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Oct 6, 2013 11:34 AM

Our cooking intimidates friends.

My husband and I have a new group of friends. We had the two couples over for dinner about a month ago and did our typical dinner party. Lots of smallish courses of what we consider good food, made by hand. The party was a huge success.

Since then, each of these couples has taken us out for dinner, a great treat. Each of them "confessed" that they weren't gourmet cooks like us so felt it would be best to take us out.

Is there some way we can convince these folks that we'd be fine with coming to their houses for whatever? We don't want to feel that every time we have them for dinner at our house they need to reciprocate with a meal out and we do love hosting dinner parties. Our menus are not extravagant so it's not like we're paying for filet mignon and lobster and folks do bring wine.

Any suggestions on how to continue the entertaining so our guests don't feel they owe us a restaurant meal?

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    1. re: sal_acid

      Make fewer course? Cook plainer food? Create dishes that aren't unusual?

    2. They may not want to cook dinner . They may not enjoy cooking like you do , and may be stressed if you force them to cook . While you find entertaining relaxing , they might find it nerve wracking and unpleasant . Let the friendship develop and see what happens . Perhaps you can suggest getting together for coffee and dessert or crackers and cheese ? Maybe if you express that it doesn't have to be a full meal it will relax them . Or perhaps they do not feel their home is company worthy ? Maybe there is another way to "repay the dinner" . Since they are new friends , see what happens naturally .

      1 Reply
      1. re: saltylady

        Both of their homes are much nicer and better kept than ours. I have been at both for community meetings. I know lots of people don't find entertaining relaxing and to be honest, my husband feels much more comfortable as host than guest. We've never been much for getting mini get togethers and I certainly wouldn't feel right telling someone we'd be happy with cheese and crackers. But letting things happen naturally, that I can do.

      2. I would just enjoy the dinners they take you on. Not everyone likes cooking! Sit back and enjoy, and maybe see where that goes from there.

        3 Replies
        1. re: carlee134

          Your answer is the one I am comfortable with. We are more than happy to take something to a pot luck, but at our house we don't ask people to bring food unless we know they too like to cook and want to bring something. Otherwise, wine, liquor, flowers, candy, sparking water are all fine. Guess I'll just sit back and enjoy those dinners out.

          1. re: escondido123

            sounds like a great idea to me. and once they get to know you better maybe they won't be so hesitant to invite you to their place for pizza hut delivery. (half kidding)

          2. Host a pot-luck dinner in which you are only supplying one or two dishes. Give your guests the option to choose what they want to bring, and decide which courses and what you will make accordingly. I think guests feel less pressure to reciprocate when they've contributed to the meal in the first place. Guests who don't or can't cook can pick up good
            prepared or oven-ready foods at supermarkets or Costco,
            so all they need to do is use their oven or microwave.

            1 Reply
            1. re: greygarious

              A kind of hybrid pot-luck. Like tell them you are making empanada's ( or whatever) and ask one couple to please bring a rice dish, one to please bring a bean dish...etc. serve margaritas (ask a guest to run the blender).

              A Relaxed and shared dinner will remove the idea that there is a skill level difference .....that matters!

            2. Invite them all back again and serve chili. Ask them to bring a dessert. That way they see that you appreciate their cooking and that you are not always "too fancy."

              7 Replies
              1. re: 512window

                I like this idea. Mix up the menu a bit with something really casual so they can see that you are comfortable with and like all types of foods, dinner parties, and get togethers. I don't think you should eliminate hosting the types of dinners you are accustomed to, as it seems like you greatly enjoy preparing such meals, but next time make something you think they might feel comfortable making so they can see you enjoy that as well. Hopefully they will follow the lead as they get to know you better.

                1. re: pollymerase

                  I now realize my original post was unclear. I don't care at all if they don't invite us to their homes and neither couple likes to cook and in fact one couple goes out basically every night. And my husband really prefers hosting because he has back problems and needs to stand up a lot -- which doesn't have to be explained if you're hosting.

                  I think I'll just have to see how this goes over the next few months and deal with it if it becomes to much tit for tat. Thanks all.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Nothing in your further clarification would seem to preclude more casual hosting or potlucks at your home. People who don't cook can still contribute purchased desserts or other courses. Considering your husband's back trouble, he's probably not very comfortable either in restaurants or friends' homes, yet you say you would both be amenable to going to their places to socialize. Let your friends know that it's easier for him to entertain on your own turf.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      as a host, i never do potlucks. if the op's guests are intimidated by her cooking, how will having to cook and deliver a dish ameliorate that? not to mention the fear of "only" bringing a costco pie because they were too afraid or cannot bake?

                      dumbing down the menu seems pointless. i despise meatloaf. why would i make it for guests? should i just serve hotpockets to the folks who nuke dinner every night?

                      a host should entertain as he or she sees fit. however, that also includes being gracious and making people feel at ease. when people i've hosted have me over, they fall all over themselves apologizing as to why their food isn't as good as mine and i am quick to remind them it's a joy to be invited and have somebody treat me!

                      if a restaurant meal doesn't feel like fair quid pro quo there is a gentle way to express that to new friends. THAT may clear the air on the part of the op. some of us enjoy having people over, some really like picking up the check. in the end it all works out.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Well both the couples make more money than we do so at least I don't have to worry about that. Guess I'll just sit back and enjoy it.

                    2. re: escondido123

                      I wouldn't stress so much over it - if that's the way they feel comfortable about reciprocating, let them do it their way. I recently had a dinner at a new friend's place and she isn't a keen cook and she made a simple chicken curry which she was VERY proud of and which was very tasty. It's the kind of dish that I could've whipped up out of my head for a regular weekday dinner but I loved it because someone else was cooking for me and had put such a lot of effort and time into following a recipe and coming up with a lovely dish. Now, I am yet to have her over for dinner but I too am considering taking her to a restaurant, but for completely different reasons to your friends'. I am a brilliant cook but live in a tiny flat which is a little shabby and I'm not that good at housekeeping, whereas her house is PRISTINE and she is a bit obsessed by cleanliness and tidiness. I know it's daft, but it's just one of those things.

                      1. re: Billy33

                        "but live in a tiny flat"
                        in the invite for dinner out just explain that part and leave off the shabby/untidy bit.

                        but if the relationship progresses, be prepared to roll up those sleeves and get scrubbing mister!