budget . I made numerous suggestions, none of which she liked. I could see this was going nowhere so I backed myself out of the conversation. She realized that her budget would not permit grilled chicken, fajitas, etc, and it was back to the typical burgers and such. Then she called to ask if she could borrow my gas grill (she also has one), to use during the party. I had no problem with the use of the grill, but then she asked me to man it during the party. I said yes, thinking it would be an hour or two of grilling. No, she then informs me that this was an all day open house sort of party, with the adults during the day, and then the son and his friends at night. I would be expected to stand at the grill from 2 PM until 11 PM, cooking burgers and such. I was completely taken aback by this new development. After really thinking about it, I knew that I was not up for being a slave to a grill for the day. Nor could my bad ankle take all the standing. It was very uncomfortable, but I called to tell her that I just wasn't up for being responsible for cooking on a grill for more than 80 people over a hot summer day. She was very put out when I called her. And, for some illogical and stupid reason I FELT GUILTY!
                                              She was angry with me and did not call me for a few days. A couple of days before the party, she called to tell me she had reconsidered what she would be serving. Naturally, it was my initial suggestion to her which she had flat out rejected as 'too typical' and 'oh, I'm not serving that at my party'. Want to know what it was? 6' Italian hoagies, turkey hoagies, vegetarian hoagies, etc. We're in the Philly burbs and these hoagies are a well loved guilty pleasure. Full of calories, and quite frankly, delicious. We have several very good delis in our area who make these, and they are presliced, assembled and ready to eat when you pick them up from the store. People INHALED these at the party; they were a huge hit! There was absolutely not an inch of any of the 6' long hoagies left after the party.
                                              Why do WE feel guilty when people try to take advantage of us, or DO take advantage of us? I'm sure another CHounder out there who is a psychologist can answer that question!

                                            2. To all of you who have expressed similar stories, my sympathies. These people have brought their little yappy dog to my house 3-4 times now, and I have complained every time. They have been married for 30 years and this is their only "baby". They travel 2 hours each way to visit and so they feel entitled to bring their dog. Funny, I would never DREAM of bringing my perfectly well behaved Shetland Sheep Dog who is capable of staying alone in the house for 10-12 hours. My kids and DH have made me promise to do that the next time we visit them (jury is still out on that). A time or two ago, the dog peed on my good Oriental rug, no offer to professionally clean it. Big PITA as it is 9X12 and has to be rolled up and carted.

                                              BUT, you will be proud of me. Received phone call yesterday from them about upcoming visit and their request to "come for a visit to see you" (i.e. meal at my house). Stipulated we would love to see them, at restaurant! My 2009 resolution not to be a Schmuck is working!

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                Congrats -- but don't let them stick you with the tab!!!

                                                1. re: Sarah

                                                  I agree with Sarah. Try to get to the restaurant and seated before they show up. Tell the waiter that there will be two checks. One for your and your husband, and one for the other couple.
                                                  Knowing them, they will probably want to stop over to your house to leave the dog there while they go to the restaurant, however!

                                                  1. re: mschow

                                                    diane in bexley: new woman in 2009! you go, girl! {;^D.

                                                    1. re: mschow

                                                      Or to make it more interesting, when the other couple arrives at the table thank them for treating you to dinner.

                                                      1. re: viperlush

                                                        ha ha! that'd be one funny scene! um, or maybe just a ....scene.

                                                      2. re: mschow

                                                        nope, can't stop at the house & leave the dog. Saint Diana & hubby will be out doing good deeds for others all day (working at the local soup kitchen & delivering brisket sandwiches to the needy?), and will have all they can do to just get to that restaurant on time. (evil chuckle).

                                                        1. re: PattiCakes

                                                          You are sooooo bad. That's the good kinda bad, ya know?

                                                    2. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                      Yay! But definitely make sure they know you're not treating them, as Sarah said!

                                                      BTW - were they amenable to meeting at a restaurant?

                                                    3. What a dick! I would have thrown the brisket at him! I haven't been in that situation exactly but I have this uh...friend who always wanted to leech off my food. When ever we suggest what to eat she always volunteer my freaking kitchen! Thank our other friend had the sense to say no.

                                                      Like for New Year's, she wanted dessert and suggested (before they picked me up) to my friend to have ME make dessert. They told me this after they dropped her off. I would have poisoned her with salt (she is highly sensitive to it).

                                                      I am NEVER going to tell her that I have a restaurant when I open it!

                                                      1. I would've said "Too late" and be done with it.

                                                        DT

                                                        1. What putz's! You and him. Sorry.

                                                          I would have simply said, "there is no time to make a brisket and besides, you guys were supposed to make the main dish". If he gets angry and acts like more of a putz...leave.

                                                          1. Good lord.
                                                            People never cease to amaze me.
                                                            I am glad it turned out well for you in the end; well handled :).
                                                            Happy eating, Oana

                                                            1. Chile sauce? If you can't throw a decent brisket together from minimal ingredients in 7 hours, you lack chops.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                Thanks pik! You obviously don't know much about brisket. The key is to cook it, chill it, de-grease then slice. This takes more than 7 hours. And chile sauce makes it very delicious. As for the chops, I prefer lamb & veal, don't eat pork.

                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                    pwned!
                                                                    It is a comprimise to make and serve brisket the same day for reasons stated, so kudos to the OP for pulling it off.
                                                                    Chili sauce? Delicious in brisket. In fact, I've thrown my own together when I don't have a bottle around.
                                                                    Question (small one, don't want to hijack the thread)...do you slice the brisket after cooling down the first day, or do you slice it after refrigerating overnight and before it gets reheated?
                                                                    Best time to slice is???

                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                      I let the brisket sit in its juice overnight. The fat solidifies and is much easier to trim off. Do this first and de-grease all pan juices. Hard to slice brisket directly from fridge, use an electric knife if you are doing this. Otherwise, let the brisket come to room temp and slice against the grain in thin slices. I usually make a huge brisket, slice it next day and freeze with juices in family size portions in vacuum sealer. Really reheats well.

                                                                  2. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                    My mother made brisket your way (minus the chile sauce). I let it rest like any other roast before cutting off excess fat. I throw a clean bottle of of frozen water into the liquid and wait a few minutes before skimming off the fat. I find that slicing a warm brisket is lots easier than slicing a cold one. I use an electric knife. Oh yeah, always cook in a pressure cooker.

                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                      Pik, haven't had pressure cooked food since the 1960's when my mother used one. It always tasted "canned" & unappetizing to me. Has pressure cooker technology changed? After 25 years, not going to run out and buy one, but just curious.

                                                                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                        Has it, ever! I have a digital model with browning, timing, and keep warm features. It's so quiet that at first I didn't think it was working. (Not at all like Mom's whistling, madly rocking terror machine.) Most of the old pressure cookers were reactive, so if you cooked anything with tomato or another acid in them, you'd get that weird off taste. Not so with modern ones -- mine has a none-stick, removable insert, others have ceramic inserts. These things can go in the dishwasher, too.

                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                          pikawicca, what brand and model pressure cooker do you have?

                                                                1. Your friend's husband is to friendship what Bernie Madoff is to investment banking. OY.

                                                                  1. Has the followup dinner at a restaurant occurred yet? Did I miss that?

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      No, the f/u dinner has not yet occurred. Not too worried, they live 100 miles away and the weather has been dreadful here in January. We are snowed/frozen in today.

                                                                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                        The f/u dinner, indeed. ;) I've been loving this thread.

                                                                    2. what would i have done?

                                                                      laughed out loud, said " are you fraking kidding me?" put the brisket in my fridge w/ a thank you, and then ask them what they were making for dinner.....

                                                                      1. This happens to me all the time, but almost always at family's houses, not at friends. The only thing I really hate is I'm usually all dressed up and ready to be a guest, then end up getting grease or something on my nicest outfit. I don't really mind, but that's just the way I am; if they're that lame in the kitchen (and they are) it works out better in the end.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                          and I have this way of purposely screwing up checking the oil in my car. Hubby always says "damned, gimmee that thing. If you can't do it right, then let me do it". snicker snicker. The same scenario plays out with his loading the dishwasher -- I can't stand the way he does it so.........

                                                                          1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                            I do the same thing with checking the air in my tires. When it comes to food though, I guess he has me fooled, because since he showed me how to make grilled cheese and frittatas 30 plus years ago, he hasn't touched the stove since. (Except to fix it!)