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Pleasing in laws with food

We often read(here in Chowhound too) or hear about people making food to impress in laws. Why do we get nervous about making food for in laws? Luckly, my mother in law only eats salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner so I don't really have to worry about impressing her with food but do you find yourself doing this?

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  1. My W.A.S.P. in laws say I am an amazing gourmet cook.
    Their past food experience has been limited to boiled, baked, mashed meat and root vegetables spiced with salt and pepper.
    They devoured my hummus appetizer the first time I cooked for them. "What's in this!!!!!"
    I am honored.

    1. It is not possible to make my MIL happy. The in law family considers garlic to be an "exotic" spice. I am Italian so you can imagine the problem.

      15 Replies
      1. re: baseballfan

        Not Italian, but can't imagine cooking without garlic. You have my sympathy.

        1. re: baseballfan

          Yeah not fun or easy. BF's dad is allergic (intolerant) to garlic so my SIL (Italian Amercan) had to put up signs all around her kitchen (stove, fridge, oven door, etc) to remind herself to leave out the garlic whenever cooking for him.

          1. re: viperlush

            Never knew a person can be allergic to garlic...is it really an allergy or just a dislike.

            1. re: Monica

              He calls it an allergy, but I think it's more of a severe intolerance. It's unfortunate because he truly likes to eat garlic, but his body isn't to happy when he does. It can be a hassle when dining out.

              1. re: viperlush

                Poor guy! That can't be easy for him! Especially since he likes garlic!

              2. re: Monica

                I knew a woman who was allergic to many members of the allium family, including onions and garlic. She couldn't be in the room with certain flowers, so yes, it's possible, but I think it must be pretty uncommon.

            2. re: baseballfan

              I don't know if thy consider it exotic but garlic is strictly verboten with my grandparent in laws. Basically for then, if it isn't a recipe they ready make then they don't want to eat it. They only make down home central PA Amish type faire. Inevitably anything I cook isn't as good because I can't make it just the same. I don't expect compliments. I just try to avoid complaints.

              1. re: melpy

                "I just try to avoid complaints." Yep, me, too. What I don't get is why people think it's okay to complain to someone about the meal they just made you. I was brought up never to do that because it's both rude and mean. Rudeness is bad for everyone's digestion.

                1. re: Isolda

                  My wonderful, long-suffering late father-in-law silently picked his way through Beef Stroganoff, Spaghetti, and whatever else I made when he and MIL came to visit. Finally, after a few years, Mom told me that Dad didn't like his food mixed together - just plain meat, vegetables (cooked to death) and starch. She, on the other hand, loved my cooking, and happily ate anything I made. So I made simple stuff when they came, and Dad grew to love my cooking, too.
                  Dad made it clear that he couldn't abide garlic, in any form or food. He'd even left the table when Mom made garlic bread once. Not until he had passed, did Mom tell me why she thought Dad hated garlic. He used to eat it, years ago, and apparently somewhere in his past, he had had a passionate and heartbreaking romance with an Italian woman who cooked with garlic. Too many memories, I guess!
                  The thing that cracked me up about Dad's insistence on plain unadorned food was that he had a sweet tooth a mile long, and he'd eat any pie, cake, Danish, coffee cake, cookie, ice cream.. anything sweet. Never occurred to him that all those things were made of lots of ingredients and flavors.

                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                    That sounds like the basis for a short story.

                2. re: melpy

                  I have started just making reservations but then we get complaints about the restaurant. Invariably, the food is sent back for a myriad of reasons none of which usually make any sense. It is always a sh*t show. My husband and I sit back and enjoy the show and then slip the poor waiter/waitress something extra to make up for the unpleasantness.

                  1. re: baseballfan

                    I am sure waiters/waitresses slip something else into her food too.

                      1. re: baseballfan

                        They probably don't like buffets. Why?...you cant send it back!

                  2. re: melpy

                    My father used to say "garlic is used to disguise carrion meat" and it was pointless to argue. He was raised by a Victorian woman who may have experienced this back in the day. This is the kind of logic picky eaters use to avoid trying anything new and only use at their convenience.

                3. I can only speak for myself, but I get nervous cooking for my MIL because she has, or claims to have, multiple food intolerances and allergies in all different categories of food, and these seem to change frequently. Pleasing her is a moving target. Not pleasing her is dangerous, because she also has mental health issues, so yeah, you could say I get nervous cooking for her. Fortunately, they no longer live near us!

                  1. I've tried once to only realize that they like their meat and potato with no green vegetables at all. If there is a vegetable, it's from a can and it's often yellow (even the 'green' beans). Lobster, crab, and shrimp are 'ew gross' and invites them to make pretend throwing up motions (not even joking on this one).

                    Perhaps it's a blessing as I don't have to do anything difficult when they come over. Swiss Chalet is considered a treat for them.

                    Now impressing me with their table manners... I wish that was the case. I recall MIL licking her fingers before dabbing it onto the shared family plate that had cookies with sprinkles. She was trying to get all the sprinkles that fell off the cookies.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Nevy


                      Did they wait to display their manners until AFTER you were married?

                      1. re: pinehurst

                        They lived 5 hours drive away and so we didn't see them very often. I didn't get to see this side of the family till we were engaged. Suffice to say, my mouth was agape.

                        1. re: Nevy

                          Oh you are a saint.

                          My inlaws' red-meat-and-potatoes-and-bread-and-nothin'-but is Xanadu, comparatively.

                          1. re: pinehurst

                            I always have a piece of dark chocolate close at hand when they're at my house. When they drive me bonkers, I start savouring a piece slowly. It helps keep me sane and educated on single bean notes. I thoroughly enjoyed a 70% Madagascar single bean bar last time they were here :)

                      2. re: Nevy

                        Oh god, I always see my mother in law licking her fingers when she is cooking something..grosses me out.
                        but she always asks, do you think that salad is clean when we are eating out. I always want to say, I don't f'king know but I don't.

                        1. re: Monica

                          Its crazy to think people lick their fingers on food of plates to be served. I would be horrified to see my MIL licking fingers while cooking.

                        2. re: Nevy

                          Lol I would have poured her a small dish (such as those used for condiments or sauces) of JUST sprinkles!

                          1. re: ohmyyum

                            Wow... I should have thought of this!! I'm making a mental note in case this happens again.

                        3. It's not so much impressing them, it's maintaining my reputation. The BF constantly tells his family that I am an excellent cook who cooks gourmet meals every night. And that I am an "expert" when it comes to food. Lofty praise for someone who doesn't enjoy cooking every night and is an "expert" only because she reads cooking magazines and Chowhound. My solution is to eat out at restaurants when they visit so I don't have to cook for them.

                          I have also come to accept that BF's father is not as adventurous when it comes to trying new restaurants. He likes to find a couple good restaurants and stick with them, while BF and I try to not repeat restaurants when we have guests. Thankfuly his must go to restaurants are some of our best.

                          1. The one and only time I cooked for my in-laws was an epic fail. It was Thanksgiving dinner. There were tears (MIL), meltdowns (BIL) and binge drinking (me, seemed like a good idea at the time). I thought they would enjoy a huge, homecooked spread. No so much. I ended up making them extremely uncomfortable (their issues, not mine).

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: cleobeach

                              So it wasn't your cooking that was the problem, it was their issues, right? You didn't make them uncomfortable. They made themselves uncomfortable.

                              1. re: Isolda

                                Absolutely their issue, not mine.

                              2. re: cleobeach

                                Omg, I'm sorry! At least you got your buzz on!

                              3. In my experience, my in laws... expect the honor of us "doing it their way". Meat is cooked to a very dry "well done", actually "well done" isn't even close to being cooked enough for them, whether a roast or a grilled steak or chop, served cold or at most room temperature, no seasoning of any kind at all, ever - that's why there is a salt shaker on the table, NEVER pepper! No sauces. Sauces are to cover up something, not enhance it, and they find sauces to be questionable of their ingredients and purpose. Sides are on separate dishes, plain boiled and not dressed, also served cold or room temperature. And the MIL is offended if we salt anything on our plates. And pepper, well, that's just heresy!
                                Even if we are grilling and some meats are taken off at "medium" or "medium well" for some of us, they are mortally offended that you would even think of eating something like that, ever, let alone in their company.
                                So cooking just for them has proven to be nothing more than an exercise in futility.

                                32 Replies
                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                  "Even if we are grilling and some meats are taken off at "medium" or "medium well" for some of us, they are mortally offended that you would even think of eating something like that, ever, let alone in their company. "

                                  And yet that is their issue, not yours. If you are cooking, cook it to the way you prefer. It seems that they are attempting to control you, and they are succeeding, because you acquiesce.

                                  Yes, I know it's a "choose your battle" situation, but if you are doing the cooking within your own household, cook the meat to the way *you* prefer. If you are willing to cook their meal sans sauce, and only salt, that's great. But why should they dictate how you eat your food within your own house? It's a complete lack of respect on their part.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    Thanks. We do. We pull meats at medium or even medium-rare. Hence the offence they take when we sit and eat a nice juicy steak.
                                    I was just commenting on their preferences, specifically when we cook for them. And I am a sauce lover. I usually prefer the sauce to whatever it is the "main" dish is. So I let them kvetch all they want.

                                  2. re: Gastronomos

                                    May I ask, what is there cultural/geographic background?

                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                      Would you believe me if I told you they are Greek immigrants?

                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                        I would believe you. My Greek friend (from Sparti) will only eat everything cooked to a fare-thee-well, lamb and beef included. And she eschews garlic and onions. But I love her.

                                        1. re: pinehurst

                                          It is Very much a regional thing in Greece and among Greeks, in Greece and abroad. ;-)

                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                            I have read your recent posts and I understand your situation. (The word fascinated comes to mind.)

                                            There is a fine dining restaurant not too far from our house that is owned by a Greek family and features many Greek dishes. They also have a variety of meat, seafood, and pasta dishes. All are excellent and while I have never eaten steak or lamb there (I always have seafoid) but my dining companions have ordered steak medium-rare and were pleased with the results. I guess the well-done Greek food is a regional thing and not necessarily universal.

                                            1. re: John E.

                                              The OP here is about pleasing in laws with food, posted on the "Not About Food board. But I will reply briefly.

                                              First, on the "General Topics" board there is this post:


                                              This reply sums it up nicely:


                                              And my reply to that reply:


                                              I'll add, the above isn't 100% perfectly accurate with regard to Greeks, but damn near close.

                                              I'll add that if mousaka has potato in it, then I am as Chinese as they come. If the 45 minute wait at Milos restaurant in NYC for the "plaki" is because they have to roast the whole potatoes from scratch, when potatoes DO NOT belong in "plaki", and I know of no fish that takes 45 minutes in the oven to cook, then I might as well dine on Wendy's Old Fashioned burgers for the rest of my life.
                                              Potatoes are a filler. Pay for what you get.
                                              BTW, do you know of any Greeks that came from Greece? If you do, ask them if they have EVER ordered a mousaka or pastichio in a Greek restaurant. Just curious as to their reply. :-)

                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                I don't know any Greek Greeks. What do you anticipate their answer would be to such a question?

                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  Twin Cities Greek? What is the name of the fine dining restaurant that features many Greek dishes? I'm curious :-)

                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                    It's called The Shorewood.


                                                    There are a few Greek restaurants in the area, although I have only eaten at The Shorewood and Christo's. Both are good.




                                                    I would not consider any of these Greek restaurants to be diners.

                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      John E. Thanks for the reply and the links. I am sure these fine restaurants rise far above the "diner" category and serve very good Greek style food that is enjoyed by many of their guests. (Not that some diners don’t serve good Greek food, of course).
                                                      I hope to someday have the fortune to visit these establishments and enjoy the cuisine offered by the chefs. It is one of my duties as a chowhound to do so. And my pleasure.


                                              2. re: John E.

                                                "I guess the well-done Greek food is a regional thing and not necessarily universal."

                                                I choose to believe it is. My experience shows that it is a regional thing.

                                          2. re: Gastronomos

                                            I surely believe you. Not even a family situation, but the local "upscale" Greek restaurant won't even give you a choice if you'd like your lamb medium. The snotty waiter tells you "We are GREEK - we only eat our meat well done!!!!" They refuse to cook your lamb how you want it.

                                            1. re: Terrie H.

                                              Please don't get me started. I have WAY too much to go on and on about those issues and this ain't the place for it. But I have to at least ask, what "local "upscale" Greek restaurant" and where? I just gotta know ;-)

                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                This is in Rockville, MD at Mykonos Grill.

                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                  I find this assessment fascinating, as I've spent many summers in Greece (in a variety of locations, mainland & islands), had a "real" Greek in the family for, oh, 18 years or so, and have eaten in many Greek restaurants outside of Greece.

                                                  Never have I had a problem getting paidakia cooked to a perfect med-rare.


                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                    My theory is that this is about New York Greek diner food and not necessarily about Greek food in general.

                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      That's not the gist I'm getting from the various posts which reference Greece, and "Greek" Greeks.

                                                    2. re: linguafood

                                                      linguafood, Terri H. writes above:
                                                      "I surely believe you. Not even a family situation, but the local "upscale" Greek restaurant won't even give you a choice if you'd like your lamb medium. The snotty waiter tells you "We are GREEK - we only eat our meat well done!!!!" They refuse to cook your lamb how you want it."
                                                      That is the post and the further explanation is that it seems to be isolated to “Rockville, MD at Mykonos Grill.”
                                                      If this is not what you personally have encountered, please share your experiences.
                                                      For the record, I haven't seen any issues with Greek places that serve paidakia to serve them at whatever temperature is ordered. Cutting the meat while still on the grill and getting a cut paidaki on a plate is a common occurance, maybe even a poorly cooked paidaki once every now and again, but a reasonable attempt is usually made by the grill master in places that I have visited.
                                                      Somehow this thread is taking a left turn into another subject. Perhaps someone could start another post in "Not About Food" to address disparages in our findings?

                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                        I thought I shared my experiences in my last post:

                                                        "I've spent many summers in Greece (in a variety of locations, mainland & islands), had a "real" Greek in the family for, oh, 18 years or so, and have eaten in many Greek restaurants outside of Greece."

                                                        Nobody at any of these places (or in our home) insisted on meat being cooked well-done. Sure, arni fournou, or other slow-roasted or braised lamb dishes will not be medium-rare, nor are they supposed to be.

                                                        But even pork souvlakia are most often med-well done.

                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                          Thanks linguafood. Leg of lamb, not shoulder, but leg of lamb is enjoyed medium rare to medium well in our Greek home. Supposed to be or not, medium rare to medium well is what it usually is. Braised dishes are another animal altogether. And as for pork souvlaki, med-well is, well, much more undercooked than what is typically found in souvlaki joints in Greece and abroad.
                                                          I'm happy you enjoy good Greek food. A delight, I'm sure!


                                                      2. re: linguafood

                                                        linguafood, my reply to the above post asking "May I ask, what is there cultural/geographic background?" http://youtu.be/PmdqFe2URnU
                                                        (probably due to my description of their persnickety ways) prompted my simple answer "Would you believe me if I told you they are Greek immigrants?" http://youtu.be/PmdqFe2URnU
                                                        as in "Greeks are usually known for their good food" "would you believe me if I told you that these picky eaters are Greek?" - a shocker. Not a typical Greek thing to be so picky as my in laws (the point of this original discussion).
                                                        It seems like the inquiries of others and my simple replies, has caused some confusion. I am sorry for that. I assure you that Greek cuisine in all its glory is celebrated in my household daily. And the Greek foods of Greeks of the Diaspora and of those that have assimilated abroad is no less Greek, to me, at least.


                                                    3. re: Terrie H.

                                                      There was an old saying (which forgive me for repeating myself, but I have noted on other threads before), that "Lamb must be cooked until the smoke reached up to God." I'm pretty sure that there a couple generations out there who swear they hate lamb because their exposure was to painfully overcooked mutton.

                                                      1. re: MGZ

                                                        Yes. True. Outside of the USA today and maybe northern france, lamb has been and is still cooked to "well done".
                                                        I am too lazy to find the article printed a few years ago about someone taking some famous Chinese Chefs to Thomas Kellers The French Laundry in California and when the rare lamb came out they made some comments about that it's not cooked and that's very unhealthy.
                                                        I have to say that in my experience a well cooked lamb chop, even "well done" can be juicy and tasty.

                                                        As for the greek restaurants in the US, someone has to tell these grill masters not to cut into meat while its on the grill to tell if its "well done" or not. Cutting it kills the meat and renders it worthless.

                                                        The fact that beef is the American dream for most immigrants makes any meat, pork included today, fair game for undercooking. But that's not ubiquitous. Even Christpher Kimball mocks Vermonters for their severely overcooked meats. That's an entire state.

                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                          I remember that interesting article.

                                                          I often do grilled lamb shish kebab and I like them nicely charred with good crust outside and slightly pink and juicy inside. For steak, it's always medium rare though I love well done Korean style kalbi with crispy crust and all.

                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                            I'll have to do a search for the article. It had some unintentioned pearls of wisdom hidden in it.
                                                            The beauty is that we can all enjoy our food prepared how we like it, despite pleasing in laws and other such drivel

                                                          2. re: Gastronomos

                                                            My southern grandmother told me once that my beautiful, slender, steamed green beans would make me sick.

                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                              Did you ever ask her why she thought they would make you sick?

                                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                I didn't engage. They, of course, stewed their fat green beans to grey mush, being good southerners! Never liked those, but many people do.

                                                    4. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                      i was going to ask if they were english.

                                                  2. "[D]o you find yourself doing this?"

                                                    Never. I'm a better cook, know more about food, and, to say the least, am not timid. Just cook what you wanna cook and f*ck 'em if they don't like it. The psychological issues that the disapproval is masking are real. And, by the way, how can anyone please a woman who only eats salads three meals a day?

                                                    1. It's your in-laws' job to impress YOU!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: beevod

                                                        "Meat is cooked to a very dry "well done", actually "well done" isn't even close to being cooked enough for them, whether a roast or a grilled steak or chop, served cold or at most room temperature, no seasoning of any kind at all, ever - that's why there is a salt shaker on the table, NEVER pepper!"

                                                        Damn! I think that It'd take about two tequilas before I couldn't help it and tore a family like that up. I have a cousin, who I've known for all but two of my years on this planet, who liked well done meat. Since for the last thirtysome years, grillin' has been my job at family functions, I have ackowleged her tastes. I have also always given her the sh*ttiest cut of meats.

                                                        Oh, and when my Father-in-Law complained that a pork roast I made was underdone, I handed him the phone and a takeout menu. "Order whatever you want, man, go hungry, whatever, I'll even pay for it. Frankly, I don't care, but at least have the decency to leave the table." He ate his pork. Needless to say, I'm still the Alpha.

                                                      2. I suppose I should consider myself lucky in that no matter what I would serve to my in-laws, they would rave about how good it was. My MIL is a very nervous and insecure person and to her, the thought of hosting 16 people for a holiday dinner is beyond comprehension. So whether it's a casual dinner at my house or a big holiday affair, they are always impressed with my cooking and entertaining.

                                                        That being said, I do like to impress them, mostly because as someone else said, I have to reputation to maintain!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: valerie

                                                          It sounds like the respect you and love you for the care you show them.

                                                        2. I leave the in law stuff to my husband. I cover my side. Together, we're 35 people at a holiday dinner. There's no room for the faint of heart in this crowd and they'll eat anything not nailed down.

                                                          Any individuals with particular tastes are encouraged to bring their own food, I'm never insulted.

                                                          When you're married a while you learn that the word partnership covers a good deal of mutual ground.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            I will add that the bbq grill can be a lifesaver. When the kids in our family were young, we'd turn on the grill for burgers/dogs rather than fuss. Once they knew what they were missing we didn't. Sometimes my FIL wanted a burger when I was serving fish, turned on the grill.

                                                            I just made it work, winter thru summer-on goes the grill!

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Ha! Glad you got away with the burger/dog thing for the kids, but that would have really pissed me off as a kid, and it would have pissed off my son, as well...!!!

                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                Confused. Maybe you misunderstood me. I was the one who wasn't insulted that the kids preferred a grilled meal over a fish dinner I had prepared.

                                                                Funny response there sandylc.

                                                                I'm hosting, I'm serving fish and the kids didn't want fish, they wanted a grilled meal...so, I didn't force fish down their pretty little tummies, I didn't say tuff no food for you but I did turn on the grill and make them a meal.

                                                          2. I don't see the in-laws often and I have two sets (husband's parents are divorced and remarried). I do feel nervous cooking for them, mainly because I know they eat very differently than we do (fewer vegetables, a lot more meat, blander sauces) and when I cook for others, I like to make foods they will like that I also feel proud about having made. I can have a hard time identifying a good middle ground where I feel that I can prepare the food in a way they will enjoy, but without completely compromising my own tastes and maybe even introducing them to something new that's not pushing on the boundaries of their comfort zone too forcefully.
                                                            Ultimately, it's like anything else, when I'm entertaining, I want to please and hopefully impress my guests. And when you know you can't fade out the friendship, the pressure to keep the experience positive for everyone increases (nothing like knowing that you'll still be hearing about that time you burned the pork chops 10 years from now...).

                                                            1. As long as there is white wine and ice cream, my MIL is fine. She has food issues that go beyond me and rarely eats much of my cooking. She is famous for sneaking a bowl of ice cream before dinner, then being too full to eat. Whatever.

                                                              I just make what I feel like making.

                                                              1. My MIL dislikes me and makes no secret about it. But I only have to see her twice a year. When it's at my place, I do try very much to impress and would get very nervous about what I'm cooking, how I'm plating it, etc. Especially, how much it appears I've spent on the meal. They're very cheap, and expect us to act the same (I've actually hidden a new car from them in a neighboring parking garage).
                                                                But with age comes wisdom, and little by little, I'm coming to realize that I could be hiding friggn' Thomas Keller in my kitchen doing the work and she would still find something to pick on.
                                                                So I just do my best and enjoy my plate of food and the fact that I do not have a black hole in my heart.

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: alliegator

                                                                  Exactly. All these food issues with in-laws are not really about food. They are about control, or the loss of control over their son or daughter. Not all in-laws are like this, but when they are, there is nothing you can do to please them. And at some point, the spouse (son or daughter of the in-laws) needs to lay down the law with the parents and demand respect for him/herself and spouse. Seriously, the stories we hear... you know these people wouldn't act that way at a friend's house, but at their child's house, and especially towards their child's spouse, the exhibit the most atrocious manners. At some point, you just have to call them on it.

                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                    So true, it's not ever about the food. And it's not worth heartburn either. Bending over backwards for the under appreciating is a fine art.

                                                                    But, I also have seen that by staying a tad flexible about a dish my MIL makes proudly welcomed at a dinner party I'm hosting made her feel and behave less threatened...even if I didn't eat it.

                                                                    And, grilling has saved me countless times. My FIL loves grilled food & feeling special all. the. time. Turning on the grill just for him-well, it's remarkable how that act tones down his crummy side..because making him a burger...just for him...he believes entitled to tames the beast....lol....i'm going to make a burger for him for however long as he's still around.

                                                                    At the end of the day I care about my husband.

                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                      Exactly. The issue here is that I took their baby and I took him early, too! I also think there's a little competition in mom's mind, because I'm a better "homemaker" than her. My house is tidy, and I'll say it here amongst you 'hounds, I'm hands down a better cook.
                                                                      As for what I cook I try to keep it simple with a nice, hearty stew or a simple chicken (or fish), potato, and veggie dish. They always visit in January, so now that I've moved to Arizona, I'll be able to take HillJ's awesome advice and do some grilling. That pleases everyone!

                                                                      1. re: alliegator

                                                                        allie, I'm willing to admit that the grilling also pleases me. I'm no milktoast gal but I like to enjoy my own parties!

                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                          Oh, exactly! The fresh air has a way of making things a lot more pleasant. And maybe I'll dig out my ancient "kiss the cook" apron that my husband altered in Sharpie to say "kiss the cook's ass or she'll spit in your food" next time the in-law RV creeps south.

                                                                          1. re: alliegator

                                                                            You go girl. Grab a beer, take in the view...relax and grill til your hearts content.

                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                              I will do just that. And there's a lot of wisdom in your "at the end of the day I care about my husband". I feel the same, and I will not force him to give them a hard time about anything. Most other people like me, so in-laws are losing out. Not only on my fabulous company, but my outstanding (cough, cough) international dishes which are a bit much for their very select palates. But everyone loved a burger!

                                                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                                                Once I had my own lightbulb moment, it was like the problems just disappeared, allie. Made a lasting impression on my 4 adult children too. Meals "should be" dot dot dot but aren't always the way we want/hope/plan...what we can DO is all that really matters. So thanks for being so encouraging. It never hurts to have a reminder of my own.

                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                  And thank you for your encouragement! My lightbulb moment has long passed. But I got great advice from my grandfather last year while I was bunking in with him for a bit.
                                                                                  He told me "Y'know what, Al? I'm 91 and I've done a lot of trying to make others happy. But at the end of the day, It's you. Be polite, be cordial, and do whatever the fug you want within those parameters."
                                                                                  So maybe I'll sneak a little fish sauce into those burgers, too! Maybe I'll grill up some satay? Mwuhaha!

                                                                    2. re: alliegator

                                                                      The problem is those parents have f*cked up their kids so much that it's unlikely most of them will deal with the situation properly without a couple years of help.

                                                                      As to your final thought, be glad you had better parents who shaped you as an adult.

                                                                    3. I don't worry about impressing my MIL because she is impossible to please. She is the most awful cook, knows nothing about seasoning, and her idea of a wonderful treat is raw almonds soaked in water overnight. She has done every kind of "natural" fad diet you can name over the years. She likes to draw attention to herself by being different, so I just let her be. I don't even try to please her because if I pleased her, the rest of the diners would be miserable. I also have gotten over trying to eat her food just to be polite. It is just weird, crazy stuff. If she wants to eat that way, rock on. I am not going to. Needless to say, we avoid going to her place for meals. Now she lives an ocean away, so it's much easier!

                                                                      I don't see my FIL often but when I do, he is happy to eat whatever I make and always tells Mr. jlhinwa how lucky he is. He prefers meat and potatoes, but is also an adventurous eater in that he will try anything without prejudice.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                        Your FIL sounds like a very cool guy!

                                                                        1. re: pinehurst

                                                                          He is...I've only known him for a few years as my husband's parents divorced when he was really young, and his dad disappeared out of his life (not so cool, but considering the ex-wife issues, I can sympathize a bit). Mr. jlhinwa and he connected on FB and then we had a family reunion and met his half-siblings as well. Maybe he's treading carefully since he was MIA for about 40 years or maybe he's just a great guy, but I'll take it either way. :-)

                                                                        2. re: jlhinwa

                                                                          I would go crazy with a MIL who is crazy with fad diets. Then again, it might be amusing to see one try the 15 banana a day one from Asia

                                                                        3. My FIL is a picky eater and I don't care. Either he eats or he doesn't, it's up to him. My MIL will eat just about anything, but only small portions, and she'll complain that if she eats more than just a tiny tiny bit, she'll gain weight. Again, her problem.

                                                                          1. My MIL thinks I am a great cook! I have almost perfected her mother's recipe for a poor man's veal parm. (No veal) I love to cook and am happy she enjoys my food.
                                                                            However, I would much rather cook for her than take her out. We made the mistake of taking her to our favorite restuarant. The way she treats people is embarrassing!!! We are rather attached to our favorite servers. I will never make that mistake again. She was an absolute b*tch. Never again.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Jonishkc

                                                                              Care to share that "poor man's veal parm" recipe? :-)

                                                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                I make my "poor man's veal parm" (no veal) with 1-1/2" thick chunks of pork tenderloin pounded very thin between a couple pieces of Saran Wrap. Much cheaper, just as tender, and (imho) better flavor. I've been using this substitution for years in any recipe that calls for scallopini veal.

                                                                                1. re: grampart

                                                                                  Oh. Thanks. Pork instead of veal. Just like almost all Italian restaurants do. And I think I recall Lidia trying to hint at that on one of her segments.........

                                                                            2. Oh, you know. Because I love them and really do want them to like me. Because far too much of my self-worth is bound up in how much people like my cooking. Because I want them to see that I am worthy of their son's hand in marriage. Because they won't eat garlic, rice, noodles, hot spices, goat cheese, shellfish, 'foreign muck' or anything 'weird'. Because they aren't very fond of restaurant food and already think I am the mad American wife who likes to spend money (I'm not...really...I'm not!). Oi. On the positive side, I absolutely rocked their world with sole mauniere, roasted brussel sprouts and home-fried potatoes. They're really nice people (and exemplary grandparents) but awfully hard to feed on long visits.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: tonifi

                                                                                Yep - " Because far too much of my self-worth is bound up in how much people like my cooking". I used to be an incredibly picky eater (it was a control issue related to my parents' divorce and subsequent shuttling all over the country to visit dad and stepmom) but since I've grown up and live in NY, I've become a much more adventurous eater and cook than anyone in my immediate family. Partly it's because if I screw something up, there are 25 delivery options (lol!). I don't have much of a different approach to cooking for my in-laws than anyone else but I see them a lot less and it's always at their house so I try to contribute by cooking occasionally and want it to be spectacular.

                                                                              2. My conclusion is, I think my father in law who passed away 5 years ago was a true TRUE saint! I miss him dearly.

                                                                                1. haha, i didn't know so many people(or maybe only the inlaws) hated garlic. I can't think of cooking without garlic.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                                      Agreed. I had a girl that worked for me that was allergic to onions and garlic. I have life threatening allergies to multiple foods, and I can't imagine not being able to have either.

                                                                                      I'd easily choose my allergies over garlic and onion. (And I have to avoid some biggies - soy, eggs, apples, etc.)

                                                                                    2. re: Monica

                                                                                      My Aunt loves it but can't eat it because it gives her cramps. I think the same is true for my future grandfather in law but there are also some racial biases there with me being Italian American and their family being German/Irish. I do put the tiniest sprinkle of garlic powder on the skin of my Thanksgiving turkey. First year I did it without telling and they mentioned that they thought there was garlic. This year I did half the bird and put the meat on two separate plates. I don't want to "hurt" anyone since it isn't an allergy or really even an intolerance. But I also want my turkey to be a certain way on Thanksgiving.

                                                                                    3. These relationships require work on everyone's part....a little give and take from both sides.
                                                                                      My MIL understood this and was very wise...she made me wiser for my son.
                                                                                      They loved my cooking (or pretended to anyway). I made things they liked never really caring that I was, perhaps, trying to please them. They were no different than anyone else that I cook for.
                                                                                      I miss them now that they're gone.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                                        I wish I missed my in laws, but they just won't go away.

                                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                                          Puahaha..true. My mother in law's dream is to sleep over at my house for days and days and I be her little maid.
                                                                                          There was a conflict when she wanted to sleep over for 2 nights during Passover even though she lived about an hour away. 2 nights doesn't sound like a lot but with her, 2 nights seem like 2 years. She is so bad, even her daughter doesn't visit her whenever she visits NYC for work.

                                                                                          1. re: ricepad

                                                                                            My MIL with the freaky food fad issues now lives in Hawaii. It is so much easier to love her when there is some distance between us. :-). All her healthy weird eating will probably keep her alive til she's 100. Oyyyy.

                                                                                        2. First off, I exist with my in-laws rather well. They are well-educated and polite people with whom I can have a perfectly well-modulated and civilized and often interesting social time. Can they crawl under my skin at times? Hoo-boy, yes - like you couldn’t believe, but for the most part, we’re okay.

                                                                                          And they love my cooking. There are, of course, times I wish they didn’t: when they get together with other family members, they take them out to dine; when they get together with us, I cook. Pissy-Cay sometimes rears her ugly head and makes a few little grumpy silent comments inside the cranial cavity, but for the most part, I’ve begun to think of it as a compliment (I’ve been working on this better attitude for awhile and feel more peaceful about the whole thing, so I’m sticking with it).

                                                                                          My problem? Did you see that I mentioned that my in-laws are *polite*? Well, that whole don’t-worry-about-us-anything-is-fine politeness comes back to being a problem at times. Among my small family of in-laws, I have a passel of dietary constraints to consider: 3x diabetes, 2x chemo diets, 1x IBS, 1x renal diet. That’s without personal likes and dislikes. The problem - and here comes that *politeness* issue - is that when I ask about what sorts of foods would be Go vs. No-Go on the restrictions list, I hear the crickets chirping. I get that their varying medical conditions might make them tired of talking about various food issues, but it’s tough flying blind into a cooking landscape. Every time I make a meal for the group, I need to dive back in to all the research I have done over the years to make something for dinner that would not cause someone distress. They are not demanding, far from it - but in the absence of front-end information I have to deal with off-hand, post-dessert comments to the tune of “Well, we really loved Cay’s DishX, but it was completely wrong for our special diets and we’d have rather had (insert some Dish Y here)” or “Delicious, but we suffered for it because it contained (whatever).” My FIL is particularly prone to such (and more) awkward social statements, but over the years I’ve come to realize it’s Him and not Me. But it’s still a little disheartening, as I’d like to put food on the table that is satisfying, delicious, nutritious, and NOT likely to cause my tablemates more health problems than they already suffer. And the time to tell me what one can and cannot eat is prior to the dinner (when I ask) versus as the last crumbs are wiped up and I am just then informed I made a bone-headed choice somewhere. Some folks like to suffer on the back-end of things, I guess, versus being clear up-front. There’s my problem with excessive *politeness* on the part of my in-laws.

                                                                                          Honestly, I do like my ILs; I’m much more terrified in cooking for my own father, whose only acceptable seasonings (at all) are salt and pepper. And my father is in no way-shape-or-form polite. About anything.

                                                                                          Thanks for letting me rant. In-law season is coming up and I needed to clear my head on this one. I don’t think there’s actually a fix for this one, but just the path through.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                            Cayj, what a thoughtful post. I admire the point you're at with IL's.

                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                              It's been a long time in the making HillJ, I'll admit. I spit nails (serious, beautiful, well-reasoned nails) for a number of years over food-things with my ILs not detailed in the post, but current and ongoing circumstances dictate a new outlook. And since we're solidly in the care-taking-of-elders years, we're trying to iron out this latest non-disclosure (of STUFF) wrinkle.

                                                                                              We're all, at least, poetry fans, and all know John Berryman, so our mantra seems to be" "We dream of honor, and we get along." As good a mantra as I can think of when dining with family.

                                                                                          2. I aim to please everybody with food, so my inlaws are no different than my friends, family, etcetera.

                                                                                            1. Reading the comments on this thread makes me feel lucky. My in-laws are quite different from my own parents. My mom was a great cook. My MIL cooked just to put food on the table and get it over with. I like to cook, my wife likes it that I can cook. If there's a problem, it's that my in-laws like me and my food a little too much.

                                                                                              1. First, admit it - the in-laws will NOT be impressed. They hate half of the family, and show it, with venom. Get over it. It is a fact of life, with few exceptions.

                                                                                                Take them to some place that YOU enjoy, and the heck with them. They will never be impressed, or will never show it.


                                                                                                1. I was blessed with wonderful in laws, both of whom have since passed away. For the 1st ten years of our marriage, my husband did virtually all of the cooking, so when I started cooking some company meals they were a bit surprised, but unfailingly gracious.

                                                                                                  My MIL could not tolerate spicy food but FIL loved heat. We tried to accommodate those preferences -- e.g., we'd make 2 batches of chili, one spicy and a smaller batch known as "Gandma's chili."

                                                                                                  Over the years my MIL taught me most of her regular holiday recipes as we took over hosting holiday dinners from them. One of my fondest memories are of the countdowns to Christmas dinner, when my MIL would be in our kitchen making Yorkshire pudding, I'd be making bearnaise sauce, FIL would be carving the roast, husband would be making gravy and green vegetables, and our son would be assisting by stirring the gravy.

                                                                                                  They always showed appreciation for our cooking, not to mention far more important things, like being wonderfully supportive parents and grandparents.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                                                    That is a beautiful picture - thank you. I'm sure there will be a lot of envy here.

                                                                                                    1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                                                      Thanks. In-law relationships are tricky. This did not all fall into place immediately. From day one we all wanted to get along, and beyond that there was just a lot of common sense and understanding family dynamics that got us to the point where we all cherished each other. We never viewed dinner invitations to our inlaws or anyone else, as a missionary experience to convert them to unfamiliar cuisine -- except that we drew the line at over-cooking green vegetables. That my husband, rather than I, was the main cook in the early years certainly eliminated some of the standard MIL-DIL issues.

                                                                                                  2. Many a time I would get from my FIL...."it was good, but don't make it again!"...MIL's ass just got fatter and fatter as the years went by. I guess she liked what was served.

                                                                                                    1. My MIL is the pickiest eater in the world. She cannot handle strong herbs, garlic, raw fish, "weird meats" such as offal (even something gateway like beef tongue!) and game meat, and "slimy vegetables" that include okra, molokheya, and mountain yam.
                                                                                                      My FIL can be adventurous but does not like to eat anything not Japanese, Korean or Chinese. So he'll eat skate wings and monkfish liver but he won't touch a bowl of pho.

                                                                                                      At first I found it really nerve wracking to cook for them... But seven years really blunts your nerves! Nowadays when they come over for dinner I just make a chicken dish, roast some veggies and have some white rice ready. Or just take them out for some yakitori...

                                                                                                      1. A few months after DS was born, my parents and my ILs came to visit for his baby-naming. I made family dinner one night of the weekend: brisket, triple-corn spoon bread, and steamed green beans. (I picked the menu because it is very low-maintenance: set it up and let it cook.) I think I intimidated MIL and FIL, because since then, we have gone out to eat for every.single.meal when we visit them. Neither of them are big on cooking - FIL is the family cook; MIL is uniquely untalented in the kitchen - but they seem uncomfortable even doing something as simple as burgers on the grill. It makes me sad. On our last visit there, I asked DH if we could cook one night but he said they wouldn't go for that...

                                                                                                        So I guess the "in-laws" nervousness issue applies to DIL/SIL too, not just parents!!

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: truman

                                                                                                          Can you tell me what triple-corn spoon bread is and how you make it? Sounds interesting.

                                                                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                                                                            Happy to share - it's originally a Cooking Light recipe (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/tripl...) but I use low-fat sour cream and regular canned corn and creamed corn (rather than fat-free and no-salt). If I double the recipe for a crowd, it fits in a 9x13 pan but requires a little extra baking time.

                                                                                                        2. My in-laws are great people, and both easy and difficult to please. They went vegetarian without telling anyone, so on a visit when my mother had them for dinner, she served a chicken dish. FIL loved to cheat and ate everything, MIL ate all the sides, complimented everything, and was generally lovely. I just never know what to expect from visit to visit.

                                                                                                          SIL eats salads for 14 out of 21 meals per week. I think she might have a bran muffin for breakfast. While we are great friends, I do not understand her at all. She keeps threatening to go vegan, (which is usually said with a mouthful of cheese). There is no butter in her house. No bacon. No peanut M&M's. I'm like WTF?

                                                                                                          BIL is the worst food snob I've ever met and truly doesn't understand why anyone would ever want to go to a restaurant. He can make it better, healthier, fresher, cheaper, etc. Boring!

                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                            "He can make it better, healthier, fresher, cheaper, etc."

                                                                                                            I know many people like this. And... I agree with them. Wholeheartedly. Home cooking is far better than any restaurant fodder.
                                                                                                            BUT, in todays world we all have to eat out once in a while, no? And I try to avoid most restaurants for this exact reason and focus solely on Chowhound worthy destinations.

                                                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                              Fair enough, but it oughtn't come with the attitude of "Why would you want to go out and pay for crap when I have good food here at home?", as it often does. (Answers: I don't care for your cooking. I don't want to eat only vegetables for dinner again. I don't feel like doing the dishes for 11 people tonight. I'm in the mood for a burger/pizza/hotdog/steak and you only have leafy greens.) It's all about the attitude.

                                                                                                              As for Chowhound worthy destinations, that's painting with an awfully broad brush, considering the wide range of discussions you'll find on this board - from Michelin stars to Taco Bell. I wish my budget and schedule would allow for elegant home-cooking most nights and the occasional 4-star dinner out, but I'm sadly middle-class and often working 60+ hours a week.

                                                                                                              1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                I feel your pain......except for the working part.

                                                                                                              2. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                My best friend also is loathe to eat out. I don't really enjoy her cooking but she used to be so picky and hates ordering something that she doesn't like because she considers it a waste of money. We can usually convince them to go for sushi because her husband loves it and she can eat donburi. They have recently gone vegetarian at home so I try to be cognizant of that a well but they will usually eat meat out.

                                                                                                                1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                  But...but...but...donburi ain't sushi!

                                                                                                                  (Yeah, yeah...I know a lot of people think 'sushi equals Japanese', but just because they think it doesn't make it so.)

                                                                                                              3. I don't know about you guys but when I think of my grandmother, I think of her food, food so simple yet so good and so much of it too! It always leaves me a smile just thinking about her food. She is almost 95 and still loves to cook for us whenever we visit.
                                                                                                                My mother in law, on the other hand, has stopped cooking ever since she moved to her apt saying she doesn't like her new kitchen so whenever we visit(me, my husband and 2 little ones), we have to take her out to lunch(and she'd never pay for anything, even a bottle of water, even though she is much much richer than us). I feel abit sad for my little ones that they will not have the same fond memories of their grandmother. We can't even eat inside her apt cuz she says something every time my 5 yr old drops a piece of crumb on the floor while she is known for making masses when she is visiting her children. So we'd go to a local restaurant and she orders her usual, a salad with some kind of lean protein with no dressing. Then she always asks me, do you think their salad is clean? urhgggg...
                                                                                                                When I am having dessert, she would ask for a spoon and eat a bit of cream or crumbs around the rim of my plate which is super disgusting. I'd ask her if she wants her own and she'd always say, no, it's too fattening. and this lady is like 95 lbs with no meat on her body whatsoever to the point the doctor is worrying about her weight.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Monica

                                                                                                                  Oh, Monica, I know the type. You have my sympathies.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Monica

                                                                                                                    You are so lucky to have your grandmother still. Mine was an excellent cook and cooked happily for one and all until she passed away at 89. We were very close and I miss her to this day.

                                                                                                                    Luckily, she had handwritten out many of her recipes for me and had also shown me how she did many things. Now the challenge is making the food taste like she did. It's the weirdest thing because I do it exactly as she did it, same ingredients down to the brand but although the food is delicious it is missing something. I guess it just tasted better cause she made it.

                                                                                                                  2. Going out to eat with the in-laws usually puts a chowhound squarely in hell: