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was this a social faux pas?

my wife and I hosted a lunch today with several coworkers (including several from western europe) and families. My wife is asian and made several authenic dishes which usually get a great reception.

We served the meal buffet style in our kitchen. Next to each dish was a small placard with the name of the dish, the description, ingredients and spiciness

For a couple of the most popular dishes (papaya salad, pad khee mao), we made two version of each dish. The native version which tends to be very spicy and a much more milder version.

One of our european guests asked me why we had 2 version of the same dish. I said that I know people have different spice preferences and wanted everyone to be able to find a dish they can enjoy.

He took this as an insult and thought I was making unfair assumptions about him. He didnt try either dish was clearly upset and left early.

My question to the board is did i committ some type of social faux pas that I didn't realize

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    1. I don't think so, DukeFan. Seems to me your guest ws rude in not appreciating your effort to please. Besides, a buffet is, in a sense, an effort to accommodate differen tastes anyway.

      1. I agree. You were being very gracious. Had your guest had any appreciation of culture, he/she would never needed to have asked the question. I suspect most of us would have considered ourselves quite fortunate to have received an invitation to your lunch. Please don't let that one guest dampen your enthusiasm.

        1. What's kind of funny is that your rude guest wasn't offended enough to not eat your food- but ate and THEN left.
          Obviously, they have their priorities!

          3 Replies
          1. re: monavano

            I thought it said he didn't try the dishes?

            1. re: melpy

              I assumed the guest in question did in fact eat, just not the dish with the spicy and mild versions.

            2. re: monavano

              The OP stated: "He didnt try either dish was clearly upset and left early."

              Too bad he had to miss a wonderful meal and exemplary hosts.

            3. Unfortunately some Europeans are insecure grouches that analyze every situation searching for a reason to feel insulted.

              (Some non-Europeans are also this way.)

              1. Of course you didn't... you were a very thoughtful and considerate host. If your guest had a problem with that, it was their problem not yours!

                1. Your gracious and informative buffet was obviously not welcomed by one with a personality disorder. He obviously has a lot of narcissistic/borderline features along with unmet affiliation and dominance needs. You were probably the only social event to which he as been invited in the last decade - and likely the next. Mean people suck.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                    I agree with you. I think that he's been called out before, in some other way perhaps, about this, and most likely on other issues he has as well, like you say, "along with unmet affiliation and dominance needs."

                    I know a person like this. Actually two. Not nice to be around. Very difficult.

                    1. re: Gastronomos

                      I am tempted to wonder if the idea of others eating something different than he, was somehow unsettling.

                      1. re: hill food

                        perhaps, but the OP said,

                        <He took this as an insult and thought I was making unfair assumptions about him>

                        which leads me to believe the guy had other issues..

                        1. re: Gastronomos

                          oh there is almost definitely a slew of issues bubbling under that surface, he sounds like a dangerous river with an undertow of thoughts. waiting. waiting. "yes dangle that toe, wade in, the water is nice"

                          1. re: hill food

                            Despite my screen name, I'm actually a shrink and probably the only one on this thread who would actually like to meet this guy (albeit purely out of clinical curiosity.)

                            1. re: Chefpaulo

                              Psychiatric RN here (just retired).You must still be practicing. I hope you know I would never mock anyone with a psychiatric dx. in the *real world*. Hopefully the guy can adjust to the demands placed on him here.

                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                It never crossed my mind that you would. From the short vignette of behavior reported, I see features contributory to a very lonely and angry man critically low on insight and judgment whose deficient social monitoring and emotional control are creating an endless cycle of rejection. I just hope he doesn't externalize any more than he did at the buffet, and that he gets into treatment.

                        2. re: hill food

                          Ah, but there was nothing stopping him from trying both versions of the dish, and thus eating everything everyone else was eating. Right? ;-)

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Not really. If he chose to either reach for only the milder version, he may feel or be made to feel, in his own mind anyways, to be singled out. If he chose both to be sure but finished only the milder version... same thing, or worse

                            1. re: Gastronomos

                              Do you think that next time the OP should have a *crisis intervention expert* onsite at his dinner buffet? Just in case that guest *ups the ante*?

                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                I've chimed in several times on this post. The guest has personal and social issues. The discussion expounded on several things including the off chance that the OP actually did serve a social faux pas. I will point you to my other replies rather than repeat myself here

                              2. re: Gastronomos

                                still his issue; still badly handled.

                      2. You and your wife were gracious. Your guest committed the faux pas.

                        1. Agree the guest was an ass and very ungracious and its totally inexcusable.

                          There are some Europeans who are very very direct (Dutch/Nordics) and culturally they say what they think, that said they are your guests and should temper their comments to meet your cultural norms.

                          But equally dumbing down the food for the audience may seem to be a good thing to do but I can see why some people may feel insulted as it implies they can't handle real foods or need to be treated like children. The name tents by the food are also slightly odd - it feels a bit like a school show and tell.

                          I always think the best hospitality is experiencing the real deal that hasn't been sanitised or dumbed down for the visitor (and having two versions implies it needs to be dumbed down).

                          I would never insult my host by saying this or not trying the food - but thought it useful to show there are always two sides to something.

                          54 Replies
                          1. re: PhilD

                            thanks for the perspective, Phil. That is exactly what I was looking for.

                            One thing about the name tents. The reason for them is that I know several people have certain allergies (nut, dairy, etc.) They are there so people can avoid eating something they can't have and dont have to feel awkward by asking in public.

                            1. re: DukeFan

                              Yes. That was my first thought. I have multiple allergies. I find the concept of a name tent with a list of ingredients incredibly thoughtful and considerate.

                            2. re: PhilD

                              I agree that there can be the inference of making a non-spicy version as making a "children's menu" version. In future when cooking for people when you don't 100% know the preferences that people will have for spice, I think that offering one authentically spicy dish and then making the others either non-spicy or dishes that just aren't spicy. That gives people a chance to try, and but also doesn't necessarily put folks on the spot if they really don't like spicy food and can just take a tiny helping of the one truly spicy dish.

                              1. re: cresyd

                                one thing i shoudl point out is that I did know the spice preferences of many guests which was quite diverse.

                                We have a couple of native asians who would only eat the spicy dish while i know a few midwesterns who would only eat the mild.

                                1. re: DukeFan

                                  As I've mentioned before, I don't think you did anything truly rude.

                                  But I do think there may have been some slightly different ways to not say "if you don't eat this, you're not eating the authentic food". Also as it was an event among coworkers - some may have been sensitive (perhaps overly sensitive) to feeling left out by not sharing the same food as their native Asian coworkers. if you go on these boards there are all sorts of threads around "authentic", and it can be a very very sensitive issue to some and a total "throw away term that doesn't matter" to others.

                                  Ultimately, I think you knew you were cooking for a diverse crowd and tried very hard to find a way to be accommodating. Which essentially is the #1 thing that guests should appreciate from their hosts. If you presented this question prior to the meal saying "we're cooking for people with a wide range of spice preferences from a range of cultures" - then I would have been prone to respond "cook dishes that don't rely on spiciness or rely on a condiment to personally adjust spice levels". But that'd just be a personal hosting preference more so than me thinking something wrong was done.

                                2. re: cresyd

                                  If you want the spicy version, eat the spicy version. If you want the mild version, eat the mild version. For intermediate levels of spice, mix some of both together.

                                  If you pride yourself on only eating authentic food and yet you can't handle spice, then eat something else on the buffet.

                                  It sounds like the OP and his wife bent over backwards to accommodate the maximum number of guests with a potentially wide range of food preferences. It just goes to show, you can't please everyone, no matter what you do.

                                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                                    I think the guest was rude. I think the OP and his wife worked very hard to present an accommodating meal.

                                    But I also think I get why someone might have been irked. Not necessarily justified to behave that way, but to feel like an accommodating choice had missed the mark somewhat.

                                    1. re: cresyd

                                      Reading threads on CH makes me never want to host or be a guest at any food-related event ever again, at least not until we develop the technology to read each other's minds (or better yet to control everyone else's thoughts and actions).

                                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                                        DD: oh I'm already there.

                                        and haven't hosted anyone in at least a year.

                                3. re: PhilD

                                  I would never be so rude when I am a guest as to make comments like that.

                                  But, like Phil, I can understand how someone might feel they have been "dumbed down to". Personally, I would not want a host to make an assumption about what food I might like or not like - not least, as Thai restaurants are common, and popular, here in the UK so we are familiar with the food.

                                  By the by, I've only eaten asian food (Punjabi) at a person's home on one occasion. Spicing was less than restaurant food and, I understand, is generally so. By "spicing", I mean chilli, rather than a more general use of spices.

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    I could understand this attitude if the milder, "dumbed down" version had been the only version available ("secret Chinese menu", anyone?), but that was not the case. Offering two versions of the dish is the very opposite of making assumptions about any particular guest.

                                    Some have suggested that the simple fact of offering a choice puts the guests on the spot, like some sort of test. I suppose that it is possible that the hosts were hovering around the buffet and making comments like "you might want to try just a little bit of that one first and see how you like it". Innocent chit-chat for most people, but a guest with insecurity or social awkwardness or just a run-of-the-mill chip on his shoulder could feel monitored and judged in that case.

                                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                                      That would be your view, DD, but not mine. But, no worries, I have no need for you to understand my opnion.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        How can you think they're making assumptions about your preferences, yours specifically, when the guests are allowed to choose which dish, if either, to eat?

                                        1. re: Ulyyf

                                          Hi, Ulyyf

                                          I've already commented on the thread about why I think assumptions were made. I'll not take up space by repeating.

                                      2. re: DeppityDawg

                                        I'm picturing guests with pockets of flop sweat, spoon in hand, swaying from spicy dish to mild dish "Which one to choose, which one to choose?!!!"

                                        Oh, the internal dialogue/thought bubble possibilities are endless!

                                    2. re: PhilD

                                      Do you really believe that dumbed down is the appropriate descriptive term in this case? I do not think so. The dish was diluted. The potency of the spices were reduced for less bold palates. It is as simple as that. Anyone who takes something as benign as that personally has a major psychiatric disorder. Borderline personality disorder. I am pretty certain that dude has displaced anger issues in every area of his life.

                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                        My thoughts exactly. I don't agree with using the "dumbed down" description of the milder dishes. My husband doesn't like spicier things and I do. He would have appreciated the milder version.

                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                          Sorry - one of the dishes was a Som Tom (Green Papaya Salad) if it isn't really good and spicy it isn't the real deal - it is made with lots of fresh birds eye chillies pounded into the dish. So yes its dumbed down.

                                          I appreciate some people don't like highly spiced food, but when they eat such a dish without the spicing they lose the essence of this dish and they are not really eating the real dish. Happy for them to do so but lets not pretend they are eating the real thing.

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            What does dumbed down mean? Why can't we just say less spicy or less complex or milder? Why dumbed down?

                                            1. re: debbiel

                                              agreed -- the last I checked, Scoville units do not correspond to IQ

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                Using the expression "dumbed down" in the way Harter's described is commonly understood amongst my peers and in much of the media I read. So no its not about IQ its about simplifying something to appeal to mass market (in in my mind often losing the essential quality that he product had).

                                                And its not only about the spicing level in Thai food many other dishes can be adulterated/adjusted for the mass market: no anchovies in a caesar salad; cream in a carbonara sauce; seared meat in a steak tartare; no marsala in a tiramisu; no offal in a (French) andouillette; no sichuan pepper in mapo doufo, etc etc.

                                                I understand lots of people don't like chilli spicing, or other types of spice (lots of people seem to dislike the combination of spices in Indian food). And of course all these people should be able to enjoy a adjusted facsimile of these dishes that matches their taste. However, they should be aware, and recognise, its not the real deal, and without key ingredients or particular attributes they are really not the same thing....so we should we pretend they are....?

                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                  PhilD You are using the phrase within the context and meaning of your specific culture. It is considered derogatory to use that term in American culture as several of us have pointed out on this thread. Thank you for clarifying the manner it is used in the U.K.

                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                    Not really. If you look you definitions on the web there are a lots of US sources that define it in the way I am using it. I agree there will be cultural differences however I suspect they are more generational than national (and that isn't intended to be implied ageism).

                                                    And just for the record, I may be from the UK, but I live in Asia and that's my current reference point.

                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                      May I point out that you used *urban dictionary* as your initial source? Several of us who are Americans have repeatedly pointed out the derogatory connotations of using that phrase in the U.S. It is *slang* and very derogatory.

                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                        I'm US and use the term, I do admit I'm being dismissive and more than a little snobbish with it, I don't find it to be inherently derogatory.

                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                            I'm having a hard time understanding how it can be snobbish but not derogatory.

                                                            1. re: debbiel

                                                              well bless your heart... (sorry couldn't help myself)

                                                              maybe we have a different idea of derogatory. if I say I don't care for your wallpaper, I'm just being dismissive and perhaps a snob. if I say your judgement in general from your socks to your career is probably a reflection on your mental acuity and probably your heritage, well then I'm being derogatory.

                                                              I guess it's a question of scale.

                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                Yeah. Sounds like different opinions on the word. To me it means disrespectful, disparaging, demeaning, condescending. It can be very derogatory, it can be mildly derogatory, but to comment on something from a snobbish place to me implies a derogatory tone.

                                                                1. re: debbiel

                                                                  I can agree with that and a boring boorish tone at that. a tone I try to avoid. just not always successful...

                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                    sorry as this is late (and I 2nd guess myself more than anyone else can even attempt)

                                                                    while I may not ask for advice on some subjects (wallpaper - you picked flocked red velvet fleur de lis for my kitchen? really? were you on drugs?)

                                                                    I will gladly accept what is offered in any situation. in my book it's all about hospitality and gratitude.

                                                                    we're on the internet so I can easily say "no I don't care for butter beans" yet if I were served that at your table I'd look for what others find good in that legume and say thank you. and with genuine thankful spirit.

                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                      totally agree -- if it lands on my plate, I'm going to do my best to eat it, no matter what I think of it.

                                                                      If I'm allergic, that's one thing, but I'll eat at least some of anything else.

                                                                2. re: hill food

                                                                  " I'm _just_ being dismissive and perhaps a snob."

                                                                  just ?

                                                                  take that one word out and re-read the phrase.

                                                                  dismissive. pretty much sums it up.
                                                                  being on the receiving end of that attitude/behavior is ... painful.

                                                                  1. re: kariin

                                                                    kariin: sorry I was unclear, I was being dismissive towards categories of food, not people. I do take into account the feelings and sensibilities of people, foods not so much.

                                                                    example: "I love X, let's go here!"
                                                                    me: "I love X too, but there's a new place" (that I've been to before, but they don't need to know that) "I'd really like to give a shot, it's just as far and the same price point"

                                                            2. re: MamasCooking

                                                              I am American and can think of many uses of "dumbed down" which are not at all derogatory. For example you could "dumb down" a presentation because you're presenting to an audience that doesn't want a lot of detail. That is not derogatory to that audience.

                                                              The reason this phrase might not fit this situation isn't so much the idea that it might be insulting, but more that it tends to imply a level of intellectual rigor, rather than something like spice level. But I could see the phrase be used appropriately in this context.

                                                              1. re: calumin

                                                                Obviously you both socialize and are employed in different environments than I am usually in. Using a slang term like that among a group of physicians and medical professionals would raise eyebrows. Slang is not used in a professional setting, especially derogatory slang. We obviously *travel* in much different worlds my friend. C'est la vie.

                                                            3. re: PhilD

                                                              The common connotation is beyond "to simplify." It reads more like, "to simplify because one might not be sophisticated enough" to appreciate the real thing. It is "you will not understand this" which is much different than "you might not like this."

                                                              1. re: debbiel

                                                                It's rather ironic that we are debating how words are used in different countries/cultures in a thread about cross cultural differences.

                                                                I really get annoyed when I visit restaurants that deliver pale imitations of classic cuisines or dishes. I am not stuck on the "authentic" argument but it irritates when great cuisines are neutered in order to pander to the mass market. For example: Mexican food that lacks the character, the freshness, and life that it should have; Italian food where every dish is swamped in sweet tomato sauce; Indian food that all tastes boringly the same because variations of the same spice mix has been used for all dishes; sichuan dishes with a minuscule amount of sichuan pepper (which in itself is not that spicy it's just numbing); and of course those strip mall Thai restaurants serving pseudo Thai food with very little flavour (or spicing).

                                                                And so yes the term "dumbed down" is applicable to these sorts of restaurants. But be careful - its a phrase that is derogatory about a restaurant type/food, not a person. A restaurant that doesn't make the effort to cook classic foods well and show the cuisine at its best - I think thats really bad and as a Chowhound it irritates me.

                                                                I am sad these restaurants exist and thrive because vast numbers of people never experience foods as they should be served. And its not just the chilli level that gets toned down, its often all the spicing and other flavours that get neutered in order to appeal to the masses.

                                                                And this is counterintuitive: I often observe that when a local restaurant opens up that does things well, that doesn't neuter the food, a place that doesn't dumb it down for the masses, it becomes wildly popular as the mass market has better taste, and is more sophisticated, than a lot of these restauranteurs, give them credit for.

                                                                And maybe, just maybe, this is what he guest in the OP took offence to. They felt patronised by the assumption they need the food to be made differently for them. I still think they are rude, but I understand that could be a point of view.

                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                  PhilD - I can relate, in the 1970's when lots of church and civic groups in the US were sponsoring VN families ("the Boat People") to immigrate here. at first the ones who went into cooking made banal versions of Chinese food and later with coaxing started making more and more dishes of their family and childhood and have kind of exploded so that even mid-sized cities have "Best of" newspaper lists for items that were unknown 30 years ago and need no explanation anymore (1978: Banh Mi, what's that? vs. 1998 and since: Banh Mi, I'm there, what kinds?!)

                                                                2. re: debbiel

                                                                  good catch debbiel. i know and appreciate 'authentic' food - but can't tolerate eye-watering heat anymore. and i'm pretty sophisticated , so they say.

                                                            4. re: PhilD

                                                              Just an FYI, Caesar salad was not originally made with anchovies. Something I learned on Chowhound.

                                                              1. re: BubblyOne

                                                                Yes. The original Caesar salad was dumb, but it smartened up. Add a couple handfuls of bird's eye chilies and you've got the official salad of Mensa. Their official dessert is tiramisu made with Marsala, raw beef, and Sichuan peppercorns, served on two corn tortillas. And NO BEANS.

                                                                1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                  Too funny! My first good laugh of the day.

                                                          2. re: debbiel

                                                            "What does dumbed-down mean?"

                                                            Here's an internet definition - "simplified so as to be undemanding and accessible to a wide audience".

                                                            It's a commonly understood phrase, in my culture, that I was happy to use in the context of this thread.

                                                            By the by, when I Googled on the phrase, one of the early hits was a review of a Thai restaurant in New York state, by an American, which was titled "Nice place, but the food is dumbed down for Americans".

                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                              I actually am quite familiar with the phrase. I just reject it in most uses and most definitely speaking about spiciness of food.

                                                              1. re: debbiel

                                                                Ah, so when you asked what the phrase meant, you already knew. Thanks a bunch.

                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                  Sorry, I forget sometimes that intended tone doesn't always translate online. I meant really what follows, though I suppose the alternative dishes might also have been as complex. Just milder.

                                                                  Dumbed down is typically considered derogatory, so it seems ill-used when talking about the spice to which one's palate or body is accustomed.

                                                                  1. re: debbiel

                                                                    I entirely agree - "dumbed down" is most definitely never intended to be a compliment - derogatory, if you will.

                                                                    I cannot speak for how it may be used in your culture, only in mine (although I understand the phrase is an American creation) and, as earlier, I have used it in accordance with that in my earlier post. If anyone is offended by the way I've used the phrase, then that is a matter for them.

                                                                    To be precise so there is no possible misunderstanding in what I am trying to convey, let me repeat my initial contribution - yes, I can understand how someone might feel they had been "dumbed down" to in the instance in the OP.

                                                            2. re: debbiel

                                                              With any new piece of phraseology, it takes a while to enter the mainstream of language and will perhaps offend a few in its right of passage (How's that for being pedantic?)

                                                              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                Well, a pedant would point out that it's a "rite" of passage. But I wouldn't!

                                                            3. re: PhilD

                                                              No, I am going to have to disagree with you there. In Thailand, even the locals can request how much Chili is in their Som Tum. Doesn't make it any less "Authentic."

                                                              1. re: Tokyoite

                                                                But It's relative. Certainly you can vary it but a low level of chilli for a Thai is still a lot of chilli for western palate.

                                                                Its important to get the balance between the hot, sour, sweet and salty in Thai food, so if the chilli is knocked back too much its not really Thai anymore. And I do understand not all Thai food is hot and I appreciate Thai food is regional.

                                                            4. re: MamasCooking

                                                              absolutely. my only other out-there thought is that he misunderstood what the host said to him because he was not a native english speaker and/or misheard the host.
                                                              But if not that, then i think your analysis is right on the money.

                                                            5. re: PhilD

                                                              I think the name tents are fine, especially if there are allergy concerns. It sounds like some of these dishes were outside of the cultural repertoire some guests had grown up with. Some people from any culture don't tolerate spice well, and if a dish not a part of your inventory you don't necessarily have the means to judge whether it's something you should avoid. I'm thinking of my dad-he would never expect that hospitality should be dumbed down or sanitized for him, but very spicy things make him feel sick. He would really appreciate (but would never demand) both having a probably unfamiliar dish labeled and having a version of it he could try without feeling barfy. Many perfectly authentic dishes have various levels of spice and every family does whatever version they like. I appreciate that you took the time to do this.

                                                              You did not do anything at all wrong here; this guy was looking for a reason to get his knickers in a twist and you didn't give him one so he had to seize on something that actually didn't harm him in the slightest.

                                                            6. To start - no, I don't think you made a faux pas.

                                                              But, if my mother (midwest American) had been invited to that meal, she would have had a similar reaction. I don't know if I can entirely put my finger on what exactly would have bothered her, but I think the notion that she was being put on the spot to declare her spiciness preference would have made her uncomfortable. She would have wanted to be a nice guest to the host and eaten the prepared food. And she would have expected a similar regard that food would be prepared at an "accommodating" spice level. Now had a dish been prepared with a "spicy on the side" sauce/condiment option that would not bother her. But to have it put in her face "here is the "real" version and here is "anglo" version" would have put her on edge.

                                                              I'm not saying that my mother's response is or is not correct. But that's what it is.

                                                              37 Replies
                                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                                It would be useful to know exactly how the difference(s) between the two versions were indicated on the placards.

                                                                1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                  the spicy dishes had "Very Spicy *** -- native spice levels" the other said "mild spice *"

                                                                  1. re: DukeFan

                                                                    In future, I'd avoid the phrase "native spice levels". Clearly my mother and your guest are in the minority in behavior - but if you're looking to be as accommodating as possible, that would be what I'd avoid. By indicating that is the "native" or "authentic" version - it can be interpreted to imply to those who do not want that level of spice that they can't cut the native level or potentially are unable to properly appreciate the culture.

                                                                    Think of it like the offense/irritation some express when a Chinese restaurant has a 'secret/Chinese only' menu. There's this feeling that they're being treated like children who can't enjoy the "real" food. Now - my mother is also the person who insists ordering off of the "secret" menu and then often complains about the food's texture/flavors/spice level. So…..

                                                                    I need to emphasize that I personally don't think that a faux pas had been made - but I grew up with a mother who did take offense at points like this. Going forward in a similar situation, I might just avoid phrases like "native" or "authentic" and just say very spicy/spicy/moderate/mild, etc.

                                                                    1. re: DukeFan

                                                                      I think spicy and mild are sufficient labels. The native levels could have been offensive.

                                                                      1. re: DukeFan

                                                                        Are you serious?...

                                                                        Yes. That's pretty blatantly offensive. Who likes to be told that they are being made a half-assed version of a dish because they can't tolerate the authentic version?

                                                                        This is the detail you left out of your initial post. I would say you made a huge social faux pas.

                                                                        I would have felt insulted if I had come to your dinner.

                                                                        If y

                                                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                                                          Baco except they were offered both and labeled as 'spicy' and 'half-assed' (your term. their choice)

                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                            And the guest was offended by the fact that everyone would see what he reached for.........

                                                                          2. re: BacoMan

                                                                            No one was told that they couldn't tolerate an authentic version. Rather, the entire group was presented with two versions, options. It's not as if OP pointed to the less spicy version and said, "That one is for Bob. He's a wuss."

                                                                            1. re: debbiel

                                                                              So? You feel a pressure to eat the authentic version obviously. And then if it's too spicy for you, you look like a "wuss". It creates a social pressure.

                                                                              Also, if you choose the non-authentic version it's like being forced to admit you are "lesser".

                                                                              Making your guests effectively perform in such a way is a major social faux pas.

                                                                              Of course, if you just like to see people squirm, then whatever. But I don't think OP was trying to get any kicks from this.

                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                Wow. I can't imagine that level of concern over which dish I choose, and I have a pretty high though not pathological level of social anxiety at events like this.

                                                                                If no description or labeling is offered, perhaps you just serve the authentic dish, and a guest tries it, has a bad reaction to the spiciness...then what?

                                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                  So why do Thai restaurants offer three levels of *spice* for so many of their dishes? Is their intent to harass their customers by doing that?

                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                    In my experience Thai restaurants that offer different levels of spicing are not restaurants that are not really worth patronising.

                                                                                    Isn't it bastardising Thai food to appeal to a mass market and thus not really for those that appreciate Thai cuisine...?

                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                      I suppose you could conduct some interviews and ask the Thai chefs if they are bastardising their cuisine:) I am sure you would be shown the door very quickly with a *tude* like that:)Ha! You are hilarious in presuming to be an expert.

                                                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                        Its an assumption - you could also make the assumption the Thai chefs would much prefer to cook their cuisine according to their traditions rather than adjusting it for the local market.

                                                                                        As assumptions both are as valid, but as someone who has eaten a lot of Thai food across four continents and a fair amount in various parts of Thailand - I do presume to have some knowledge of the food - both good restaurants and bad ones.

                                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                                          CH Cresyd posted an eloquent opinion regarding this very subject on the *Overheard at a Thai restaurant by a Yankee* thread. To paraphrase some of what she said. Restaurants are in business. They sell what makes money. There are numerous other available venues where people can indulge in *authentic ethnic cuisines*. Church fairs......street fairs.....farmers markets etc. True. I live for our local Filipino Barrio Festival and Greek Food Festival and several other food festivals around my neck of the woods. The food is the real deal at those venues.

                                                                                          1. re: PhilD


                                                                                            Is it common for restaurants to offer different levels of spicing, in your experience - or is it just an American thing?. I do eat in Thai restaurants, although not that often, but cannot recall anything by way of a choice either on the menu or by way fo enquiry by a server. As in all restaurants I eat at, regardless of cuisine, the menu is the menu is the menu.

                                                                                            (EDIT: I may be able to partly answer my own question. I've looked at the online menus for the two leading Thai restaurants in our city, together with two others in other parts of the country that I've eaten at. None has mention of offering different levels of spicing.)

                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                              Harters - I have seen it in other countries, but its much more common to simply have heat indicators next to each dish indicating the spice level and then the diner can choose the right dishes for their tastes. That said I find the ones that have the spice levels on the menu are also generally not the best, it could be the better ones assume the diner knows enough to make informed decisions.

                                                                                              That said its rare I go to (Indian, Sichuan, or Thai) restaurants that adjust the spice level as I tend to be fairly selective and as I have said before the ones serving the better food really don't do this (although in Bangkok they will double check that you really understand what local tastes are like).

                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                I've seen different levels of spiciness offered in a few places in Sri Lanka and Singapore. In Sri Lanka, it also comes with the assumption that if you're white, you cannot handle spicy, and even if you ask for spicy, you won't get it. In Singapore, it's more common for spice levels to be indicated on the menu.

                                                                                          2. re: PhilD

                                                                                            Food is food, it does not have to be so bloody complicated.

                                                                                        2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                          So if the couldn't handle the spice, what would they have done if only one version was offered?

                                                                                          I think the OP was gracious and the guest was extremely rude. I don't think it is ever a rude thing to offer choice. It wasn't like they started plated foods for guests and said, "Oh, hey, you are European so we will give you this to eat because clearly you could not handle the heat." It was saying here are two choices... we want everyone to be included in the meal, whether or not they like spicy food.

                                                                                          1. re: aasg

                                                                                            Eaten the other 18 dishes on offer?

                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                              I guess I missed the etiquette class when they teach you that it is more polite to exclude guests entirely from dishes than to offer an easy alternative to a potential aversion to an element of the dish.

                                                                                              1. re: aasg

                                                                                                Perhaps you've missed the point that Phil is very sophisticated, well educated, well traveled, worldly, and has an exquisitely refined palate?

                                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                                    Unmasked - I will shave off the beard.

                                                                                                  2. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                    He has opinions but he is not the culinary expert of CH.

                                                                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                      Very true. The fun is in the debate and learning from others.

                                                                                                  3. re: aasg

                                                                                                    I would say as a good host you cater for all your guests and provide them all good food and drink. If someone doesn't like something you offer alternatives. If they don't like spicy offer milder dishes - they don't need to be the same dishes.

                                                                                                    For example if I entertain some vegetarian friends in a group of guests I prepare a variety of interesting dishes for all of them. I don't produce facsimile of the meat dishes without meat for the vegetarians, or expect the meat eaters to only eat vegetarian versions of meat dishes. I hope the range of dishes matches their tastes - but each dish had its own intrinsic qualities.

                                                                                                    I simply believe I should offer the best food to all my guests by cooking dishes correctly. Taking out the qualities that make a dish great to start with seems to be poor hospitality as you are sub-optimising, and compromising, individual dishes to cater for broad tastes.

                                                                                                    Isn't it better to offer more dishes, but each dish true to itself, and made as a perfectly as possible, than sub-optimal dishes that are less than perfect, therefore everyone gets a less than perfect experience?

                                                                                          2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                            I would have been highly appreciative that the host took the effort to forewarn as to very spicy dishes Maybe it would have been more tactful to label the dishes with 1-5 jalapeno peppers, to reflect spice level, as they do on the menus at many restaurants, where the native preparations are really hot. I know I am consuming dishes that are less-than-authentic in certain circumstances ("dumbed down," if you will) but I cannot tolerate more than a few bites of really hot food. Had I been a guest, I'd probably have taken a spoonful or so of the authentic, spicy version, but mainly consumed the less spicy offerings.

                                                                                            Invite me to your parties anytime, Duke Fan.

                                                                                            1. re: masha

                                                                                              Random anecdotal store about how various individuals on Chowhound (a hyper experimental food website for food enthusiasts...) do not seem like they would be helpful to someone trying to figure out why a regular person would be offended at his dinner party.

                                                                                              There is a legitimate reason, an alternative perspective to consider if you want to throw dinner parties and invite non-foodies, or people not from Chowhound. There's a whole world out there.

                                                                                              None of these replies are helping OP understand that world, or how to navigate it.

                                                                                              I'm trying to do the opposite.

                                                                                              OP is free to say "fuck you buddy, we're no longer friends because of your weird perspective on social etiquette!!"

                                                                                              But at least he should understand the perspective of the person he is cutting contact off from.

                                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                I would say 80% of the people I invite for dinner parties do not fall under the "foodie" category. Nor do I, really. You are perhaps not the only one on Chowhound or this thread able to consider the world outside of this little community.

                                                                                                To abruptly leave a dinner party in the manner described is not "regular person" behavior in my world, a world which tends to run casual, informal, low key, laid back.

                                                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                  Huh??? Is this directed at my comment, BacoMan?

                                                                                                  In any event, your description of CH as a "hyper experimental food website for food enthusiasts" is neither an accurate description of CH nor an adequate explanation of whether the OP committed any sort of social "faux pas."

                                                                                                  First, CH has a much broader mission than "hyper experimental food" -- see, e.g., the "Chains" board (which I don't usually frequent) as well a lot of the discussions in Home Cooking, which include tutorials for newbies to cooking on how to make very basic and/or family-pleasing recipes. The HC threads on "your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe" or "the best way to make roast chicken" (titles made up but substance is accurate) fit well within my perception of CH's mission -- which is to allow food enthusiasts share information, whether "hyper experimental" or not. And a lot of the threads on the regional boards are merely focused on restaurants with good food, again without any limitation that the cuisine be "hyper experimental."

                                                                                                  Second, I don't see how a personal inability to handle large quantities of extraordinarily spicy food is antithetical to being a food enthusiast. I am in both camps, thank you.

                                                                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                    or......just making much ado about nothing

                                                                                            2. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                              Maybe if one was labeled "for grown men" and the other "for wimps". Lol

                                                                                              1. re: Siegal

                                                                                                I thought maybe the placards said "NOT for Europeans" and "ALSO not for Europeans – who the f*** invited you, anyway?"

                                                                                                In that case the whole story would make more sense to me.

                                                                                            3. re: cresyd

                                                                                              My mom was very midwestern - southern Ohio to be exact.

                                                                                              An amazing multicultural hostess and guest, if she had seen the food and signs - she would have been impressed, not offended. You were informing people and letting them choose, at their comfort level.

                                                                                              Keep up the good work!

                                                                                              1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                I was just providing another example (also southern Ohio) of someone not European who would have had a similar reaction. Just putting out that whether or not there's a specific European attitude towards this, there's also just a "fussy" response that perhaps transcends cultures/countries.

                                                                                            4. Certainly not! The only faux pas was committed by one early-departing guest, by not realizing that everything is not always about him.

                                                                                              You and your wife sound like perfectly accommodating, considerate hosts; I don't think you need worry any moe about it.

                                                                                              1. I agree with others- regardless of culture your guest was a twit.
                                                                                                I'm a wimpy person who can't handle spice and i'm vegetarian so I would have much appreciated being able to try a dish i never order since it is always too spicy, as well as knowing the ingredients.

                                                                                                You did nothing wrong and indeed went above and beyond as a gracious host.

                                                                                                1. Wow. I would be happy to come over for your spread...anytime! Just call me :)
                                                                                                  You sound like wonderful, thoughtful hosts.
                                                                                                  Your guest had a chip on the shoulder about something. You accidentally knocked it off. Chalk it up to an unfortunate incident, but don't change your thoughtfulness. The world needs more grace and more thoughtful hosts!

                                                                                                  1. Your guest was overly sensitive. In truth, I probably would have been a bit taken aback at the assumption that as a Westerner I would be presumed to prefer the mild version, but I certainly wouldn't have left! I would have just taken a serving of the very spicy version and bypassed the mild one without a word, enjoyed my meal and expressed my thanks at your hospitality of cooking a meal and inviting me into your home.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: Kat

                                                                                                      The OP assumed that perhaps some would like a milder version, not anyone in particular. I don't get the personal offense taken.
                                                                                                      Oh, btw, Westerners can be said in generally not tolerate the same level of heat, so the OP isn't pulling this out of his arse, and when the audience isn't known chowhounders, you might want to please the masses.
                                                                                                      A mild version? How nice! I'll take the spicy version.
                                                                                                      Why is it an affront to anyone that the OP bent over backwards to try to please everyone.
                                                                                                      No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

                                                                                                    2. As someone who only likes a LITTLE heat in my food... would have applauded you in your labeling!! Would enjoy a milder version of an authentic dish MUCH more than the "real" thing that would blow out my taste buds.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: kseiverd

                                                                                                        Me, too!

                                                                                                        I probably would have taken a serving of the milder...with a small taste of the spicy to try -- then I could have circled back around if it was within my chili-comfort zone.

                                                                                                        Just this week I bought a sandwich at Fresh Market that looked stellar -- and threw most of it away because it had a hotter-than-hell pepper relish on it that wasn't on the the label. Nasty surprise, and nasty heartburn the rest of the afternoon.

                                                                                                      2. No social faux pas on your part, big social faux pas on your guest's part. What you and your wife offered as hosts was very generous and considerate. I would love to come and eat at your place!? I can't understand how anyone could have a negative response to offering their guests a choice.

                                                                                                        If your wife had made only the spicy, native version your guest could also say that that was making assumptions about him and be as equally upset.

                                                                                                        1. Out of curiousity, how old is your insulted co-worker and how closely do you work with him? Is this going to be a problem at your job?

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                            If this really has something to do with him being from a western European culture where people are very direct, it should be no big deal bringing it up at work and getting things out in the open. But one of the side effects of this cultural directness, typically, is that people tend to be thick-skinned and open-minded and willing to discuss things. Acting all insulted without further explanation and leaving angry does not sound to me like a cultural difference, but a personal shortcoming.

                                                                                                            1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                              Direct speaking.as in "OH I do/do not like spicy" is one thing. I have had several Scandanavian friends voice things like that over salty, cheese, sweet, etc.

                                                                                                              But they never show themselves being "insulted"

                                                                                                              there is a vast difference

                                                                                                          2. You didn't make the faux pas. He did.

                                                                                                              1. I'm a bit torn about this situation, and I'm not sure why.

                                                                                                                Part of me feels like your "european guests" were just idiots, and overly-sensitive.

                                                                                                                But part me, when I stop and think about it in the abstract and the principle underlying your wife's decision to make ethnic-specific dishes to be bordering on a bit offensive.

                                                                                                                Hear me out.

                                                                                                                Let's say the basic principle your wife was operating under was to make dishes ethnically appropriate (and please bear in mind, in no way am I suggesting your wife was intentionally doing anything wrong or culturally insensitive -- in fact, I think she was being overly culturally sensitive).

                                                                                                                Ok, so if that's our operating principle (i.e. trying to tailor dishes to cultural palates), then what if the dish was not a Thai papaya salad and the groups of guests europeans and, I take it, non-euros?

                                                                                                                What if, instead the dish was, let's say Mac N Cheese and the guests in question were either African-American and Caucasian and the host decided to make a Southern style Mac N Cheese (i.e., wetter, cheesier) and an American-style Mac N Cheese (e.g., more solid, with sauce, etc.) because, with all good intentions, the host wanted to please different cultural palates with variations on the same dish.

                                                                                                                Would the African-American guests who scoffs at such an option and decides not to partake in the Mac N Cheese (his loss, for sure, I suppose) be called out for, among other things, being "rude" a "douche bag" or an "ass"?

                                                                                                                I really don't know, but part of me is conflicted because I think the same principle applies in both situations, but I get a gut feeling that the reaction would be different with the non-partaking African-American guest.

                                                                                                                32 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                  it wasn't about making dishes ethnicly appropriate, it was about making dishes which would be enjoyed across a diverse group of people.

                                                                                                                  I dont think this is similar to the mac N cheese example because even if a wet mac n cheese isn't your thing, you could still eat it and maybe enjoy it.

                                                                                                                  That is not true with these dishes. People with more sensitive palates or who have never had thai cooked in native style probably can't take more than 2 or 3 bits of it. (Think Man vs. Food)

                                                                                                                  For me, just making one version of the dish wouldn't be an option. The option would be taking the native spicy dishes off the menu, which basically means taking thai food off the menu.

                                                                                                                  1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                    That is not true with these dishes. People with more sensitive palates or who have never had thai cooked in native style probably can't take more than 2 or 3 bits of it. (Think Man vs. Food)

                                                                                                                    I get that, and I totally respect and appreciate your wife's efforts to accommodate such issues.

                                                                                                                    But I think where the gesture gets sidetracked is if your wife did not inquire about your guests tolerance for spicy foods *before* making two iterations of the same dish.

                                                                                                                    I think some people -- and, really, rightfully so -- would take it as an affront that someone would just assume that they couldn't handle an authentic Thai dish because of the spice level. In other words, what someone in your wife's position may be taken as assuming is that only Thai people can appreciate authentic Thai dishes and every "european" person must be accommodated with, dare I say, an Americanized Thai version.

                                                                                                                    This is why so many here on these boards -- who are non-natives to the ethnic establishments they are visiting -- rant and scream about those supposedly "secret menu" items.

                                                                                                                    Again, not laying blame on your wife, but if she had asked or inquired beforehand about the spice preferences of the guests, I think alot of these issues may have been avoided.

                                                                                                                    Perhaps it's a case of good intentions, poor execution?

                                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                      ipse: there is that, I was thinking something of the same, except there was a choice offered, nobody was assigned the 'children's table' in the other room.

                                                                                                                      I wonder if the guest was unfamiliar with the idea of a buffet service, I think I've only seen them in Europe at a hotel breakfast and he just didn't realize the choices didn't all have to be made at once.

                                                                                                                      just can't please everyone. and some can't grasp the idea that life isn't "this or that", but rather can be "this AND that, if you please"

                                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                        I've seen smorgasbord throughout Scandinavia and Indonesian riistafel is popular in the Netherlands. I think he knew what to do but chose to be the feminine hygiene apparatus that he is.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                                                                          oh right - I wish we had riijstafel in the states (well I suppose we do but not every city)

                                                                                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                        we knew beforehand that there would be a variety of palates from many different countries or parts of the US. we know some people prefer mild flavors and some others prefer spicy, more flavorful foods.

                                                                                                                        This is why we provided as many options as we did. If you include cold appetizers, I believe there were all in all, 16 or 17 different dishes. Of these only 2 or 3 were spicy to the degree where they would create great pain if someone disagreed with them.

                                                                                                                        I should also note that the 2 spiciest dishes were by far the most popular and was gone less than 30 minutes into the event and the mild papaya salad was probably the popular.

                                                                                                                        1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                          Holy Cow -- 16-17 options and this dipshit STILL chose to make a scene?

                                                                                                                          I'm one who doesn't see it as "dumbing down" at all -- the spicy version was there-- if the guy wanted to make his point, he could have just gone for the spicy version to show everyone what a worldly, macho stud-dog he was.

                                                                                                                          Instead...with 2 dishes out of 16, he chose to pitch a fit?

                                                                                                                          Nah --he's still an asshole.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            in fairness he didnt make a scene, just mentioned it to me and his other countryman, who had the good sense not to say anything but was likely still offended at the social mistake i made

                                                                                                                            1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                              the fact that he said the things he did to anyone -- and doubly so if it was within earshot of you OR anyone else, means he made a scene.

                                                                                                                              HE has the problem -- you did absolutely nothing wrong, and I'm sorry you continue to think it was your issue, despite the unusually unanimous trend of a long list of posters who don't usually agree this strongly.

                                                                                                                              His problem, not yours.

                                                                                                                              1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                You did not make a "social mistake". You were trying to make sure your guests understood what you and your wife were serving. Perhaps in future the labels for dishes could simply be... Very Spicy + Not So Spicy. But, even at that, I've never had to do that. If people are unsure they usually ask. Clearly this person has issues, as others have said.

                                                                                                                                1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                  Maybe if you get a chance you can ask his fellow countryman discreetly if he was offended in any way, and be prepared to apologize briefly and then drop it. But if he tells you he didn't find anything wrong with your buffet, then you'll know that the other guy's problem probably had nothing to do with nationality or culture.

                                                                                                                                  If they both felt insulted, well… this might be the right time for everyone to share their favorite Belgian joke. ;)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                    If I am invited to somebody's home for a meal, I never will make a point to insult the host.

                                                                                                                                    Last year I was invited to go to lunch with my father at the home of a business associate of my fathers. The couple were in their mid 70s and it was a beautiful day. While my father conducted business with the husband, his wife prepared a lunch that included salad, garlic toast, baked potatoes, asparagus, (sounds good so far) and top sirloin steaks well-done. They both put Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce on their shoe leather steaks and raved about it. I ate my meal and thanked them.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                      which is exactly what you should have done.

                                                                                                                                      There are no special cultural issues in France or Belgium that give this guy a pass.

                                                                                                                                      He was wrong, he was out of line, and he was incredibly rude to the OP and his wife.

                                                                                                                                      It's unusual to have a thread where so many people chime in in unison...there's enough cultural diversity amongst the readers here that if there was some obscure way out, it would have been posted.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                    The only 'mistake' you possibly made was actually writing 'native spice level' on the dishes' label instead of just saying Super-spicy and leaving it at that. Overall you were an extremely considerate host, and if the buffet had nearly 20 items nobody could reasonably expect to like every single one. That's the whole point OF a buffet - you get to pick and choose which dish/es you want to have, you don't need to be a jerk about it!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                      I agree about the 'native spice' / 'Super-spicy' monikers. Yet, the guest is still in the wrong with obvious personal and social problems.

                                                                                                                                      I would have thought that two of each dish was a bit odd as well. Leaving the labels alone, and allowing guests to choose would be my preference, but I see how even that would be upsetting to those that feel that everything should be dumbed down for everyone.

                                                                                                                                      "I didn't try the papaya salad as it was too spicy. Why couldn't they just make it bland and boring for ALL of us?"

                                                                                                                                      Yes, I've heard a variation of that many times. Yes.

                                                                                                                                      I like spicy. But some SE Asian dishes are nothing but spice. Those I avoid. Too much of a good thing I guess..

                                                                                                                                      A bottle of hot sauce on the side is not the same, no matter what those that don't like spicy say...

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                        Making something less spicy is certainly not "dumbing" a dish down- rather, it's making it accessible for some, which was a very kind thing to do.
                                                                                                                                        Some people like this ass of a guest just go through life on the defense, just waiting for a reason to spew negativity.
                                                                                                                                        Here the OP and his wife were amazingly kind and generous and went above and beyond trying to make this buffet fantastic, and someone has the nerve to behave like a boor.
                                                                                                                                        Good riddance, boor. I hope he never darkens the OP's door ever again.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                          "Making something less spicy is certainly not "dumbing" a dish down- rather, it's making it accessible for some, which was a very kind thing to do."

                                                                                                                                          But if the essence of a dish or a cuisine, like Thai, is a balance between, hot (spicy), salty, sour and sweet flavours, the taste of the main ingredients and the texture of those ingredients. In Thai they call it "rot chart" which means a balanced taste.

                                                                                                                                          If you scale back the hot spicing of the dish the whole dish can really go out of balance and it will lose its soul. Not all Thai food is spicy but Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad) definitely is. It may make it accessible to many more people but we shouldn't kid ourselves its not been dumbed down as a result (and I use the term as Harter's has defined it elsewhere on the thread).

                                                                                                                                          I still think the guest was out of line and an ass, however one other observation. With 20 odd dishes Duke probably didn't need to to mild and "native" dishes for the Thai ones. Surely there was enough other choices to suit all tastes and by assuming guests couldn't handle the real deal caused the guest to (unreasonably) take offence.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                            It is the term "dumbed down" that we are taking offense to (at least I am), not the idea that the essence of the food might change.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                          Gastro - absolutely agree, the non-spicy camp seems to think just a dash of sauce on the plated food is fine for everyone else, but those of us in the spicy camp feel, it has to slowly cook in and blend or other-wise we too get that same face-kick reaction and that's not what's desired, even by the die-hard capsaicinites.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                            and that's exactly what was offered, wasn't it?

                                                                                                                                        3. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                          Did the OP write "native spice level"?

                                                                                                                                          Super-spicy sounds a bit juvenile and may be offensive to some prickly types, like "what, I don't understand big words?"
                                                                                                                                          At least saying "native" gives some point of reference, whereas "super" means what?
                                                                                                                                          Anyway, not picking nits over wording, just pointing out that this level of scrutiny is way over the top.
                                                                                                                                          I agree with you about the whole point of a buffet is picking and choosing.
                                                                                                                                          I would have taken a bit of both spice levels to compare- would have been a highlight for me.

                                                                                                                                          I hope the OP and his wife laughed this off and aren't giving it too much thought.
                                                                                                                                          The guy was an ass, end of story. I wouldn't second guess myself for a minute.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                            If they used 'native' it could have been interpreted as 'native USA' (as opposed to the intended 'native Thai'). The guest could have interpreted the word singling him out.

                                                                                                                                            The exact wording of the placards, and how they might have been misunderstood by a non-English speaker, could be important.

                                                                                                                                            If this guest was French, I'd wonder whether 'indigène' has different connotations than the English 'native'.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                              I don't really think the "native spice level" was bad, either. I'm not sure why that would be offensive; it's just information. (I suspect you don't have much of a problem with it either, Kajikit, given your use of quote marks around mistake.)

                                                                                                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                        "I think some people -- and, really, rightfully so -- would take it as an affront that someone would just assume that they couldn't handle an authentic Thai dish because of the spice level."

                                                                                                                                        I don't get this argument at all. If there was a large enough number of guests to justify a large number of dishes and options, why would any individual guest take personal offense. Might as well assume that the spiciness options were for some other, less sophisticated, guests.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                          I can agree that some folks might take it as an affront that it was assumed they could not handle the authentic Thai, but I think it unreasonable for them to do so. I'd think this even if she had only prepared the mild version, but she actually prepared both versions.

                                                                                                                                          First, she was not calling out anyone guest in particular. She was betting that at least one guest would not be able to handle the authentic spice. Even if she was wrong, that was an incredibly reasonable assumption.

                                                                                                                                          Second, I can't imagine being offended by someone thinking I can't handle spice. The person is either wrong or right, but how is this an affront? Assume I'm a selfish or obnoxious or unking person? I'll take it as an affront. Assume my tongue can't handle super spicy? Just don't see that as an affront.

                                                                                                                                      3. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                        Do you mean that because they are African-American it wouldn't be considered politically correct to call them 'rude', a 'douche bag' or an 'ass'? You have a point but I don't know because I'm not American.

                                                                                                                                        I guess it raises the question as to why the OP mentioned the guest's nationality (or general area of origin). Did he think that it might have been a uniquely Eastern European response? Maybe it would be good for him to ask other the other Eastern European co-workers if it is something that they also found offensive. At best he might gain an insight into the workings of the Eastern European mind as it relates to Thai food. At the very least they mind end up letting that guest know how offensive he was.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Billy33

                                                                                                                                          when dealing with differences across cultures, it's a lot easier to just ask than it is to make assumptions.

                                                                                                                                          Saves a lot of hurt feelings, whether the slight was intentional or not.

                                                                                                                                          Having lived for several years in Western Europe, I don't claim to be an expert, but based on my observations in private homes and restaurants across the continent, the guy's an ass by European standards, too.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Billy33

                                                                                                                                            The OP says nothing about "eastern" European. He mentions that some guests were western European.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: phofiend

                                                                                                                                              Ooops, sorry - I completely misread it. That's so odd - I read and reread the post to make sure I had all the facts right before commenting but now that you've pointed out the "western" European bit it's just leaping out at me. Yet I swear I read it as "eastern" European when I replied!

                                                                                                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                            I definitely think that such a scenario is a case when well intentioned people try so hard to be accommodating that they risk stepping on toes going the other way.

                                                                                                                                            The way I was raised was that as a guest you try some of everything. And so if I'm presented with a choice of a spicy and mild dish, I might have an initial gut reaction of "try both!" However if I'm presented with a situation that I feel is saying "this is the dish for group x and this one is for group y" then it can feel more divisive.

                                                                                                                                            I've been to a number of Jewish weddings where there's a table of Orthodox guests where special accommodations are made for just that table to have kosher food - which has never felt awkward for me. However, if it was a smaller party of around 20 people, and a subset had kosher food while others were eating non-kosher food, I would feel awkward. Why couldn't we all enjoy a kosher meal together?

                                                                                                                                            Similarly, despite regions of the US valuing different styles of Mac N Cheese (or pizza or chili, etc) - aren't we all able to try another region's speciality on occasion? If there truly were guests who would only eat food that was super super spicy (and nothing else, even dishes of another culture) and some would wouldn't eat anything - then I think the best compromise possible was made. And the guest in this situation was horribly rude. But I don't think this is a style of hosting a dinner party that I'd personally recommend.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                              >>>Would the African-American guests who scoffs at such an option and decides not to partake in the Mac N Cheese (his loss, for sure, I suppose) be called out for, among other things, being "rude" a "douche bag" or an "ass"?<<<

                                                                                                                                              If he decides simply not to partake? No.

                                                                                                                                              If he gets all offended, throws a tantrum, and leaves early? Yes.

                                                                                                                                            2. "thought I was making unfair assumptions"

                                                                                                                                              quite the opposite, if anything you were making NO assumptions about him or anyone else. want spicy? we got spicy. want mild? we got mild.

                                                                                                                                              1. If your guest routine behaves that way, I'll be the doesn't get asked back for a second time very often. How rude and ungracious!

                                                                                                                                                I am someone who loves the flavor of spice and heat but sadly, it no longer loves me. To my everlasting sadness, I will suffer if I eat something to spicy for my tricky digestive tract. (Makes me feel so old!). I would appreciate knowing of the two different levels of heat and would not have taken any offense at it at all. In fact, that level of care would make my dining experience more enjoyable.

                                                                                                                                                Likewise, I am a huge fan of labeling dishes, especially when it's not obvious by looking. It warns diners of potential allergens and it also informs of favors which might not be visually obvious.

                                                                                                                                                Both things were very considerate and thoughtful.

                                                                                                                                                Your guest was ridiculous.

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                                                                                                  totally agree -- I like *some* spice, but too much heat deadens my tongue and I simply cannot taste anything....not enjoyable at all.

                                                                                                                                                  Plus it's just not fun to bite into something that you briefly fear is going to sear your face off when you didn't see it coming.

                                                                                                                                                  Label away, OP -- at least you'll never have to feed that jackhat again! (I, too, find it over-the-top that he bitched and left, but not before EATING. If you're going to bitch, bitch, do it before you down a plateful of food.)

                                                                                                                                                2. Sounds like you were being accommodating and gracious. If that's a social faux pas, I wish more people would err in that direction. Like another Hound posted, you can't please everyone. I have a friend who doesn't like hot, spicy food. She always wants to eat various foods but they're too hot for her. For me, too hot is not hot enough.

                                                                                                                                                  Your story reminds me of the time my same friend took me to her boss' wedding. He and the bride were from Nigeria. The ceremony took place in an Episcopal church. Then we went to a social hall where the happy couple changed into traditional Nigerian wedding clothes. They and their Nigerian guests feasted on a Nigerian meal. The rest of us Americans (of various ethnicities) got to chow down on Chinese food! Did I find it rude? No, even though I would've loved to try their food, I thought it was very considerate of them.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                                                                                                                                    woulda been nice to have the choice, but you're right Kate, to get in a snit would have been inappropriate.

                                                                                                                                                  2. Your guest is obviously insane Duke Fan. Creating drama over something as benign as the spice levels offered in food being served? What a little wimp. You and your wife were more that gracious IMO.

                                                                                                                                                    1. Agree with everyone else. You did nothing wrong. Its the guest's issue not yours.

                                                                                                                                                      1. I agree with all the other posters. You and your wife were extremely gracious, by making two versions of some dishes and by putting descriptions of them with the ingredients and level of spiciness.

                                                                                                                                                        I absolutely can't tolerate a lot of spice and would have been very grateful to have the choice of the less spicy dishes. I would have been quietly upset if I were invited to a function where I could not eat any of the food (and have been in that situation more than once). But as a guest, I do not make an issue of it, I get through the meal as best I can, and then try to find food I can eat afterwards.

                                                                                                                                                        I think your coworker has issues that you cannot resolve. I have a hunch that you will hear about it at work, as he may be the kind of person who will repeat his displeasure to other of your coworkers; I hope I'm wrongs on that matter. I also hope you continue to treat your future guests in the same manner that you did. I'd be a grateful guest at any of your gatherings.

                                                                                                                                                        1. I agree with the consensus of the group. Growing up a southern boy/Navy brat I was raised around, and with an appreciation for, very spicy food. Now that I live in northern Maine, I am very conscious of the spice level of foods that I prepare for friends and family (read: in-laws). I believe that you were a very gracious host and personally I would have tried both versions of the dish.

                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                                            I was sort of thinking about how a Southerner might handle this, maybe with a "well, bless your heart!".

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                              Well, you know what us southerners say, "You can't invite everyone you know to a party or you won't have anyone to talk about".

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                                                I LOVE it!
                                                                                                                                                                That's just so "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil".

                                                                                                                                                          2. I agree with whoever said your guest was insane. What a ridiculous reaction. One guest is insulted with food provided for a large group. Was this a special party honoring this one guest with foods from his native country? No. He's an ass to think you should have catered just to him and his needs and feelings. I would have been thrilled that he left early!

                                                                                                                                                            1. Maybe he just didn't like Asian food and was looking for an excuse to get out of the situation

                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                                then he shouldn't have come in the first place, or quietly taken a phone call and excused himself.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                  My point is that there are two facts related to the guest's behavior: he asked about the multiple versions of some dishes, and he left early without eating any dish which had mild & spicy versions.

                                                                                                                                                                  Based on the way DukeFan setup the question, it's pretty hard to come up with an answer which says that the hosts did anything wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                  But it could be that DukeFan actually didn't interpret the situation correctly. Maybe this person was actually irritated about something else (e.g. maybe he doesn't like Asian food). He has every right to have food preferences and not ask beforehand if his preferences will be met at the event.

                                                                                                                                                                  If he actually said that making a mild and spicy version of a dish is condescending to guests, it would probably sound so illogical that it wouldn't be worth worrying about.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                                    It's nice that you're trying to stick up for the guy....but can you really tell me that in your heart of hearts, you even buy your own post?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                      To be clear, I'm not standing up for the guy. But I find the premise of the original post -- "is it a social faux pas to serve both mild and spicy versions of a dish" -- odd.

                                                                                                                                                                      I have no idea what this guest was thinking, but given the fact that it got to this point in the first place, I wouldn't be surprised if the truth ended up being something other than the original interpretation.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                                        but given the parameters laid out in the OP, a striking number of posters here have pretty much taken the facts laid out as facts...

                                                                                                                                                                        OP described the situation, and because there are cultural borders between him and his wife (18 dishes? Wow!) and the guests, he was asking to make sure that he hadn't done something wrong inadvertently.

                                                                                                                                                                        it's pretty uncommon to have this many people in total agreement on a CH post, so I'd be pretty surprised to hear that there was something so big that was omitted that we'd all circle back and pile on the OP.

                                                                                                                                                              2. I lived in the UK for 5 years and have travelled extensively in Europe

                                                                                                                                                                I have been offered dishes spicy or not spicy to my liking. No one seems to be offended if a host offers an alternative. the same goes for allergy probs.

                                                                                                                                                                My guess is your guest is the northbound end of a southbound horse (unless of course, he was French, then he would have eaten it). I think it was very gracious of you and your wife to be so considerate

                                                                                                                                                                13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                                  not a one of the French folk I know would have behaved that way -- nor would they have classed him as being anything other than "trés mal élevé" -- very badly raised.

                                                                                                                                                                  similar to "bless your heart" -- saying to someone in France that they were very badly raised doesn't sound all that bad at the surface, but I've seen it reduce a busy room to pin-drop silence.

                                                                                                                                                                  Having said that - the French typically, (although not always) have a low spicy tolerance, and so would have steered well clear of the hot dishes to begin with.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                    I have to remember this phrase it sounds a lot better than "that boy ain't right, I wonder if he was dropped on his head more than twice, bless his heart"

                                                                                                                                                                    is the pronoun il? sorry I only speak menu French.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                      The Spanish 'malcreado' is equally strong.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                        you lived in Paris, Paul -- do you know anyone who would have found this guy's behaviour acceptable?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                          What am I missing? I'd take "Bless your heart" for the snippy not-very-secret-coded remark it is, but being told I've been very badly raised would strike me as a pretty offensive insult.

                                                                                                                                                                          Back on topic, the two versions of a dish don't strike me as much more different than, say, offering whipped cream on the side for a dessert. Although I also completely understand Cresyd's point. Harry Truman wouldn't like me very much...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: monfrancisco

                                                                                                                                                                            No, a "bless your heart" in the American south can, depending on the inflection and tone, damn you straight to hell.

                                                                                                                                                                            It can also be a warm hug...

                                                                                                                                                                            ...it's all in the delivery.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                              "Bless your heart" is a wonderful universal widget of Southern US etiquette.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                                So much better than "EFF you, you Twit" which I'm sure many would love to say

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                which is why it's a tool that has to be wielded very carefully.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                                            actually they were from the french side of belgium but had lived in paris for the past several years at least.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                              My IME was in living near Paris for several years and socializing both in the city and across Europe.

                                                                                                                                                                              Il est trés mal-élevé.

                                                                                                                                                                          3. I would have sincerely appreciated the signage at your event, and the thoughtfulness in preparing two dishes. I am someone who often prefers the "mild" end of the spectrum, and would be afraid to have sampled the dishes if only the "native spice" level was available, for fear they would have been too spicy, and the host/hostess may feel bad in my clearly not eating/enjoying them.

                                                                                                                                                                            I think your accommodation goes above and beyond in this situation, and this person who took offense sounds like someone who chose to behave that way, and probably would have found someone else to get insulted with sooner or later.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. You were considerate hosts. The faux pas committed was certainly not yours. :)

                                                                                                                                                                              1. I think it is lovely that you (and your spouse) hosted this party and were so mindful of your guests' tastes!

                                                                                                                                                                                The only "faux pas" that I could possibly see is that your guest rushed off due to an urgent text/page, and you assumed it was due to the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                Either way, I'd say chalk it up to experience and carry on with your cooking and hosting. And don't invite the "rushed dude" again unless you want a repeat of the "dine and dash".

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                                                  naaaah...had there really been some sort of emergency, it was far too easy to simply hold your phone up, say "geez, I'm so sorry, but there's an emergency and I have to leave" -- even if the phone didn't ring or buzz.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Inventing a non-existent phone call would have been the graceful way out, and would have meant that the whole incident of grousing about the options never needed to happen in the first place.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Even if he was offended, he still could have just reached in his phone, held it to his ear, and said "yeah...hold on a minute" as he left the room. Upon return, "I'm so sorry, something's come up" would have given him a free escape with no questions, and he could have just ducked out, saving face for both himself and the gracious hosts.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Instead he chose to be obnoxious and insulting and to make sure everyone was aware of his displeasure before storming off in a huff.


                                                                                                                                                                                2. The only faux pas was by the guest.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Not at all!

                                                                                                                                                                                    You were very considerate in making sure people would not be overwhelmed with the spices. People do have preferences. I know I do. I certainly would appreciate knowing if something is overly spicy before trying it. I would certainly appreciate the effort you made in providing a milder version.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Your guest was the rude one. I wonder if he is as difficult at work or has a history of finding 'insults'.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I'll gladly replace this difficult guest at your next party!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Invite him back to an unlabelled affair. Your wife could ensure that his plate was spiced in a way to amuse the others present. A Naga Viper might come in handy:


                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I think what you did was fantastic. My father can't tolerate any heat in food and I think your gesture of making less spicy versions is extremely nice. Had he been at your party he'd have gone hungry if you only had spicy version.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. That guest sounds crazy.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Some people are, in varying degrees, crazy---and this isn't your fault.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. <He took this as an insult>

                                                                                                                                                                                              I had to read this 3 times to make sure I got this right.
                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm pretty sure I would have chuckled and asked him please to not let the door hit him on the way out.
                                                                                                                                                                                              This has nothing to do with you…you're just on the receiving end of a very sad, angry and overly defensive individual…looking for trouble where there wasn't any.
                                                                                                                                                                                              I wouldn't give this another minute of thought of your very precious time.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I agree with most of the other posters on this thread - you were right, the guest was a d-bag, end of story. I find it shocking that anyone would comment on this, especially since IME the only way to get REALLY spicy food at a Thai restaurant is to ask for it "native style" or "Thai spicy." In NYC, anyway, this is the accepted way of ordering when you want it to seriously sear your face off. Just asking for "spicy" won't get you anywhere near the level of heat that most natives would want - you HAVE to say native or Thai.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Was there alcohol served at the gathering? People have been known to become uncharacteristically combative,belligerent and unhinged emotionally while under the influence. I am still searching for a rational explanation for his inappropriate and irrational behavior I guess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't think there *is* a rational explanation...

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Just ruling out possible antecedents to his illogical outburst.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. I wonder what it would be like to live a day with that guest's persecution complex. What happens when he goes to a deli? "What do you mean, I can choose between white and whole wheat bread? Is it because I'm European? Racist! I'm leaving!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't even want to think about what happens when he goes to a supermarket. No wonder the poor fellow is so grumpy; he's probably starving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. It sounds to me that you went out of your way to be gracious to your guests. I would not fret over this one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. As someone who can handle very little spice I think what you did was so kind and accommodating. There's nothing worse than biting into something yummy looking, having my mouth set afire, and being miserable for hours afterward.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: UTgal

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Some people have bad reactions to spice, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Food can taste fantastic without being spicy, plus, the spicy version was there for those who enjoy spice, so what in the heck is there to complain about?!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. The guy is a prick and I would love to meet him..just from the curious angle.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          I like messing with idiots like this..my SIL, who is a shrink, laughs when I start messing around.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I hope his boss was present to see what a liability he is to the company.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Your wife sounds like a lovely, gracious host.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Never thought I'd defend a Duke fan, but your guest was a jackass.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                                                                                                              We must unite against boors everywhere!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. No, I think it was very kind to make 2 different versions. I really can't tolerate too much spicy/hot food but my husband loves it. I'd really appreciate being able to try something a cook was proud of at a different "level". Rude guest. Ew. Who does that???

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Yes, this was a minor faux pas. You probably should not have used the word "native". It highlighted the fact that the other version has been dumbed down for the non-natives. Descriptors like "spicy" and "mild" should have sufficed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                That said, I do think your guest was overly sensitive if he did in fact get very upset. Are you sure this was the reason he left early?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: churros

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I actually like the educational nature of labeling one native and one less spicy. Whether I chose it or not, I don't mind being informed "hey, this is how the dish is traditionally made."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    To me, it comes across as a little condescending. This is a meal, not a classroom. If I wanted to know if one version was more authentic than the other, I would ask.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: churros

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh goodness, we must have very different groups of friends. In my group, we learn something pretty much every time we get together. I can handle a little new knowledge with my dinner parties. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm picturing someone saying to me, "This is an authentic version of the dish. Over here is a version with a bit less spiciness." And I simply cannot fathom someone being offended by that. That's basically what the host did with her notecards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree that it depends on the group that one's entertaining. This particular situation seems like a work function. In my line of work, I don't think my co-workers would appreciate being schooled on food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: churros

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Different work cultures, then. It's common and appreciated in mine. Makes for some lovely work potluck lunches, too! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: churros

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm fortunate enough to have friends from around the globe -- almost every meal together is a learning experience, along with a lot of laughter and friendship.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think in that case the word traditional is better than native.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, I would not have used the term native either, but the idea of the differentiation to me is fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I can eat some of the hottest things on the planet but not everyone is like me and I've been with folks, whom have tasted my Thai food, to see if it Is really that hot and it has left them, to the point of being very sick and extremely uncomfortable for hours on end from the side effects of the heat index.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Some have no tolerance whatsoever for heat and this isn't a 10 second and it will go away kind of pain for some.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. It would have been most ungracious of you had you not send a word about the heat level and one of your diners could not take the heat!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I don't know if it's been asked, but which of the two of each dish was still full at the end of the meal? Surely there were leftovers and one of the two more than the other.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm not defending the guest, who obviously has some personal and social problems, but he *may* have been a bit self-conscious about reaching for the "mild" version as that IS a sign to some about the personality of a person.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Not justifiable to some, but to others...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You also made a point of him being 'european'. America is the land of do whatever that damn you want. Not so in much of europe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            for the papaya salad, the native was completely empty and the mild was about half left.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Both Pad Khee Maos were empty, but the spicier ones emptied a bit earlier.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think for the papaya salad this makes sense. If you arent adventurous, you probably aren't trying papaya salad period, let along the spicy version

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. UPDATE: So I didnt have a chance to speak with the offended party, but did talk to a couple of the countrymen who knew him. First off, they didnt understand why he left early and they actually appreciated the signs of the food and thought it was considerate to them since they admits that them and many other French have very little experience with more aggressive spices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Interestingly, they did mentioned that they though the entire concept of a buffet was confusing and the sheer number of dishes may have been intimidated. They said that buffets or even the concept of serving yourself is just not done where they live. They said they weren't sure if there were additional courses coming as well since most of the meals they are used to have food coming in multiple courses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Not related to the thread, but their only "complaint" was they would have preferred assigned seating. They said that this gather was different from what they are used to in that 1) they were so many people (around 30, he said their gatherings are generally more intimate) and 2) the overall lack of formality

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thank you.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's interesting all the things that come into play, or may come into play, when your guests are international.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                OMG.you ignorant American..you put plates of food out and expected guests to help themselves? No wonder he was offended! (ok.sarcasm over) AND..having lived in the UK and travelled extensively in Europe both on business and to personal homes, I can say, yes, a buffet is not common at dinner but I have been to some..and to many a reception that was similar to a buffet. And anyone who has had breakfast and sometimes lunch in any hotel in Europe understands the concept of a buffet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So.if the Buffoon can't handle a buffet.....then gawd help him in his travels

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, a buffet is nary a cause for apoplexy ;-0
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Funny post!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So the learning includes how other cultures behave socially.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Danged funny how not a single French (or German or Ukrainian or Dutch or British or American or Spanish or Algerian or..or..or...) who was invited to our home in Europe ever pitched a hissy fit over the tables groaning with food at our parties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Picnics in Europe are buffet-style affairs and yes, there are buffet restaurants. Not as many as in the US, but it's not like they're unheard of....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Party buffet is extremely common in the UK. It's the sensible way of feeding large numbers and I'm surprised there that French culture doesnt have something similar - after all, the word is not only of French derivation but pronounced in the French style (with the final letter silent).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think it's great you were able to get some feedback. Sounds like the issue might have been something other than just the spice issue, given the other feedback you received. Also with 30 people I guess I'd be more inclined to leave early if I so desired (for any reason) without feeling like I was offending the host -- whereas at a smaller dinner party with assigned seating, it's a lot less anonymous.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    At least you didn't invite people to a barbecue -- I've spent a lot of time trying to convey that concept to people from Western Europe, mostly without success!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      really? We had enormous barbecues several times a summer -- well-loved by all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. http://www.theonion.com/articles/area...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This Onion article made me think of this thread. NOTE: The Onion is a satire site.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lbs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I am offended that you felt the need to inform ME that The Onion is satire!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      *storms out of thread early

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I think I'm in the minority here, but I think it's a little strange that you made 2 versions of the same dish. Especially since you had a number of other options available. I'm Indian, but also cook SE Asian food due to my parents growing up there. We eat spicy food in our house. If I invited people over for an Indian meal, I wouldn't make 2 versions of one dish. I would just make sure I have other dishes available for the people who don't want to eat the spicy chicken (or whatever it is). It would be weird (IMO) to have 2 versions of the same chicken. Usually, if I don't know the preferences of the guests, I compromise and make a medium spicy version of the dish but sometimes I make it "my" spicy and just let people know that it's got some heat to it. If they don't want spicy, there's several other things for them to eat instead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I wouldn't have left the party like your guest did over it, but secretly, I can see someone thinking "OK, are they trying to say real people should eat the spicy version and the wimps eat the mild version? Will people make fun of me if I take the mild one?" I also think the "native" label was a bit too much -- "spicy" and "mild" should have been it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. It may be that we have said enough about this topic,but here is something to consider: I once worked in a branch of Piccadilly Cafeteria. It is a chain based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The chain has standard recipes that are prepared locally. A number or recipes are influenced by Cajun cooking. One dish, called for a certain amount of cayenne. The chef quickly found that, if he made the recipe as written, nearly ALL of the plates would come back with complaints. He got permission from the corporate office to cut the cayenne by half and only a few plates were returned from then on. The dish went from being shunned to being fairly popular with repeat customers. Was he being insulting or was he accommodating the local market?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ozhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It would help if you mentioned to *this* local market that Baton Rouge Louisiana is not "Cajun" country and has a different "local market"...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ozhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I know if any American restaurant tried to serve a larb that was as spicy as the last one I had the last time I was in Thailand, it would probably get sued for endangering customers. Tailoring dishes for the consumer is a good thing for almost everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I think it's your guest's problem, not yours. It was very considerate of you to make 2 and if he was insulted..... I think it's him!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In the words of Sweet Brown *Ain't nobody got time for that*!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: breadchick

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Smirk:) Headed to YouTube to giggle at her awesomeness!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hallelujah to Sweet Brown. .


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Auto tune rocks this vid..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is what the OP should of had blasting when that idiot prick left with his panties in a bunch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for posting that link! Sweet Brown rocks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. "My question to the board is did i committ some type of social faux pas that I didn't realize"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Not as far as I'm concerned. Sounds to me like you were being incredibly thoughtful and considerate. I would have thanked you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I think the consensus seems to be that you tried to oblige every guest. the only salient points gathered would be:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. one guest has bad social skills and might very well be self-conscious beyond their own comfort zone. (heck happens to me at family gatherings and I know what to expect)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. an explanation ahead of time (of the casual set-up of self-serving/come and go and re-load or not) may have been a good primer.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. while the labeling was a good idea, maybe ones that simply stated "more spicy" and 'less spicy" rather than "native" might have created a different reaction. y'know, not saying this is more authentic or not, just hotter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DF - you still did nothing wrong. I'm just really good at 2nd guessing. it's a gift.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      thanks I completely agree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think your point about education about how a buffet works could be a good idea in the future. It had never occurred to me that this would be an issue, but this was clearly a cultural blindspot for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Around labelling, i think it is necessary due to the myraid of dietary restictions out there. I agree that 'native' may have offended people but i am really not sure if very very hot would have conveyed the same message. though i really appreciate the feedback.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We do have buffets in Europe - very very common at breakfast even in B&B's. I would be stunned if any European would not know what to do. You may risk more offence by assuming people don't understand them and explaining how they work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm glad you said it -- I was thinking it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Its funny because I was very nearly offended - my first reply was going to be "We are Europeans not cavemen...!" - said with a big grin ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              what, you didn't see the famous paintings of the buffet at Lascaux? (it *could* be a buffet...!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sunshine? Are you thinking of the Bernard Buffet?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                (Actually, I once wrote a parody of a restaurant review, extolling the virtues of the Bernard Buffet, "where the food is so *bon*"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  No, I was just being ridiculously silly. All those cows and deer....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Back to the OP original question.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Duke's question about announcing how a buffet works may be a clue. I wonder if Duke's helpfulness and hospitality was bordering on the overbearing - was he trying to hard and assuming his guests new nothing, explaining every nuance of how the US works?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I have had more than one or two US visits where we were glad to escape very well meaning hosts and simply go off on our own to relax and kick back. Maybe the guest who left early had had enough, as Duke says he was a work colleague, and thus had been "over-helped" for the duration of the visit and the dish issue was just the final straw.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sometimes its better to assume guests do understand your country and simply wait for them to ask.......

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've read the entire thread and nowhere did I see that the OP was trying to help people from another country. This was a buffet for 30 people and 'several' were from another country. It did not appear to me that the person who left was singled out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "One of our european guests asked me why we had 2 version of the same dish.......He took this as an insult and.... was clearly upset and left early."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Well the OP said he was European, was insulted and left early.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Where in the OP is there an indication that the European guests were targeted with the information about the spice levels of the two dishes out of thirty total dishes served?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      maybe I was being condescending, but my few experiences in family homes in Europe, large gatherings are the exception, not the norm. buffets at hotel breakfasts, even potlucks in the nearest community hall, but rarely more than a few before dinner drinks or a teenager's party in the garden.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Depends on the time of year, most houses in Europe are not large so big gatherings are tricky. But in the summer more common when you can use the garden....and often these are buffets or BBQ's or both.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I am unaware of any tradition of BBQing in Europe. What kind of wood is traditionally used?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            oh so many people mix the term of BBQ with that of grilling. I've been to fantastic summer grilling in Germany and Spain, but would never call it BBQ.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              No we don't mix the term, we just use different terms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In Europe if its cooked outside over coals/wood/gas its a BBQ. If its cooked inside under a heat source its grilled (broiling in the US).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              They generally use charcoal of some form or other.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                or gas of one type or another.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I have seen bags of smoking chips in the stores....so the concept exists, but it's not really popular.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                (most French "grills" are called "planchas" - which are just griddles, IMO) But they're cookin' outside.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. My momma taught me farting in public is a social faux pas. What you did was not a social faux pas, nor did it even stink.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Good grief. What a spoiled brat. Send him to my sister's place to eat, and I'll come eat with you guys instead. I'd appreciate som tum that isn't spiced to the point where my ears ring for a chance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My sister would be the perfect host for him. We both grew up in Thailand, but she eats much spicier food than I do, and she knows my tolerance for spice is not nearly as high as hers. Yet when I visit her, she cooks the food full on spice the way she likes it, and then proceeds to mock me for my inability to keep up with her. And when I gulp down water, she reminds me that water doesn't help the heat. Yes, I know.. but it's all that's available since she's convinced that carbs are evil so she doesn't serve rice with thai food. When both my mom and I visit her, and my mom is doing the cooking, she'll make the food slightly milder (but still fairly hot - hitting the edge of my tolerance levels) so I can eat it, and my sister complains under her breath that they're having to eat 'baby food' because of me. Her attitude (and not just about food) makes visiting her torturous and she then gets mad at me because I don't fall over myself telling her how grateful I am that she took the time to cook a meal for me. And god forbid I mention eating something similar elsewhere that I enjoyed, she takes it as a personal insult that I didn't LOVE her food, even after being fully aware that she prepared it to her and her husbands tastes, thus making it barely edible for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                THAT is a social faux pas. What you did was a very gracious way of making sure your guests would be able to enjoy their meal no matter what their tolerance for heat levels are. Someone who reacts the way that guest did has issues that have nothing to do with you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Sounds like you were being a good host by giving your guests options and limiting them (maybe they wanted to try the dish but didn't want the spice).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sounds like your guests is the insensitive one! No stress.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I just re-read your OP and it occurs to me that your Walloon co-worker (I think you said he was from the French part of Belgium) was offended because you were right and he does not tolerate really spicy food. If he was ok with spicey Thai food I do not see why he would react the way he did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. no, your guest did. what an ass.