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Catering to relatives who don't want "exotic" food

Hello, there. My in-laws occasionally invite us to meet them for dinner at either a diner or Red Lobster, as that is the kind of food they like (it isn't our first choice). But every time I invite them to meet us at a restaurant, their first response is always, "Okay, but nothing too exotic." It doesn't even matter if the first suggestion out of my mouth is something I know they like, such as Chinese food. They always have to add, "Good. As long as it's not too exotic."

A few years ago they reluctantly came along with us to an Indian restaurant after my son's game, as he was hungry and it was close by. They grumbled and complained the entire time about the smell of the food, even though we got them plain chicken and rice. We never tried Indian again with them. Then last year, for our anniversary, they joined a big group of us at a Persian restaurant that had plenty of simple dishes such as chicken and rice and bread. But at that meal, Great-Grandma, who is always with us on these occasions, was flummoxed by the concept of kebabs and could not get past the fact that her chicken was on a skewer. That ruined the meal for all. At the end of the night, my mother-in-law said, "Next time we'll go with Chinese, okay?"

So...next weekend is my son's birthday and I have invited both sets of grandparents to join us at a local restaurant of my son's choosing. The first thing my in-laws said was, you guessed it, "Nothing too exotic, please." If my son has his heart set on something "exotic," like Thai, do I have to kowtow to my in-laws? I don't ask them to change their plans when they invite us to places that we don't like.

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  1. i'd side-step the drama and make a second party just for them in a restaurant that they can accept.
    at this point, they are not going to change, and i don't see any percentage in trying to get them to accept change.

    imho, this is not a matter of "rational" debate;
    this is a matter of either catering to family members because of OTHER, more global, family issues, or opening up the probability of an unpleasant incident

    1. This is about being a good host and a good relative. It isn't about exercising one's "right" to eat anywhere you like.

      If you involve the Red Lobster in-laws you should accept their limitations and dine accordingly.

      Surely you can find an acceptable compromise and do it joyously.

      You can Indian any other time you like.

      1. Look I have new friends who were going to stay with us for a few weeks and I when questioned them on preferences, they asked for "nothing fancy". I figured a pot of meat sauce and ravioli. How was I to know?

        Live and learn, we are still friends, and she jokingly sends me gift certs to Applebees and other chains for special occasions. I live for food but not everyone does.

        2 Replies
        1. re: coll

          coll: was the meat sauce and ravioli too "fancy" or exotic for your guests?

          I guess I'm having trouble grasping that and asking for clarification. Do they really like Applebees or don't I get the joke?

          1. re: debkurt

            Not at all, they like "hot dishes" or what I call tuna noodle casserole etc, or a plain roast with potatoes. I should have researched: Apparently there's not much Italian food in North Dakota. Where here in NY it's the default meal for guests.

            They were amazed we had so many choices for dining out too, I guess it overwhelmed them so they wanted to stick with what they knew. Someday when I go to visit them, I am sure I will be exactly the same, only in reverse! I think it has been a great lesson for me.

        2. Stop trying to force them to eat food they don't want...

          They apparently like seafood and American. Invite them to places like that. Your partner presumably grew up with them- s/he can't come up with some place they'd like?

          If you don't want to go to Red Lobster, say so, but don't invite them out for Indian as some sort of tit for tat thing.

          That said, your son should get to choose where to go for his birthday. Could they join you for cake?

          19 Replies
          1. re: Hobbert

            Might be an opportunity for the son to learn about real respect for others. Even on his BD it isn't all about him.

            1. re: sal_acid

              I don't think respect enters into it. If that's what he wants for his birthday treat, cool. It's not as though birthday must celebrated within a 3 hour window of time out of the entire year. The in laws could wish him a happy birthday earlier of later than the actual day.

              1. re: Hobbert

                I think it is a matter of respect. These are his grandparents,not some shmoes who live down the street. They deserve consideration.

                Its birthday dinner for your grandson. Wouldn't you feel slighted/sad if left out...or relegated to dessert only...or invited to a place that everybody knows you hate?

                1. re: sal_acid

                  I don't know if I would call it "respect" but a boy old enough to be selecting the restaurant for his birthday should be old enough to understand concepts of consideration for his grandparents. By the time our son was 5, he had a much more evolved palate than his grandmother, who would never have tried sushi, Indian or Thai food, all of which he relished. But this was the same grandmother with whom he did jigsaw puzzles and played cards, who made him her special macaroni & cheese when re visited for dinner, and whom he adored. It would never have crossed his mind that we would go out to eat with her to a restaurant where she would hate the food. And, if it had, we would have gently suggested some other locale for dinner with her, with the suggestion that we go to the restaurant of his choice some other time.

                  1. re: masha

                    I don't think it is disrespectful to choose a place that is special to you for your birthday. It's not as if the grandparents cannot eat at these places. They simply do not prefer them. You are asking that he choose a place he does not prefer for his birthday rather than them respectfully and pleasantly attending a meal at a place they do not prefer. At a certain point, shouldn't we also expect the grandparents to be respectful?

                    I think I'd talk to the son. Remind him that the grandparents don't like certain cuisines. Ask him what he thinks should occur--support him no matter what his choice but talk through it a bit. Choosing a preferred restaurant is not disrespectful, but it does affect others. So have that conversation.

                    I also like the idea of a note to the grandparents: Son is really interested in trying _____ for his birthday. We know you're not a big fan of that style of food. Would you still like to join us for dinner, or would you prefer to meet us at the house after dinner for birthday cake?"

                  2. re: sal_acid

                    Well, to be fair, they are choosing to be left out. I think it's unfair for the OP to keep pushing his/her choices, but unless they're going to the House of Exotic Weirdness and Nothing Else, they can find something. I personally hate sushi but go to sushi places if the company is worth it. I eat lunch late and fill up on rice and tempura. It's just one meal a year and they could both compromise.

                2. re: sal_acid

                  I really disagree with this. When you're a kid, you realize the day is not all about you, but you also realize when you aren't getting what would be your choice because others object, with no real reason except an exception to the exotic. It's ONE meal a year. I think the grandparents should respect the birthday boy's wish.

                  1. re: charlesbois

                    I'm with sal. I can't imagine my parents taking me to a place that my grandparents wouldn't like (nor would I have ever thought to give them the option of coming or staying home) regardless of the event, whether it was my birthday or I had just won a Nobel Prize. Even when it's "your" day, it should never be only about "you" (one possible exception is for the bride on her wedding). This is a great opportunity for a life lesson. If the kid "needs" an exotic fix, take him a different day.

                    1. re: charlesbois

                      But they are old. They have probably eaten a certain way their entire lives, why force this on them? Our bodies experience many changes as we age. There are meds and ailments to consider also. Spicy food may not agree with some. There are so few precious years with parents and grandparents. I would vote for cherishing that time with them and going along. There will be many years once they are gone for your son to enjoy other cuisines.

                      1. re: charlesbois

                        Thank you, it's the kid's birthday. The one day he can and should get what he wants. He can have another dinner with the grandparents later.

                        1. re: charlesbois

                          The OP/mom is the one with the agenda. Not the son.

                          1. re: MamasCooking

                            son does what he is taught (by example)

                            you are right OP is the one who won't "cater to" anyone.

                          2. re: charlesbois

                            I'm with Sal on this one too.

                            By asking the boy to compromise so his grandparents can enjoy his birthday meal with him, he gets a lesson in how to be generous, how to defer to/respect his elders, and that a meal together has less to do with food and more to to with the company.

                            He can always eat some exotic meal later.

                            1. re: EarlyBird

                              He gets that lesson 364 days of the year already since they get to choose and he has no say.

                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                In other words, he is learning all the lessons his grandparents apparently did not learn.

                                These are lessons he can learn without having to have them in play for his birthday. For all we know, this kid gets up on an occasional Saturday morning and says, "Hey mom? We should call the gparents and see if they want to go to dinner tonight. Red Lobster is fine." Kids don't turn into horrible creatures because they are spoiled on their birthdays but rather because they are spoiled every other day.

                                1. re: debbiel

                                  "Kids don't turn into horrible creatures because they are spoiled on their birthdays but rather because they are spoiled every other day."

                                  True. I guess I'm just old school. If someone is to give-in in this scenario, I would expect it to be my child, in deference to his grandparents who want to be with him on his birthday. I surely would not subject the kid to a meal he hated just to please his grandparents, but some nice compromise would be good. Giving is a gift too.

                              2. re: charlesbois

                                I totally agree, except for the part where OP says "what if he wants to go to a thai restaurant?" Is the boy getting primed? I dont' know, but suspect. I wish that kid good luck.

                              3. re: sal_acid

                                Respect for others goes both ways. Sounds like it's time the inlaws do their part here.

                                1. re: rasputina

                                  Well, it would be nice. Who are adults here? Any change is on their plates. Actually, the one I feel most sorry for is the MIL who stands between the great grandmother and the OP.

                                  And we don't actually know what the birthday boy wants, only what his mother is expecting he will want.

                                  I managed to unhinge my grandmother by coming to the dinner table barefoot. Of course, she didn't let me know, but put my mother through the wringer later. And then, in the era of barely cooked vegetables (she grew up with boiling spinach for an hour), I served her basically raw green beans.

                            2. As others have said, just accept their limitations. Parents and grandparents are a blessing in so many ways; if they love and respect you, who cares about theIr culinary taste? My MIL was like this. We found that Italian restaurants worked fine for everyone so long as they served some Italian-American standards -- bonus points if they also had some homemade pasta and more authentic Italian cuisine that we preferred.

                              1. Have two celebrations -- one that the grands can tolerate, and one with food your son has his heart set on.

                                Some day, having had a birthday dinner with all four of his surviving grandparents will be a far more treasured memory than whatever it is he ate.

                                I was one of the lucky ones who had four living grandparents until I was in college, and I treasure having had the chance to know four really wonderful people.

                                2 Replies
                                1. I'm surprised that you took them to an Indian restaurant knowing they didn't want anything too exotic. Indian food is radically different to people with what I call Midwestern taste. I realize that I could be dead wrong, but It almost sounds like you're trying to be punitive about their pedestrian taste in food. You won't be able to convert them to your tastes any more than they'll be able to convert you to theirs.

                                  Several alternatives have been offered here. If it was me, I'd take the grans to a less "exotic" place for a family celebration, and then take your spouse and son to a restaurant of his choosing on another day. That way your son learns that everybody's important and head trips are not necessary. And he gets to go to more places to eat.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                    Midwestern taste? Now I'm offended. :)

                                    I thought they went to the Indian restaurant because it was close and convenient after the game.

                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                      I'm sure you don't realize how offensive your remark about Midwestern taste is. You have 5 likes for your post, so there are at least 6 people who don't realize it. Believe it or not, we actually have just about every ethnic cuisine in the Midwest as those on the coasts. I couldn't say definitively because I've not been everywhere in the Midwest or the coasts. I'll leave the generalizations to the those who have been everywhere and done everything.

                                      To the OP - I have a lot of older people in my life. I have lost many. They have "Midwestern" tastes. There is nothing wrong with that. I took my mother for Indian many times when I was younger because I love it so much. How could she not like it!!?? But she never did and I kept trying to "get" her to like it. How narrow-minded! I wish we would have just gone to red lobster and gorged ourselves on cheddar biscuits and enjoyed the time together. I'm not the first to say it and I won't be the last - raise your son to appreciate having family on his birthday... Not having his WAY. It's one day. One meal. Exceedingly not important in the scheme of life.

                                      1. re: gardencook

                                        Thanks, gardencook. There are so many ways to be narrow-minded ...

                                        1. re: gardencook

                                          Let me explain. My mother was born and raised in Robinson, Ill, and my favorite aunt and uncle spent their whole lives there. I went to the grocery store with my aunt (an IGA) and was pretty horrified by the quality of the produce, since it was late summer and the produce was just short of rotten. They had neighbors bringing them tomatoes, and the local produce shared among my aunt and uncle's friends was great, but nobody stepped outside the bounds of what was 'normal and usual', at least in their social sphere. And if somebody tried, they got shot down. Uncle Walt once chewed an Italian restauranteur a new one because he put garlic on the lamb chops. My view of the midwest was admittedly narrow, but I came by it honestly. Sorry if I insulted anybody in the midwest. Just pointing out my narrow view of their narrow view, as dictated by my aunt and uncle in the heart of Robinson. I loved them, flaws and all.

                                      2. The host chooses the venue and/or the menu and issues the invitation.

                                        The invitee has the choice to attend, or decline.
                                        As a guest they can generally eat as little or as much as they please.

                                        To accept an invitation and then to complain during the event is beyond rude.

                                        Hopefully the grandmothers realize that the Birthday Dinner is NOT about the dinner. It is about celebrating their grandson's birthday.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: pedalfaster

                                          Indeed. Plenty of room for improvement on both sides of the issue.

                                          1. re: pedalfaster

                                            As a matter of formal etiquette, yes, but we are considering a family event here. As Rodney King once said, "can't we all just get along?".

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              I had to laugh, because this post brought up so many good memories for me.

                                              I'm pretty sure my grandparents (on both sides) muddled through wayyyyy too many severed-Barbie-doll-torso-stuck-in-Angle-Food cakes to keep track. There must have been a collective sigh of relief when I switched my B-day dessert preference to lemon meringue pie (home made!).

                                              Please note my post above applies only to the kid's birthday. When it comes to daily/weekly/monthly (?) family get- togethers.....that's whole 'nother ball of wax (although I have some ideas there too...)

                                          2. Indian, Persian, and Chinese are clearly exotic (meaning imported from elsewhere). Why don't you just take them to a place they would like? That is not "kowtowing," it being well-mannered and respectful.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              As for your son, his opinion matters only because it is his birthday, but he should be taught the importance of respect for his elders and compromising on the choice so that everybody has a good time. There will be plenty of opportunities to take him somewher more interesting without grandparents.

                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                What the OP's child is or is not taught is entirely her business.

                                                laurlejgs - can you engage your son in participating in the decision of where to eat? Maybe just be straight with him - as in "here's the situation, can we find a restaurant to eat at that you and your grandparents will enjoy?"

                                              2. re: GH1618

                                                Considering we're talking about people who complained about the smell of a restaurant throughout a meal, I'm not sure the OP's son is the one who needs to be taught "good manners". The grandparents might need a lesson in it.

                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                  it's probably a little after-the-fact for that.

                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                    Many Asian cuisines have big aromas as part of their allure to those who love them. It's part of the ambience.

                                                    My in laws lived above an Indian restaurant while FIL was in residency, and now almost 40 years later, both of them still can't stand the smell of curry. It just overwhelms them. So we never do Indian with them. After smelling curry for breakfast for several years, I would probably not be a fan either.

                                                    1. re: autumm

                                                      Yeah, but to audibly complain about a food's smell in a restaurant (or anywhere really)? Very impolite and rather childish.

                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                        Depends on if it's family, or acquaintances. I think you should be able to say what you think, honestly, to family, like a safe zone, without being dismissed. But I guess in-laws can be a grey area.

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          That's true. I was thinking of whether the staff could hear them. And it's just a bit rude to tell your host that their food stinks.

                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                            I was thinking of certain family members myself. They may bitch and moan, but ya gotta love 'em anyway! Just part of the package.

                                                2. What is your son's age anyways? 5, 10, 15 years old? Might make a difference here. But in the meantime I agree with some of the others to find a destination to make everyone happy. I mean how hard can that be? And then take your son out for whatever he wants before or later.

                                                  1. Life is too short and grandparents don't live forever. Respect the wishes of the older generation, your son will have many more decades to dine as he wishes.

                                                    1. Your in-laws are kind and thoughtful enough to include you when they go out....they don't need a special occasion.

                                                      Have two gatherings....one with them at some place they would enjoy so your son can have some memories of his Grandparents. You can have another one of his choosing.

                                                      1. My FIL is exactly like that: strictly meat and potatoes, and only in forms he recognizes. So in our family, we would have let our son choose without restriction, and if FIL wanted to eat, starve, or make himself a cheese sandwich once he got home, that would be his prerogative. It's the son's special day, and if the FIL couldn't suck it up and enjoy it for his grandson's sake, too bad for FIL. FIL's restrictive tastes dictate food choices for the rest of the year - son only has one birthday a year. He'd get to choose.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. Family is family.

                                                          If the grandparents are important figures and you otherwise have a great relationship with them, then don't let food turn into a dividing point. We all have to make compromises when it comes to family and I do remember as a child being told that we weren't going to X restaurant or having Y for dinner because the grandparents or aunts/uncles were going to be with us. I was never disappointed or upset because I always understood it was more important for all of us to be together than the menu.

                                                          As for your son, perhaps you could take him and his friends to his preferred restaurant for a birthday lunch, and then go with the grandparents to a more traditional restaurant. Actually, based on my experiences with my sons, as long as he has his favorite birthday cake or dessert, I don't think he'll be too disappointed wherever you go out to dinner.

                                                          1. I absolutely disagree with most of the other posters here; I understand that elders should be respected. I don't see where this child is disrespecting his grandparents in any way, so I don't get everyone harping on this issue of respect.

                                                            But by the same token, it is the boy's birthday. The one day of the year when it should be all about him and although he has to compromise or eat where the grandparents want to every other day during the year, he should be allowed to have a dinner on his birthday where he wants to go and everyone else should remember it's not about them on this one day.

                                                            I think it's selfish on the part of anyone else to expect to be catered to on someone else's special day. It's no different than being invited to a restaurant or someone else's home for a meal. Either you go or you don't. You don't ask them to cater to you when they are the host, with the exception of a dietary restriction. Either eat the meal or don't.

                                                            I suppose this child has to "just put up with everyone else's selfishness every single year". That's just wrong. And he shouldn't be made to feel guilty because they're his grandparents. Respect goes both ways, child or adult.

                                                            20 Replies
                                                            1. re: Cherylptw

                                                              No disrespect, but I think the concept of inviting people to a party without considering the fact that people have different preferences when it comes to food is over-the-top wrong. It certainly wouldn't make you a very good host. And it has absolutely nothing to do with "showing respect to elders". There is an inherent difficulty that restaurants face when catering to large crowds in that there will always be someone who doesn't like this or that or is a vegetarian, etc. and the food has to come out at pretty much the same time. That's why large party offerings tend to be boring, play-it-safe deals. And if you are going to throw any form of party, it's your duty as a host to be as accommodating to your guests as possible. If it means bland food, so be it. If you throw a birthday party once a year, deal with the bland food and eat exotic food the other 364 days. I can't for the life of me imagine how it would make sense to invite people with a "Midwestern palate", who may not appreciate Indian food, to an Indian place for a birthday celebration.

                                                              1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                but why, oh why, would you willingly set out to plan a family dinner with the knowledge that half the attendees don't like the offering, won't enjoy the meal, and will complain about it?

                                                                They're grandparents -- whether right or wrong, you're probably not going to change their behaviour, and heading down the path of "teaching them how to behave" now that they are older adults is going to end in hurt feelings, arguments, bitterness, and a crack in the family structure....and a kid who now, instead of the memory of a happy family dinner, remembers it as the spark that set off the family feud.

                                                                If you know up front that someone can't/won't eat a certain type of food, it's madness to insist that they meekly play along with it.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  I agree, and I'd also make the point that the "exotic" food is probably far more "offensive" to the relatives, than Red Lobster is to the OP Speaking for myself, while I cook 360 days a year, and have a pretty exotic pantry and palate, I can find something I'd enjoy eating at most of those chain restaurants. I don't choose to go there myself, but I've gone when the occasion demanded it, and found the food fine.

                                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                                    Personally, (and I'm old enough to be a young grandparent), I'd find chemical, corporate food such as one finds at the Red Lobster more offensive than just about anything else. Nothing against "plain food" (though I'd carry a little bottle of hot sauce along) but that is really ghastly junk food.

                                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                                    The funny thing is that, if you go about it in a more gentle, non-confrontational manner, you might change behavior. To recur to anecdotes about my MIL, mentioned upthread, our approach was to look for restaurants where the menu provided some intersection of her preferences and ours. Over time -- and I am talking decades -- she did become more adventurous, at least by her standards. I don't mean that she was eating Asian food (unless you think that sweet& sour chicken and fried rice qualify as Asian). But, for example, she came to like a high end French restaurant that she never would have patronized in earlier years because it was one of her grandson's (i.e., our son's) favorite places. Amazingly, she even did the 5-course tasting menu there one time, once she ascertained that the chef would substitute another meat course for the seafood course (other than canned tuna, she ate no fish or seafood). The meat substitution was beef carpaccio, which she very sportingly tried. Ironically, the last time we saw her before she died was for another dinner at this same restaurant, which had been selected that evening at her suggestion.

                                                                    1. re: masha

                                                                      To expand it a bit...

                                                                      Would I invite someone whom I know *hates* beets to my house and serve them beet salad, then complain that they didn't eat it?

                                                                      Would I take a Jewish or Muslim person to a pulled-pork feast and then post about their unbelievable rudeness when they didn't eat it?

                                                                      Would I invite someone with a seafood allergy to a clam bake, then gasp at their utter lack of appreciation?

                                                                      The answer, for me anyway, is hell no.

                                                                      I know the restrictions up front (we know the grands don't like unfamiliar, and we know they'll complain, and we know they won't enjoy it) ---

                                                                      So why engage in the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results)??

                                                                      If you serve or invite the beets/pork/seafood/exotic without prior knowledge of the dislike/religious/medical issues, well, it's an uncomfortable few minutes while everyone tries to find an acceptable workaround.

                                                                      But driving straight into a brick wall that you *know* is in front of you for the sake of good behavior? Sorry, my life is too short and too complicated as it is....and it's way too easy to detour around the wall.

                                                                      Might as well paint a target right in the middle of your forehead and complain because you got hit....

                                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                                      I agree. Being diplomatic with the family and especially the elders is a good way to demonstrate superior people skills to her son. Sometimes in life we have to wear those * kid gloves* with our family elders and be willing to be flexible. Anyways Sunshine....well said.

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                        I guess I just don't have a ton of patience for those for whom an invitation to a restaurant they don't like would result in arguments and bitterness.

                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                          but why would you invite them to a restaurant that you know they wouldn't like (and that they know you know they wouldn't like...) -- and then expect them to be gracious and loving and silent?

                                                                          That sword cuts both ways.

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            I'd expect them to either decline or suck it up and not throw a tantrum. Is that really too much to ask of adults? It's not like the OP is proposing throwing an anniversary party for the in-laws at a Thai restaurant.

                                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                              so if they decline, they miss their grandson's birthday, and some here would say that they were being selfish.

                                                                              And if they go, they won't enjoy themselves because there's nothing there that they're comfortable eating.

                                                                              This is my last post in this side thread -- we'll have to just agree to disagree.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Why would they not enjoy themselves? Do they not like the company of their grandson, the birthday boy?

                                                                                1. re: debbiel

                                                                                  sunshine842: also, wouldn't seeing the birthday boy having a good time at his own party and feeling "special' for this one day out of the year give them pleasure?
                                                                                  guess not.
                                                                                  (you've determined that the grandparents are so narcissistic that they couldn't think of anyone other than themselves for this one party.)

                                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                    Not narcissistic - set in their ways and unlikely to change.

                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                              <and then expect them to be gracious and loving and silent?>

                                                                              Because they're the grandparents who supposedly love their grandson unconditionally and will do whatever it takes to make sure the grandson feels loved and happy on his birthday. Part of that is keeping their thoughts to themselves and their lips shut when they have the urge to bitch.

                                                                              That's why.

                                                                        2. re: Cherylptw

                                                                          That's fine, as long as the place (or at least the cuisine) is stated up front when the invitation is extended, and if the prospective guests may decline the invitation without anyone taking offense.

                                                                          1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                            I agree with you! On our birthdays my parents would ask us what we wanted to eat and that's what we'd have. I remember, vividly, my brother complaining that hot dogs and corn on the cob was an awful choice. My taste has since evolved (still love hot dogs and coc though). The boy should be able to go where HE wants to - explaining that the relatives won't like it so he can choose to change his choice OR have a meal with them separately. I would tell the relatives that son REALLY wants to go to a restaurant you will not enjoy so we'll have a separate with you.

                                                                            1. re: Linda VH

                                                                              So the world should adhere to the rules your parents made. Right.


                                                                              1. re: Linda VH

                                                                                That's what we did too :) It was too expensive to go out to dinner so Mom would make whatever the birthday kid wanted. It was really special.

                                                                            2. I echo the sentiment of the many others who have suggested having a non-'exotic' meal with the grandparents and another meal at the Thai restaurant.

                                                                              My father is a wonderful cook and I love going home and being spoiled with the great meals he makes me, but he also doesn't like things that are 'too strange (i.e. exotic) or fancy'. It wouldn't occur to me to pick a restaurant that I know he wouldn't enjoy, on my birthday or any other day. I can go to my favorite restaurant with my friends or my mom or sister the next week.

                                                                              1. It's your sons birthday, within reason it should be his choice. You can get something plain to eat anywhere.

                                                                                In other circumstances, I would always try to find something everyone should like, which I know can be difficult. I have relatives that get very nervous going somewhere that is not a franchise; they want to know EXACTLY what to expect. In my home town it's no big deal since I can go to the places I like the other 364 days a year. But when I travel I'd rather not go to a place that is a copy of what's right around the corner.

                                                                                41 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                                  Except the OP noted that chicken on a skewer unhinged one family member.

                                                                                  1. re: sr44

                                                                                    A relative whom she referred to as Great Grandma. Geriatrics often have diminished cognitive functioning as well as a loss in many other physical areas that most of us take for granted: olfactory, vision, hearing, tactile etc. To me even though the way you put it here made me laugh very hard ( unhinged over chicken on a skewer) I can imagine an elderly individual being confused and uncomfortable in an unfamiliar setting. Restaurants can be such loud, busy and intrusive environments too that can agitate and annoy sensitive kids, geriatrics and the rest of us.

                                                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                      Precisely why the OP should consider all parties involved. It's hard to believe you will ever have this problem yourself, but the OP might think about how she wants to be treated when she is old and what sort of an example she's setting for her son.

                                                                                        1. re: sr44

                                                                                          I am all for treating my elders with some forgiveness to a point. But the behavior described in restaurants sounds absurd. At what point are they teaching the that unreasonable behavior should be condoned, rewarded?

                                                                                          Let the kid pick. Have a side of steamed rice if you hate spices. Enjoy your family.

                                                                                          1. re: debbiel

                                                                                            I guess it depends on the kind of values you want to instill in the kid; that of being a "gracious host" or that of being a "spoiled brat"? Take your pick! There will presumably be 364 days a year when the kid is not hosting, so how about feeding him some exotic food on those days?

                                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                                              Seriously? Allowing him to pick his birthday meal restaurant is going to teach him to be a spoiled brat? Really?

                                                                                              1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                Given the situation, it is a lesson in self-centeredness and entitlement.

                                                                                                Better to teach him to be gracious, no?

                                                                                                1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                  It's his birthday. He can learn those lessons another day. Is it even possible to be self centered and entitled on your birthday?

                                                                                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                    "Given the situation, it is a lesson in self-centeredness and entitlement.

                                                                                                    Better to teach him to be gracious, no?"

                                                                                                    Maybe the way to do that is by saying, "Look how the old people act. Don't be like that, ok?"

                                                                                                    1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                      If only someone had taught the grandparents those lessons when they were kids.

                                                                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                        Well, it's certainly hammering home the point that his grandparents are selfish and entitled...

                                                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                          Do the grandparents (and great grandparents) have to be labelled "selfish and entitled" because they are severely challenged by unfamiliar situations? We all have zones of comfort and discomfort, beets, Brussels sprouts and chicken feet to name a few food-specific ones.

                                                                                                          1. re: sr44

                                                                                                            It is the CH way to denigrate those who you disagree with.

                                                                                                            So yes, they are required to be labelled.

                                                                                                            1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                              Yes, just as you see it as:

                                                                                                              "Given the situation, it is a lesson in self-centeredness and entitlement"

                                                                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                "Given the situation, it is a lesson in self-centeredness and entitlement" Is not denigrating a person, but a decision.

                                                                                                                There is a difference.

                                                                                                                You may chose to disagree but there will still be a subtle difference

                                                                                                                1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                  I disagree that there's a subtle difference, yes.

                                                                                                            2. re: sr44

                                                                                                              I would say unreasonably challenged unless there is underlying dementia. To not like spicy food is one thing. To grumble about it instead of quietly picking at your steamed rice while enjoying the company of family is quite another.

                                                                                                              How would you behave if taken to a restaurant where only beets, Brussels sprouts, and chicken feet were served? I despise seafood, but I'm usually pretty damned good company at a seafood restaurant.

                                                                                                              1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                Personally I can't imagine quietly picking at a bowl of steamed rice and watching others pig out. I would be insulted.

                                                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                                                  I would be happy to be with my family or friends.

                                                                                                                  As a former vegetarian and a current "seafood and fish are disgusting" club member, I've had plenty of meals out that involve what I consider a subpar or uninteresting meal. I cannot even imagine being insulted by that. People have different tastes. If someone chooses a restaurant that doesn't cater to my tastes, I am still perfectly capable of enjoying myself.

                                                                                                                  1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                    I don't have any issues with what I eat at all, so actually this is all just theoretical on my end. I was taught to consider how others feel as much as my own feelings, and that's what I'm talking about.

                                                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                                                      I was taught the same thing. Which is I suppose part of why i could easily eat a plate of steamed rice without grumbling, unlike the OP's family.

                                                                                                                  2. re: coll

                                                                                                                    I can't imagine making every meal all about me and my picky eating habits. That's kind of insane.

                                                                                                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                      Well I'm glad to say I'm not insane yet. Just getting older, and wiser about life.

                                                                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                                                                        I don't find it wise to pout because you are a picky eater and people won't cater to you at all times. It sounds like a great way to ensure that people may tolerate your company, but not particularly enjoy it.

                                                                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                          I don't think a single person will disagree with "it's bad to pout". The point is, these folks ain't gonna change in their lifetime, so you have to deal with how things are, not how they should be in a perfect universe.

                                                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                            therefore, imho, it is completely ok to accept that the grandparents may decide to attend and if they do so that they will probably pout.

                                                                                                                            would i give a darn that they were pouting? NOT AT ALL.

                                                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                              I think the issue is that the OP did "give a damn". It seemed to make everyone uncomfortable with all the whining.

                                                                                                                          2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                            I am the farthest thing from a picky eater, hopefully you're not talking to me? I'm dropping out now, this is going nowhere but downhill.

                                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                                              Oh no. Its just getting good. ;-)

                                                                                                                  3. re: sr44

                                                                                                                    It's OK for them to be challenged by unfamiliar situations but on this occasion it's the kid's birthday so they will have to deal or enjoy a separate meal later. For his birthday, SO often picks meals that aren't particularly my favorite and I don't enjoy but I go with it.

                                                                                                                2. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                  no, it's teaching him that his grandparents can be entitled and be self centered even on HIS birthday.

                                                                                                                  cue: cat in the cradle

                                                                                                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                    Um who's being entitled here? The inlaws are dictating where to eat all year long. I'd call that entitled.

                                                                                                                    1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                      Don't you "Um " me.

                                                                                                                      You are right. Both are being entitled. Inlaws worse.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Linda VH

                                                                                                                    And you are suggesting that the only possibility for the kid to eat exotic food would be on his birthday?

                                                                                                                    I think being a "gracious host" is a valuable part of any person's skill set. If you are the host of a party, do whatever it takes to make the guests comfortable. If it involves bland food, so be it. Why on earth couldn't the kid have exotic food on the 364 days a year that would not be his actual birthday?

                                                                                                            3. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                              "To me even though the way you put it here made me laugh very hard ( unhinged over chicken on a skewer) I can imagine an elderly individual being confused and uncomfortable in an unfamiliar setting."

                                                                                                              I laughed out loud too!

                                                                                                              But in all seriousness, I know 30-40 somethings that don't like "strange and exotic" food that would be very uncomfortable in many ethnic restaurants.

                                                                                                              Heck, even my own, adventurous husband doesn't like going to small plates style restaurants. It in ingrained in him to want the traditional entrée, not small plates arriving randomly.

                                                                                                              1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                I would never choose to go to a small plates style restaurant as that's not my style and I find it frustrating but if my family member wanted to go for his birthday I'd gladly tag along.

                                                                                                        2. Leaving respect and general feelings about the importance of family and older generations not being around for much longer out of the equation...

                                                                                                          You ask if you have to "kowtow" (a word that immediately has negative connotations) and worry about whether your son has his heart set on "exotic", but why aren't you worried about what kind of experience he has on his birthday? Is the genre of food more important than the experience and is he only allowed to have cuisine of his choosing on "his special day", as others have put it (quotes because I find the concept in general a bit much - statistically, 19 million people all have the same "special day" - a little acknowledgement of the specialness of the day to your particular family is a good thing, making it a national holiday that caters to the birthday person...meh)? You already know how they react to foods not generally in their comfort zone and you have already invited them. Unless your goal is to collect another story to be able to post on CH about how your in-laws had the audacity to not enjoy and complain about cuisine they already told you they weren't comfortable with and it just ruined the experience for you, why would you want to purposely create a situation where your son has anything but happy memories of the day?

                                                                                                          Now, putting feelings back into the equation, grandparents don't live forever, and depending on your son's age he may not even remember specifics about this particular dinner 5, 10, 15 years down the road. I can almost guarantee you that 20-25 years from now when all the grandparents are likely long gone, your son isn't going to think to himself "Gee, my 8th birthday would have been great if only I had gotten to eat Thai food instead of a hamburger," but instead will think "Man, I'm lucky that I had so many people who loved me and spent time with me and I'm lucky I had the time with them that I did when so many of my friends didn't have that. I'd give anything to have one more dinner with them."

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: amishangst

                                                                                                            Exceedingly well-put.

                                                                                                            Indeed, the "special day" concept is deeply flawed. Its the anniversary of a birth. Big deal. Doesn't mean one gets to be inconsiderate.

                                                                                                            1. re: amishangst

                                                                                                              Or maybe he'll just think, "I'm so glad my mother was willing to raise me in such an aware manner so as to avoid my growing up to be as ignorant and bigoted as my grandparents." I mean, personally, I'm pretty cool with the notion that a teenager doesn't have to embrace the unthinking prejudices of entrenched elderly.

                                                                                                              Way I see it, if the old folks are so f*ckin' loving, they wouldn't bitch about where the kid wants to eat. They'd just be wise enough to say, "Man, I'm lucky that I had [a grandchild/great-grandchild] who loved me and spent time with me and I'm lucky I had the time with [him] that I did when so many of my friends didn't have that. I'd give anything to have one more dinner with [him]."

                                                                                                              Old folks die. The best they can do before such an inevitable demise is teach the young so as to permit greater benefit for the future. The wise and enlightened ones do so in positive, selfless ways. The bitter and rotten ones do so through providing negative examples of how not to be. Face it "exotic" is, at best, a thinly-veiled euphemism when you're the kind of person who complains about the smells in the air of an Indian restaurant.

                                                                                                              1. re: amishangst

                                                                                                                Maybe he'll think "every year I ask to go to xyz restaurant and every year, I can't go because grandma don't like food on skewers. I guess when I turn 18, I'll get to take myself out to the restaurant I want to go to...finally".

                                                                                                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                                                  And he still won't be grown up yet

                                                                                                                  1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                                                    Good Lord. If someone obsesses about that then they have more problems we can deal with here.

                                                                                                                2. I'd just invite them and let them decide if they want to go. Expecting everyone to cater to them all the time is ridiculous.

                                                                                                                  (Yes, yes,they will be gone someday. Wouldn't it be nice to not be remembered as a pain in the ass?)

                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                    Boy this is reminding me of the famous sister-in-law wanting to bring her kids thread (lewd dancing!). There are those for whom the answer always comes down to "the host (birthday person) gets to make the rules, others can decline to come" while others say "let's try to get along, having family around is more important than me getting exactly what I want". And never the twain shall meet. I fall on the "let's try to get along/life is too short" side of the fence.

                                                                                                                    1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                      I pretty much live my life on the "let's try to get along" side of things. But I think there are more ways to approach that than having the son pick a restaurant that may not be a preference of his. Let's try to get along does not always require catering to unreasonableness in others, though it certainly does sometimes.

                                                                                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                        I was also reminded of this thread. You represent us (the 'let's get along" crowd) well.

                                                                                                                        I tried to teach my kids that we can't make others act graciously or generously, but we can completely control our ability to act well ourselves.

                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                            Just to note, in the parallel thread with more info (such as that it is an birthday party/anniversary (for the *other* inlaws) that the picky inlaws more or less invited themselves to) I have changed my mind *in this instance*. I still maintain my view that the opinion that "the host makes the rules, everyone else can either like it or not come (or f off, words that have been used in this thread)" is not particularly gracious.

                                                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                              Some threads make me so thankful for all that I have in my life. Enough said.

                                                                                                                      2. We have similar family problems - not just with elderly relatives but others who won't eat this cuisine and won't eat that food.. It means that, most of the time, we have to eat "lowest common denominater" whether it's at home or a restaurant. Which means no-one enjoys their food and no-one really enjoys the evening.

                                                                                                                        From time to time, we have "secret nights out" where the more normal family members go out but nothing is said to the others. Of course, the others will have telephoned during the evening and found no-one in, so they know hwat we are doing. Which means no-one really enjoys their evening.

                                                                                                                        And don;t get me started on the family members who always come and eat out, ordering the most expensive menu items, but have always forgotten their wallet or are having a really bad month for money - but they'll pay back those who have to pay for dinner. Yeah, as if.

                                                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                          oh, lord -- there's enough issues in that post to sell subscriptions! :)

                                                                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                            We've got some of those in our family, too. Whenever we see them, yes, it means a solid week of "lowest common denominator" food (I'm stealing that for future griping). None of them seem concerned about whether we're happy with our food - they have to have their way at every single meal. So freaking selfish.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                              I don't see it as having to be the "lowest common denominator". I've always thought of it as a challenge to come up with something that is pleasing to everyone. (Except vegans. I refuse to cater to vegans.)

                                                                                                                              When people want something not too exotic, what they usually want is something meat-centric and not spicy. That shouldn't be difficult unless you are just as picky as them.

                                                                                                                              1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                                                                why? Vegans aren't that difficult, even if you're the one cooking.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                  I'd be happy to cook for vegans and have a number of suitable dishes that we cook regularly for ourselves.

                                                                                                                                  We do struggle to meet the needs of the family members who, say, only eat fish or who regard green beans as "exotic". The usual solution is to serve a fish dish (not too easy when there are nine of you) for most people and give the "no exotics" family member a chicken breast (fried, without seasoning or any other adornment, with a couple of boiled potatoes). We really are years past caring whether anyone actually enjoys the food, as is the other member who also caters for family gatherings.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                    It's a matter of principle.

                                                                                                                                    In my own cooking (wherein tofu is usually cooked with meat), I can cater to vegetarians, but don't ask me to make meat-free non-side dishes that don't include cheese.

                                                                                                                                    I feel the same way about looking through menus. I can verify the existence of vegetarian-friendly fare, but I'm not going to put in the work to find out if gelatin or honey are ingredients.

                                                                                                                              2. I have no idea why so many people seem to think this is an either/or proposition - either disappoint your son on his special day or cause discomfort to the grandparents. Your son deserves to choice his own celebration place and the grandparents deserve to celebrate with him.

                                                                                                                                Easy solution. Two meals, assuming this is not a financial imposition for you. Your son gets a meal he enjoys, the GP's get special time with him without sharing him with other celebrants. Everybody's happy, win-win all around.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: rockycat

                                                                                                                                  Yes, and an idea that has been suggested several times on the thread.

                                                                                                                                2. Tell them it is your son's choice, but give them the opportunity to lobby your son with suggestions. Would you feel the same way if they were your parents instead of your in-laws?

                                                                                                                                  I wonder how they react to fusion cuisine with recognizably "American" food with "exotic" influences?

                                                                                                                                  1. Lauriejgs - I am not going to assume you have a poisonous agenda like others have assumed or that you're raising a brat. I'm going to believe that you're raising your child to enjoy life which includes relatives and that for the one day of the year, their birthday is special to them. And as a mother, you want to make it special to them.

                                                                                                                                    The only reason why I'm writing is to perhaps give perspectives to those who are trying to bash or paint you in a negative tone. My family is your situation except a generation later of this. Simply said, we have a big nice extended family... no drama, respect for the elders as it's ingrained in our culture, and celebrations are focused on food and family. Grandma and my parents generations are first generation immigrants. The 'children' (my generation) are lucky to be born in North America. We appreciate the bravery of our previous generation to drop their lives and start anew. Grandma will not change and we know that... so each visit that happens every 2 or 3 weeks, we cater to her. Her preference for boiled chicken with pickled vegetables and ginger in a clay pot, rice, steamed fish, no speaking English, and only her tv. There are 7 'children' and that has been our lives for 18+ years. No one is ungrateful.. it's just our lives.

                                                                                                                                    The 7 children have 'birthdays' and its the menu above except Grandma requests she got the cake that she liked (chestnut cake with no sugar whip cream) and we only got 1 birthday party each year. To make a second birthday for the child would seem excessive and raising up a brat in my parent's generation eyes. None of the 'children' ever whined or complained ... the only time the facade cracked was when the youngest at the age of 7 asked for a chocolate cake. To which Grandma replied, no never... I don't like it. It made my cousin cry and actually 2 other kids did too.

                                                                                                                                    So what happened as we all grew up? For 18+ years each child celebrated their birthday in this manner. Grandma, family time, and hugs & kisses. No one is a brat or ungrateful... but the sentiment among the 'children' was that "I had my first real birthday when I was 18." or the worst sentiment was that "I wish my parents thought I was just as special as grandma on her birthday."

                                                                                                                                    Now 2 of the 'children' are parents... Grandma is a great grandma and the great grandchildren are loved and not brats. They get 2 birthdays ... one fun merry one with friends and family and the other with just great grandma. It sidesteps the issues the 'children' experienced but the sad thing is that Grandma has yet to celebrate her great grandchild's birthday on the child's day or in the larger party. It's always a week or two later and in a normal dinner setting. Grandma is invited to the bigger party but she chooses not to go.

                                                                                                                                    The gist of my posting is that I concur with the general sentiment "It's only one meal" and "They get 364 days to choose what they want." for BOTH sides (mother/child and in laws). The child is stuck in the middle. An adult (grandparents AND parents) has knowledge and wisdom to know better than a child. It's up to them on how to respond to a situation and realize their decisions today impact things in the future ... for better or worse.

                                                                                                                                    1. Personally, I'd go for the two-meal solution, one where the birthday boy gets to eat what he wants, and a second with the in-laws at a white-bread place that they would prefer.

                                                                                                                                      Regardless of the birthday boy's age, he should get something [not necessarily everything] he wants on his birthday! I know how I have felt when someone has asked me where I want to go on my own birthday. When I answer that I'd like to go to XXX, and I am met with "Why dont we go to YYY instead?", I am wondering "Why did you bother to ask me in the first place?"

                                                                                                                                      1. this is complicated by the presence of 2 sets of in-laws.

                                                                                                                                        I agree about showing consideration for elders. However, this is also consideration for your parents as well.

                                                                                                                                        I tend to think that 2 sets of celebrations could be appropriate here.

                                                                                                                                        1. It says in the Bible that everything has a reason and a purpose.

                                                                                                                                          That's why God created Applebee's and Olive Garden.

                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: emu48

                                                                                                                                            It also says that this is a fallen world, which accounts for at least Applebees.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                              You can always go completely Satanic .... eat at Applebee's. Then go home and have Hostess Twinkies for dessert. Buahhhhhhaaaahhaaaaaaa

                                                                                                                                          2. Birthday parties are up to the celebrant. If people aren't into the food, theme, time or date then don't come. If it's a grandparent or other family member, they're welcome to arrange something else with the kids. In my family this is how it would work. We teach the kids respect for their grandparents - be polite, ask questions, listen when they speak, family time is important, but also that we don't bend and bend for flaky requests. Don't like the food? Don't eat it or don't come. The 'elders' in our family are quite demanding - MIL is angry that we don't live in a house with a main floor bedroom for her to visit 1X/year (she's totally healthy and mobile). And that we only have one washroom at our cottage which she visits 1X/year. My mom won't drive if there's a raindrop on her car windshield, so many dinners are cancelled and the kids are disappointed many times over because she won't drive unless it's light out and the roads are dry - she only lives 20 mins away. She never invites us to her house, ever. So it's seemingly all rosy and butterflies in the grandparent realm until you're the person who actually has the entitled parents and in-laws. And before I get skewered, my kids are 5, 3 and 1 and neither grandmother/g-parent helped me after giving birth - both showed up as 'guests', with expectations and complaints about food, house cleanliness, etc. And, we host every single holiday dinner, every year. The only thing the g-parents help with is draining our wine cellar. We're lucky if they read the kids a story or offer to towel them off after a bath. So no, I wouldn't 'cater' to the grandparents in this situation. Extend the invitation graciously and tell them how excited your son is to see them at his chosen restaurant.

                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: roostermom

                                                                                                                                              "Birthday parties are up to the celebrant"

                                                                                                                                              you forgot to say "in my family"

                                                                                                                                              1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                In my family too and clearly the mom in this post believes similarly.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                  I did say it, but in a separate sentence.

                                                                                                                                              2. Life is too short for game playing. I would call the relatives and say "Birthday boy has chosen Thai for dinner and we would love for you to join us. Oh, you don't want Thai? Maybe you could take him out for a dinner of your choice to celebrate next weekend. Please reconsider, though, we would love to see you." and that would be that.

                                                                                                                                                ETA: Or maybe they could bring cake and meet at the house after dinner to celebrate over dessert.

                                                                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                    Best most thoughtful idea yet. Perfect. Diplomatic, polite, inclusive with options offered. I bet your in laws adore you:)!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                      I'm unclear on the financial issues of the original situation, but this might sound like "if you want to see him *and* eat food you like, it's on your dime".

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                        Such is the cost of being picky.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                          no, it sounds very petty and vindictive. Not the way I think you should deal with loved ones.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                            It is a gift of a birthday dinner of choosing- to the person having the birthday. To manipulate that is, well, being manipulative. I don't think there is anything wrong with setting some boundaries and saying "this is what are doing and you are welcome to join, if you want to do something instead of or in addition to this, that's great." Why force *anyone* to have a dinner they will not enjoy?

                                                                                                                                                            To me, changing someone's gift or occasion to suit your own needs is not how you treat loved ones. That's just selfish.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                              People's true colors are shining through on this thread:( So much rude ageism against vulnerable geriatrics:(

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                Just out of curiosity, can you personally identify with the OP's situation? Do you have a older relative who is a picky eater who dictates the food choices for all occasions?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                  I have an 83 year old father whom I would never take to a Thai or Indian restaurant. I also would never take him to a "cutting edge" restaurant like Volt (or EMP but that's way out of my league). So yes, I can put myself in the situation. I know that my dad really likes places like Carabara's (sp?) and Outback. "Good value for the money". So why would I push him to go to a place way out of his comfort zone? He's 83 for goodness sake.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                  Well, here's how we dealt with the picky loved ones. My kids were allowed to be selfish on their birthdays. That was the ONLY day of the year they were allowed to be selfish. Anything or anywhere they wanted to eat was ok (within reason, but they had a lot of latitude). Grandparents on both sides were welcome to accompany. Sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn't. Nothing was ever too exotic for one set of grandparents, but in retrospect, may have been pushing the envelope for the other set.

                                                                                                                                                                  Having said that, if we ever thought that the restaurant or meal choice was made by the birthday celebrant *specifically* to poke 'Picky Grandpa' in the eye, Mrs. ricepad and I would have put the kibosh on that idea doublequick. It never happened that way, tho. At least not to our knowledge.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                              MIL has given me a fair amount of practice in coming up with solutions that work for everyone and food has been a difficult situation- they are much less adventurous than we are, much more meat and potatoes than us. She loves drama and to argue but I don't. I try to plan things so the opportunity to be combative doesn't exist and that hopefully both parties get something they want. If she tries I calmly say something like "This isn't up for negotiation." or "I'm not going to argue with you about this." I firmly but politely hold my ground (not always easy but I have never gotten into an argument with her. Ever.) She's getting better about it as the years go on because she knows I won't play. I have no doubt it infuriates her.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                Setting good personal boundaries with a manipulative MIL is a full time job. I was lucky both of mine were great women and they loved me.

                                                                                                                                                          2. How old are these folks. I've found that older people are much less adventurous than younger people. They like their "favorite places."
                                                                                                                                                            We visit my wife's god parents in Syracuse once a year. They are pushing 90. Without really thinking it out we took them to Dinosaur BBQ. I can still see the look of sheer terror on their faces as we walked into the loud biker bar atmosphere. I quickly turned them around and we took them to their favorite Chinese buffet place which reminded me of the restaurant in "Christmas Story." "Fa rah rah rah lah!" Since then we hit Friendly's, Carrabas and such.
                                                                                                                                                            They get lots of food, get doggie bags for the next day's lunch and lots of sugar and Splenda packets too!!
                                                                                                                                                            We love them dearly!!

                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                              I'm also wondering again about the age of the birthday boy. Is he having a separate birthday party with his friends? When I was growing up that was our "special" celebration, and the same was true for our son, up until the age of 12, or so, when we aged out of parties with friends. If this birthday boy is already having a special celebration with friends, isn't that enough to make it his "special day"?

                                                                                                                                                              For our son, the family dinner with grandparents was an opportunity, not just to have a special dinner (sometimes home-cooked, sometimes at a restaurant) but to receive his birthday gift from his grandparents, which was always generous -- all the more reason to accommodate the grandparents' taste, although it was never thought of in such crude terms. We loved them and wanted to spend time with them.

                                                                                                                                                              (My grandparents lived 100s of miles from us so I never was lucky enough to spend that kind of time with them -- perhaps why I feel that the time together is worth the culinary sacrifice, if it is a sacrifice).

                                                                                                                                                            2. I've already replied to this OP and stand by my comments,

                                                                                                                                                              BUT, after continuing to read all the posts that come on line I have had another thought.................

                                                                                                                                                              I don't know the OP's parents, grandparents, etc. BUT many older Americans who reject what they label 'exotic' merely as a way of expressing their prejudices without enunciating them.

                                                                                                                                                              My late uncle, who fought in the Pacific theatre during WWII, would never consider dining at a Japanese restaurant, but would eat Chinese food. Why? The 'Japs' were our mortal enemies in WWII, they killed my great unlce at Pearl Harbor, but the Chinese were our allies.

                                                                                                                                                              I don't buy German products. They wiped out most of my first wife's family in the concentration camps and took all the family real estate, businesses, mopney and art. My ex-MIL always wondered if the leather upholstery in the Mercedes were made from her parents skin. I find that a bit extreme, but survivors have bany issues. I couldn't imagine inviting her to dine at a German or Austrian restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                              As a child in 1950s/60s America we were taught how filthy the living conditions were in Mexico. It was a long tiome before I was comfortable eating in a Mexican restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                This is very interesting. I see exactly what you are saying. "Exotic" can be a euphemism. I don't think that is the case with this thread, though.

                                                                                                                                                                My husband is Armenian. His family was wiped out by the Turks except for his grandmother. His family has chosen to move beyond that. It must be incredibly hard to do so, though. My heart goes out to you and your family. I never had to experience it. I'm thankful that Turkish food is a staple in our house, though. I'm sure the Picts detested the Romans for ages, but the Scots eat pasta now. I'm not making light of your post, quite the opposite. Time heals. I hope it does (particularly for your palate) for your family too.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: gardencook

                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for your concern. My uncle is dead. My concerns about my ex0MIL are limited. The 'greatest' generation who lived through WWII are dying out and few are left. BUT it does explain some food prejudices and the excuses made as to why not to eat a particular culture's food.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                    They WERE a great generation. There is much to be proud of there. Your post makes complete sense to me, although I'm slightly removed from such atrocity. Food is the soul.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                  The Nazis wiped out a hell of a lot of Germans and Austrians, Jewish and/or political enemies. I knew German and Austrian survivors (who have died of old age) and know their children who are boomers as I am. A friend who is coming to visit soon is one of those; his Viennese family (lefty and Jewish) got out before the Anschluss.

                                                                                                                                                                  I guess Ford cars get a pass, though old Henry was one of the worst Nazi-symps on the planet.

                                                                                                                                                                3. Mom: Son, for your birthday you can pick any restaurant you want.
                                                                                                                                                                  Son: Great, I pick Thai
                                                                                                                                                                  Mom: No, grandma and grandpa won't eat that.
                                                                                                                                                                  Son: OK, Indian?
                                                                                                                                                                  Mom: No, grandma and grandpa won't eat that.
                                                                                                                                                                  Son: OK, Japanese?
                                                                                                                                                                  Mom: No, grandma and grandpa won't eat that.
                                                                                                                                                                  Son: Chinese?
                                                                                                                                                                  Mom: let me rephrase, you can pick any place that has a color and a crustacean in its name.
                                                                                                                                                                  Son: ummmmm...red lobster?
                                                                                                                                                                  Mom: great choice birthday boy!!

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: donovt

                                                                                                                                                                    Coulda gone with the Pink Barnacle....

                                                                                                                                                                  2. From the OP " I don't ask them to change their plans when they invite us to places that we don't like."

                                                                                                                                                                    This appears to be the point where the two sides of this debate diverge. Some appear to be of the opinion that whomever does the inviting gets to chose and if the "invited" don't like the selection then tough shit. If this were a huge bash (say10+ people) where trying to accommodate every individual quirk of each guest would be a logistical nightmare then, sure, "we're having the party at the Bombay House of Exotic Foods and you're invited" might be appropriate.

                                                                                                                                                                    From what I read, it's mom, dad, and two sets of grandparents. In this situation, why in the world we would pick something that would make our parents (or grandparents) uncomfortable or unhappy is simply beyond my ability to comprehend. If DW and I are going out with another couple or two, we compromise. On my own birthday with just my wife, guess what, I don't necessarily go where I want - there are places I love which I know she would not enjoy - sure she'd "find something" and be gracious but I want her to enjoy the meal as much as me. I have eaten dozens of meals with my IL's at places I would never go to on my own - with me picking up the tab! They're all gone but I would cherish the chance to have one more crappy meal with my grandparents at Olive Garden!

                                                                                                                                                                    I'll get crap for this but, yup, it's about respect. This is a good example of how my generation has failed miserably in raising the next generation. Everyone wins! Everyone gets a trophy! No grades on the report card!

                                                                                                                                                                    My advice goes along with some others. Do the "comfortable" meal with the grandparents and then take the kid out to Exotic Charlie's House of Monkfish liver pate and Cod Sperm Emporium the next day.

                                                                                                                                                                    You know what I would really, really, really like to see? I'd love it if the kid picked something like Cheesecake Factory and then see mom try to talk him out of it.
                                                                                                                                                                    Rant over.

                                                                                                                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                      Yup. Its about respect and entitlement.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                        Oh my goodness, so this is now a moral failing on an entire generation?!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                          This thread is certainly symptomatic of it. Obviously, to make such a generalization would be totally wrong but I'd say there are ample anecdotal examples to suggest that my generation (by the way, you'll notice that I do include myself) has done our children a great disservice in giving them, doing for them, excusing them - generally leaving them ill-prepared for the real world. Certainly not all, not even most, but many more than a generation ago -just ask any high school teacher.

                                                                                                                                                                          I remember vividly one son deciding he wanted to sit at the head of the table on Thanksgiving. I explained that his grandfather (my FIL) would be sitting there. He moved to the next seat. I explained that that was my seat and this continued until we got down to the "kids" table. I'm quite sure the earth would not have fallen off its axis had he sat at the head of the table but, at least to me, it showed a concrete example of how we should honor our grandparents and parents.. Even though it's my house and I'm hosting, as a sign of respect I willingly relinquish that spot to my FIL at every big event. The seating arrangement at such meals might make a good thread. Maybe I'm just old fashioned...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                            Hm. I have a round table, so this isn't something I think about. But I also find that "honor" arbitrary, so it wouldn't occur to me to bestow it upon someone simply because they are older than me. I'd be more concerned with finding them the most comfortable seat and that my partner and I have the easiest access to the kitchen, for practical reasons.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                              Ah, the old "round table trick!"
                                                                                                                                                                              Growing up and now, the most comfortable chairs also happened to be at/near the head of the table and the kids got the folding chairs or even shared a piano bench (we could never fit at one table). As teenagers we learned to get yourself "buried" in a spot where it was impossible to get up to help out although one cousin never caught on and she always ended up next to the serving table and was constantly having to pass bowls and platters around. Really fond memories.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                          Substitute Old Country Buffet for the Olive Garden and you've expressed my sentiments exactly.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                            Hmmm that's interesting. We have a 17 year old and, for his birthday dinner, he always picks Melting Pot. DH and I don't like Melting Pot but.....it's his birthday so we go. Once a year. Not hard.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Linda VH

                                                                                                                                                                              Different though. Nobody is defending the moronic in laws behavior. Its a given that they are wrong here.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Linda VH

                                                                                                                                                                                And no grandparents involved in the decision-making

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                This comment really resonated with me: 'On my own birthday with just my wife, guess what, I don't necessarily go where I want - there are places I love which I know she would not enjoy - sure she'd "find something" and be gracious but I want her to enjoy the meal as much as me.'

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, this isn't the case in the OP, as the grandparents are not particularly gracious about the selection, but this is what it really comes down to for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                  While I would never actually recommend the Cheesecake Factory, you may be on to something here. There might be something to satisfy everyone, even the son who wants Thai. To wit, from the CF on-line menu:

                                                                                                                                                                                  "Bang-Bang Chicken and Shrimp" -- "A Spicy Thai Dish with the Flavors of Curry, Peanut, Chile and Coconut. Sautéed with Vegetables and Served over Steamed White Rice."

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm not going to wade into the rest of the thread, but just commenting on the above post, going to Cheesecake Factory and getting the "Bang Bang Chicken" (which isn't even remotely Thai) in lieu of going to a Thai restaurant is like going to Panda Express and getting the "Shanghai Angus Steak" in lieu of going to a steakhouse.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. A little off topic but still appropriate:
                                                                                                                                                                                    UPPER CASE means mom is raising her voice and talking to me like I am a 5 year old. This is a bit of a saga and could be a Seinfeld episode with the Costanza's.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Phone rings at my office: Hi mom!
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: Your brother is in town can you meet us at "The Lighthouse inn" for dinner.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: Sure, what time?
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: 5
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: I work until 6.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: 2 4 1 ENDS AT 5:30 IF YOU DON"T JOIN US YOUR BROTHER WILL HAVE TO PAY FULL PRICE!
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: OK I'll leave early
                                                                                                                                                                                    I get there before 5. There is nothing on the 2 4 1 menu that I want so I order so I start to order something from the regular menu.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: STOP!!! THAT'S NOT 2 4 1!!
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: Mom I'll pay the difference.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: THEN YOUR BROTHER HAS TO PAY FULL PRICE!!
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: I'll pay for him. I'll pay for everyone!!
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: JUST ORDER THE 2 4 1.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: OK fried flounder.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Dessert time:
                                                                                                                                                                                    Server: Do you want dessert and coffee?
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: Just coffee please.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: DESSERT IS INCLUDED!
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: But I don't want dessert.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: IT's FREE!
                                                                                                                                                                                    Me: Mom what would you like. You can have mine.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Mom: GIVE HIM THE CHEESECAKE. WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU??????

                                                                                                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh my Motosport, been there, done that!

                                                                                                                                                                                      I remember an evening out where I thought my dad was going to blow a gasket because my husband and I didn't want the two-for-one deal. We were playing our own bill but it didn't matter to Dad.

                                                                                                                                                                                      In my father's eyes, our recklessness with money by ordering off the menu was as good as lighting hundred dollar bills on fire.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                                                                        Yup, the idea of turning down "free" food is a mortal sin!!

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                          There were major food issues in my household, all associated with the perception of "wasting" food. My dad was a big "food pusher" as well. I had to train my husband how to navigate the family food minefield.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                                                                            Needless to say my parents and most of my siblings are overweight. It's genetic and I fight the battle as best I can.
                                                                                                                                                                                            The only thing better than 2 4 1 is "all you can eat!!"
                                                                                                                                                                                            Can you say BUFFET!!

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                                                                              How did _you_ learn to navigate the food minefield?

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sr44

                                                                                                                                                                                                "How did _you_ learn to navigate the food minefield?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                Years of experience!

                                                                                                                                                                                                Right up to the very end of his life, I was constantly on guard as it related to food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                We couldn't have a family meal together once my son was eating solid foods because I know he would have freaked out if my son didn't eat exactly how and what my dad thought was acceptable. (Which is probably why this thread speaks to me.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                It was a unpleasant element of his personality but thankfully, he had many other good qualities that made it somewhat easy to overlook.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                                                                            Something similar--the tourist town Frankenmuth MI used to have tours of a brewery, with 2 free samples for every adult. I was there with my parents right after my 21st birthday. My dad collected the 6 free samples and directed me and my mother to drink our share-- but we both hate beer. So there if was, a legal adult, getting scolded to drink beer. Because it would be a crime to waste free beer.

                                                                                                                                                                                          3. Question for all those who say the boy should pick a restaurant the in-laws like: what if both sets of gparents wanted to impose restrictions, and those restrictions were mutually exclusive? If the boy's first and foremost duty is to accommodate gparents, and the two sets demand conflicting accommodations, then what?

                                                                                                                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MrsBridges

                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm sure it's like a ven diagram and there's overlap somewhere where the two sets of grandparents can't find common ground then you do separate meals. Wait until junior marries someone whose parents are divorced. Then the compromising really kicks in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                                  My first belly laugh of the day. TY!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                                      OMgosh I'm laughing so hard and now my daughter is too when I read the fistfight comment to her.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: MrsBridges

                                                                                                                                                                                                      There is only so much you can do to please everyone. But I think it's the duty of any host to make a "best effort". While you might not always succeed, (and it would probably be harder, the larger size of the party) at least try to make sure everyone has a good time. If not, why bother inviting them?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MrsBridges

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Then you pick a restaurant that both sets of grandparents hate equally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ah, lewd dancing. A great solution for all difficult situations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Take them to Cracker Barrel! I have a somewhat similar problems with relatives who think meat needs to be cooked well done. I've given up making roast beef, leg of lamb, pork roasts because I refuse to ruin a good piece of meat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. It's your sons birthday, he gets to choose. Period. They can suck it up for once.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm fine with being accommodating but it's ridiculous that they can't do the same for a family members birthday. I suffered through Olive Garden because that was my nephews choice. My moms husband managed to deal with Indian when it was my daughters birthday. The lowest common denominator doesn't always get their way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. "...was flummoxed by the concept of kebabs and could not get past the fact that her chicken was on a skewer."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I can relate to your situation. It's a shame that it exists WAY too much. It's sad to see that they are always right. In their own mind at least...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Let them know it's Thai and if they don't want to join you for dinner, then there will be cake at their place ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. What is your husband's position about his parents' taste in food/the birthday location?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I would not go to the Thai place or any other place they would not enjoy. After all, you are inviting them to enjoy a family event, not to make them suffer or learn how to appreciate different foods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'd go to some place they could handle, then take your son out separately for Thai. And let him know you're intentionally catering to your in-laws food preferences and thank him for understanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      35 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've tried that myself. It doesn't work. The conversations at other times. The comments at other times make it the same. But in concept your idea sounds like it could work...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Am I the only one that thinks food needs to be taken out of the equation? Celebrating a birthday does not require a dinner. If dinner doesn't work (and it appears not to in this situation,) do something else. Repeating the same non-functioning behavior is just wasted time, energy and money and people are going to end up resenting each other.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            for the wee young ones, i find the 'bouncy house' places to be great. two hours of watching them jump and crappy pizza for all !

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              For the record, I just want to point out that this thread includes avatars with two bitchin' cars, a '32 rod and a custom something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                '48 Cadillac Sports Custom. My usual avatar is my '60 Buick, which is my daily driver.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Cool. I regularly drive my '61 Falcon, hence the name "EarlyBird."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've noticed that a lot of car people are also food people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I've noticed rather the opposite, being an anti-car person with a lot of like-minded foodie friends.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Perhaps it more "hot rodders + food." Hot rodders build the car, not just buy and drive it, and in that respect it's like people who like to cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My husband's family does cake and ice cream with or without presents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I take him out where he wants to go separately.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Alternately go out for ice cream or brunch or something and save the special dinner for the immediate family only.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "make them suffer" seems a bit the overstatement, no? They weren't actually planning on repeatedly stabbing the gparents with the chicken skewers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So you're teaching the son he doesn't actually get what he wants on his birthday but he's got to bend to the wishes of others.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't think that lesson is a good one and asking him to 'understand' isn't necessarily going to be what happens.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  No, you are teaching the son to be gracious regarding his grandparents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Honestly, the resistance to gracious behavior on this forum surprises me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Life isn't about always standing up for perceived rights.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree. And there's also so much of "the grandparents *should* just enjoy being with their grandson".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Of course. But the situation is apparently different than that. So NOW what? One has to make a choice from the options AVAILABLE, not those in a perfect world, where just inviting the grandparents to the spicy Thai place will result in everyone singing Kumbaya at the end of the evening. Or inviting them, and them not coming, and they come to the realization that they really *should* have come to the Thai restaurant and they resolve to never grumble again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      <Honestly, the resistance to gracious behavior on this forum surprises me>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Interesting you go there…not sure why but that's your agenda not mine.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There is nobody more gracious when it comes to my children and their grandparents.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The word out would be…
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "Johnny loves you with all his heart and can't WAIT to show you a food he loves and for you to join in the celebration. He's soooo excited!".
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If they truly love them, unconditionally, they'll be there.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Some grandparents apparently just can't get to that point even though they'll try and show they can.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's just ONE day, DGresh. One day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Never said you weren't gracious. I had no reason to believe that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree that the grandparents are screwed up. That's a given in the OP.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          So the grandson should become passive aggressive and bow down to the grandparents and everyone else who he'll meet down the line, just because he was told and instructed to cater to his grandparents needs?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          What about his needs? Apparently they're not that important?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry, nope.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It's his day, he gets what he wants and the grandparents need to, if for no other reason than mental health of the grandson, shut up and half way attempt to at least look like they're enjoying the celebration (that includes the food).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This ought not to be a contest over which is more important--respecting the needs of elders or respecting the birthday wishes of a child. There are far too many variables for that (we on the boards were raised in different cultures, with different familial structures, different traditions, etc).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As many posters have pointed out, this isn't an either/or scenario. Let the child have (for the sake of his mental health?!) Thai food (or whatever his little heart desires) with mom and dad (who seem to be adventurous eaters) and then have cake and coffee/tea at home for the family at large/friends, etc. I'm sure everyone will bring gifts, and the day will be all the more special for him. If the OP and husband have a tiny house, maybe one of the grands can host. Great grandma doesn't have to deal with separating food from a skewer, son gets Exactly What He Wants, everyone's happy happy happy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's the child's birthday.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              He gets what he wants.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's what birthdays are for…
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              People get together to celebrate the birth of a person and with that celebration egos of guests go out the door.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              That's including grandparents

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In your opinion/family's tradition--you mean to say, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The child "gets what he wants" is your opinion as to what birthdays are for. It's a valid opinion, but an opinion--not one-size-fits-all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, based on the OP's description the child gets to choose the restaurant…it's stated pretty clearly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's such a fundamental of Etiquette 101 that any host should make a "best effort" to make sure that the guests are happy. If the kid is hosting a birthday party, that would be a great opportunity to teach him about being a gracious host. A much more valuable skill in life than being a spoiled brat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                No one is entitled to the dinner of their choice for someone elses birthday. That's absurd.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  <teach him about being a gracious host>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  When I'm 'a gracious host' I fulfill my needs first and then make sure my guests are accommodated the way they should be.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't bend over backwards, make myself half crazy in order to adhere to the needs of every single guest.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My needs are in there somewhere too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Why bother inviting guests and make them miserable? If the kid wants to host a dinner that involves his grandparents, he should try to be accommodating to their preferences, no matter how primitive they may be. If he wants to eat exotic food, why not do that separately without inviting people who would not enjoy the experience?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      <Why bother inviting guests and make them miserable?>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Where in my post(s) did I say I invite guests just to make them miserable?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The grandparents are the adults, the child's birthday is his/her birthday. He/she gets to choose whatever they want on their birthday based on what the OP described i.e.: choice of restaurant. So, now the parent goes back on their promise of the restaurant because the grandparent states they don't want anything 'too exotic'?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Grandparent chooses to stay home unless they can swallow their pride and pretend to enjoy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Simple enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        No, you don't invite people to an event when you know in advance that they would be miserable. The idea of my-way-or-the-highway just doesn't square very well in my mind with the concept of being a gracious host. Now, from another thread, we have learned that the grandparents may have invited themselves. In my book, that may change the equation quite a bit in terms of what any form of accommodations might be reasonably expected on part of the host. But regardless of the exact details of this particular situation, being a gracious host is a much more valuable people skill you can teach a kid for the rest of his life rather than being a spoiled brat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I doubt that the kid is hosting the party. I suspect his parents are. He is a guest. The guest of honor, I suspect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So gracious behavior makes one passive aggressive? I'd say its the opposite, no?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Re his "needs". Not needs, but "wants".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We are talking about a single family dinner with problematic grandparents, who, if they had a clue about gracious behavior, would have never caused the problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This situation is screaming for somebody to be gracious. Be a good lesson for the young fellow..."don't be like them"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "... with problematic grandparents..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          <Not needs, but 'wants'>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          No, I mean 'needs'.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The child is the parents' responsibility….
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Not the grandparents. They're adults.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think I would vote for being gracious without condoning (and hence sending the wrong message to your son) pouty, discourteous behavior on the part of adults.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Take the kid to the restaurant of his choice. Invite the grandparents over later for dinner. Gracious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Graciousness should be extended to all the guests, not just the ones who forwarded an unsolicited request. There's another set of gparents here, who seem to be forgotten. If plans are going to be changed to suit one set, the other set should be consulted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. I think it's good and important for hosts to consider the needs and desires of their guests when offering hospitality. But at the same time, it us to guests to graciously accept or graciously refuse the hospitality that is on offer and not try to make it what they wish it would be. In this case, it seems like the family does a lot of the former, while the grandparents do very little of the latter, which makes me inclined to side with the son's choice more than grandparents. Respecting your elders is a lovely sentiment, but when your elders are going out of their way to be pig-headed (grilled chicken is grilled chicken, even when served on a skewer), they're not necessarily demonstrating that they're all that deserving of respect on this point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My plan for a situation like this would depend a lot on how the family handles these things at other, non-birthday times of the year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If the family gets together regularly with these grandparents -- I'd say once a monthish or more -- and they routinely accommodate the grandparents' picky eating, then I think it's reasonable to say "This is Bobby's special day, and he really wants to go to Golden Thai. We know that's not really your type of food, so if you'd rather not join us, we could have dinner with you the next night/week/whatever somewhere that you like better." The son gets his special day and the grandparents get to see their grandson, and it doesn't all have to be the same day. The son is already well-versed on the need to be gracious to his elders from all those other gatherings and doesn't need to be specifically reminded of that on his birthday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If a gathering is more rare, and the two sets of grandparents generally enjoy spending time together but don't have the opportunity all that often, I would probably still go with a two-meal solution structured slightly differently. Have one "family party" where all the grandparents come and you get together at Red Lobster or another grandparent-approved choice. Plan a separate dinner, just the parents and children at the Thai restaurant -- maybe let the birthday boy invite a friend or two, as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Whether you do the special dinner on the actual birthday and the grandparent dinner a few days before or after or vice versa probably depends on how keyed various members of your family are to the specialness of the one specific day, as well the simple logistics of matching up schedules in a busy family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. when my son was 5 he asked to go to a Japanese Teppanyaki / Hibachi place (aka Japanese "Steakhouse")

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    he liked the 'show'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    grandparents not into "exotic".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    they sat and watched the show, ate some food. and complained every chance they got at other get togethers. "The sushi wasn't fresh". No sushi was ever ordered or brought or consumed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It works for them cause they are not 'adventurous'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    fuck 'em. take your kid out to eat wherever he wants. suffer at the chain or whatever with your old folks any other time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I like this approach and think it can be a good learning opportunity for the boy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "I'd like Grampa and Nana to be there for my birthday"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Parent response:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "Fuck 'em"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          well, there really is No reason to impose your childs "chowishness" upon the rubes that raised your SO...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Tsk tsk, I hope that is tongue in cheek. They did a good enough job that the OP chose to create a family with him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Maybe its time to change the dynamic if the food issue is so problematic? Can you take the dinner "off the table" and save that for just you all?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In our family we usually do something special on the actual day. It's rarely convenient to try to get everyone together on the actual day-work schedules, sports schedules, etc so we plan something for the weekend before or after for a "family party". Usually it's a simple/casual BBQ with cake. Our son still get his "special day" and a meal of his choice and he still gets to celebrate with relatives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. As a kid, I couldn't have a chocolate birthday cakes because one of my great aunts didn't like them. I didn't think it was right that my great aunt's preference had more weight than mine for my birthday cake, and I still don't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In this situation, I would do two dinners.Take the birthday boy where he wants to go, and plan a separate dinner for the picky eating in-laws.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In my (big) family, pretty much everyone shared a birthday with another family member within the same week. No chance to act like it was the most special day in the universe, but we still had fun.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I shared mine with Dad, he preferred steak for dinner, and I always got a Carvel cake, the one with chocolate flakes and cherries. Didn't feel deprived at all, I'm glad to say.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Are you an adult now? In the scheme of things, is it that important now?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thats a rather high bar for contributing an anecdote to the discussion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, I am an adult now. And I still think a kid should be able to choose the flavor of their own birthday cake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Holy shit there are alot of enablers out there.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's YOUR birthday and therefore you get what birthday cake you want. Nobody likes your choice? Oh well, more for you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There you go... calling names again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  <As a kid, I couldn't have a chocolate birthday cake because one of my great aunts didn't like them>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  How ridiculous. Your aunt, obviously, made a point of telling everyone she didn't like chocolate cake so it wasn't made? So don't eat it, great aunt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    while we're not going to see eye to eye on the dinner thing -- I'm right there with you on the cake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    THAT is just cake. Just. Cake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Auntie needs to deal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (One of mine loves, loves, loves red velvet cake. It makes my skin crawl. There's red velvet cake on that birthday)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (ETA: if you haven't already -- addressed to anyone who might be reading -- click over to the update thread that the Chowhound team links below. It changes the tenor of the entire discussion)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. Most of the answers in this thread have taken an either or approach to this dilemma. There's a huge middle ground. If your son chooses "something exotic" consider taking your relatives out to lunch at the chosen restaurant in advance of the actual birthday party. Let them get comfortable with both the physical surroundings and identify the food they'd be happy to eat. The extra cost of this extra meal seems a small investment in reducing everyone's stress and resentment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Consider Thai food: Assuming your local Thai restaurant is like most of the ones where I've eaten, there's Won Ton soup, Spring Rolls, and Fried Rice on the menu. The Thai versions are usually close enough to the acceptable Chinese version that your relatives could eat without editorial comment. (Pineapple fried rice might be particularly appealing.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Phone the Thai restaurant in advance of your arrival -- either for the lunch dry run or the actual party meal. Ask them to suggest dishes for elderly parents who like Chinese. Most Thai restaurants will prepare versions of food already listed on their menu or come up with a totally different recipe to please a patron.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Your elderly relatives win knowing you were responsive to their preferences and your son wins by getting to celebrate at the place of his choice. There might be lots of static the first couple of times you try this. After all, you've got a history of parties which haven't gone so well. That's why I think the in-advance-to-make-sure-you're-comfortable lunch is needed to break the old pattern.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think this is a great idea if the grandparents and great-grandmother have an open-minded, flexible attitude. But from the OP's description of them -- e.g., the chicken on skewer incident at the Persian restaurant -- I get the feeling that they don't. I agree that the Thai restaurant probably has Chinese style dishes that are similar to what they eat at Chinese restaurants. I just don't get the feeling that these people would get past the fact that they are in a Thai restaurant, just as they could not get past the fact that the grilled chicken was served on a skewer. That's too bad but that seems to be who they are. (Just speculating of course. The OP would know better than I.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        <I get the feeling that they don't>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        They apparently don't. Hopefully they'll learn and if they don't their grandchildren will learn to, regretfully, not want their grandparents around.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There's just too much drama.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Kid's aren't stupid.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Growing up, on our birthday, my mother would let us choose whatever we wanted and she'd make it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Not every family member would love it, the grandparents I'm sure were horrified by the choices made from cookbooks or magazines, but everyone came together and celebrated. It gave everyone the opportunity to really 'give' and not bring egos into the situation. It was a great lesson learned. None of us are spoiled rotten brats and for the most part over accommodating.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The grandparents, in this case, should be celebrating their grandchild's event. If they don't like the food that is chosen then it's a shame but they'll get over it, hopefully. I can't imagine bringing that kind of drama to their grandson in order to indulge in their OWN preferences.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's the grandson's birthday not theirs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. The volume and variety of replies may have overwhelmed the OP.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Lauriejgs, are you there? Does/has your husband offered any ideas about the recurring kerfluffles re. his parents' food preferences?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm sure the OP is battling the right thing to do…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "Do I risk the disapproval of my controling in-laws or make sure my son has everything he wants/his needs met on his birthday come hell or high water?".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I am here and I am overwhelmed!!! I actually put up another thread where I gave some more background to this story. My husband is not bothered by his parents' habits and thinks we should just rise above it all and not make a big deal of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lauriejgs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm sorry that you're dealing with this. It's more complicated when it's inlaws.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree with the other posters that cake and punch with the grandparents after your dinner with your son is a fair compromise.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Question to the OP -- how old is this child? I think many of us would feel differently about the family celebration for a 6 year old VS a 16 year old.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Dave Barry's Laws of Life, #11 -- "There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I don't think the age matters- the parents obviously feel the child is mature enough to choose what they want for dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The age doesn't make one iota of difference to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. OP here!!! I am overwhelmed by the number of responses and truly appreciate each and every one. I have posted an update in this forum that gives a little more background about what is going on here. Now I have to figure out if I tell my MIL how I feel. My FIL will not care at all how I feel, but my MIL is more emotional.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Where have you guys been? I think you're slacking a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Many 'family occasions' are nothing more than an opportunity to 'get over' on another relative who can't just say: FU! and leave. I'm well known for that BTW.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Cut the whole deal loose. Cancel the party. Tell the PITA's other plans have been made.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DO NOT EXPLAIN WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Do this a couple of times and the PITA's will get the message.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Take your son to eat wherever/whatever he wants.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Life becomes VERY short. Don't waste a minute on people you don't want to be with.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    They NEVER change. Remember that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "Life becomes VERY short. Don't waste a minute on people you don't want to be with."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I realized this when I was about 17, and it was an epiphany, complete game changer.