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SURSTRÖMMING

A black and white suggestion:

While I generally agree that you should just be placid and grateful when invited for dinner, I think it’s also the host’s responsibility to make sure the food is generally pleasing.  Expecting people to eat disgusting food is cruel, and further, expecting people to not freak out if you don’t eat what they serve is frankly unrealistic.  That’s not how people act!

LISTEN:

No, that’s not how people act.  You’re right.  But that’s how they should act.  And I’m right.

I don’t know where you read that people should eat, or be served, disgusting food.  You didn’t read it here.  What I said is that when people are snotty about food and think it’s beneath them, they should just shut up and eat it.

If someone is allergic to shellfish, or peanuts – something that will kill them at a whiff – by all means tell your hosts before the meal.  If you’re surprised with Shrimp Pad Thai, well you may smile and graciously ask for some bread.  But then you probably have cœliac disease, too – in which case – you should probably have a pre-printed letter.  And a will.

But if you’re generally a meat eater, but burst into tears when someone serves you veal – just – no.

Actually, people with serious food issues have it rather easy from the etiquette perspective, which is nice because the rest of it is such a pain in the ass.  You can read the menu at a restaurant and ask questions – if you’re invited to dinner, you can say something like “Oh, I’d love to come – but it’s just too much of a pain to invite me and I hate to impose…” at which point the host will fall all over themselves accommodating you and be grateful for the opportunity.

As far as hosts go, I don’t see a huge plague of revenge dinners being served, or people spending lots of time and money finding rare and revolting delicacies with which to insult their friends and loved ones.  If you have particularly adventurous friends and want to invite them over for maggoty cheese, that’s one thing, but it isn’t likely that you’ll be passing that on crackers, if only for the simple reason that the guests will be passing out first.

Which brings us to your last statement.  If you have served a perfectly prepared (or just perfectly acceptable) dinner without any allergens of which you are aware or terrifying ingredients that make even accomplished diners tremble, you are then giving someone something with which they can do as they choose.  Got it?  No hectoring, no prodding, no wheedling insinuations.  If they don’t eat it, and don’t say anything, then they are being perfectly polite.  So don’t fuck it up by barraging them with questions and accusations and guilt and all that crap.  Remember, they aren’t there to eat.

Shocking, I know – but when you share a meal, you’re there to spend time with the people serving it, not to take in nutrition.  That’s actually true of any sort of event.  Not the event itself, mind you, but the refreshments.  If you’re invited to play bridge and you accept, you can’t sit out the game – but you don’t have to eat handfuls of licorice.

Likewise, you don’t have to drink at a cocktail party, you just have to dress like a slut and make insipid small talk.  You don’t have to do every drug on the kingpin’s coffee table, you don’t have to suck every dick at the orgy, and you don’t have to have every bite of food on your plate.

And no one should make you feel like you have to.

 

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