Do You Admit To Guests That the Food Isn’t Great?

A classmate in my high school public speaking class began his talk by apologizing for his sore throat. When he finished, the teacher commented and advised the class never to apologize in advance.

She said, “Don’t set up your audience to expect something less than excellent. Because you never know.”

I apply this principle to entertaining. On Twitter, @yonitdm complained that her food on Rosh Hashanah didn’t come out well, and she had debated whether to admit it to her guests. Of course, it depends on several factors. How well do you know your guests? How bad is the food? Obviously, if it’s spoiled or badly burnt you’re not going to let people eat it. But what if it’s slightly underdone? Or tasteless?

I usually don’t say anything. The soup that I think is blah might be the best my guests have tasted in years. If I can I pull aside my husband or one of my teens and ask them. Most of the time, they say it’s fine, so I know it’s only my high culinary standards. Or paranoia.

Another Twitterer said she owns up and says something like “I’ll never try that recipe again.” She doesn’t want her guests to think she’s a bad cook. That doesn’t worry me too much. Usually, most of the food is good, and the guests, who are grateful to be invited, will forgive one failure or even two. I pretend everything is just fine and focus on my company. I won’t offer seconds, though.

What do you do when you think your food came out badly?

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  1. Boy can I relate – I am always second guessing my stuff and my challot were a true failure on chag – but I do warn ppl most of the time but it is a bad habit I am trying to break because most of the time everything is just fine

  2. Meagan Rogers says

    At first keep it to yourself . Sometimes food taste is pretty much relative to the person. It may not be good to you but is good to others. Just make sure that every food is good. Taste test is free you know.

  3. It depends who the guests are.
    If they are my parents or ILs, I will state it loud and clear and apologize, (especially since I know that they will likely comment on the food themselves; this way, I head them off at the pass, so to speak).
    If the guests are anyone else, I won’t say a thing, and I’ll act as if there is nothing surprising about the food. Maybe they will assume that this is how the food is supposed to taste, and our family just happens to like salty, sour, or otherwise un-tasty food…!

  4. Ilene-we all get plenty of practice it seems!
    Meagan–sometimes tasting will ruin the look.
    Victoria–or else they really like salty food, or whatever.

  5. Agree, it depends on who your guests are – I would tend to make one comment about it *after* we’ve eaten (so as not to set up expectations in advance, as mentioned in the post), along the lines of the “I won’t try that recipe again” statement.

    But I think the important thing is to not to go on and on about it – too much apologising for a perceived problem can be embarrassing and a pain in the neck for guests. Just make one comment about it, to give your guests some insight that yes, you did know that the soup was too salty, and then move the conversation on to something more pleasant.

  6. I think it’s unnecessary. If you’re serving it, it means you think it’s acceptable. Sometimes I make something for my family, and they say, “It’s just OK … but you shouldn’t serve it to guests.”

    Sometimes I think I can judge people’s food by their personalities. We were invited out recently, and I warned my husband that I thought the food wouldn’t be good. It turned out to be DELICIOUS! The hostess was an excellent cook. This doesn’t happen often; usually I’m right.

    • Tesyaa: I will have to think about the personality thing. I only have one friend that is pretty bad and I think she knows it. (And it’s not one of my readers, I don’t think.)

  7. I have a friend who is an amazing cook and is always apologizing for the food–I always yell at her “Stop it!”

    If I’m having people I never had before, I won’t try to be adventerous and cook something new in case it comes out bad. I stick with the stuff that I know people like so I usually don’t have to worry. I practise new and weird recipes on my family who are consistently [brutally] honest with me.

    I never say anything. Most people won’t either. If a dish wasn’t touched I may make a joke at the end of the meal.

  8. Regular Anonymous says

    On the second day of Rosh Hashanah I saw that some of my food had burnt while on the blech so I made an off hand remark that on Shabbat/Chag sometimes it’s a choice of either cold or burnt – I was greeted with a chorus of 7 guests saying the burnt part is the best.

    Not my opinion, but I know my husband’s family all thinks that way. By the way, all the food was finished, burnt or not.

    I’m generally not brave enough to dry new dishes on guests.

    • RA, you’ve been missed! I was just going to email you to see where you’ve been. There’s a joke about the new groom who complains after every meal that his wife’s food is good, just not like his mother’s. Until she burns something. Then he says, “Ah, now this is just like mom used to make.”

  9. My grandmother says that that happened to her when she was first married. She made kneidlach (matza balls) and she was so proud that they were light and fluffy. My grandfather didn’t like them at all, he was used them being hard and crusty. Turns out that his mother used to keep them in the oven so they’d stay warm and they crusted over and thats how he thought they were supposed to be :).

    • Tziona, that reminds me of the time one of my mother’s guests commented that he preferred hard matzah balls (which is how my mother made them, and I still do!). She knew he meant well but joked afterward that it was not a particularly tactful remark. But this is the first I heard of crusty matza balls.

  10. I used to do that- warn everyone that this or that dish didn’t come out as good as usual, etc. Then I was eating at someone else’s house and the hostess did that- and I realized how HORRIBLE it sounds! I’ve never done it since. I’ve also realized that even if something I make really is terrible- so what? I’ve eaten some really bad cooking at other people’s houses, and it didn’t lower my opinion of the person one bit.