a low stakes question about guest manners.
June 29, 2020 1:27 PM   Subscribe

how much truth is the right level of truth for a guest?

You are going to host a very small gathering. (Assume a post-COVID world; COVID stuff doesn't figure into this scenario.) You tell your prospective guests what you are planning to serve in advance and you give them a chance to respond. So just for the sake of example, say you are inviting three people, and you tell them something like "I'll make burgers and a tomato salad, sound good?"

Now. Unbeknownst to you, one of your guests hates ONE of the things you mentioned. Tomatoes, say.

What is the better course of action for the prospective guest, who has been asked whether this menu is ok?

Option 1: graciously STFU. At time of event, just eat the other thing. Carries risk that you may have gone all out on making the tomato salad, and now they've annoyed you by wasting your efforts, since if you'd known, you wouldn't have worked hard to make a thing that 1/3 of your guests hate.

Option 2: tell the truth, like "I can't really eat tomatoes, but I love burgers, so I'll be fine and it sounds great!" This way you know that 1/3 of your guests dislike tomatoes, and you can choose a course of action according to your level of caring. Carries risk of annoying you by being demanding.

I'm torn here. If it were a question of the main dish, I would definitely recommend the truth, right? Like don't let your host knock themselves out making you a rib roast if you're a vegetarian. But if it's just half of the meal, and if it's not a food allergy, but just a strong dislike. What then?
posted by fingersandtoes to Human Relations (64 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a host, I'd much rather know while I'm planning. In your scenario, I've asked for a reason.

Note: Ask Culture.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:34 PM on June 29 [17 favorites]

My thoughts: For the guest, the better option is #1. You're supposed to be a gracious guest, and not demand the host to re-arrange their menu.

But, as a host, I think the host should have two options for a side so that guests can either have a little of each or have just one and still have enough to eat.

I do agree that if it were a main dish, maybe it's more important. BUT, the 'sound good?' note doesn't really leave a lot of room for stating an aversion.
posted by hydra77 at 1:34 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]

I’m all about option 2, just as it is - gives the opening for making another dish but isn’t demanding. If I was having this small gathering, I would definitely want to know that 1/3 of my guests don’t like half the meal I’m proposing.
posted by obfuscation at 1:35 PM on June 29 [14 favorites]

I would fall under option 1 and would likely eat the tomato salad as well. In my own life I don't eat meat which means when I visit family friends they always make palak paneer for me (there aren't too many Pakistani vegetarian options), and I really don't care for cooked spinach, but they made it just for me so I'm going to eat a bunch of it. I don't know if you want to follow my example but that's what I would do.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:36 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

Assuming this is a friend (and not someone trying to coordinate a work meal for multiple people, say) definitely Option 2 for me. That way my host can either say "great, you'll love the burgers!" or "would coleslaw be better than tomato salad?"

If I don't say anything, I put them in the position of being unintentionally inhospitable. If I'm hosting someone I care about, I'd much rather adjust my menu than provide food they dislike or can't eat.
posted by Lexica at 1:37 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]

I'm picturing how Option 1 would play out at the event: say the host notices that you don't eat any of the tomato salad they'd made, or that you just took a tiny bit and more or less left it on your plate. Are they likely to think you just didn't feel like having any? That when you saw it you thought it looked unpalatable? What if they come out and ask - are they going to be annoyed if you tell them then that you don't eat tomatoes?

I think there's a little too much opportunity for awkwardness with Option 1. With Option 2, you aren't asking them to do anything different for you but then they have advance warning that you won't be eating any of the tomato thing, and they can decide if they want to make something else instead or go ahead and make it anyway (but maybe make a little less?).

I'd vote for Option 2.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:37 PM on June 29 [10 favorites]

I run into this a lot, because I can’t eat tomatoes/peppers (not an allergy, but aggravates my IBS in a very bad way). It really depends on the situation - how well I know the host, how long I’ll be there, what the event is, etc. If it’s something that will be a regular thing (ex.: the first lunch outing with new co-workers), I will mention it because if I don’t do so at the beginning it get super-awkward later on when i so mention it. If I’m not super-comfortable, or it’s a one-off, very short gathering, I might not say anything.

To be clear: I never, ever expect anyone to change their menu for me, and it can be really mortifying when it happens, especially if they make a big deal out of it.

On the other hand, if it’s something I just don’t like, as opposed to something I can’t eat at all, I’ll usually say nothing at all, and just politely eat what I am served.
posted by okayokayigive at 1:37 PM on June 29 [7 favorites]

If I'm hosting something where I will be making food I usually ask people to let me know if they have any food allergies or other restrictions. Then it's on them to tell me and if they do, I can plan accordingly.

I'll take "I am deathly allergic to pine nuts" or "I'm a vegan" a but more seriously than "I don't really like mushrooms" but I also probably wouldn't serve mushrooms as a main course if that were the case.
posted by bondcliff at 1:38 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

As a host, I'd be happy to have that information, but I wouldn't outwardly freak out if I didn't find out until the food's on the table. I'll give anyone the benefit of the doubt that they might have been open to it until they saw it, or they were having a day that their stomach was just gonna nope out. I would privately maybe feel a little bad I didn't offer an agreeable salad for everyone.

As a guest though, I don't know that I'd say anything, I'd just plan to not eat that thing in a quiet way. I hate to be a bother. If I felt like I had a breezy enough opportunity to mention it and I knew the host well enough, I'd think about saying something.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:39 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

mods can delete this comment if disallowed: I see I'm going to have to chart the responses up to see where the majority eventually falls. I'm relieved to see my uncertainty is born out so far in the lack of consensus!
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:42 PM on June 29

Option 1. The host doesn't need your opinion of the side. Now, if it were a main, and you really hated it, such that you would have nothing else to eat, under most circumstances I'd say something.

(I will say that I once did this when a beet-and-goat-cheese salad was proposed and I took a bite for politeness' sake and to my surprise I ended up liking it.)
posted by praemunire at 1:44 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

You could try a sliding scale approach, where the fewer the number of guests, and the more casual the meal, the more input the host seeks for meal planning. If you’re making dinner for two and the only other person doesn’t eat half the meal, that feels like a fail. But if you’re making dinner for ten, it’s no big deal if a couple people don’t like tomatoes. From my perspective if I’m a guest, I also feel more comfortable speaking up if someone is inviting just me over to cook, or is throwing out an invite via text, as opposed to if I get an invitation to a larger dinner party. “Want to come cook dinner tonight? Pork tenderloin?” “Yes! But I don’t love pork, can we make pizza instead?”

If you were throwing a formal *and* small dinner party, where it would be weird for the guests to give input on the menu, and you also don’t know the guests well enough to know who hates spinach and who doesn’t eat pork, then I think it’s the host’s job to really think about whether they’re serving food that’s to most people’s liking, and the guest’s job to fake it enough to be polite. In that case as the host, you try to think through “do most people really like fish?” “I know I love capers but don’t some people hate them?” Maybe that means you don’t cook the coolest or most adventurous thing in your repertoire out of caution. In that case as the guest, you focus on the work put into the meal and the kindness of being invited, and take some bites of everything.

I think you’re right to flag vegetarianism (or allergies, etc) as a different thing. That’s always a “please speak up” situation.
posted by sallybrown at 1:45 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

I would do #1. If I'm going to a gathering this small, I would think the host would know I'm not much of a tomato salad person? Anyway, the burgers are the main event and I can enjoy them without bothering anyone.
posted by Garm at 1:47 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

As a host, I would prefer option #2. I always ask if guests have food allergies, restrictions, aversions, or preferences, and I take them into account. In your example, I would either substitute something for the tomato salad or add a second option for a side dish, depending on whether the guest just didn't like tomatoes or had an aversion, religious objection, or allergy to them. When I invite guests I want them to feel at home, and being confronted by food that makes you feel sick, or will actually make you sick, is not very welcoming.

I'm not a huge fan of shellfish, but I'll try almost anything and usually end up liking it or at least tolerating it, so I wouldn't normally say anything as a guest. However, I really find scallops hard to stomach, so if someone proposed a main dish of scallops I would say that I don't tolerate them very well.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:49 PM on June 29

Modified 2. Hey, f&t, I don't eat tomatoes. May I bring some cucumber salad to add to the festivities? I am open to other options. I hate to cause you any extra work, and am happy to bring something. Totally looking forward to seeing you and friends. because f&t said what they are serving.
posted by theora55 at 1:49 PM on June 29 [24 favorites]

My thoughts: For the guest, the better option is #1. You're supposed to be a gracious guest, and not demand the host to re-arrange their menu.

Yeah big difference between "I am making..." which to me implies the menu is set and "I was thinking about making..." which implies the menu is open.

In the former, as a guest, I'd shut up and not say anything and not eat (or pick at) the tomato salad. In the latter I'd say "Hey I don't really like tomatoes. Can I bring anything?" because I feel it's basically not my job to make people bend around my food preferences (as opposed to, say, allergies or dietary restrictions).

It's also different if this is a small dinner party, where the big central focus is the dinner, or some other gathering where you are also providing food. If it was a dinner party with a small crowd, I might be more likely to speak up. If it was incidental food, I pretty much never would.

I am Ask culture but I also really try to just be a gracious person if other people are doing a thing. If it's a thing FOR me, I will speak up with preferences. If it's a thing for a lot of people I'll usually stick to large basics "I don't eat fish or quiche"

If you (or a generic host) get annoyed by someone not eating a thing you've made, that's kind of on you. If it's really important to make a thing that everyone will eat and enjoy, that needs to be stated clearly at the outset and information solicited at the outset. I am... not a picky eater but I have a short list of things I don't eat and I always presume this is my issue and not anyone else's. However if people are going to both not ask and also get annoyed, years have therapy have taught me that's their thing and not my thing.
posted by jessamyn at 1:50 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]

I'm one of those awful picky eaters, and I avoid home cooked dinner parties just to avoid this scenario! It's fine with close friends, because it's a bit more casual and I can say "sounds great, although I'm not a tomato fan so I'll just eat around those." But, say, with my partner's friends who I know less well and also want to make a good impression? I don't want to be the difficult person who says "oh I don't like that" and makes the host feel like they should change their menu. The worse case scenario is I say "sounds great, although I'm not a tomato person but happy to eat around them" and they come back with "oh, no don't worry, I'll make a mushroom dish instead!" and I like mushrooms *even less* but rejecting a menu item twice makes me seem like a pain in the ass. I generally just say "sounds good," take a small portion and just leave the tomatoes.

Of course the more central to the meal that the ingredient is, the more sense it makes to speak up.
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:53 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

I don't understand the purpose of not telling the truth. The host asked if the menu was ok because they don't want to spend time making food that won't get eaten. It doesn't benefit anyone in any way to not be honest.
posted by bleep at 1:57 PM on June 29 [14 favorites]

Option 2, definitely. I’m a picky eater, and I really hate going to dinner parties that serve food I don’t like. Do you have any idea I’ve been to the McDonalds near my in-laws’?

That said, I’m a host more than I’m a guest, and I’d really hate to do that to one of my guests. The whole reason I’m cooking for them is because I want to do something nice that they’ll enjoy.

To me, serving food your guests don’t like is making the gathering about you, when it should be about them.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:59 PM on June 29

I like to host dinner parties, and I always like to know that what I make is going to please people - I'm having them over because I want to make them happy! so if I'm hosting I'd like option #2

as a guest, there are some things I shouldn't really eat, I have some mild food allergies - like I can eat the foods in question, but I'll get a scratchy throat and that's annoying. So if I were invited to a small gathering and the host said they were making a salad with lots of apples, for example, I would do a version of #2

"burgers sound great! but apples don't really agree with me. I make a killer coleslaw, though, can I bring some to share with everyone?"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:59 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

If the host thinks people are "demanding" for sharing an opinion that was asked for about what they should spend time & money on then maybe they don't like hosting.
posted by bleep at 2:00 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

If you genuinely want honest feedback, I'd replace "Sound good?" with something more like "any major objections to anything on this menu?"
posted by swheatie at 2:05 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

As a host, if you don't want to know if a guest was going to dislike your menu, you don't need to tell them what the menu is. In this scenario -- the one where the host literally asked if the menu was okay -- then I think not telling them you hate tomatoes is more awkward than telling them. Because while hosts are not supposed to notice what guests eat or don't eat, hosts are likely to notice if you don't eat a dish that you specifically approved in advance.

In a scenario where the host doesn't ask for approval, then indicating what you do and don't like is more dicey. The calculus can also change if the host is happily and excitedly announcing their menu vs. asking if something sounds okay to you.

I have been known to throw dinner parties specifically so I can make a particular dish, and it is, I think, pretty clear when that's the case. If I've announced that I'm having a party to let people taste all the tomatoes from my garden and you don't eat tomatoes then your best choice may be option 3: "Sorry, I don't eat tomatoes, but please keep me in mind for your next get together!" That leaves it open for the host to say "Hey, we'd really love to see you, and I can make some dishes without tomatoes if you'd still like to come!"

There's also a difference between side dishes -- usually more than one, not integral to getting enough food to eat to not feel hungry -- and whatever the centerpiece of the meal is. If you don't eat meat, accepting an invitation to a burger dinner is a much bigger problem for the host who wants to ensure you're fed than if you don't eat the side dish.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:05 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

scruss: in the OP's scenario, the host has asked and the question is which response a host would prefer. We're not yet at the "suck it up" stage, but rather the "should I suck it up later or say something now?" stage.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:06 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Oops, disregard my answer! I now see that you are the guest in this scenario!
posted by swheatie at 2:07 PM on June 29

As long as there appears to be something I can eat, I’d do option 1 and try to just eat a little of whatever the disliked thing is. There are limits, though. Mushrooms are my one and only thing that I can’t bring myself to eat even a little of, so if the meal were “pile of mushrooms with a mushroom side” I’d reluctantly pipe up about it and then feel horrified and guilty about it.
posted by Stacey at 2:08 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

If someone has asked "sound good?" it's because they would like to know the answer. If I show up and it's there, cool, no worries I will just eat the other things. If I have been asked in advance, it's because the host would prefer to know in advance that I will not eat one of the things. As a host, it drives me nuts if I *ask* am assured it all sounds great and then guests don't eat it. I asked because I want to make and serve something that will please YOU specifically. So please allow me to be gracious.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:09 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]

As someone that loves hosting dinner parties like that, I prefer guests let me know if there's something they hate so I don't spend time making something that won't be appreciated. I'm asking because I want to have a good experience for everyone, not just to make small talk.

As a guest, I'll eat most things, even if I don't like it, but if it's one of the few things I just won't eat, I might ask if they'd like me to bring a substitute thing for me that can be shared with others as a side dish as well. If it's the centerpiece of the meal and something I hate (like lobster), I might suggest that they have someone over that will enjoy it and invite me to a different gathering some time.
posted by Candleman at 2:12 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

I would say something if I felt it would leave me without an alternative (steak as a main course) vs just not having one of many side dishes. Also I'd be more likely to say something in a smaller group than a larger group.
posted by soelo at 2:24 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

I like swheatie's suggestion for the host to ask more explicitly if they really want feedback--not "sound good" but rather, "I'm making X and Y, are those all things you can eat?" Or "do you have any dietary needs I should work around?"

But yeah, I tend toward ask culture, and I feel like as long as part of the meal is fine (especially the main course) and it's not an actual ailment (allergy or restricted diet), you don't say anything. AND, as a host, as long as you are fed, it's not my business which things you ate.
posted by gideonfrog at 2:26 PM on June 29

As a host I’d want 2, even though as a guest I’d feel weird about saying it. But if I’m having a small group over I’d totally want them to be enjoy the food and that would be more important to me than making a set menu.

The only exception would be a large holiday meal with a fairly set menu, but then I probably wouldn’t ask the guests and there would be multiple dishes and hopefully they like at least enough to become full.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 2:29 PM on June 29

I always ask "anything you're allergic to/hate violently?" and that seems to cover most bases for small dinners. With larger parties, I have plenty to choose from OR I say "I'm making [Non-negotiable Dish], wanna come?
posted by cyndigo at 2:34 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

If the host asked, and it’s such a limited menu, and tomatoes are one of a relatively small number of things the guest really dislikes, I think it’s better to say something. If the guest would need to respond with a long list of other things they also don’t eat, maybe better to skip it or offer to bring a side they know they like.

But also, as a question-asker, I try to formulate my question so that the answerer really does feel free to say either yes or no, and as people have said upthread, “I’m making X and Y, sound good?” isn’t the best way to do that here (unless it’s people who are close and always talk to each other like that, in which case this issue probably wouldn’t be arising anyway.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:37 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

"I can't really eat tomatoes, but I love burgers, so I'll be fine and it sounds great!"

I think this is the move and but would skip "so I'll be fine".

Not sure I can articulate why.....I guess because it implies there was a possibility you wouldn't be fine, whereas if you say "I can't really eat tomatoes, but I love burgers. It sounds great!"

Because that's whole positive spin with an optional 'Let me know if I can bring anything' tagged at the end so the host can say 'An alternate salad would be awesome!' or some such.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:40 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

It depends! If it's a fairly intimate affair and you (plus partner?) are the only guests, then yes, I would definitely be willing to cater to your tastes.

If there are more than two households invited, and I reasonably expect that the other guests will enjoy the side dish, you can STFU and/or offer to bring a supplementary side that suits you better.

For my family gatherings (usually 18-20 people), I find the people who will eat anything, will eat anything. The picky eaters (myself included) are impossible to plan around so don't drive yourself crazy trying. The people who have allergies or sensitivities; I will send the recipe and photographs of labels of ingredients to make sure they know in advance what I'm preparing. I'm not here to murder anyone with soy sauce.

A very picky eater who has a big family with various degrees of dietary restrictions/preferences
posted by dotparker at 2:42 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

Your host has asked you a question. Give them an honest answer.

(If the host had merely stated the menu without asking for feedback there might be ambiguity.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:44 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

As far as "pending response" goes, I'd say "I don't like tomatoes, but can I bring my own thing? What would also go through my mind is that someone who's planning a tomato salad REALLY LIKES TOMATOES, so I'd be walking on eggshells about it.
posted by rhizome at 3:07 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

The picky eaters (myself included) are impossible to plan around so don't drive yourself crazy trying.

This. I know I'm impossible, and I don't want you to change anything. The menu sounds perfectly fine, even if I won't eat half of it. I appreciate the heads up, because I can plan to either bring a snack, or eat ahead. But I would never consider asking or expecting them to change the menu because I'm a weirdo with a limited palate.

I might remind them that I can't stand the texture of tomatoes. But only if we're close enough friends that I don't think they'll use that info to deprive their other guests of delicious tomatoes.
posted by politikitty at 3:11 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

"sound good?" invites a response.

Sounds great! I can't eat tomatoes unfortunately but this dinner sounds lovely and I can't wait. Let me know if there's a side dish or beverage you'd like me to bring!
posted by phunniemee at 3:12 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

I am a super guess culture person and even I would choose option 2 if asked this and say something if it was a small party (assuming close friends), mostly because you said "sounds good?" I would probably offer to bring an alternative, like, "I am really not into tomatoes, but can I bring an additional salad to make up for my pickiness?" or something. For me, the awkwardness of saying something in advance when asked (and not even face to face) is lower than the awkwardness of conspicuously not eating a dish in a small gathering of people.

Plus, as the host, I would WANT the person to speak up so I could make all of my guests happy.
posted by urbanlenny at 3:21 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

I was raised that you can't say anything except "Sounds good!" unless you have a food allergy or an ethical dietary restriction (vegetarian/vegan, kosher), and even then you should gauge it to the # of guests - 4 people, OK to flag that you are veg. 10 people, just eat the vegetarian side dishes and have a snack before or after. I live on the West Coast and am allergic to avocado so I often can't eat the salad when I'm hosted at someone else's house, but I would never mention it unless they were like "I'm going to make avocado toasts for lunch, sound good?"

I think this is probably mirrored in my hosting. I don't check with guests for approval of my menu plan, and assume that if they have a major common food allergy they will let me know. We are vegetarian so we don't serve meat, anyway. If I think they might be vegan or paleo I will ask if dairy is OK. I have the sense that most of my friends have broad palates and don't have strong aversions to particular ingredients beyond allergy/ethical restrictions.

Maybe if someone does check in this way, it would be ok. I would probably start with the positive and say, "Burgers sound great! I'm not a tomato eater but I'll be fine with the burger. Thanks again for hosting and cooking!" Then they can make another side dish option for you if they want.

Or you can be generous and not say anything and bring something to contribute, like another side or an appetizer, that you know you will like.
posted by amaire at 3:39 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

I would sort of take “sound good?” as an inauthentic question like “how’s it going?” and would probably not flag the tomatoes unless my difficulty with them was religious or allergic in nature, and then try the salad anyway and see. I’m mortified to see upthread that lots of people would take this to be bad guest behavior!

I do always ask, when hosting, if there are dietary needs I should know about. I nevertheless still wound up serving pasta to a no carb guy once because I didn’t know. I think he grew up in a similar way to me, where you’re supposed to eat what you’re offered, so he didn’t say anything. I felt a little embarrassed, because I really wouldn’t have minded planning a different menu, but not upset with him or anything. Next time he’s over, in the After Times, I’ll keep it in mind. I think the best practice is to be gentle with each other around food precisely because these clashes are awkward and norms have shifted a lot. Everybody’s just trying to be polite.
posted by eirias at 4:02 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

This is so very dependent on the relationship between the host and the guest.

Direct answer to the question: regardless of context, If I am the host, and I have this conversation with someone, I would always always want them to speak up if they didn't like what I was offering. What on earth is the point otherwise? Although, I would also never phrase it as it's phrased in the original post - I would make it more clear that I was actually asking. I am also very much an ask culture person.

If I am the guest and am asked in that weirdly passive way, whether I would speak up myself is not one-size-fits all though. Is this host my best friend? A friend-of-a-friend? My mother-in-law? My boss? My boss at a 12 person-nonprofit or the senior partner at the law firm I work at? A third date? A twentieth date? There is not one answer here.

In addition - do I just dislike tomatoes but I can poke around them and make them look eaten, or do I like really really hate, do not let them get near my food tomatoes? Obviously any allergies I would speak up (I would have already spoken up, at the time of invite).
posted by brainmouse at 4:14 PM on June 29

I've been a host who got answer #2 and I strong prefer it. The point of being a host is not (just) to show off my entertaining skills but also give my guests a pleasant evening. In my guest, the guest had issues with onions, said not to worry about it. Instead, at various times, I opted to make an a different dish, I made a dish 2/3 with onions and 1/3 without and I made a dish with onions on the side.

Another frequent guests is low-carb, doesn't like sweets and it works out fine if I just assume she will just have tea after dinner and then make whatever I want for dessert.
posted by metahawk at 4:18 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

This modified option 2, definitely (I still remember having to gag down a large quantity of borscht, which I was given no option but to eat by my mother-in-law ... sigh. Mr. gudrun nicely took one for the team and finished some of it off for me when she was not looking.)
posted by gudrun at 4:29 PM on June 29

I made tomato pasta for my sister in law who hates tomatoes many years ago. I told her I'd be making it and she didn't say anything then just pushed it around on her plate and continued not saying anything and I only later found out she hated tomatoes. I'm still sort of annoyed about it! She is generally not a big eater and I'm sure didn't mind skipping dinner but I am a very anxious dinner host and "serve something your guest doesn't touch" is a nightmare scenario for me. I wish she'd mentioned her dislike to me so I could have made a dinner she'd have liked.
posted by potrzebie at 4:33 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

As a host, I'd prefer option 2. That seems like the whole point of telling guests ahead of time what I'm making and asking them if that sounds good.

If someone pushes food around and leaves it unfinished, I'm going to think they just hated my cooking, and I'll wonder why. That's a lot more unpleasant than knowing - preferably ahead of time - that they just dislike a particular ingredient. This isn't even getting into wasting food which a lot of people find intensely stressful.

As a host, I ask guests in advance if they have any dietary restrictions or strong dislikes. To me that seems more likely to elicit the information I want.
posted by bunderful at 4:49 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

I would prefer option 2 as a host; I don't generally ask questions like that if I'm unwilling/unable to figure something else out for someone, and that response tells me I should probably make less tomato salad. I think offering to bring something else that you do like is kind and smooths over any possible feelings of annoyance at someone being picky. (Someone brought their own dish at Thanksgiving one year because they were allergic to so much that it was safer for them. It was fine.)
posted by tautological at 4:59 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

"I can't really eat tomatoes, but I love burgers, so I'll be fine and it sounds great!"

This one, thought you might claim you eat smaller meals anyhow and though you'll skip the salad you will be happy with just the burger. (and have a snack before you go)

This way you know that 1/3 of your guests dislike tomatoes, and you can choose a course of action according to your level of caring. Carries risk of annoying you by being demanding.

I don't understand the demanding part. Guest is not demanding anything, but informing the host not to waste food by making a much bigger salad than will be used. Host should not be put into the position of spending money and time on making you something you already know you aren't going to eat.

If it's a larger gathering where the host isn't making 50% more salad because they think you are going to eat it, you don't need to announce it in advance.
posted by yohko at 6:15 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Guest is not demanding anything, but informing the host not to waste food by making a much bigger salad than will be used.

I side with you, but I have definitely been the target, multiple times, of a lot of well-intended (but poorly-experienced) teasing because there was A PLAN and I asked for A CHANGE. This is really socially dependent, and some of it is kinda of guessing what people mean when they say things like "Sound good?" or "I am making this." I think part of the weird dance about it is if you tell three people "I am making this. Sound good?" and two of them have polite-but-negative responses, do you then need to get ahold of everyone again and say "OK I know I said I was making that, but now I am making this. Sound good?" And it can kind of go on forever.

In general I've found that people who don't overthink these sorts of things tend to be the most relaxed and easy to get along with at parties, no matter what their food preferences may be (assuming, again, preferences and not allergies or dietary restrictions) or whether they are the host or the guest. This can sometimes mean you miss a guest's preference, or it can sometimes mean you serve not-the-perfect thing, but I return to the maxim that the general goal of etiquette is to make other people feel at ease, and try to work outward from there.
posted by jessamyn at 6:30 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

I think I would go with Option 2. However, I am from Guess Culture and would feel extremely ashamed of myself for saying no to anything in the first place (it is not my place to dictate what a host wants to do), so frankly I don't know if I'd even get up the nerve to say anything at all. I tried to eat extremely rare meat one time to be polite but I literally couldn't even chew it, it was so rubbery and gross, and they eventually just said "give it to the dog." I got raised to not speak up even if someone asks, though.

Incidentally, a friend of mine threw a fit over the weekend because the hostess asked her what she didn't eat and friend said "olives" and then the hostess made some kind of olive salad. So nobody do that, mmkay?
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:33 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

I am this friend, down to the hatred of tomatoes. I’d respond, “sounds delish! I don’t love tomatoes, but husband does- and I’ve been craving burgers!” I just tell the truth nicely!
posted by beignet at 6:46 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

Metafilter: a large quantity of borscht
posted by rhizome at 6:56 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

So I'm the Queen of Guess Culture and I'm cringing at all the Option 2 answers. "Here's what I"m making, sound good?" to me is the equivalent of "heres my baby, isnt he cute?" You grit your teeth, say "yep!" and move on.

UNLESS, as eirias said above, there's an allergy or a moral/religious reason you can't eat that particular food. Then of course you can point that out. But if it's just that you don't LIKE it... Option 1, take a few bites, and buy some takeout on your way home.
posted by silverstatue at 7:10 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Allergy, intolerance, or strict dietary exclusion for any reason = tell them. but if you just don't love it? you are going to a person's house, not a restaurant or a catered event. if you're the only guest, or if you're as close as family, maybe then. otherwise I would only tell someone if I can't eat something or if I don't eat something. never that I just didn't like something on their planned menu.

(unless that was how they asked it. but even then, you know --"do you like tomatoes?" with an eager look sometimes means they've already bought a bushel for tonight. so even then, it would take an awful lot for me to make a thing out of it.)

When I have people over, I don't usually do it this way, I just double check to make sure I remember whether they're vegetarian/vegan/have allergies/special diets. and I usually do it by just asking if there's anything they can't eat or prefer not to eat. answering that question broadly is fine, that's why I ask it broadly. but it's a different question. & I don't plan the menu until I have the answer.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:14 PM on June 29

I exemplify this conflict within myself. If I was the guest, I would eat the tomato salad and never say a word though I also hate tomatoes. But if I were the host I would want to know so I didn’t accidentally make a guest sad.
posted by corb at 8:56 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]

I have had a guest do option #2, and happily made said guest an alternate version of the dish. I come from the ne plus ultra of Guess Culture, but I would always really prefer a guest to let me know food aversions. Two things came/come of this:

1. I felt warm and good that I could make my guest something they liked. I found their pickiness annoying at the time (this was many years ago; I don't host often), but it was an act of caring to make sure they were well-fed.

2. I have basically no real food aversions and used to be really really judgemental about them in others. I am trying hard to change that about myself, and now kind of go hard in the other direction, trying to respect aversions without particularly understanding them myself. So I'm happy to go out of my way for this. (I have other sensory issues, maybe that helps, but that's a whooooole other conversation.)
posted by kalimac at 9:18 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

I am a vegetarian with food allergies. If a host, whether I know them well or not, asked me to give input on their proposed menu for an event, I would use the modified script for option 2 unthread because if I don't I may not be able to eat anything at this person's even at all. Is is awkward? Yes. Does it make me feel weird to call attention to myself in this way? Yes. Does it make a huge difference between me and the host enjoying ourselves at this event? Usually.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 9:52 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

And the example you gave? Tomato salad? That falls on my oh God I hate that thing please don't make me eat it list. I might write or call the host and say, hey, this is awkward and embarrassing but I don't like tomatoes and I was wondering if it would be ok if I brought another dish so you don't have to make something else to accommodate me?
posted by Kitchen Witch at 9:55 PM on June 29

Since you are collecting votes: I'd just say, "I'm not fond of tomatoes, period, so don't worry about making enough for a serving for me. The burgers sound fabulous!"*

Because, I think honesty really is easiest and most courteous. As bleep said.

* though if this were for real it's the burgers I'd be giving the alert on...
posted by bearwife at 10:31 PM on June 29

As someone raised deep within Guess culture, isn't the right answer to say yes while giving just enough hints that the real answer is no? "Well, hmm now, I can't say I've had any tomatoes for a few years so I could eat a few!" Or "that sounds great, my husband loves tomatoes, so he can eat mine." Now that I've escaped Guess-land, all of those sound passive aggressive and like you're asking the host to do a bunch of work to drag the truth out of you. But it's an option.

More seriously, I think what bearwife just said sounds great, as does offering to bring another side dish. Here's a part of Guess culture that I do still love: make the side dish sound easy so that they don't think twice about accepting. "I'm not a huge fan of tomatoes, but burgers sound great, and I've got a big watermelon that I will never be able to eat before it goes bad, so how about I bring that along?"
posted by slidell at 10:58 PM on June 29

The best way to circumvent this problem is for the host to first ask the guests 'is there anything you can't / don't eat?' and then propose their menu.
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:58 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]

Update: so I lost interest in graphing the results around 20 answers in, but overall, a large proportion seems to lean towards wanting to know, if one is the host; but not actually telling, if one is the guest.

AskMeFi: summing up the human condition, one question at a time.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:22 AM on June 30 [14 favorites]

If the options are: make yourself look bad, by letting the host know, or making the host look bad by letting her serve unwated food, I'd be gracious and take the fall.
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:06 PM on June 30

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