When cooking for loved ones, choose dishes they will eat
Q: My husband and I are hosting a holiday dinner for my side of the family. They are very picky eaters, while my husband and I are more adventurous. We hosted them two years ago, the very first time as adults we were able to host a big family dinner, and I literally had to scrap one of the side dishes an hour before dinner because I was informed that no one would eat it.
This year I thought I was doing a good job of simplifying the menu, but my husband still says I'm going over the top to prepare dishes for people who won't enjoy them. While I understand that to an extent, I also want to enjoy my own holiday and having fun with new dishes is part of what I enjoy.
Since I'm hosting and doing most of the work, don't I get to be a bit selfish in the foods I make?
New York, N.Y.
A: I'll have to take your word for it that it's fun to cook rejected food — not my idea of a vacation. Even then, it doesn't seem to elate you so much as lather you up even more about your family's pedestrian tastes.
That's the philosophical appetizer. The main course:
Being a good host means putting your guests at ease. Period. "Hosting" and "great feats of gourmet cooking" go together in only two places: magazines, and gatherings where guests appreciate great feats of gourmet cooking. Your doing most of the work doesn't entitle you to be hostile to your guests.
There will be 364 other days in the year after this day, and you will spend most of them with someone who shares your love of culinary bungee-jumping. Celebrate that later, and make this celebration about love, family and mashed potatoes.
Single woman can deflect mom's nagging about marriage
Q: My mother, with whom I have always been close, has suddenly started lamenting the fact that I "have no one." I'm 28, date often, have relationships often enough that I'm not worried, and a really fun, great life. Yet for some reason triggered by the holidays, my mom can't get two sentences out without practically tearing up that I don't have "anyone who loves you." I think she genuinely thinks I'm hiding my tears over this. Any idea what I can do to (a) not strangle her and (b) convince her I'm fine?
A: First, please ask her if there's something she needs to tell you. Not to get morbid at Christmastime, but sometimes people grow acutely aware of unreached milestones when they discover their time's running out.
Should that inquiry come up empty — I hope so — here are a few approaches to try. If she has a decent EQ: "Mom, some of the loneliest people I know are married. If I force the issue, I might become one of them." (I'm assuming you know such people, but you can also borrow some of my people, for rhetorical purposes.)
If your mom's susceptible to flattery: "Mom, have faith you raised me well. I'm living life my way, and when I want something different, then I'll change my way."
If she's a dog with a bone, on this and everything else? Quit early, and quit often: "Okay Ma, thanks for worrying about me. Ooh, mashed potatoes!"