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Help with the in-laws

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I wouldn't have guessed it based on how my husband eats, but I have married into a boring food family (their "caterer" of choice is Sam's club). I try bringing foods that I enjoy but that I don't think are too crazy (to their lasagna and and meatball Christmas dinner I brought petite toasts with hunks of good parmesan drizzled with honey), but typically my husband and one other couple are the only people who eat them. When people do eat it they then go on and on about how "gourment" it is (in a way that makes me uncomfortable). Should I give up and stop bringing anything?

I guess the bigger question is "how do you blend the appetites of two very different families?"

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  1. I am just going out on a limb, but what about simple things? Like simple casseroles, or your own meatballs (I would not suggest this at their meatball dinner, just in general). Something that looks recognizable and palatable. You can still make it good without being 'gourmet'. My family has very simple tastes owing from generations of poverty, and if I were to show up with cheese and honey, they would go "Bzuh??" Even though you and I know it tastes great together, it just comes across as foreign.

    1 Reply
    1. re: GirlyQ

      I think the recognizability is the key. You can make stuff they're familiar with, but with higher quality ingredients, a better presentation, and maybe one or two slight flavor variations. The main thing is to not get their food defenses up. That way, they'll try it and maybe realize they like it.

    2. My ex's family sounds a lot like your in-laws. Christmas and Easter dinner was comprised of manicotti, stuffed mushrooms, antipasto platter, meatballs, brasciole, etc. My ex once brought over a box of Indian sweets to his family's Thanksgiving dinner. He said that everybody glared at the neon-colored desserts and everybody (with the exception of one cousin) refused to try them.

      I love good Parmesan and honey but I also love lasagna and meatballs. Just because something isn't "gourmet" doesn't mean it's not good. I haven't found too many folks who don't like roast chicken. Maybe something like burrata cheese will also go over well with an Italian-American meal. When I went to these dinners, I usually ended up bringing in things like breads and pizzas from a good bakery (like Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC) or baking things like pumpkin cheesecake with praline sauce to a Thanksgiving dinner.

      1. Personally, I think that what you brought was "simple" and recognizable (according to other posters) It wasn't as if you brought something that they couldn't figure out what it was...keep in mind that some people just won't venture outside of their comfort zone, and think it's "gourmet" if it's something they are not used to. If it were me, I would keep on bringing something different, but only in small amounts and try to educate the diners on what it is I've brought.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Cherylptw

          Recognizable in this context doesn't mean you can tell what's in it - it means it looks something you would normally eat, what you're calling comfort zone. (A carrot with a hole drilled in it and a candy cane shoved through it is recognizable as what it is, but I doubt anyone would recognize it as food.)

          If FiF keeps bringing her gourmet items, she may find herself alienated from her in-laws, as suggested by the wording "they then go on and on about how "gourment" it is (in a way that makes me uncomfortable)". Is that really worth it ?

          1. re: dump123456789

            That very well may be but it would be pretty petty for them to alienate her based on her food preferences...And maybe they should consider that maybe she may feel slighted by their lack of respect for HER food choices. I'm not saying that they have to eat her food but unless they specifically ask her not to bring her contributions, they should at least respect that everyone has different tastes and what is gourmet to one does not mean gourmet to those who partake in it regularly.... It's obvious that the in laws are not open minded about food but how else are they to be exposed to other foods than what they are used to if someone does not present it?

            Like I said, perhaps she should enlighten them about the dish, how it was prepared & the ingredients and explain to them that "gourmet" food is really about food presented in a different way... Yes, I think it's worth it.

            1. re: Cherylptw

              They've already demonstrated their "pettiness" and their "lack of respect" with their comments, and made FiF uncomfortable in the process. And as PattiCakes mentions below, it could be an issue of heritage as much as simply food. At this point, trying to push it may be just picking a fight.

              And I don't think this line - "how else are they to be exposed to other foods than what they are used to if someone does not present it" - would fly too well with FiF's in-laws. There's an elitism in there that sounds like young whippersnappers talking down to their elders.

              And FYI, I'm all about trying new food, and not repeating dishes. And I'm a bit of a food elitist myself. But I don't presume to push it on anyone but my husband.

              1. re: dump123456789

                I respect what you've said, but I just don't agree with some of the other posters who feel that she should roll over & suck it up because she's the new comer to a family set in their ways. I'd settle the in law get together dinner issues by alternating meals..If I come to your house for one meal, you can come to my house for the next meal. ..therein, the OP could make what she wants and if the in laws feel they don't want to eat her "gourmet" food, they'd be leaving hungry. And when the OP goes to their house, she shouldn't take anything, just eat what they are serving.

                There is a thing called compromise & respect and it should go both ways...I'm all for showing respect to my elders and those who are kind enough to invite me to a function. But just because you do, don't mean you can disregard my feelings and it don't mean I should bow my head down and take anything you dish out. And there is something to be said about a husband who does not support his wife and back her up.

                1. re: Cherylptw

                  ...and humor! As much as we enjoy our CH-ish ways, it's not worth damaging family ties or putting a spouse in the middle. I can't change the way my MIL eats, prepares food or intreprets food culture but each and every time this issue has come up, when I approach my CH-ish ways with love & humor she tries something new. She rarely likes it, but she tries. If I force, demand, stand on ceremony and make a big DRAMA out of the very same set of circumstances the fun, joy and opportunity is lost. And who can enjoy great food over an upset stomache? Find the good. Convey love and humor. Trust me, it gets you alot farther.

                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    I think FiF says below that your plan to settle the issue with alternating meals is out of the question because she and her husband are the only ones who don't live in the area that everyone else in attendance does. (Although, FiF could invite the in-laws in smaller groups - a couple or a family - to her house, and introduce them to her wondrous culinary creations there.)

                    Agreed, compromise and respect should go both ways, in the ideal. This situation is not ideal, and FiF's in-laws aren't holding up their end. So, now what are you going to do ? No one is advocating FiF bow her head down, and take anything her in-laws dish out. (There were several suggestions to bring dressed-up versions of dishes the in-laws were familiar with.)We're saying, be the bigger person in this. Don't counter a lack of manners with a retaliatory lack of manners. Let it go, step back, and realize that some people are just immovable objects.

                    Here's an analogy that I think parallels the situation. When X has house parties, X likes to play dance and pop music. X has a friend, Y, who loves classical music and opera, and finds dance and pop music boring. Everytime X invites Y to a party, Y brings classical and opera music along. X never plays Y's music, although X plays dance and pop music that other people bring. Should Y be insulted ? Should Y insist that X play Y's music ? Is Y bowing down and taking it when X doesn't play Y's "inherently superior" music ?

                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      I agree with this idea of mutual respect, but then again there are some families that would think the daughter-in-law "rude" if she constantly showed up empty-handed. I think I would tend to err with the majority who say bring something familiar to the family but do it well. I think for me (and from the sounds of it I have similar in-laws), having to hear negative comments that made me uncomfortable would be enough to make me not want to go to the darn events anymore. If it were me, I would bring a loaf of bread or a plate of shortbread or whatever, and if they then find something else to be snide about, then I would know that commenting on the previous "gourmet" food was just a way to be unaccepting. Then I suppose I'd have to figure out how to proceed.

                2. re: dump123456789

                  "A carrot with a hole drilled in it and a candy cane shoved through it is recognizable as what it is, but I doubt anyone would recognize it as food."

                  I know what I'm bringing to my next potluck! Thanks for the chuckle--the image I have in my head is priceless.

                  1. re: nofunlatte

                    That recipe is copyrighted.

              2. What about finding a way to bring them along your "food adventure?" Something completely new and out of left field might stymie them a bit. Would it help if you intro'd it along the lines of . . . gee I read of this food custom/combination/dish in (whatever region of) Italy where they drizzle pieces of parmesan with honey. (Talk up the good combo that salt and sweet is.) So I thought it would be fun to give it a go. Then you could put out the bread, parm and honey separately and let people try them, putting on as much honey as they wish. They can be tentative at first, take their time getting used to it and be a part of the discovery. I think the parm and honey was a great example of how you could do this. Not too complicated or "gourmet" if you describe as an age-old, even peasant, thing. Now - to find the next "parmesan and honey" combo and story. Who knows, your "gourmet" offerings might start making them feel special once they feel a part of it all.

                Maybe the next offering could be some kind of familiar fruit, cut up and offered w pieces of good ham, prosciutto . . . whatever . . . next time the apples could become melon, then figs . . .

                1. Hey, your husband might have developed his chow in defense or in rebellion! :-)

                  I know that the first time I encountered the cheese/honey was a "Is this person crazy?" moment.

                  I moved on.

                  I am lucky. I have developed my Chow. I feel good when I get a small movement in a non-chow who is taking baby steps. They did not have the chance to do it when they were young, My ex-MIL (nothing to do with the food) could not cook a fresh, non-processed food, She pretty much thought cooking equaled reheating.
                  That dude now eats sushi/thai/mexican,..etc.
                  I am sorry that you married intro a family that choose not to develop tastes past a VERY safe comfort zone. Be gentle.

                  1. I probably should have included that when I was talking about what to bring as an appetizer for Christmas I pulled out some recipes and asked my husband what he thought, and he said I should bring Doritos. I said "I can't bring Doritos to Chrismtas dinner!" and he just shrugged.

                    Thank you for all the suggestions and support. I won't give up, but in the future I'll try to keep it simple (though never so simple as Doritos!) and go with an open mind and an attitude of "at least DH and I will enjoy it!"

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                      Mmmmm ... parmesan and honey on Doritos!

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        I suppose it could be yummy!

                        1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                          I almost....and it might work...suggest is the reverse psychology route. (and I wonder if there is a parent out there who did not try this)
                          Show up at a family party, like Christmas, with a little bit of what you would love to see your non-foodies become interested in. The script goes something like this " At my office party today, Xandso brought these great appetizers. He gave me a few to take home. I brought them because DH hasn't had a chance to try them."
                          Be polite and let interested folks know they can look and (gasp!) even try one. But mostly just plain honesty enjoy yours.

                          I mean...don't we all wanna try something someone else is really enjoying? "I'll have what she's having!"

                    2. When they host, bring something more in keeping with their menu. Do not draw attention to yourself by bringing something far fancier or finer than what they usually serve. But when you are the hostess, you can be a bit more liberal in your choices always remember that a gracious host makes her guests comfort a top priority.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Kater

                        Great advice!

                        1. re: Kater

                          Well said.

                        2. Did you ever stop to think that they may be interpreting your good intentions as just the opposite? People are awefully attached to their heritage -- whether it be cultural or gastronomic. Their food is who they are. By bringing something "foreign" you could be (in their eyes) implying that their traditions are not good enough. I'd try to celebrate their stuff first, maybe ask for the recipies, then bring a something that represents a very slight variation. baby steps. You just don't want it to come off as putting them down in any way.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: PattiCakes

                            Interesting. I think I might be having such a difficult time with this because my holiday food heritage (a lovely hunk of roasted meat, vegetables, and a starch) is lost when I am with them... which I think is what all of this boils down to for me. I'm trying to bring something from my world to share, so at least I can have a little piece of comfort. From now on I'll try to look at it this way, and put no expectations on them at all.

                            When I was a kid we had kielbasa as an appetizer on Christmas because it was what my uncle's wife contributed from her family's traditions. Now I always think of kielbasa as being part of Christmas. I suppose I dreamed that I could incorporate some of my family traditions into the in-laws, but I'm beginning to realize that isn't going to happen.

                            1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                              Oh how true. So many of our memories are so intertwined with food. There have been many threads on this board about what foods/menus are sacrosanct for your family. Our family is pretty open to differnet menues, but there are certain items at certain holiday meals that you just don't mess with. My kids are in their 30's, but if we don't have that damned canned cranberry sauce from the can (complete with the ridges) and the icky sweet sweet potato casserole with marshmallows at Thanksgiving, there's hell to pay. Geez, lady, you took their little boy away and now you're trying to take away their food (grin).

                              I like Quine's gentle suggestion (above). That, and maybe you can satisfy your culinary soul by making your own, private meal on another date.

                              1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                But why would your in-laws want to include your food ways into their established tradition? If you haven't been married very long, I think you should do what you want in your house, and enjoy what's on offer in theirs. Makes things far easier.

                                1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                  Foodie, I understand what you are saying, but I think there is a bit about the role that is missing here. as the DIL and newcomer, I think your role is to respectfully assimilate into their family, not have them assimilate into yours.

                              2. Don't try to sway them or try to educate their palate, they have been plain eaters all these years, everything you do will be met with contempt. Save your labors for those who will appreciate it. Sorry to sound so harsh but I've "been there done that" too many times, beginning with my Dad 35 years ago (God rest his soul).

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                  I like your plain talk comments mrbigshot. His advice might save you a lot of heartache if you follow it, Foodie. But I feel your pain. It's your holiday too. I celebrate Christmas and think of it as a double holiday, as I love Christmas Eve. Depending on who I'm spending the eve and the day with, sometimes Christmas Eve dinner is very simple, and other years I go all out. It works having one meal simpler and the other more lavish. You might have to adopt and be flexible for awhile. How do you feel about a very special breakfast before you wade through the same old fare?

                                2. I married into the same family ... the key is simplicity. I am not suggesting that you should dumb down flavors! Just provide familiar items and don't go out on any limbs. For instance, my MIL asked me to bring mac & cheese to Christmas dinner (same godawful meal every single year ...) I made a basic bechamel with sauteed garlic, tossed that with pasta, shredded spinach, gruyere and cheddar, topped with toasted garlicky bread crumbs and baked until crispy (based on a Joy of Cooking recipe). It made me happy, but wasn't too far out for the rest of the audience.

                                  And then I crashed and burned on New Years by making a Ginger-Crepe cake for dessert. It obviously made everyone but the elder nephew and my husband uncomfortable. Oh well. I enjoyed it!

                                  1. Foodie, this is a true story.

                                    My first Christmas with my then soon to be inlaws was a wake up call of the century. I arrived so excited about spending my first "Christmas" with his family... I offered to bring some wonderful dishes, or appetizers, maybe dessert.. but they said there would be plenty of food, and wine so don't worry. Well, I arrive and the kitchen is a barren wasteland. Nothing cooking, nothing on the table.......... Then in walks Father in Law, with............... ready.............................................................................................................................................................................. BOSTON MARKET FAMILY MEAL DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!,

                                    needless to say, I always invited them over to MY house for the Holidays after that.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                      I wish we could have them over to our house. We live the farthest away, and there are family politics surrounding the location of gatherings (always at the same person's house) that I don't want to go near! So I continue to strive for the balance between getting what I want out of a holiday while not offending anyone's sensibilities.

                                      They do prepare their own meatballs and lasagnas (there are always two lasganas made by two different people, and a not-too-subtle competition for title of most enjoyed!).

                                      1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                        at least they cooked FOOD... My in-laws think Olive Garden is the creme de la creme, and I have never in 10 years seen my mother in law even boil an egg. No lie.

                                    2. My husband and I are vegan and I'm gluten-free. My husband's brother is a strict carnivore and the rest of the family eats Standard American Diet. It is easiest if we just bring what we want to eat and enough (gf vegan) cookies to share with everyone who wants to try them. They usually all try them and often rave about them. We bring a copy of the recipes if anyone wants them. We generally bring 3 new kinds each year. This year we opted to bring breakfast (muffins) to eat while they were eating lunch. Much easier for us to make those and 3 kinds of cookies and get there by noon. Most weekends we only eat two meals anyway. Previous years we've brought several dishes to share but had trouble getting it all ready and arriving on time.

                                      1. I have a similar situation, and in my experience, there is no easy answer. After years of more missteps than hits, I have found a few things that are well received and that we would normally eat.

                                        Here's one example. My SO's father loves apple pie. A local fruitstand makes one that is delicious, and that he really enjoyed having at our house. It has turned into a kind of standing item that we bring to holiday meals, and that many in the family clearly find tasty.

                                        In the case of the Christmas lasagna and meatballs, were these already prepared items, or family recipes? Maybe there is an opportunity to take a standard item they do eat and make or buy a slightly more flavorful version?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: souvenir

                                          You just keep trying, I find. And sometimes there are pleasant surprises. My Texan sister-in-law (she of the "dump and stir" school) is a really tough sell. And her husband--my hubby's brother--just wants his MEAT.

                                          The last time they visited, instead of patronizing to them (sometimes I fear that's what I do, actually) I went ahead and did MY thing, and served them "weird" food such as gorgonzola/pine nut canapes and a whole, wine poached salmon served with a mustard/brown sugar glaze, etc.

                                          Well, imagine my surprise when, just the other day, I got a little gift in the mail from her: one of those spiral bound, church recipe books from their Oh-So-Southern Methodist church (full of "take a can of this" and "it's soooo yummy" recipes, of course). A note led me to page 89, where my salmon recipe resided, proudly claimed by my sister-in-law, with a nod to me!

                                          Wonders never cease!

                                          1. re: Beckyleach

                                            How touching!

                                        2. I don't think it's good form to try to jazz up a "boring food family" or a "boring food friend" or a boring food anything. What you brought sounds delicious, but quite frankly, so do lasagna and meatballs to me. And I'm really sorry to say this, but I found a condescending tone to your post.

                                          I'm an Asian who married an Italian guy whose family serves v. traditional Italian food for the holidays. When they host, it would never occur to me to, say, bring a fully cooked fish, with head and all, which is a traditional dish in my culture, esp. for major celebratory occasions.

                                          When you're the host, you can go all out. When you're the guest, be polite and don't impose your food views and taste on others.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: gloriousfood

                                            I didn't mean to sound condescending. I am not trying to convert them to my way of eating, I am only trying to contribute to the celebration while at the same time bringing something I enjoy eating. I am not rude (I do not enjoy lasagna, but no one in his family knows this because I have eaten it for two Christmases and countless other family gatherings without complaint).

                                            I posted this to get suggestions on how I could better handle the situation so I don't end up frustrated or disapointed.

                                            1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                              I bring wine, I bring an easy dessert or a fresh fruit platter and I eat what I enjoy from the family table. My MIL loves having her children and their spouses/kids to her home for all the major holidays. She can't cook and she has many food phobias. But we all know this. All of us like to cook, have our own way of doing things. We all have add'l relatives and close friends we'd like to also spend the holidays with and doing double-duty isn't easy every holiday or birthday but we try. I know being a chowhound is the delicious burden in a home of someone who thinks an apple is fancy food. So-at times like this, we don't focus as much of what we're eating but the people we love. My dh, kids and I have ended many evenings at a restaurant after "dinner at Moms" but she's none the wiser and we don't need to hurt her feelings just to fill our chowish ways.

                                              My advice about inlaws-find the good.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                ..."being a Chowhound is delicious burden...". What a delightful and apt turn of phrase!

                                          2. I have a similar problem that leads to me getting heated every time there is a family gathering. My problem is that his family always tells me I cant bring anything because there will be enough food. The only time they ever let us bring anything is Thanksgiving when we are "allowed" to bring a fruit tart from a bakery near our house. This Christmas I told the host that I would like to bring rolls and she said it would be ok - I made plain rolls and rolls stuffed with ham and cheese, the basket was still full the the crescent rolls she made just in case disappeared.

                                            My issue is that I actually WANT to bring food, I love cooking and sharing it with people but the hostess (same every time) thinks it is an imposition on me to bring something. Their meals are also very plain/simple and usually lacking seasoning and flavor. I have also never seen a fresh vegetable in the house.

                                            Do you think it would be too pushy for me to bring the stuff and sautee up some fresh green beans or asparagus for the next gathering? For me a holiday meal isn't the same without a substantial amount of fresh veggies, but even one would be nice!

                                            23 Replies
                                            1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

                                              <Do you think it would be too pushy for me to bring the stuff and sautee up some fresh green beans or asparagus for the next gathering?>

                                              Yes. And also insulting to your hosts, in that you're saying - pretty much flat out - that what they've prepared isn't good enough for you. If you want to cook and share food, have people over to your house.

                                              1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

                                                You could always try calling them the week of, saying you couldn't resist a sale that your local market was having and you bought WAY too much x, y or z, and if it's not too much of an imposition, could you share it with everyone at the dinner? Otherwise you won't possibly be able to eat all of it and it will go bad in your kitchen.

                                                If the issue is really just that they don't want to impose on you to bring something, make sure they know they're doing you a favor by letting you get this off your hands.
                                                And if you make something really tasty with it, they may be a bit more excited to have you bring it again in the future.
                                                Just a suggestion.

                                                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                  I absolutely love your idea!

                                                2. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

                                                  How many times a year does your family have a "family gathering? How may other days are there in a year? I'm not trying to come down on you, but can't we all find it within ourselves to let these less culinarily adept relatives do what makes them feel comfortable when they are the hosts, then do what makes us feel comfortable when we are in that role? Let them shine. Let them rave about their crescent rolls. It's not going to kill you (hopefully), and it will make them happy. A happy family is worth a lot. Think of it as giving them the gift of accepting them just the way they are, canned peas and all. Use the rest of the year to cook and share the way YOU want. Celebrate your own version of the holiday on an alternative date & invite people who of a more like culinary mind.

                                                  1. re: PattiCakes

                                                    It would be nice if everyone involved could take a more gracious and mature approach to the holidays. I think it is terribly sad that the family would be so rude that the writer could only hope to host the holiday if she schedules her own version on a different day. I am the first person to agree that you go along with the hostess and compliment her crescent rolls. But the idea that it is remotely acceptable to exclude someone from the opportunity to host the holiday is absurd - yet it seems to be a common problem on the these boards.

                                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                                      They have about 5 of these gatherings a year, and live in a different state so we always go to them. I am not saying I am too good for their food, I would just like to contribute something tasty but don't feel able to. We have invited them over to our house for a holiday party, but since she has been hosting for so long she brought her own food - the same food she makes at home! I am not trying to change the way they eat, just want to share my dishes with them as well...

                                                      1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

                                                        If she brings HERS to YOUR house, then it is fine to bring yours to hers.

                                                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                          <If she brings HERS to YOUR house, then it is fine to bring yours to hers.>

                                                          I would file that under "two wrongs don't make a right." Are some people intractable about food? Yes. Should you up the ante by being intractable yourself? Only if you're seeking heartburn, which doesn't complement any meal.

                                                          1. re: small h

                                                            Agreed, small h, I find the hostility and contempt expressed here dismaying to say the least. Disparaging the food served, insisting on bringing one's own dish (rib thread anyone?) and grumbling when the people don't eat it? It's just all so sad.

                                                            This is hardly being force to stay in the closet or withstand racist or hateful comments; this is a sacrifice for family that is entirely manageable because in these cases, it's not about your cooking or foodieness, it's about having family together. And if you have a family to come together, you should count yourself lucky. If they are unpleasant in other ways, then this discussion is no longer about food, but food as symptom.

                                                            I have family who have picked at food I've made in the past because it's foreign or strange. They eat/prepare and serve the same thing each time. And you know what? I don't care. I mean, I don't like it, but it's just not a fight I can even think of having. And I don't get enraged because they are too old and don't have the finances to readily visit me over 3000 miles away and can't make what I want.

                                                            I guess I just have to say, this debate is so not worth it. It's one meal, or it's a few meals each year. If the food is more important than family, I can't help you. My help in this way would be to suggest a rethink of priorities.

                                                            I guess I'm just not a chowhound.

                                                            1. re: Lizard

                                                              I agree with you 500%, Lizard. The threads on these boards recently have shown an amazing amount of self-centeredness. I'm so happy that I don't have friends or family who feel the urge to foist their food on me at *my* dinner parties. Or people who are offended if guests don't offer to help them clean up after dinner. And so on.

                                                              1. re: Lizard

                                                                All I am saying is, if you don't LIKE the food you are constantly be forced at every single one of these loving "family dinners" to eat, what is the harm in bringing something you enjoy with you? My MIL serving Boston Market nearly every holiday is fine for her, but I would never touch that stuff, How is it being hostile they bring food to your house, why should you not be allowed to bring food to theirs? I am not saying bring what they are serving, or bring Duck a l'Orange just to spite them. What I said was, if they bring food to your house, it is fine to bring food to theirs. Making that contemptuous is a hard sell.

                                                                1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                  Gryphonskeeper, having seen many of your other posts about family outings, and seeing that you are using scare quotes around the phrase "family dinners" I suspect the issue here is far deeper than one of food and thus makes your comment a challenge to answer.

                                                                  I've been subject to cooking far worse than Boston Market. I've also seen one person (Christian) delight in slipping nonkosher foods to a Jewish family member. So forgive me if I am having a hard time understanding the crime or the hatefulness of serving Boston Market as a regular thing. Is it that MIL cooks up brilliant feasts at other times, but sees your visits as a time to slack? Or does she genuinely love Boston Market? Or is she tired, ill, etc, and wants a break whilst having her family come together? Because your aversion to Boston Market is only described as 'would never touch the stuff', it's hard to understand why it is a problem beyond the possibility that it is food not up to your standards.

                                                                  I understand that family poses problems, and that food is often the place that people act out their aggressions towards one another, but this is why small h's comment continues to make sense: Why continue a battle that only makes everyone unhappy? If your MIL is not bothered by your bringing your own food, fine. But if it does bother her, not so fine. The fact she is 'rude' (still questionable, hence my scare quotes) to you is not reason enough to be rude (knowing this would bother her) back. Nor would I advise this tack to others.

                                                                  Either work out the issues, or just deal with it on what is hopefully a limited basis. But really? This is so not about food, but about family dynamics veiled in a discussion of food. Or, it's about a love of food that clearly trumps any desire to make nice and live peacefully with family, and again, I can't understand that.

                                                                  1. re: Lizard

                                                                    "I've also seen one person (Christian) delight in slipping nonkosher foods to a Jewish family member".

                                                                    How unbelievably hateful.

                                                                    1. re: dump123456789

                                                                      I concur.. what a travesty

                                                                      1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                        I also concur.

                                                                        And this brings to mind a story: A family member is vegetarian, and is raising her daughter as such. At a family dinner while the said vegetarian is out of the room, the in-laws feed the daughter a piece of chicken kreplach which she devours. The response from the in-laws? "Ha, ha I guess she isn't vegetarian anymore."

                                                                        This was in a Jewish household that IS kosher. These same people would be appalled (and rightfully so) if they were in my home and I fed one of the kids some bacon while someone was out of the room and said "Ha ha, I guess he isn't kosher anymore!"

                                                                        The point here as Lizard put so well is that there is much more going on here than food. If these in-laws adored this person, she could bring alien eyeballs marinated in a lovely vinaigrette and while they may not like it or even want to try it, they would be polite rather than making snide comments. This was cheese with honey - an unusual combination but certainly not so freakish - and yet the comments were either given or received as being intolerant and unaccepting.

                                                                    2. re: Lizard

                                                                      I get along great with my inlaws, but seriously she never cooks, her oven has never been used once in the 10 years I have known her. She is never offended if I bring food but I do see your point that there there is no good to come of ill blood. That is my own family with issues... mainly my brother) As for the people slipping non-kosher, that is not only a travesty but a sin. How awful.

                                                            2. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

                                                              This sounds like someone picky who is afraid of not liking something.

                                                              My future in laws are very similar. I can only bring food prepared from their recipes. I may not use garlic or other seasoning besides sugar. If it isn't one of the exact items they usually have it doesn't belong on the table. Everything eaten is starch and beige. No veggies ever.

                                                              We do this maybe 3-4 times a year. I have now taken over Thanksgiving but I can't deviate too far from the menu without backlash.

                                                              Life is too short, so for these gatherings I suck it up. I cook what I want for other parties and gatherings when they aren't around.

                                                          2. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

                                                            Unless it's a potluck, you should never presume to bring food that you haven't been asked to (unless it's a host/ess gift). If you want to dictate the menu, you should host. Or are they preventing you from hosting too ?

                                                            1. re: dump123456789

                                                              We are prevented from hosting because we live about 1.5 hrs away from the rest of the family and they don't come to visit often. We are always going to them.

                                                              1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

                                                                We, too, are 1.5 hours away and always end up going there for holidays. And like you, I am finding it difficult to find my idea of holiday in their celebration. I understand that we can't always get what we want, but I hate that as the "outsider" I am the one who has to compromise. I also hate that in order to have "my" holiday my husband has to give up a holiday with his family.

                                                                I suppose I posted inititally hoping someone would have a magic wand they could loan me. If I ever find one, I'll be sure to pass it on to you when I am done!

                                                                1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                                                  I have the exact same problem as you. It's taken me nearly 10 years, but I've arrived at a pretty good place now. Fortunately, my mother-in-law also hates to cook, so now when we have large family gatherings, I do the cooking.

                                                                  I make the standards. The most exciting thing I make for them is Caesar Salad (which my mother-in-law still refuses to touch). But the turkey, mashed potatoes and squash that I cook are high quality affairs. Nothing fancy, nothing new (for them), but everything done the way I want. It's a nice compromise. I like the food. They like the food. Everyone's happy. We still have a few disagreements about food (like when she purchased pre-formed, frozen burger patties for me to grill) but we're getting there. I do the shopping. I do the cooking. And I don't do anything that's "weird".

                                                                  And then when we go home, my wife lets me cook whatever I want for a few weeks (rabbit, lobster, offal, duck, chicken feet, yeeha!). It works well.

                                                                  1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                                                    I want to interject here. When I suggested hosting (or just having) and alternative holidy meal with foods that were more meaningful to you, I meant a holiday meal of your own -- not with those family members. Maybe just a dinner with you and you husband, or maybe one that includes a few friends as well. I was thinking of it as a way to make it possible for you to retain some of those culinary memories that mean so much to you, and nullify some of the resentment you are feeling at having to give those traditions. In otherwords, participate in the family celebration, but have a smaller one of your own as well.

                                                                    On another note, I am so sorry to see these discussions become so petty. I had stopped posting on Chow for quite a while, for just that reason. What started out as someone's trying to get advice on a problem has ended up negatively. again.

                                                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                      This is a great idea and what we do. For Christmas because I haven't taken over that holiday, we eat our 11 am dinner that their house, go home in the after noon and have our dinner for two around 7:30 and watch a Christmas movie together usually. It has become a nice little tradition and let's me make celebratory food instead of the exact same meal as the Thanksgiving and Easter meals they do (turkey dried out in the electric roaster).

                                                                      Win win!

                                                            2. My in-laws used to insist on the same menu for every single holiday. Roast turkey breast, baked potatoes, peas and carrots (peas from a can), and matzoh ball soup. Yes, even for Thanksgiving. They were so rigid that they would look at anything I did differently as some kind of novelty that they weren't sure they wanted to experience. The gravy had to be made with poultry seasoning, and the bread, if it was appropriate, was challah.

                                                              I just ended up going with the flow. I did draw the line at the matzoh ball soup for Thanksgiving, explaining with a little joke that the Pilgrims did not eat matzoh balls. I added different veggies, sweet potatoes, and cooked a whole turkey. If it was a Jewish holiday (I am Italian), I stuck much more closely with their wishes, and possibly added gefilte fish or sweet carrots. It mostly worked out, although I do remember them being very confused when I presented each of them with a cornish game hen on one occasion. Apparently in nearly 80 years, my FIL had never taken meat off a bird, and further, had a real aversion to dark meat. (The dark meat in these little birds is really light, but it is still dark meat).

                                                              Save your innovations for other occasions. I was able to make different kinds of soups. salads, veggies, pasta, all sorts of things that they actually really enjoyed -- but they were just stuck in this thinking for holidays. Now that they are gone, I know that I did the right thing. It wasn' really that bad, in retrospect.

                                                              1. I also faced the "issue" of one's preferred, or traditional, holiday foods this year - which I know is only part of your issue. I very much understand your wanting something that you like, look foward to eating, and on the holidays, something that reminds you of the holidays.

                                                                Mostly, we spend Christmas day at our house, and fly to my folks' house (near where my brother and cousins still live) right after Christmas. There, we have the traditional Christmas that I'm used to, varying slightly from year to year, but with the same types of vegetables, etc. (though I usually make some variation on the traditional, which people generally enjoy). And the same desserts that mom makes, and that everyone loves.

                                                                The Christmas at our house, on Christmas day, is some more modern variation on the foods I grew up with, plus a dish provided by my mother-in-law. My parents-in-law are not Christian, are Indian (Asian Indian) and only celebrate Christmas by giving the grandkids gifts. They only celebrated it a little when my husband was growing up. Their celebration of Christmas, while it works for them, is like me moving to India and celebrating Diwali. I would do it, and enjoy it, but it wouldn't have the relgious meaning or years of family custom as it does for the Indians that have been celebrating it for generations. I feel a sort of sense of entitlement - it's my holiday, and my customs, that I'm passing on to our children (we do somewhat celebrate Indian holidays), because my husband's family doesn't have Christmas customs.

                                                                This year, due to time issues, my husband proposed that we have Christmas dinner at his parents' house. I really didn't want to - I wanted (selfish) MY Christmas. But it made sense to go there, so that's what we did. It was so disappointing (to me). It was just a regular dinner - and not even Indian food! We had a baked pasta casserole (blah) and a vegetable dish that I don't even remember. And the pumpkin tart that I made, so that, at least (to me) was a festive Christmas dish.

                                                                I would say that, if you ask if you can bring a dish, and the host says "yes," then you have free rein to bring what you want (and like). At least there will be one dish that you enjoy, and maybe the others will change. And while they go on and on about the gourmet food, remind yourself (internally) that you're being the better person by being polite and not making similarly-somewhat-unkind remarks about their food.

                                                                1. FiF- a question for you. Are you the only in-law at the holiday meals? I'm wondering if there are others at the table who also have had different holiday meal traditions.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: souvenir

                                                                    The other in-law is my husband's brother's wife, and her family lives in the same town so they eat all their meals at her parents' house and come to our celebration for dessert.

                                                                    1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                                                      That is very interesting that they only come for dessert...

                                                                      I did read your post below to change your mindset and to try to become the salad lady. This sounds like a good strategy to try. I wish you all the best with it!

                                                                  2. My husband and I also come from different backgrounds. Why don't you talk to them. Tell them exactly what you mentioned. That you miss your holiday food and love spending the holiday with them. You can then work on the menu together. We've had holiday meals that included three different traditions. It felt strange for everyone at first but everyone was happy at the end,

                                                                    1. Thank you all for the suggestions, support, and constructive criticism.

                                                                      They have been eating lasagna for Christmas for so many years that I don't expect to change that; my plan is to change my attitude and start being the salad lady (this way I'll have something to balance the lasagna, even if no one else eats it). And I'll keep it to a simple, green salad (nothing fancy!).

                                                                      And when I do get to celebrate Christmas with my family, I'll be much more appreciative of the food.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                                                                        Good for you Foodie in Friedberg! Salad lady is full of creative possibilities and your own take on (& respect rewarded) CH-ish style!

                                                                      2. Surely by now you've realized that this isn't just about food choices, FiF. The comfortable family dynamics have been changed. Change is uncomfortable for many people and you bring the very real prospect of change. It is more comfortable to attack the vehicle of change instead of embracing change itself.

                                                                        Can you try to see the whole picture from afar? One Christmas dinner - or dozens of years of Christmas dinner(s) - featuring Sam's Club lasagna is not the end of the world. If these in-laws are basically kind and decent folks, just suck it up, especially in the short run.

                                                                        I was a veteran of this tribal warfare for many years until I realized that the sniping was less about food and more about their feeling very uncomfortable with me; easier to make fun of my "gourmet" food than to try something new (here's that scary "change" word again). That I'd trained in France and they were kin to your inlaws in food preferences did not help matters. The matriarch of the family told me "I won't insult my stomach with your tarcos" (no "tarco" is not a mis-spelling, that's what she called a "taco") when I first attempted to broaden their horizons with "gourmet" offerings.

                                                                        Of course I took this as a personal challenge and we spent many unhappy, futile years trying to change each other. Finally I wised up. "Is this a hill to die on?" became my mantra and, usually, the answer was "no" especially with holiday meals. Food is not the battle.

                                                                        Stand your ground on important matters and do not take insults, especially those passive-agressive "you don't sweat much for a fat girl" comments. But trying to change your new family is beyond the scope of your wedding vows. In fact, you cannot change anyone who does not want to be changed.

                                                                        If, after time, they may begin to nibble your food, do not make a big deal about it. It would be helpful if you could brush off the compliment as "oh, this is peasant food from Italy" or somesuch. Don't make a deal about food, just smile and quietly accept the compliments, remembering that this isn't only about food. It is also about acceptance.

                                                                        If everything else is going along OK, holiday meals are a small price to pay for family harmony.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Sherri

                                                                          What a great mantra: "is this a hill to die on?" Think I'll adopt it. Thanks!

                                                                        2. I've been through this. At first, I made what I liked and it wasn't a hit so I tried updating what they liked, also not a hit. I finally found things I enjoy making that they also like--my standard now is home made bread (not crusty because it's not as popular, or I'll make a few different loaves and desserts. They can't tell the difference between box/store bought desserts and home made but they'll enjoy either. I also will try out new recipes but pick ones I think they'd enjoy. I don't think it's about "giving in" or being hostile as some have said above but about compromise and finding what works. They look forward to my rolls/focaccia/etc. now.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                            Agree with Chowser. This should not be a "battle", as another poster called it, and would become a battle only if you let it, so try not to make it a issue.
                                                                            Easy? No....my Texan in-laws (what is with it about Texas??) have the most horrid tastes; everything canned and processed, flavors limited to salt, heat, and artificial. So I do what chowser does: make something simple that I like that would not too weird or strange for them, but that I'd like (the salad suggestion was great, and I don't know anyone who doesn't like homemade bread or pie).
                                                                            And I will often go out and have some escargot or something that I like before I head to the in-laws, so I don't arrive hungry.
                                                                            Actually, I sometimes envy the ILs; they are perfectly happy with preground generic coffee stored in the freezer, and Chef Boy-ar-dee. Luckily, their son was extremely easy to convert.
                                                                            And, heck, it's only once a year.

                                                                          2. One day, if I'm lucky enough to be a mother in law, I hope my son or daughter in law will find my home and chowhoundish ways appealing, fun and open-minded. but, I don't wish to be remembered as a food lover-just a lover of life.