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What Would You Do??

Hey Hounds

So here's the thing. How do you keep yourself safe and not offend anyone.

My in-laws have no concept of food safety. When I visit I try to do all the cooking and try to keep things as fresh and safe as possible. It doesn't always work as I found out on Monday but that's another story.

So this morning I awoke to the smell of onions cooking on the stove. I knew that meant my FIL decided to cook breakfast. I also knew that two things would be included in this breakfast. First of all, yesterday afternoon he cooked some potatoes. After they're cooked, he drains the water and they live on the stove until consumed. Secondly, he has ham in the fridge. We've been down here a week and it was there before we got here. I haven't had any intention of eating it because I don't know how long it's been in there. It's been over a week now.

If I don't eat it my FIL will be upset. If I do, my stomach will be upset (And/or worse).

So how would you handle this??


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  1. next time.....Offer to take everyone out for breakfast at a popular place known for their breakfasts in the area.

    1. Eat around the ham and get up early to get some bagels.

      7 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        First of all, I'm not getting up at 6am.

        Secondly, he's planned this since yesterday.


        1. re: Davwud


          New suggestion:

          Take that attitude & syntax to the FIL. He'd probably throw up his hands and surrender.

          No need to rip a suggestion from someone trying to assist.

          1. re: jfood

            Sorry jfood. I wasn't ripping it. I'm just pointing out that it's not gonna happen. Both because he's an early riser and secondly because he gets these ideas in his head and won't take no for an answer.
            Today he asked us if we could do something that was completely unreasonable and then got all offended when we said no.

            My FIL will not look upon anything as anything other than a "He doesn't like my food" insult. If you explain to him that the food might have cooties, he's gonna say "No, it's alright."


            1. re: Davwud


              I was hoping to beat him into the kitchen this morning but no luck.


              1. re: Davwud

                not to worry.

                there seem to be more issues than the cooked ham, like the ham cooking. jfood's mom made turkey for him once when he he visited, which was also the last time he ate there, and she was so proud that she woke up at 5 to cook the turkey and she had it sitting out since it came out of theoven at 930AM on the counter in the sun and it was now 530PM.

                The jfoods would not eat it and simply explained that they did not want to risk eating a turkey sitting on the counter for 7 hours. Was she offended? Yup. But c'est la vie.

                So either take the heat for telling him you'd prefer not eating it, explain why, eat it and take a chance, or move it around the plate.

                Either suck it up or suck it in.


                1. re: jfood


                  If it were my dad I'd have no problem saying something. Even considering how sensitive he is. But when it's my FIL I feel a certain need for respect.

                  I don't mind how he cooks the ham. He's old, diabetic and has heart problems. He needs to watch his fat intake. If I know when the ham was cooked, I'll use it no problem. Ham biscuits, red eye gravy and such.
                  The handling of all the food in the house that I don't have control over is a problem. If only from an ick factor. Food left uncovered for days that dries out and/or get's an icky skin on it. It's all just gross.

                  Their handling of utensils, cooking vessels and plates, etc. is also an issue for me. I wash everything before I use it. Always. I never know. MIL has Alzheimer's and will load the dish washer then when full, unload it without ever running a cycle.

                  They so need to be in a home or at least have some assistance in home but will have nothing to do with it. If you ask them, "We can look after ourselves." My FIL still doesn't believe the doctor who said that he had a stroke. After all, what would a doctor know??? LOL.

                  Happy New Year jfood.


                  1. re: Davwud

                    Very nice D.

                    Jfood just returned from FL visiting MIL with the exact different problem. The kiychen is like an autoclave. It's the only house in the FL the ants boycot, not that that is so bad.

                    Happy New Year to you and yours as well.

          1. re: c oliver

            I've already read and posted about it.


          2. Sorry. I don't complicate my life like this:
            "If I don't eat it my FIL will be upset. If I do, my stomach will be upset (And/or worse)."

            There is ABSOLUTELY no question in my mind what I would do about this. Do NOT eat the ham. Do not EVER compromise your health. If you do, it is YOUR fault, not someone else's fault if you are scared of them being "mad." Do not tiptoe around the subject. your health is not something to tiptoe around. LET THEM KNOW or else, again, you only have yourself to blame. Take responsibilty for YOURSELF - you will be MUCH happier if you do.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gordeaux

              Yeah, I'd be polite though. I'd probably be like "That ham is still here?! How long have you had it?" and then if he says "2 months, it's fine" I'd be like "nah, I won't risk it ta".

              Day old potatoes are not too bad, but I'd put them in the microwave overnight because it's airtight (and I cant stand cold potatoes)

            2. I wouldn't eat that food. I just wouldn't. Or, more likely, I couldn't. I feel queasy just thinking about it. And, it's enough of a priority to me that I would bite the bullet and risk having my ILs miffed at me in order to explain to them, politely, why.

              I've had a similar situation before with my MIL, who was of the generation who thought it was just peachy to thaw ground beef out on the counter all day long. I told her, gently, why I wouldn't eat it. She wasn't happy with me. She got over it, but, honestly, if she hadn't...as long as I was respectful and kind in explaining my point of view, I don't much care. I'd rather be healthy, and I'm a grown-up. Ultimately, my safety and welfare is up to me, and if I get sick by doing something I believe to be risky, it's my own responsibility.

              Carbohydrates like rice and potato are quintessential breeding grounds for bad bacteria. That bothers me much more than the ham, even. Though, knowing me, I probably would have found a way to sneak around in the fridge and see if the ham had a use-by date on it (although--you didn't say whether it was still packaged or if it had been previously cooked and this was the left-over ham).

              So...whadja decide to do? And, most importantly, are you feeling all right? Chances are you'll be okay, if you did eat it. I know that sounds contradictory to my rant, Davwud; it's just that I don't take chances with food, if I can help it.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Steady Habits

                I had food poisoning as a kid. I have to be careful. I don't have to be militant about it but certain things can trigger a steady parade to the bathroom. So I try to be good about things.

                The ham in question is a regular ham that he brings home and boils to get rid of a lot of fat. He then carves it up and puts it in the fridge. Most of the time it's not covered or if it is, it's loosely covered with aluminum foil. I always kid Mrs. Sippi that they feel that if the cooties can't see it, it'll be okay.

                Anyway, I had tried to be diligent on Monday with things. Somehow (I think it was an egg) I ate something wrong and ended up sitting in the bathroom lamenting my choices.

                This morning was actually pretty easy. I waited until they were out of the kitchen. I dirtied up a plate and put it in the sink. Mrs. Sippi wouldn't eat it either. She told me to put it in a container and put it in the fridge. "They'll never know." So that's what I did.


                1. re: Davwud


                  I'm so glad you found a way through that minefield.

                  I understand your POV, completely. I wrote previously on another thread about a friend who contracted E Coli. Six weeks in the hospital, recovered *mostly*, but now a compromised immune system for life. Foodborne illnesses, food poisoning, all those things...just not worth it. Now...I'm yer basic New Englander, which means, the older I get, the more plain-speaking I get, but I understand, too, that these are your in-laws and sometimes that requires a deft touch on the diplomatic front. Sounds like you're better at that than I am! So I'm glad you avoided risk to life and limb and were able to preserve the family relationships. :-) P.S. I liked the fact that your FIL boils off the fat, but, in my little bubble, sliced ham goes in the freezer if not consumed within two or three days. (I figure that practice goes in my favor to counteract the fact that two boisterous retrievers like to jump up and put their paws on the counter while they see if there's anything they'd like to graze upon.)

                  1. re: Steady Habits

                    I buy whole hams and make up freezer bags of them that'll only last us a few days. I probably get about 5 bags per ham.


              2. Just curious. What would be wrong with the potatoes and ham?

                5 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I don't know Sam but the problem is, I had food poisoning as a kid and anything that's slightly off will clean me out if you know what I mean. It's not a lot of fun.


                  1. re: Davwud

                    If you're still having problems from an illness in childhood, then it's probably time to see a specialist, i.e., gastroenterologist. Perhaps you still have a subclinical infection that's a low enough dose that most of the time you're not sick. Hard to imagine but worth checking out.

                    As to your original question "what would you do?", I think it has to be what would YOU do? 'Course by now, it's what DID you do? Going forward, you can always say "unlike all you lucky people, I have this just incredibly sensitive gut that gives me fits if I eat older foods."

                    1. re: Davwud

                      I, too, have a sensitive digestive system and don't hesitate to let people I'm close to know that some things most people can ingest and digest, I can not! In some situations, imodium is a great help!

                      1. re: Davwud

                        Food poisoning isn't fun, but I've only gotten it from restaurants and as an adult, but that's not the issue here (really).

                        I would simply say I wasn't hungry this morning because the food last night was so fantastic that I'm still full, and apologise and thank him for the effort he put into making such a special breakfast. If he insists, say that you really can't stomach anything right now, but really, thank you very much. If it's still a problem, that's his issue. You were being polite.

                        No one should be forced to eat something they don't want (can't eat, are allergic to, is against their beliefs, etc). It's one thing if these were your own babies, but you're an adult.

                        I hope it turned out well for you.

                        1. re: Davwud

                          There's ther answer: your in-laws should be aware of and respect how sensitive your system is. Just let them know!

                      2. I go thru the same stuff with my FIL. He hates to throw anything away. Luckily, we live right next door and I go over and clean out their fridge cause my MIL hates to do it. I am being helpful, you see.

                        I wouldn't eat the ham. No. "I am just not in the mood for meat or potatoes this morning". I'd just eat freshly made eggs and toast that wasn't made from moldy bread. :)

                        1. Just one more: if the ham was smoke or salt cured, it would haver been hanging around somewhere for quite awhile. Would time in the ref be somehow dangerous? And I am being sincerely curious.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            If it's the type of ham I believe he's referring to, it has to be chilled as it remains moist and wet, and does actually go bad rather quickly even with all of the salt it has in it (like commercial roast beef, which will take on a metallic tinge within a few days). If it were jamon, prosciutto, Westphalian ham, or other dry cures, it shouldn't be a problem, but those are usually left out on the counter due to their massive size.

                          2. Aside from Dawvuds' particular issues, I'm honestly surprised that so many posters are bothered by the idea of a week-old ham. It's a very preserved food to begin with, right? I've bought ham on sale two weeks after Easter that was well within its sell-by date... anyway.
                            Dawvud, assuming you are visiting down south, make an excuse and go out for biscuits 'n gravy ;)

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: julesrules

                              Yeah, week old ham is not really an issue. I mean, it might be for the OP's concerns, but it's not a food safety issue.

                              1. re: manraysky

                                Haven't you ever pulled out a bag of lunch meat that's gone off? 5 days, 5 weeks... if it's been handled repeatedly in a not very sanitary manner, yikes.

                                I've had food poisoning twice this year (guess my karma needs work) and neither thing that made me sick looked/smelled off. It's just not worth it to take the chance.

                                1. re: Vetter

                                  So it sounds like you got it from your home? Most posters on this topic say that, if afflicted, it was from a restaurant. Do you think that possibly your fridge temp is off?

                                  1. re: Vetter

                                    Yes, I have had lunch meat that has gone off. But that doesn't mean every time I have ham I throw it away after a couple of days just in case. I am well of aware of "not taking chances" with questionable food, but I don't consider 5 day old ham to automatically be questionable.

                                2. re: julesrules

                                  The op stated:
                                  "Secondly, he has ham in the fridge. We've been down here a week and it was there before we got here. I haven't had any intention of eating it because I don't know how long it's been in there. It's been over a week now. "

                                  We only know that the ham is OVER one week old. It is NOT one week old. It could be five weeks old.

                                  I have an absolutely iron stomach. I've eaten things that I KNOW I should not have. I've only had food poisoning (the kind where you want to DIE for two days) once or twice only from restaurants. I thaw meat on the counter ALL the time (never gotten sick from it.) I would absolutely refuse to let someone guilt me into eating something I'm not comfortab le with, however. To me, that's just childish. If you don't wanna eat it, but you still do, then it's YOUR fault. Rotten or not.

                                  1. re: julesrules

                                    I've had food poisoning from ham. It wasn't even a week old. It was only two days in the fridge, but had set out too long before that.

                                    1. re: Terrieltr

                                      Or perhaps came into the house with "cooties" that weren't killed in cooking. Some "bugs" have to be there to begin with or come from cross-contamination. Just sitting out too long isn't necessarily a problem.

                                  2. I have a normal immune system and a not-particularly-sensitive digestion... so I'd enjoy the breakfast and not worry about where it came from. Some people are much more susceptible to food than others... fortunately I'm not one of them. If you know for SURE that the food will make you sick, stop beating around the bush and TELL THEM that you won't be able to eat.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                      Agreed. I pretty much have an iron stomach and don't get worked up by such things. I would be even less concerned if others manage to eat his cooking without falling ill. Of course a week old ham in my fridge vs. someone else's fridge is a difference worth contemplating. I'm more comfortable with my old food. :)

                                      D, if it really bothers you, you should really let them know that you've been suffering with a sensitive stomach lately and your going to fix yourself something that will better agree with it. Apologize and have some toast, a biscuit or a bagel.

                                    2. Do a make-ahead breakfast casserole every evening after dinner that can just go into the oven in the morning (thanks 'Hounds for your suggestions on another thread). It's actually a great way to use up leftovers and conquer breakfast in one fell swoop.

                                      1. Different people have different sensibilities about food storage and different tolerances to types of food. If you're wary about eating it, don't do so just to avoid offending your FIL. You can simply avoid the ham and if he asks why say something polite like, "ham and I don't get along" and leave it at that. There's no reason to go into great detail about either his kitchen sanitation habits or about the history of your digestive system.

                                        1. ~~"If I don't eat it my FIL will be upset. If I do, my stomach will be upset (And/or worse)."~~

                                          Sorry, I just don't buy the second half of your dilemma. Potatoes sitting on the stove overnight are extremely unlikely to cause any problems unless they've been exposed to some source of contamination. And a ham that's a couple of weeks old just isn't that big a deal if it's been stored properly. I'd eat the food without batting an eye.

                                          But that's what **I** would do. You obviously have a problem with the food, and if you stress out about it enough, you will have an upset stomach whether there was anything wrong with it or not. You just have to find a way to be diplomatic about it. Something like "that smells really delicious, but my stomach's feeling a little jumpy - I think I'll stick to tea and dry toast." You don't have to tell FIL that the reason you're feeling queasy is concern over the safety of his ingredients.

                                          1. I'd give the ham a quick feel when no one's looking; if it's not slimy, I'd eat it. Potatoes sitting on the counter overnight in a clean kitchen wouldn't bother me at all, especially since they're going to be cooked further.

                                            1. I have in-laws like that and no longer have any qualms about telling them exactly why I won't eat their food. MIL will leave milk out for hours. FIL is just... disgusting when it comes to food.

                                              If I were in your situation, and I have been, I'd tell them thanks but no thanks, you don't eat food that's been left out overnight, or food that's more than a few days old.

                                              1. Thanks for the advice hounds.

                                                As you may have read above. I made it look like I ate and avoided the whole issue.

                                                You have to understand my FIL. The food doesn't make him sick. Therefore it's okay. Any attempt to explain anything to him will be taken as an insult. Anything that doesn't go his way is an insult. Countless times tupperware type items have been bought for them but they are discarded or returned and food is left in the cooking vessel on the stove, in the fridge or in the garage. This truely is a magic house as it keeps them from being sick.
                                                There's a long and somewhat understandable reason for behaviour but the bottom line is, unless you agree whole heartedly while bowing before him, he's not gonna be happy.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                  Millions of the residents of Mexico City drink the water and are never bothered by it. It has made many Americans sick when they drank it. To be on the safe side I don't drink the water in Mexico.

                                                  I look upon my in-law's food the same way I look at the water in Mexico. They have developed a resistance to the cooties from constant exposure. I have gotten ill from their food often enough to worry about it at every meal in their house. We tend to make our stays short and eat out at a lot of CFS, BBQ and Mexican food places when we make the thousand mile trip back to Texas.

                                                2. I would eat it. If it didn't make me sick, hooray, I'll have seconds.

                                                  If it does make me sick, I'd make sure the FIL knew about it in subtle ways: running out of the room with my hand over my mouth and vomit dribbling out, or being loud in the restroom.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: PandanExpress

                                                    It wouldn't have been from his cooking. It would be from something else. At least, that's how he'd see it.


                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      Glad it worked out for you Davwud. Sounds like your FIL's ego is on the line all the time. All the comments make me want to share my favorite ham and food poisoning story. Back in the day New Hope, Penna a very upscale touristy town frequented by New Yorkers on weekends decided to have an outdoor event showcasing their restaurants. My parents went and there were many yummy free samples. My mom came to a table with two huge hams, one cut and one yet uncut. Something just looked funny to her about the cut ham, so she asked for and was given a slice of the uncut ham. As they were heading home they ran into a police roadblock. The police asked my parents where they had been. When they said the New Hope Restaurant Fair or whatever, the cop directed them to the nearest hospital saying here is two more that need their stomachs pumped. Of course they didn't listen and went home. Later they found out there had been a huge outbreak of food poisoning in New Hope, well dressed tourists having accidents all over themselves and everything. It was all traced to the ham that my mom had refused. The media was very kind and not much was reported about this debacle. But to this day when I hear the word fiasco I always think of that New Hope restaurant festival. I call this antecdote A Tale of Two Hams. :)

                                                      1. re: givemecarbs

                                                        My FIL was THE GUY. He was lord and king over all he surveyed. If anyone had a problem, they went to him.
                                                        Now his car keys have been taken away from him, he can't much do simple tasks. His judgement is very much in question and he's now the one being told what to do and where to go. He's now the one at the bottom of the totem pole.
                                                        He's been totally emasculated.
                                                        It's a fact of life that everyone will have to deal with. He just hasn't yet. He's still trying to get back to the top of the hill. Since in his mind he's close to the summit.
                                                        It's complete denial.


                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                          "Since in his mind he's close to the summit" Davwud, I think your FIL is a cool dude - - he seems happy from the inside out. Nothing you do or say is going to diminish that, so fell free to not partake, no need to feel guilty. I consider people who cook their own food from scratch fairly high functioning. Also I'm proud to say no tupperware at my house.

                                                        2. re: givemecarbs

                                                          Gotta love Mom's intuition, eh? :)

                                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                                            True dat Lynn. I'm still learning how to trust my gut as she did.

                                                      2. re: PandanExpress

                                                        I would eat it, too and enjoy every bite! Never had any problems or distrust of home cooking. What about pepto-bismal for back up?

                                                      3. Hi there, Ahh, The question is whole lot bigger than ""should I eat or not?"" What I can see is that, in ya relationship with ya FIL u don't have space or a say. Can u see, he is all so cranky n waking up early to seek all ya attention?? I think u should give the relationship an authentic look, and create a freedom space to just be yourselves. After all he IS your fatherly figure.So, go ahead have a wonderful conversation with ya FIL and earn ur space and give him his!! all the best :-)

                                                        1. If I found myself in that situation, when I woke up and smelled the onions, knew what was happening, I would simply roll over, pull the covers up around my neck and feign sleep for several hours until the danger had passed. And hope my rumbling stomach didn't tempt anyone to wake me up with breakfast in bed!

                                                          1. Davwud, Your FIL would give me an upset stomach even without eating his ham and potatoes.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              Green ham and eggs? Oh,I got it backwards. Apologies to Dr. Seuss. Sam I am....NOT!

                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                I've got those older relatives who won't believe anything you say on various topics, won't believe what a doctor says, etc. Rather than make an argument, I would tell them a story about how I (or a friend) got deathly ill eating food that looked just fine but had been sitting out, or whatever. Most people know at leat a few true stories about this, so no need to lie. If push came to shove, I'd say "I'm sorry but ever since then I have this fear, which my well be irrational, but I can't help it." I'd rather take the onus on myself of being a picky eater or a crank or however they are going to interpret it.

                                                                Food poisoning just isn't worth it. There's the kind that's like "Whoops, my stomach didn't like that, now it's gone." But then there's the kind that can have you in the hospital for dehydration. You don't want to go there.

                                                                1. re: bibi rose

                                                                  As I said above. Truth or lie, he'd perceive it as a slight. Everything is a slight if he doesn't get his way.


                                                                  1. re: Davwud

                                                                    Yeah, I know. The thing is, let him get offended. Seriously.

                                                                    I have an uncle who is still complaining because years ago I had a relationship with an airline and I could not explain to said uncle why he could not use the emergency oxygen on a transatlantic flight rather than pay for his own oxygen tank. (He has COPD.) He still thinks that was just bullheadedness on my part. Not airline policy or anything. I mean, the guy was planning to use the emergency oxygen throughout the flight as if it were his personal oxygen tank.

                                                                    Point being, people who won't listen just get worse, and eventually it will get unreasonable enough that you'll absolutely have to put your foot down. Might as well do it earlier rather than later.

                                                                    1. re: bibi rose

                                                                      That was pretty much my thought, too. I never intentionally offend anyone but there are some people who just seem to NEED to feel offended for whatever reason. Once I realize that no matter what I do I'm going to cause offense, I quit worrying about it. If you want to play that game, I'll let you, but I'm not going to participate.

                                                                      If the FIL WANTS to be offended, by all means, let him. I'm not talking about being deliberately offensive; just quit walking on eggshells. And telling someone something that they don't want to hear doesn't have to convey disrespect. If he chooses to be offended or feel disrespected, it doesn't really matter what you (OP) do or say.

                                                                      1. re: BeaN

                                                                        I agree too and will tell him no whenever I feel the need. I just didn't think that "I'll upset my stomach" would sound like much of an excuse to him. True or not. So I handled it the way I did and he gets to feel good about himself.

                                                                        I guess we all have people that we need to do a tap dance around.


                                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                                          I've read this entire thread and have resisted replying. But.... :) I gather that your FIL is not a YOUNG man, maybe even an OLD man. And you're in his home. I have a truly mentally ill 88 yo. MIL who drives us crazy. And does many of the things that you have described. I try to remember that I may be like this some day and I sure hope people will treat me with kindness whether I deserve it or not. I am frequently not successful at this but this thread has reminded me of it. My husband and I work around her as best we can and sometimes get too "sharp" with her. But it's HER house and I can do it MY way in my house. Just lie to him. It's easier and kinder all the way around.