HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Only Foodie in the Family

After I excitedly spent months planning my first Thanksgiving as the cook, I was slightly disappointed to recognize that NO ONE else in my small family cares nearly so much about the food. "Food is just food" my father-in-law is fond of saying. Now as I plan the first big Christmas feast, the only thing any of them agree on is buying a ham. My heart is close to being broken, because that is not the direction I was planning on going in for Christmas. It is not that they don't appreciate all the gourmet things, but most of them could care less if I made things from scratch or a mix. The positive person in me thinks that at least I have it easy, i.e. no expectations or exacting palates to please. I however can't help feeling like I am missing out on being able to share the enthusiasm for entertaining. If you were in my situation, what would you suggest? Divorce is not an option!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I share your pain. Most of my extended family could care less whether holiday dinner is made from scratch or a mix. Don't get me wrong I think they are appreciative of my efforts but it's not their priority. I say if it pleases you and makes you happy keep on doing what you're doing.

    1. Well, you married him, so I guess it's time to suck it up Princess and live with it.

      But seriously, if they can appreciate flavor (which their genetics seem to imply), it may be a question of having adequate time to educate them as to the differences. For certain things you can make a batch of scratch against pre-made/mix and work on it from there.

      With respect to XMas, you can always prepare the ham for the Eve and something else for the day. And for the rest of the time, I think you're missing out on the luxury of being able to cook what you want in the way that you want.

      1. I'm in a similiar situation with newly acquired in-laws. They're all about getting together, but the food is a distant afterthought. The wife still gets upset when there's minimal appreciation for the well thought out cheese platter we break out, or scratch made desserts. Personally I roll with the punches, keep it simple and save the bells and whistles for ourselves or like minded friends.

        1. i have this problem in my family as well.

          actually, my problem is more that my mom THINKS she is a foodie, but she is very much a Semi-Homemademaker (which IMO might be even worse!!) she would want to buy a honeybaked ham and stick some extra pineapples on it, and then say that she is a master cook for thinking of it.

          my suggestion: take things that they want to buy, and volunteer to be the one who buys them, then make it yourself! ya dont have to tell them you did it even. then when people are saying "this is the best honeybaked ham we've had yet!" you can volunteer that little fact.

          6 Replies
          1. re: mattstolz

            «« she would want to buy a honeybaked ham and stick some extra pineapples on it, and then say that she is a master cook for thinking of it »»

            Makes me think of the old commercials showing how difficult it was to make rice crispies squares. I would at least be impressed if she grew her own pineapple for that store-bought ham.

            1. re: wattacetti

              haha or the new one where the lady makes the pie with store bought dough, then takes all the credit for how "it was really tough!"

              1. re: mattstolz

                Actually I don't mind that scenario if the filling is really good (skip the crust).

                The pie was originally a cooking container and no one actually ate the dough.

            2. re: mattstolz

              I get where you are coming from, but I really hope the OP doesn't lie about the food. That's one of my few dealbreakers in relationships among adults. It's so disrespectful and unkind-if you really think about your desired result, even in the best case scenario (which I think your suggestion is) you're planning to say "gotcha! It wasn't what you were hoping for."

              There are really only a few holidays per year where the whole family is gathering, for most people. Christmas and Thanksgiving, maybe Easter and July 4 if American. If your extended family has dishes they consider to be crucial, it's not the end of the world. And I certainly wouldn't hesitate to to a ham with a nice homemade glaze, and there is plenty of room for a huge variety of side dishes. These can be as complicated and fancy as you want, and you really can have an almost unlimited number.

              Hearing the OP's post, I suspect her (his?) family is trying to be kind. I work with older adults, and as we talk about Thanksgiving the underlying theme that keeps coming up is that it is so important to many people to have the family time, but they've often burnt out on the huge cook. A lot of people want to save their children/spouses any aggravation and that may be sincerely why they are suggesting an easier route. It's easy to forgot those exciting first couple of Thanksgivings once you've done 30 of them and are sick to death of it. If that's the case (it might not be; some people inherit or are born into less-than-sympathetic relatives and I'm not discounting that) you'll be able to get away with a lot by saying "great suggestion!" and then doing what you want. Even if there are are handful of dishes that just have to be included, you'll likely have a lot of leeway to add to those.

              1. re: mattstolz

                Haha I have the opposite issue - my mom is a very good cook, especially with baking, but is just as happy eating plain, microwaved pasta for every meal because it is less effort. She is baffled why I "waste time" to go to all the trouble to cook from scratch, but on the rare occasion she chooses to to so, her cooking is great!

                1. re: PotatoPuff

                  We have a cousin like that. When she chooses to cook, which is maybe once a year, she's really very good. Her husband, however, bought her a neon "Take Out" sign for the kitchen because that's what they almost always have for dinner.

              2. Why set yourself up for disappointment? Plan a wonderful menu for a occasion that you can share with someone who appreciates your efforts and results. Make it a group menu for Xmas and let everyone contribute dishes--think of it as a "traditional" meal, spread the work around and you have no reason to feel resentful. Just keep focused on that other meal you're going to make that's just for you.

                1. It seems that for this family, Christmas dinner is not about the food. So, I would take advantage of that philosophy, and plan a simple but delicious menu, including foods that appeal to the masses. When people offer to contribute, I accept the offerings (within my own comfort zone)
                  Then, I would plan a foodie party with like-minded others for another date. The advantage of a non-family grouping is that the focus can be on the food and company, and less on the family dynamic.

                  1. could you maybe stretch their expectations a little, like doing a fresh, bone-in ham, with a bit of a scratch-made glaze and garnish, instead of whatever premade thing they want to get?

                    or let them go nuts with whatever "traditional ham and trimmings" means to them, and add some really delicious vegetable sides or baked goods or first courses, that would be exciting/challenging for you to do. you could take satisfaction in having these things, but not really be under any pressure, and folks can kind of take them or leave them-- perhaps your family will surprise you and something will be a big hit!

                    since you mention being a positive person. . . maybe you could also do one or two showstoppers or extra things and erm. . ."sell" it to your family, so that they realize cooking is special to you, and they feel special eating the meal you cooked: "well you know, cooking is my hobby, and so i was really excited to make this big family meal. but i also made this special recipe which i've been waiting to try out when i had special company, i really hope you like the seventeen layer viennese torte!" i dunno. some folks with a sweet personality can do this without sounding like they are bragging about themselves or looking for praise-- therein lies the danger. you should bend over backward to make a meal suit your family's tastes on your first run at this, however, and just add your own embellishments as you can. they are sure to start to take your "hobby" seriously, given a little time and some good eating, and you can "get away with" a lot more in the future!

                    1. I can so relate to this post! Everything my mom ever "cooked" came from a can, box, or freezer bag, and nobody in my family of origin could tell the difference between that and real food. Then I married a guy who had the palate of a six-year-old.

                      I didn't let that stop me, however, and have always gone all-out cooking for my husband and kids as well as for my extended family. At times it seemed like I was cooking mostly for myself, as the rest of them would have been happy with reheated takeout from Boston Market. (shudder!)

                      A funny thing happened over the course of 30+ years of me doing this. They started to appreciate the good stuff. My husband still likes his beef "well-done" but at least he has learned to like various sauces with it. Members of my extended family ask me to make a favorite recipe for shrimp bisque, when once they would have preferred soup from a can. I have earned a reputation as "the cook of the family," and their palates have come around.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bitchincook

                        So glad to hear I'm not the only one!!! I married a guy (who I love dearly), who literally eats chicken tenders, pizza, and spaghetti.....and that's about it. Both my parents and my in-laws think that everything made from a can or a box is OK. I think I finally brought mom and dad around a little at Thanksgiving, so hopefully they'll be more into the "home cooked meal" idea in the future.

                        My best attempts at fostering foodieness in the family have been to 1) get the kids involved in cooking (they seem to have fun in the kitchen, and then all of the parents love everything that their sweet little angels make) and 2) just make the stuff that I enjoy, so that I get to have fun even if not many of them appreciate the extra effort.

                      2. My family couldn't care less about the food that is at any of the gatherings. In a way that is endearing, as for everyone it really is about the company. That is an aspect that I do appreciate because whether the food is great or not, we still enjoy ourselves together.

                        However, everyone in my family except me cooks from boxes, cans, and jars. The fact is, others just don't have the time and/or desire to learn HOW to cook. At one of our gatherings, I was slicing celery for our salad and while my sister was talking to me, I looked up at her and was replying to her while I was still slicing. She was amazed that I used my knuckles as a guide and didn't have to watch my fingers while slicing... and well, that sealed the deal for her that I am the family "chef" (although I am FAR from a true chef or even professional cook). They are happy to let me do the cooking that I do, but I can't do it all. I wish they made better quality food and appreciated it, but ultimately, it's about family, so I try to not sweat it and try to teach when I can.

                        Now, I will say that we've made Christmas more special (in my immediate family) with a tradition on which I will NOT waver. Every year I make the retro (some would say out-dated!) Châteaubriand with classic sides and although my extended family eats all of their meats so overdone that they more resemble petrified wood, I refuse to cook it any other way than medium-rare. It only feeds the 4 of us, anyway, so if someone were ever to want to join us for Christmas dinner, I would tell them to bring their own meal because we've been doing this for 14 years and aren't going to change it. (I would be happy to make a second Châteaubriand, but refuse to cook such an expensive cut the way they would eat it and I have to order it from the organic farm in advance anyway.)

                        So, I see what you are saying, and it's definitely a little sad to not be able to share a passion about something we ALL have to engage in whether we like it or not (everyone eats to survive!). My saving grace is my daughter who is quickly growing into a foodie, so all is not lost for me, anyway. ;-)

                        1. I still struggle with this after 22 years of marriage. Most of my family members are of the "semi-homemade" variety; my in-laws (while truly lovely people) just don't care about food. They once served Stouffer's frozen lasagna for Easter dinner. (Nobody believes this, but it's true!) So far, we've decided to alternate Thanksgiving with my sister, so at least I get what I want every other year. We do Easter with the in-laws, and I can live with a ham. If I'm not cooking, I offer to bring a couple of dishes and pick what I most want to eat.

                          While I think you can gently educate and broaden others' horizons, I don't think that you can successfully transmit your vision of holidays, centered around food, to those who are fundamentally indifferent to how things taste.

                          1. Are you hosting at your house? Are you doing the cooking? If so, then take their suggestions and then plan what you want, keeping their suggestions in mind. Is it a pot luck? Then divide up the dishes/courses, and you can choose which you'd like to bring. Is it as somebody else's house? If so, who is cooking?
                            If someone comes to my house on Christmas, they eat what I serve... rib roast. If I go to someone else's house for the holiday, and have, I eat what they serve. Yes, I help. But I don't try and show off with a fancy dish, if they want things cut, I have good knife skllls. If they want the table set, I can fold a napkin.... I pitch in. An vice versa when someone visits us. But at my house, we eat a rib roast on Christmas, a tradition my husband and I started out as a young family and staying home for Christmas.

                            1. I am blessed with an appreciative (and discerning) partner and family, but when push comes to shove, I cook because I like to cook. It seems as if you do as well. I am as happy making something special for myself as I am preparing a meal for others. Perhaps you could find joy in the process without regard for its eventual reception. Your personal satisfaction is worth plenty.

                              Of course, that's assuming no one takes a bite of one of your carefully-prepared creations and spits it out onto the tablecloth for being too fancy, 'cause that would suck.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: small h

                                "Perhaps you could find joy in the process without regard for its eventual reception. Your personal satisfaction is worth plenty."

                                That's what I was thinking. The OP has an opportunity to cook for herself first - I'd run with it. "OK, you guys want ham, cool. It's going to be the Christmas ham dinner I'd make for myself." If "food is just food," then they'll eat it and the cook can savor it. It need not be over the top, but simple preparations with great ingredients, executed well.

                                It seems there is common ground where a 'hound can agree with non-'hounds. A bone-in city ham from a good smokehouse has to be one of those places. Besides, if someone does act like an ass, you at least get to learn that it is something besides their palates that shape their perspectives.*

                                *I find it incredibly hard to believe that any human does not find pleasure in some tastes. It's contrary to our physiology.

                              2. I'm pretty sure that most of our family doesn't get why we go to the extents we do when preparing meals, although they are clearly appreciative of our efforts. A long time ago we learned that we are cooking to please ourselves and as long as we are enjoying what we're doing and our guests are happy, that's what matters.

                                For the Thanksgiving stuffing I baked the bread from scratch. Nobody would know or even care that I had baked the bread, but it made me happy to do it that way so I did. Find your personal balance between pleasing yourself and making your life easier and go with it. If you're happy and your family is happy, life is good.

                                1. You sound like me 40 years ago. No one on either side took cooking as seriously as I did, and mostly what I prepared went unremarked, except that Mr. Sueatmo has been trained (presumably by his dad) to always say "That was good." Bless his heart.

                                  You will invest time and energy in your meal, and you will work to learn things and to an extent to please yourself. Appreciation from your family will come later, after a number of lovely meals. Think of this a chance to try new recipes and techniques on an uncritical but appreciative group. I wouldn't make things too exotic for them, but bring them along in increments.

                                  Your FIL might have a poor sense of taste/smell, or he might have had mediocre food his entire life. If he does express a liking for something, I'd make it again for him. Same with other family members.

                                  I've always cooked in a sort of vacuum. I learned to please myself first, but not to go off on crazy tangents unless I can take the family with me. Please yourself, your DH, and later you will please your family. Life is a process, you know?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                    I think you and rockycat have done a very good job of articulating a healthy approach and attitude.

                                  2. I understand. My family members are very boring eaters and not really willing to try something new. Half of them will not even eat anything green and this is not just the kids! I used to try to introduce new dishes, but I just get irritated when no one would eat what I made. So just enjoy the holiday and remember it is not about the food. Since you can not pick your family, just save your cooking talent for your foodie friends.

                                    1. My extended family enjoys food, but none of them are as into it as I am. We hosted the family Thanksgiving this year for 28 people, and I made two turkeys. I confited the legs and wings, and roasted the breasts. Everyone said how delicious the birds were and how much they loved everything (the dark meat especially), but when I explained what I'd done, not one person other than my wife had ever even heard the term confit as applied to poultry.

                                      1. Wife and I are the "odd persons out," with but a few younger exceptions.

                                        We host, and treat, per our desires, and try to plan for the bulk of our families, i.e. we do not want them wanting.

                                        Still, when we make the reservations, and treat, we look to ourselves. The few younger family members also appreciate that.

                                        The same with wines. Even when other family members are picking up the tab for food, I always have ALL wines on a separate tab, and pick that up, as my choice of wines will NOT be in the budget of most. I would always rather pay for MY choices, than drink poor wines, and do so almost silently, and off to the side. So far, no one has expressed any concern, or had a stated issue. Heck, I do the same at many business dinners with my wife. Though she picks up the tab for the meals, I will have the wines on MY bill. Same for some events, where I will order specific wines for the table, though the hosting organization may well have included "house wines."

                                        At least a few nephews appreciate Uncle Bill's choices, so I can always claim that I made the selections for them!


                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Aloha Bill..
                                          The way you roll, it would be so much fun to be part of your family rolling out the exquisite wine and I'm sure your lovely wife, is Martha Stewart in the kitchen..
                                          Holiday's at the Hunt house must be a riot...right on brother!

                                          Reading all your posts, I'm shedding a tear, for all of us who love to cook and entertain.
                                          I will never ever understand those who eat to live vs. those who live to eat.

                                          1. re: Beach Chick


                                            Just attended a family dinner, and we were a bit late (flight from PHX), and all were waiting. I walked in, and the service captain handed me the wine list, saying, "no one would order, until you got here." OK, so I ordered, and things went very well. I am really a hedonist, and the wine is about me, plus the menu. That was another instance, where I picked up the wine tab, as I cut loose, and would never have done that, unless one of us had a "rich uncle" paying. To some, getting a buzz from a wine would have been enough. To me, it was about the ultimate pairing, based on the menu(s), and the wine list. Per two other, recent threads, wine is an integral part of nearly every meal, that I enjoy - what wine to serve with Captain Crunch????

                                            At my advanced age, each meal should be savored, and the best that I can come across. I try to have great fun, and hope that the majority can join me in that, though I know that some will never see the pleasure. That is just the way that it is.

                                            As for the "live to eat," that was coined (a least the first time that I encountered it) in New Orleans, where much of the family is still located. That said, there are some, who just do not get what my lovely, young wife, and I enjoy so much. I feel that it is there problem, and not mine. I tend to live for today, and try to enjoy every moment - food, wine, or other.

                                            OT Alert! We all need to do a Chow-down in Hawai`i, as there is some great food there. I was able to meet up with K'man, last trip, but we were on a very, very short-string. Gotta' make THAT happen.

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              We have removed a few replies concerning personal rendezvous. Please remember to contact each other off-board, thanks!

                                            2. re: Beach Chick

                                              And then there are all of us who live to eat, but just can't afford what we'd really like to have--including those wonderful wines instead of "house wines."

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                I've had some pretty darn good 'house wines'..
                                                Nothing like a fab bottle of wine..even better when it's under $10 bucks..

                                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                                  While traveling abroad, we find the 'house wine' is quite good and extremely reasonable.

                                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                                    I was referring upthread to a comment about "house wines." Both our "house" wines are under $8 and they do us fine.

                                                  2. re: escondido123

                                                    I understand, and feel very fortunate, that food and wines have not yet been cut from our budget. My lovely, young wife keeps telling me to "get ready!"



                                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  Can I just say, that is such a kind thing to do, picking up the wine tab. It totally removes the stickiness for the person who just had the salad to try to conserve funds, and suddenly got included on the $200 bottle of wine. And, I don't know about you personally, but most of the wine people I know are very motivated to have others try their pick, which makes splitting the bill difficult-okay, I had two sips of the wine you ordered, what do I owe? I think it's wonderful that you find yourself able to to that, and do.

                                                  1. re: ErnieD

                                                    Thanks for the kind words. However, there are two sides to the story. I love good and great wines, but understand a couple of things: not everyone does, and not everyone can afford them. That does not diminish the wines, but does put wine on the "back burner." I love wines, and am very fortunate to be able to afford them, so I go with them for me (yes, that is very self-centered), and then wish to share. If, in some small way, I can elevate the pleasure level for the guests, or the other diners, I am always ready to do so. For me, that becomes a "win-win," so things are not bad.

                                                    I learned a long while ago, that my tastes in wines were not the norm, even with most of my close friends, who are also winos. Rather than try to do math (I only had one glass of that Ch. Latour, so why should I pay for 1/4 of the price... ?), and decided that by always picking up that part of the tab, plus dividing the food portion, I got better wines, and got to treat my fellow diners. Same with hosting a table at an event. We have just spent an hour over "cocktails," drinking the Glass Mountain wines, but with dinner, I want more/better,and wish to share that choice with my guests. To me, one big aspect of wine is sharing with others.

                                                    As for being fortunate, I could not agree more. I am only glad to share, and as I receive also, we're back to the "win-win."

                                                    Some day, I might be the gentleman, beside your Interstate exit with a sign reading "Will work for 1er Cru Bordeaux. God bless." If so, please just hand over that Ch. Latour '70, and I promise that I will toast you, for your generosity, and compassion. In the meantime, the more that I can share very good to great wines with others, the better like it.


                                                3. For the specifics here, there are those who eat to live (the majority in my observations), and then there are those, who live to eat. Often, there is little common ground.

                                                  That is just life, as I have encountered it. It is not an incrimination on others, but an observation.

                                                  I often will do two meals - on with some family members, and then another for just us.


                                                  1. I look at it as a challenge. How can you create dishes that appeal to different tastes.

                                                    I have a different challenge of trying to adapt Midwestern American meat and potatoes type stuff that I sometimes like for people who don't like to stray out of their comfort zone of Asian and sometimes Italian and who are happy with Chinese buffets and Olive Garden. (In case you are wondering, they are Asian.)

                                                    One thing I do is cook things for the kids. They're not old and set in their ways. I can play around. But perhaps your family is not big enough to have that sort of focus.

                                                    Another thing I would do is just go with a very traditional preparation of ham and concentrate on what goes with it. Maybe ask if anyone would like to help. I wonder if they consider ham nearly as important to Christmas as turkey is to Thanksgiving. If it is, and their desire for ham was predictable, then don't screw that up.

                                                    1. I got told by my Mother I needed therepy because all I do is think about food. Yeah that was a fun convo (note sarcasm)

                                                      1. make things you like that are not too much trouble. you don't want to kill yourself or go out of the way trying to please other people when they couldn't care one way or another