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Infuriating dining companions.

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Every time I eat with my grandmother, I sense a great disturbance in the force. As though a thousand dead Frenchmen cried out in agony, and were suddenly silenced.

I love her to death, but I can't stand to take her out to eat. We'll go out to a nice Italian place for dinner. And with amazing things like roast duck on the menu, what does she order? A cheeseburger, well done. And she doesn't eat the bun, because that's not Atkins friendly. She refuses to even try the artichoke appetizer, and anything with flavor is too spicy. She'll refuse to eat anything with a sauce on it, and then turns around and drenches her food with ketchup.

I've decided that I can't take her anywhere but Denny's to eat - where nobody will bat an eyelash at her ordering flavorless, overcooked ground beef - rather than the restaurants I usually frequent, where I can actually FEEL the chef rolling his eyes when the waiter brings our order back to him.

I wonder if anybody else has any friends or family that are impossible to dine with.
post #2 of 19
I feel your frustration. Been there and done that with visiting inlaws. The answer might be to ask her where she would like to go and then just "tough it out". ;)
post #3 of 19
While it's an added bonus to eat with people who like to eat, I think you're missing the point of the meal. To spend time with your grandmother.

It's her business how she enjoys her food. Your business is to enjoy your time with your grandmother.

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #4 of 19
Love the sinner, hate the sin? :D

It's great that you spend time with your grandmother -- and that's what to focus on. I'll bet she's focusing on you, not on the food (understatement of the year :lol: ).
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Oh, I agree entirely, like I said, I love her to death, and I know she's getting older so every moment we spend together is precious to me. Don't get me wrong about that.

It's just an exercise in frustration to eat with her. Funny, but frustrating.
post #6 of 19
Hey, you're a cook. Why not treat your grandmother to your own specialty dish and show her that good food can have flavour without being "too spicy". I would politely inform her of your views and ask her to be open to new ideas, she may appreciate your candor and try the duck instead of the overcooked processed beef.
Just my opinion though....
post #7 of 19
May the Force be with you, Running Duck :)
...and may it help you put blinkers on while enjoying her company.

Good idea Jigz...then she can with a bit of luck be happy with a meal, once whe gives you here guidelines. I'm sure you can add a bit here and a bit there without her full knowledge. She could be pleasantly surprised! Or still complain, but you love each other anyway so, hey, its the time spent together that really matters.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #8 of 19
I visited my mother once. Took 7 hours to drive there. I spent 3-4 hours deboning a raw chicken, creating Julia Childs famous Poulet ?? where you marinate pistachios in Cognac with cubes of ham, shallots, S&P. While you process the chicken meat with heavy cream, cognac, tarragon, more shallots, S&P. Then you drawstring the deboned intact chicken skin after dousing with more cognac. Fold in the marinated ingredients into the processed chicken, fill up the drawsting chicken skin pouch. Fold it like a napkin in cheesecloth, tie it with string to resemble a melon. Bake it carefully, turning it upside down for the first 1/2 hour and then inverting it for the rest of the baking. Frequently basting it. Prepared everything that accompanies the meal.

Mother would only take 1/2 tsp of the pate', wouldn't touch the potatoe salad and the rest of the meal. Calmly got up and opened a small can of Muscleman's applesauce, buttered some toast and sat there and told me how good "her" meal was.

Anyway, I enjoyed the leftovers as we turned around and headed back home as soon as the meal was finished.

In retrospect I should have been more tolerant, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now...

doc
post #9 of 19
my godfather, aside from having the manners of a cave man......has never....not even at the shittiest of dive places...ever....not either special ordered everything he orders and/or dissected (asking for extra plates) every course/side he gets.

from dissecting lobster bisque soup, while refusing to put his napkin on his lap because "what good does it do there"...

now....plus 10points for being a "rebel" but I'll never take him anywhere.
post #10 of 19
Delta Doc, I believe that's the Chicken Melon you made for your mom, from Julia Child and Company. It's on my "make it someday" list.

I can sympathize with the frustration of this but I try to focus, as Suzanne said, on the relationship. However, when the relationship isn't what it "should" be, that adds to the feeling of being somehow snubbed.

My boyfriend (now my husband) had a bad cold our first winter together. I rushed up to see him with a big pot of made-from-scratch matzo ball soup. He thanked me and put it in the fridge. The next week it was still there, untouched. I felt silly and more than a bit put out! Then I thought about it: I hadn't asked if he even liked matzo ball soup, much less whether he wanted to eat it while feeling sick. I had focused on my feelings and on the gesture rather than on his concerns. I could have saved myself some trouble by communicating with him in the first place.

The picky mother and the applesauce.... let's not go there. :rolleyes: Manipulation and button-pushing are infuriating, and after decades of enduring them, I've learned a thing or two about how not to react.
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post #11 of 19
I have always had the same kind of trouble with my Dad (now 90 yo). He always had the "eat to live, not live to eat" kind of mind set. I guess that's why his hips are so much leaner (ah-hem) than mine. He seemed to not only undervalue and berate my Mom's and my interest in the crafting of great meals, but almost to resent the effort. He could act like a completely ungracious nincompoop if my sisters and I would take them out to a nice restaurant for birthdays or anniversaries.
Contrarily, he loved good wine (go figure!?), but only to a certain extent. For his 75th birthday, I bought him a beautiful bottle of Hermitage (stupendous year, though now I can't remember which)-it didn't cost THAT much, but was a generous gift. When he opened it, his expression would have led you to believe I'd spit at him!
I figured out after a long while, that being a child of the depression and growing up in Iowa, he always lived with the vague feeling that that the rug could be pulled out from under you at any time-leaving you hungry and cold. This kind of upbringing shapes your attitudes for years to come and this, I think, is why it's so hard for Dad to allow himself to enjoy some of the finer things in life.
It's annoying, I know. But, I imagine, few of us in this forum have grown up with the feeling that we're only hanging onto life and limb by our fingernails and sheer determination while watching friends, neighbors and relatives give in to severe hardship and disease. I'm sure some of us have, but probably not in the way our parents' and grandparents' generation did.

Next time, just make her the best darned hamburger around and ask her to tell you tales of her childhood. I'm sure that will be worth a bottle of Hermitage or two!

www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #12 of 19
Oooohhh...Tough subject...and one I could write volumes about. Although I love her dearly, outings with my MIL are always "special:roll:". There's always a snide comment about something, the food's never right, service is not to her liking, room is too cold/hot, etc.; or she hijacks a special occasion and makes it about her. Case in point: my youngest son's HS graduation, post-ceremony luncheon at a local restaurant, we're having a nice time and great food, and she lowers the boom -- starts lecturing my three children (all three in college at the time) about how they're growing up and she never hears from them anymore and she wants them to call her and spend time with Nana...blah-blah-blah. Completely spoiled the mood for the afternoon, and it was all I could do to remain seated and not walk out. The sad thing is that when we do spend time with her, it's never long enough, and then we get the "that was nice, we should do it more often" routine:rolleyes:. A real Catch-22 situation.

Micki
--o--o--o--o--o--o--o--o--
Micki, aka Pastry Maven

"Yom-yom-yooom, ze chocolad!"
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--o--o--o--o--o--o--o--o--
Micki, aka Pastry Maven

"Yom-yom-yooom, ze chocolad!"
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post #13 of 19
Ont the theme of being non-adventurous with food...my dear departed uncle, whom we loved dearly and was a top bloke, would never eat anything but steak and 3 veg. He was a farmer who'd done it hard, he and his wife raised a huge brood of children and supported them all and also helped many of his brothers and sisters out along the years...but definitely a stoic, old time farmer, up at dawn, to bed at dusk, who'd lived through the Depression, and the world wars, and managed to keep his head above water from a basic beginnings. All praise to him -he was one of my favorites.

But, always the steak and 3 veg. My mother is Latvian, so all our weddings were catered around that cuisine. We all loved the man - but would he come to the weddings? No - as he couldn't get his steak and 3 veg. Aargh. Ah well.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #14 of 19
Great thread!

My MIL was a royal pain! We took them out for their 40th wedding anniversary and she sat there with her pocketbook over her arm throughout the entire outing. I don't think she even took off her coat. The menus given to the guests of honor didn't have prices in them and that made her nuts. How could she ever decide what to eat if she didn't know what it cost?!

Every time they have ever eaten anything I've prepared, my FIL would compliment me and all she would say....EVERY time....was "I'll eat anything that someone else cooks." SHe used to infuriate me, and I her, but now she's in a nursing home but thinks she's at work, and guess who's her favorite visitor? Me. Go figure. She's much nicer to me these days and I like her now. Very sad that she and I couldn't have found common ground 20 years ago.

I have a friend that I will never go out to eat with anymore. She is impossible to make happy, is mean to servers, and is the cheapest tipper I have ever met who hasn't lived through the depression! Her food will arrive and she'll take one bite and push the plate to the edge of the table. When the server asks if there's something wrong, she'll wave her hand as if she's brushing away a fly until they take the plate away. She'll then say the the server didn't deserve more than a 10% tip. I"ve told her that I won't go out with her anymore unless there's no chance I'll ever eat in that place again. I don't want any servers to see me coming and do the rock, paper, scissors thing to see who has to wait on me. I would NEVER take her to a place I like!:suprise:
post #15 of 19
One of my best friends is a fussy eater - a (mostly) vegetarian who will NOT TOUCH anything with onions, bell peppers or mushrooms in it. And she's not crazy about beans. At least she likes garlic & chili peppers...
The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #16 of 19
Rather limiting for a vegetarian diet, isn't it?!:lol:
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
You know, I never really thought about this before, but shortly after my father was born, my biological grandfather abandoned my grandmother with a newborn son on a miserable dirt farm in the middle of Arizona with no employment, no money and no food. They were the very definition of destitute, and apparently went hungry more often than they'd like to think about. Doctors said that if my father had proper nutrition growing up, he'd be at least a full four inches taller than he is now.

I wonder if that might have something to do with her choice of food today. Hm. Thank you, foodnfoto. You've given me something to think about.
post #18 of 19
I loved my recently-deceased, former MIL very, very much. Long after my divorce, she and I remained very good friends, and I helped her through her unexpected terminal illness.

That said. I learned early what dishes to prepare and where to take her to eat. There was no point in selecting a "special" restaurant because she really couldn't appreciate the distinction between gourmet food and fast food. So, after several unappreciated birthday dinners, we finally figured out to just ask her where she wanted to go. Usually, Red Lobster, which was her absolute fave! And she was always impatient with restaurant staff, and often made a scene ("Where's our table? We've been waiting TEN minutes already! Let's just go somewhere else.").

But the thing that made me crazy was her obsession with ketchup, which she was actually used to brag about. I mean, she put it on almost every single thing she ate. The first time I ever served her a pasta dinner, with a ragout I slaved over all day long, she proceeded, without ever taking the first bite, to douse the entire top of the dish with ketchup -- sauce, spaghetti and all! I was mortified. And pissed. She didn't even taste it! The next time, it was a big pot of white bean soup, carefully seasoned with thyme and bay. Why did I bother? She added at least a quarter cup of ketchup. The first time I ate in a Mexican restaurant with her, I almost died when she refused the hot sauce, and covered her tacos and enchiladas with ketchup. And let's not even discuss steak. Well-done and... yep, you guessed it... smothered in ketchup.

Eventually I figured out which foods DIDN'T receive ketchup, and made either those foods, or served a "normal" ketchup vehicle, such as burgers.

She was such a kind, generous, funny person. What I wouldn't give to see her bury my slaved over lasagna in ketchup one more time.
Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
-M.F.K. Fisher
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Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
-M.F.K. Fisher
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post #19 of 19
You're right Mezzaluna. But the term "Chicken Melon" evokes something with melon and I was trying to remember the French phrase, something to the effect of Poulet de Melon a Clarente or whatever.

Take it off your "make it someday" list and make it now! We found that it is just as tasty (wife likes it better this way too) to just melt butter in a big frying pan, and skip the chicken skin. Fry it like a big fat pancake and use two spatulas to flip it over, put the lid on and simmer it till done. Slice like pie wedges, and deglaze the pan and make a sauce from the juices.

Lots easier, and that carmelization from frying it, seems tastier than the much paler pate look you get from tying it up and baking it. Plus we don't have to eat all that cholesterol ridden chicken skin!

doc
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