Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Feb 20, 2009 05:30 PM

People's weird idea of "dinner"


So, my daughter and I were asked to a friend's for dinner. I wasn't expecting anything fancy, but I brought a bottle of wine. Lo and behold, she served a family-size frozen entrée, Asian-style orange chicken or something, with some canned Mandarin oranges as like a garnish. It was awful. And there wasn't enough. No appetizer. No salad. No bread.

In addition, while they have a dining room, I was sitting in her living room drinking a glass of aforementioned wine (she didn't plan on a wine with this meal) and she started bringing this stuff out on plates and served it on the coffee table! With one fork per person and no napkins! In fact, her daughter and mine were playing Wii and she brought plates of this 'food' out to them! My daughter looked at me very confused, but I sort of motioned to her to eat. I didn't know what else to do. We're pretty good friends, but I was a bit stunned. It was also planned and not like an impromptu thing. This is a fairly well educated woman with a fairly well equipped kitchen. We have had dinner with them a number of times, and while it's never been great, at least it's been REAL.

I have even been known to serve very casual in the living room, IF it's snacks, pizza delivered or sandwiches and we're watching a movie or a game or presidential candidate debate, with THAT as the focus. But I don't believe I have ever asked someone over for a frozen dinner and I have always made more than enough. Even if it's THAT casual, there's been some organization and set up and SOME kind of starter, even if it's cheese and crackers or guacamole or something.

As it is girl scout cookie season, guess what dessert was? Which was a blessing because everyone was still hungry. The evening itself was nice after that and I of course thanked her and told her everything was great. But MAN was it bizarre.

So, am I overly-sensitive, a snob or what?

  1. Makes you wonder what some people are thinking doesn't it? Sure you can always say it's more about being with people you like than the food, but it always irks me when people don't make enough food! Forget the fact that it was a frozen dinner with next to no effort, she couldn't have made two of them!?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Rick

      I think it's always fascinating to eat at someone else's house. You can learn a whole lot about a person that way.

      I had a friend who would have me, or both me and DH over for dinner and make the same amount of food she made for her and her husband! One night four of us got to share a 12" pizza between us. I/we always left starved. That said, I'm sure when she came over to my home to eat she left thinking I made an over abundance of food!

      There was always another component to dinner at this friends house - a cat (or two) up on the dining room table - during the meal. Now, nobody loves cats more than I do, but....

      1. re: Rick

        Two frozen dinners would have been worse because those things are loaded with sodium and HFCS! Do you think it would have been rude to ask her friend for some boiled pasta with butter because you and your child are still hungry? This woman is a close friend, right? And it was an extremely casual dinner. I think the child would have been okay with it if you asked, even if the answer was "no".

        1. re: neverlate

          Well, no, the child was able to eat cookies and as such was quite happy :)

          1. re: Whosyerkitty

            Thanks for your reply, Kitty. While it didn't hurt the child to fill up on cookies, I would have told my friend I was still hungry and could I have some plain pasta with butter. I could even fix it myself. We could then go in the kitchen and see what was there... Rude of me, the guest?

            1. re: neverlate

              Kind of rude, yes. I mean, if you were dining haute, would you tell the chef "I'm still hungry" or would make the pasta yourself, at your own home, when you got there?

              1. re: shanagain

                I'm not sure what you mean by "dining haute" and "chef". If you mean chef in a restaurant, I would simply order more food. If you mean private chef in a home, there would have been more food. Or were you saying it would be rude if I ran home, fixed myself some pasta, and came back to pick up my daughter? I'm still hungry, shanagain!

                1. re: neverlate

                  Oh, I admit, you've got me laughing. Are we talking "I'm feeling quite faint, as I haven't eaten in three days in anticipation of this repast" or are we talking "damn, I think Claim Jumper's portions are rubbing off on me"? (It is CJ I hear everyone mention around here, right?) Point being, for the sake of all that's good, and yes, polite, if you're so darned hungry stop at 7-11 on the way home and get a freaking Slim Jim.

                  Actually, to be honest about it, if you're a guest in my home, I will do everything possible to ensure your comfort & meet your needs. Your wants... those are trickier. And might depend upon how much I like you. ;)

                  1. re: shanagain

                    shanagain, that was incredible! You were channeling Ms. Orange Chicken -- now we know what she was thinking! I'm glad to hear you're so hospitable....and so ...mysterious.

                    1. re: neverlate

                      It could be the wine, but I'm seriously laughing out loud.

                      That was... awesome.

                      1. re: shanagain

                        Best to you, shanagain.... and good luck with "wants"!

      2. Yeah, you are overly sensitive, but rightly so. Some folks just aren't like us, Mork! Deal with it. If you like the folks, you make do with the food. If you like the food, you make do with the folks. Not everyone is haute cuisine or even versed in the basics of entertaining. You don't have to go back. It doesn't make them any worse people than those that serve you sea urchin raw followed by scum-foamed tripe on toast. Learn to be gracious.

        27 Replies
        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

          Well, that's pretty harsh. What gives you the idea that the OP wasn't gracious, or that s/he's implying that the hostess was a subpar person?

          Not everyone has the means or the will or the talent to create a fine dining experience, it's true. And that dinner would've made me confused and sad. But perhaps, Whosyerkitty, your friend is strapped for cash and/or time but still craves company. And she wanted to hang with you even though she couldn't feed you that well. Bad meals happen to good people, sometimes.

          1. re: small h

            I agree small h, I hate to see threads where the original poster gets a lecture instead of some empathy from fellow hounds. I don't think you are being over-sensitive or a snob at all kitty. Some of those family-sized entrees are pretty pricey. I have no way of knowing of course but my gut tells me the answer to what was your "hostess" thinking, is: she simply wasn't. The only good spin I can put on this is that you got to teach your daughter a great lesson in how to be a gracious guest. Seriously, you can't buy that kind of hands-on teaching by example, and I bet it will serve her well someday. Also she sounds like a smart, aware child so I'm also betting she got some extra appreciation for the meals you provide for her.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Thanks Sam! I am going through the worst days so far in my life, and your kind words mean a lot to me. I remember you were very kind on another thread too, about unappreciated effort.

              2. re: givemecarbs

                My first thought that there was some personal problem in the hostess's life that day that she didn't feel like sharing, but prevented her (or perhaps made her forget) from serving a better dinner. She arrives home fretting about whatever, her daughter reminds her they have guests coming, and she freaks out inside. She grabs the nicest thing she has at hand, tries to dress it up a bit with the garnish, but doesn't have the fixings for a salad. She thinks it would look stupid to have everyone sit down at the dinner table for such meagre fare (which would embarrass her even more), so she tries to make light of it by serving it on paper plates in the living room. I don't doubt the hostess was mortified, but as the Brits say "Stiff upper lip". I think Kitty behaved correctly by not making a fuss about it, and saving her wonderment for this board. She did say she's had dinners there before, and they've always been "real", so it really sounds like exceptional circumstances were at play here.

              3. re: small h

                It's not a money issue, although I understand what you're saying. But, it's also cheaper to sautee a few chicken breasts and bake a few potatoes than buy a family style frozen dinner. I think. I've never bought one. Frankly, I think it's a lack of taste (the mouth kind) and LAZINESS.

                I should also note that now, the next time we have THEM over, I'm going to have to keep it low key as I don't want it to seem like one upmanship or something.

                1. re: Whosyerkitty

                  Not that you're judging, or anything. By the way, what's with the one fork comment? Do you prefer your mandarin oranges with a separate one?

                  1. re: shanagain

                    I think OP meant no knife was supplied

                    1. re: NellyNel

                      Nope, what the OP said was "With one fork per person and no napkins!" as if a salad or fish fork should have also been provided. Sorry to extend this somewhat ridiculous tangent.

                      1. re: small h

                        Yep, absolutely. Personally, I'd be affronted at the lack of finger bowls. But you know, that's just me.

                        1. re: small h

                          What's ridiculous about it?

                          She wants to know if she's being a snob, and there's your answer. She's expressing shock and distaste at only having been given one fork to eat dinner with--a dinner she's looking down her nose at to begin with, even though she also sees fit to complain about the portion size. That isn't just snobby, it's like a caricature of an overprivileged person.

                          1. re: FuzzyDunlop

                            The OP is neither snobby nor overprivileged, just bewildered.

                            1. re: dty

                              Ignoring the tone of her posts, she put quote marks around the words 'food' and 'dinner', which I'm fairly sure were meant to indicate contempt, not that she literally didn't understand that she was being served real food meant to be eaten for dinner. Because that's a ridiculous idea.

                              1. re: FuzzyDunlop

                                I don't see contempt in OP's post AT ALL. I wouldn't have used quotes around the word food myself, but she is certainly right to question whether the amount of food served was enough for "dinner" for four.

                                1. re: dty

                                  Why? A "family size" dinner should easily feed four. (It has occurred to me that perhaps their friendship isn't as "close" as she "thought.")

                            2. re: FuzzyDunlop

                              Over privileged? hahahahahahahahaaaa!
                              That is indeed funny. A knife. You have dinner with a knife. Or chop sticks.

                              1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                I don't understand why more than one fork would be necessary.

                                Seeing as the OP made it clear that there was neither starter nor salad.

                                I mean, in my house we eat these things with the same fork.

                                We sometimes even use paper napkins. But shhh, don't tell.

                                  1. re: Halie

                                    I think the OP wanted to have a fork AND a knife.

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      I can see that. Depends on how that chicken dish was configured. If in strips/small pieces, a fork is just fine & she comes off sounding snobby. If whole breasts, then just a fork was odd.

                                      Just as with a lot of these OPs, where everyone pounds on the poster for being rude/stupid/silly/snobby/whatever, it's tough to give a fair assesment unless you were there.

                                      1. re: PattiCakes

                                        How can she expect any of us to give a fair assessment, though? None of us, besides her, were there.

                                        1. re: PattiCakes

                                          Hi. OP here. It was blobs. Blobs O' Chicken. In sticky sweet orange stuff. Kinda like jelly. With rice. And some sort of vegetable matter I believe. That normally one may use a knife for assistance with one's fork. Or somebody might sometime even want to cut this so called chicken. That is all. Carry on.

                                          1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                            I thought you handled it well so no excuses - CH is the best place to deal with the drama/trauma of the amazing things that people will eat or serve. And I still wonder who cooked her previous 'company' meals.

                                            1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                              If you actually wanted a knife, why did you write "With one fork per person"?

                                              I don't think I'm taking crazy pills, but that sounds distinctly like a demand for a second fork to me.

                                              1. re: FuzzyDunlop

                                                Geez, don't jump down her throat. I was the one who brought up the knife as I was thinking out loud. We all need to get a life.

                      2. It does seem odd, but I'd give her the benefit of the doubt. It seems like something else must be going on behind the scenes and she doesn't want to burden you with the details. She may be strapped for cash at the moment, had something come up last minute making it hard for her to cook, or perhaps what she planned to make ended up turning out so bad she had to toss it.

                        I don't consider starters to be a requirement either. Usually if it's just another family/person coming over, in my experience starters are not the norm.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: queencru

                          exactly........although cheese and crackers is usually a minimum..........or nuts

                          1. re: queencru

                            I'm torn on this. I would of been shocked. I would never have done that ... but obviously things happen ...I had to buy pre cooked eggs to make my crab deviled eggs because I was caught at work and my ex husband bugged out again ... Not as good but ... best I could do. I just never said anything. Maybe something came up last minute ..

                            Appetizer or starter, I do ... but most I know don't unless a formal party. It is hard and she maybe just was trying to something quick and friendly. Dont be too hard on you.

                            I went over to a friends a few weeks ago and she ordered pizza, really bad pizza and I eat just about anything. and that was dinner. No complaints, but we were all adults and it would of been fun to make pizza even with pre made pizza crusts quick and easy and probably a lot less. She had mushrooms, peppers, cheese, everything except sauce. But that is just me. I was still gracious and still hungry. I went home and had a fried egg sandwich.

                            1. re: kchurchill5

                              HA! on the fried egg sand saving the day YET AGAIN.

                              We've gone/invited people specifically to order pizza, in which case you order the salad from them, too. But buy LOTS of beer.

                              1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                If there was good pizza and enough and a salad I would of been happy. They ordered 2 cheese and 2 pepperone, from a horrible place and no salad or anything ... I too ordered pizza one ... however it was good pizza, not gourmet by any means just descent. This was from a new tiny place who just opened and they had coupons and they had the worst pizza I ever had. Soft crust, mushy too much soft. OMG, and I eat almost everything. I thought they would of at least asked what everyone likes when we got there but it was already delivered, cold and soggy.

                                My friends and I do a pizza and game night. Can be a lot of fun.

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  We live in Pizza Land, you know.
                                  I like those casual nights. There's a few families we hang out with that rotate those once in awhile and the kids get thrown in the basement or their room to watch movies or do Wii (WHAT did we do without that thing?). Everyone pretty much contributes, beer/wine, dessert, splitting the bill, whatever. So, hey maybe I'm not a snob.

                                  1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                    Naa, pizza (good pizza) is a great thing. I'd be lost without my dose.

                                  2. re: kchurchill5

                                    pizza is never my favorite, but you really need to give your friend a break! You say the place was new: maybe she hadn't tried it before and didn't know it was awful! Or maybe she didn't think it was awful! I think even the best pizza is only just ok, so I know there must be folks out there who view it very differently from me.

                                    And I have always been told that a hostess should not apologize for her meal: some even think it is almost as rude as the guest you really don't know if your friend didn't like the pizza either or not..

                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      It was FROZEN. From the grocery store.

                                      1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                        I was fresh, never asked what we liked, cheese and pepperoni and she likes that ... not the kids or husband, she always gets what she likes. Too much soft, it arrived 30 minutes before we even arrived, she nuked it, no salad or anything. We were all starved, even the kids. She just seemed to be in her own world and didn't care. She held another party very similar. Mini hotdogs, crackers and cheeze whiz and 2 or 3 pre bought dips. Now she invites all of us who belong to a cooking club, she belongs too. We all offer, she doesn't allow us. We all find it a bit amusing. And she claims she loves to cook and entertain.

                                      2. re: susancinsf

                                        No, she isn't a great cook and she apparently used this place several times ... even her kids hated it and said so. I asked er if she was ok and she said yes. She is just one who doesn't like anything gourmet or unique and doesn't care what anyone thinks. I just think if she was inviting several who she knows cooks very well she would try to make it just a bit more interesting. Nothing wrong with pizza, but even the family hated it. I agree I should be more tolerant, but this was definitely an exception.

                                2. re: queencru

                                  Not burdening with the details....strapped for cash...last minute issue that prevents her from cooking a meal....meal turned out bad she had to toss it.
                                  Again - this was a *friend* of the OP, and their daughters are friends (don't know how close Whosyerkitty is with this woman - best friends? Passing acquaintances because their daughters are friends?). But if I'm reading the OP's original post correctly, she's been invited over before and had dinner there before. So it sounds like this situation is completely out of the ordinary for this woman.

                                  But if this is a food friend, that friend should have been able to tell Whosyerkitty (without providing details if she didn't want to do so), that "something came up, and I wasn't able to cook something - do you mind if we order pizza or cheap Chinese? I'd love to just sit and chit-chat with you while the girls play Wii, and that would make it easy all around!"

                                  Or if a friend, she should be able to say "you are SO not going to believe this! I put the lasagna in the oven, and when I went to take it out, I realized I had completely forgotten the ricotta! So how about some pizza?"

                                  I guess a bit of clarification on Whosyerkitty's part would be needed to determine the depth of the friendship.

                                3. I don't think any harm was intended, but it appears that your friend may have been a bit frazzled with thoughts elsewhere--including possibly forgetting about the planned meal until the last minute and making do with what she had on hand, dressing it up as well as possible.

                                  Not knowing what the back story is (obviously you don't either, hence the confusion), if it were my friend, I'd probably call and check to see if everything is okay (when the kids aren't around).

                                  1. My only question to your host, why not serve take out pizza?

                                    It's great, casual and fun to have without the stress of cooking.

                                    I don't think you are being overly-sensitive, or a snob. But, in today's hurry up world, I am not surprised that is how some people eat dinner. However, her choice of dinner doesn't sound appealing or fun either.

                                    You have won the "grin and bear it" award though. Being kind to you friend is important, I believe. Not everyone knows how to cook, or give dinner parties.

                                    But, when you invite her to your place, you can open a whole new world for her!