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Discreet ways to pretend you are "eating" your food?

We've all been there before.

You know, invited over to the boss' house for a dinner party and served the most vile, dry piece of chicken breast ...

Or, out on an important lunch meeting with the big corporate account client who insisted on going to local $5 steakhouse and you're stuck with a baseball mitt for an entree ...

Or worse yet, you're at your future in-laws and "mom" has just made her special secret meatloaf that -- to you, anyway -- might as well have come out of an Alpo can ...

So what do tricks do you have up your sleeve to make it look like you're "eating" your food, when in fact you are most definitely NOT?

-- Get lots of napkins and discreetly spit out the food that you've put into your mouth?

-- Wear an old coat with lots of pockets and put the food in the pockets?

-- Chop up the food into small bits and move it to the side of the plates, creating a (false) impression of emptiness in the middle?

What is a person to do??

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  1. "Oh, I completely forgot that we were getting together for dinner, and I ate quite a bit just before I came. I'm terribly sorry." It does not matter if you are so hungry that you're ready to start gnawing on the table, this is about the only way to gracefully get out of it. Playing with one's food is only going to get you into trouble later.

    Notice that I said nothing about the food currently being served. Do not mention that it's delicious unless you absolutely HAVE to, lest you be served exactly the same thing again some time in the future.

    1. boss or client, suck it up and eat the meal, it's only one meal.
      in-laws, this is a marathon, see what you can get away with.

      6 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        Have to agree with jfood - suck it up and eat the food. If you push it around it will get cold and that just makes it nastier. As for the in-laws - take a bite and tell them how good it is and then push it around a bit - when they ask what's up say that you think you're coming down with something and hope they don't serve it again soon!

        1. re: Linda VH

          Honestly, I'm not particular. I can eat most. I may not enjoy it but when I am entertaining. Someone pushing their food around or stupid reasons and excuses would piss me off. Just eat it an move on. It won't kill you. Unless it is something you don't eat (i.e. for me liver) or something that really bothers you eating eat it or explain that you don't eat it. I grew up to eat anything regardless. I try it all and don't complain. I would never insult someone by not eating unless it was something like liver or another food I just don't eat. But just my opinion.

          1. re: kchurchill5

            I'm lucky. I'll eat anything that won't eat me first :-)

            1. re: billieboy

              Ditto that!! I've had a few attempt on my life however ... but I survived :)

        2. re: jfood

          Right there with ya jfood.

          With my FIL and his breakfast concoction I will let him eat first then go in to the kitchen, dirty up a plate and stick it in the sink when he wasn't looking. Once Mrs. Sippi was finished eating I'd Tupperware it up and put it in the fridge. He'd be none the wiser.
          I do most of the cooking when we're there which really only means that there is food there for us when we arrive. Despite repeatedly being told by Mrs. Sippi he insists on saving us some dinner. Even if we arrive at midnight.


          1. re: jfood

            great post!

            The only time I do not eat what is put before me is if I think will involuntarily barf it up at the table or I am sure it is spoiled and will vomit it up later. If it is at someone's home, I would ask for seconds of another food item and rave crazy about it. When they ask why you did not eat the dangerous stuff (see above), then you say that you made like a porker on the other thing and accidentally ran out of room.

          2. Lots of napkins and spit it out, that reminds me of an old Seinfeld episode where Jerry was eating some vile meat and was spitting it out in napkins and putting it in his pocket, that works.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cstr

              salad's got nothin' on this mutton

            2. I think if it's a restaurant there are ways to avoid that situation in the first place. If you're pretty sure the place has lousy food, stick with something small, or just order a salad. I'm convinced that you can find something tolerable on just about any menu.

              In people's homes, I've done any combination of things: push it around the plate, hide it under the lettuce, cover up by asking for more of that vegetable or side dish that actually isn't too bad. But luckily, this happens to me so rarely that it's not a real problem.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I'd have to agree with Sam here, I would just eat it. Maybe not all of it, but most of it. I probably would not take seconds. I don't like to waste food, and I am lucky enough to have a strong stomach and can eat almost anything. I also work in places with really bad cafeterias, so I guess I am somewhat trained in knocking bad food back.

                  Occasionally, if it is really a dire situation, I guess you can fake an upset stomach. But this can only be done on occasion, or it becomes suspicious. Choose your situation carefully! Reserve this for when the food is truly inedible (like it is toxic or something). But I have eaten past upset stomachs before, so I can't use this trick.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Agreed fully. Basic graciousness should be sufficient reason to eat what's offered. (When did my delicate culinary sensibilities become more important than my host's good intentions?) If that isn't enough, then self-interest ought to be. Boss? Important corporate account client? Suck it up already. Literally and figuratively.

                      1. I admit it....at times I play the "oh I am soooo sorry, but I'm allergic to onions"....or whatever the disgusting course contains. It has helped a lot!! I have also sucked it up a few times and just put the food in my mouth and swallowed it practically whole with a large gulp of water. Being vegetarian has helped me on occasion too. I get to just enjoy the salad while the others at the table get served that hockey puck steak.
                        My dear mother in law who I adore, unfortunately, is a really bad cook...mostly because her kitchen hygiene habits are atrocious (I'm talking really bad). I've had to play the allergic card a few times, and I established a few things early on to get out of eating certain foods (I'm not a soup person, I don't eat gelatin or rennet, etc etc). Okay...I'm going to hell. But at least I haven't had to eat congealed meat in gelatin served in a crab head with a revolting sauce tasting like fish & dishwater yet........

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: MissHannahBanana

                          Funny, on my menu tonight is congealed meat in gelatin served in a crab head with a revolting sauce tasting like fish & dishwater.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Ok, I may pass on that. But I would still be polite.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Did you get the recipe from the JAL tourist class intra-Asia flight kitchen handbook? It sounds remarkably like a nightmare appetizer we were served between NRT and PVG.

                              2. re: MissHannahBanana

                                You give people with real allergies a bad name.

                              3. Stuff your mouth - leave enough room to politely excuse onself from the table . . .
                                although it never worked when we had pancake mornings as a kid.

                                Otherwise, discretely use the foliage to camouflage as much as possible, take a few bites from the rest, and start telling a very long story.

                                Last resort is to drink heavily from the wine glass (or better yet a martini to numb the tongue) and then dig in.

                                1. DH’s grandmother is a very picky eater. In fact, she really only eats what she cooks. The major point of entertainment at family meals is watching grandmother landscape her plate. She will shift some of her veggies to the salad plate and cover them with lettuce and bury bits of meat in the potatoes. She will break open a roll, pull out some of the interior bread, and fill the hole with some other food. She doesn’t realize that we have all caught on to her habits. It is sad, since she is the one missing out on all of the good food.

                                  1. this is the only thing about having celiac disease that has paid off, if it has gluten i really can't eat it, and sometimes this IS a good thing. other than that i just suck it up because someone has gone to the effort of maknig me a meal , and if it really terrible i'm really really small so i can get away with saying oh it was lovely i'm just a bit fulll after a few bites and it sounds sincere i;m also a teenager so people usually don;t even notice.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: umbushi plum

                                      You have a legit reason to not eat some foods which I think is a valid excuse. But just because it doesn't taste as good as you would like to me is no excuse. If it was liver in front of me I would politely decline. I just couldn't but most anything else I will try.

                                    2. If you can't eat it, you can't. Take a tiny taste, find something you like and move on. If someone has already plated my meal? I go ahead and move it around on my plate- the host is not going to scrape it off and serve it to the next guest. But don't sulk and whine in the corner- if you are still enjoying yourself who's going to press the issue? Become a brilliant conversationalist. Who will notice you unless you are trying to be noticed?

                                      I can't imagine anyone making a big deal over this- I mean seriously, you can't tell me that you would harp and harp and harp on one of your guests who wasn't eating, right?

                                      I REALLY do want you to eat and enjoy the meal (as I've mentioned) but if you aren't I'm NOT gonna call you out. I am not that full of myself to cause a scene because one person doesn't like what I've made? Naaah.

                                      1. Generally speaking, I man up and deal. My biggest nemisis is the dreaded boiled egg or even worse the deviled egg.

                                        The one time it was a real issue was when my in-laws invited me to lunch when I was dating Dh. Lunch was a can of Campbell's vegetable soup divided into three bowls, two saltine crackers and a tray of deviled eggs. It was hard to not obviously avoid the eggs, but I literally cannot stomach the thought of trying one. I took one egg and tucked it on my side of the bowl of soup and used my napkin and a saltine cracker to cover it up.

                                        And yes, I stopped and got myself some real lunch on the way back to the office. 1/3 can of soup and a saltine does not a lunch make.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                          So, where your soon to be in-laws trying to give you a message??

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Nope...they are just weird <g>. The funny thing is my Dh warned me not to go to lunch as they would want to make it a regular habit (and they did and I spent weeks coming up with reasons I could not come over) and the entire lunch was spent telling me how wonderful their family was and never asked one thing about me or my family (my parents are both deceased and they have never asked about them at all and they've never asked about my education, life, etc..)

                                            10 years later they are living in a nursing/assisted living facility and I go to see them 3 or 4 times a week and finally MIL considers me "family".

                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                              You're a far nicer person than me. I'm always surprised when people are not curious about others.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                It's been a good life lesson for me. I am more concientious than ever about asking people about themselves, their lives, their interests, etc.

                                                When our daughter was in college, she dated a young man who spent a couple of Thanksgivings with us because it was too far for him to go home. I made sure to ask him about his family's traditions, if there was anything special that he liked to have at Thanksgiving, and made sure he wasn't just a "guest" at our table whenever he visited.

                                              2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                Maybe they did not mention your family because they thought you might be sensitive since they had died. A lot of people are like that. Or they could just be weird...

                                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                  In this case it was them being weird. It doesn't explain why they didn't ask where I went to college, where I work, how many siblings I have, etc., KWIM?

                                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                    My brother-in-law is like that. I attribute it to his over all selfishness. If it is not about him, then it is of no interest. Lots of folks out there like that. I wish I could find a discrete way of spitting HIM out.

                                          2. Not really, if they're going to notice what you're eating and not eating, they're going to notice. My kids try it too often w/ vegetables. Other than that, I never notice what people eat so pretending wouldn't matter to me. I did have a situation once where I was sitting next to my friend's elderly uncle. I had a full plate of delicious food, including fresh surf and turf. He sneezed w/ food in his mouth into his napkin but I did see a lot of food particles fly onto my plate. I couldn't eat it. I quietly pushed food around and put my napkin (paper, thankfully) over the top. I was hoping there were enough people and commotion going on that no one noticed. To make it worst, this was a family style dinner so I helped myself to food. If someone had noticed, it would have seemed incredibly rude to serve myself so much and then throw it all out.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: chowser

                                              bzzzst! bzzzst!! Too much information!

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                That might be the best reason (apart from allergies and religious food observance, which can be mentioned) I've heard not to eat something.

                                                It's funny that so many people get precious over Applebees and yet would never think of insulting a host by refusing a braised beetle. (I mean the latter as something I enjoy about chowhounds, just as long as they're not thinking this is something that somehow elevates them..) Sometimes it's more about the encounter and making that pleasant, than it is about what you think you would enjoy. (Again, Chowser, all sympathies when it comes to avoiding food that looks to be kind of tainted.)

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  Ugh. The term "bless you" has now taken on a whole new dimension for me.

                                                  1. For me at least there isn't much I simply would refuse to eat. Even if it is a tough piece of steak or dry chicken, I'd still eat it provided it'd be rude not to, i.e. at the future in-laws.

                                                    1. Tell them you are highly allergic and will go into anaphylaxis.

                                                      1. Lie and say your lunch didn't at all agree with you.

                                                        1. My fiance and I went to a friend's house recently and, unbeknownst to us, her family was preparing dinner for us. As we chatted, I saw the mother make a salad with a 'dressing' of vinegar, oil, and sweet n' low. The rest of the food wasn't much better, so I ate a few bites before saying, "I'm so sorry. I had no idea you were serving us dinner! It's delicious, but I am stuffed - I ate not long ago." She insisted that I wrap my food up and take it with me, for which I graciously thanked her before dumping in the trash soon after we left.

                                                          Another technique I have employed is feigning a stomach ache, which "must have been something I ate earlier." The key is to be polite and appreciative, which I always truly am...for the invite and the effort.

                                                          1. I think everyone is missing the point here. The absolute worst thing you can do is say what delicious food it is. You are asking to to be re-invited. Just say " That meal must rank (in every sense of the word) as the most imaginably vile thing that can be created from those ingredients".

                                                            You will never be invited again.

                                                            It's a win-win situation.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: Paulustrious

                                                              I would like this idea, but it is also important to make it out of the house alive, which may conflict with these comments :)

                                                              1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                Your tack would only work if

                                                                ... in the case of a supervisor, you enjoy being unemployed
                                                                ... in the case of in-laws, you enjoy sleeping on the couch, alone.
                                                                ... in the case of a corporate client, you think of career suicide as a hobby.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  Ok - so I'm not great at relationships...

                                                                  Most people eat at my place, including clients.

                                                                  1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                    And if any of them said to you " That meal must rank (in every sense of the word) as the most imaginably vile thing that can be created from those ingredients" how would that make you feel?

                                                                2. re: Paulustrious

                                                                  Or you could ask them over or out. Bad cooks are bad company? Phooey Kablooey on that.

                                                                3. Fucrissakes, lemmie repeat a story. Last year we were working with and interviewing coffee growers way, way out there in Peru. One day we visited four or five communities. In each and every one we were sat down to eat a big fat guinea pig each followed by lots of a drink made of pisco, sugar, and egg whites. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was a time of no refusals. EAT IT, DRINK IT. Part of why I (get to) do what I do is this attitude.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    But Sam I know you are like me, a very adventurous eater/drinker. There are very few foods I will not eat. But when you have a bad cook making it, even lobster can be a nightmare. I, like you would eat anything placed in front of me out of respect.

                                                                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                      OK, see what you mean. But bad cooks usually don't give you screwed up complex dishes (that might be hard to take), but simple stuff that can be screwed up, but not that much.

                                                                  2. You can get half down of whatever it is, even if it's really bad. If you can at least make a dent in it, that's really all you have to do. I agree with those who have said if it's in-laws or anyone's house where you might be invited over again, do NOT say how good the food is or you risk being served the same thing again. You can say how nice it was to see them, how kind of them to prepare dinner, but don't compliment the food. You can always say you had a big lunch and if you only eat a little dinner, that's a good explanation. Say it was someone's birthday at work and everyone went out to _____ (place known for large portions) and then you had cake right before you left. It's not that hard.

                                                                    1. Can't stand runny egg yolks. Was at someone's house for breakfast when the mom said "its time for breakfast. And there were all the plates with sunny side up eggs, a pile of bacon and toast. The first morning I managed to make myself an egg sandwich, broke the yolk and let most of it get sopped up by the bread. The second morning I ate all the egg white and left the yolk hiding under a half a slice of toast. The third morning the eggs on my plate (and my plate only) were scrambled.

                                                                      1. Monopolize the conversation. If you are doing all the talking there isn't much time for eating.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                                          OR act so enthralled with what they have to say that when they question your lack of eating, you act stunned at the food on your plate and say that you were obviously transported. Then continue on with the mesmerizing conversation or ask a question of the person who noticed the food sitting there. Meanwhile merely move the food around the plate and do fake bites.