Feedback Friday: 4 Ways to Survive a Dinner Party

PrintIn my twenty-something years as a picky eater, I’ve experienced everything from satisfaction to starvation at dinner parties. I’ve attended dinner parties with hosts who should consider starting a catering company because the food was that good. I’ve also been to dinner parties that would not pass Health Code Inspections let alone please the taste buds of a picky eater (but seriously, how do you mess up spaghetti?)

Dinner parties are tough. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about getting together with friends and luckily most of them adjust the menu with my eating habits in mind. The dinner parties I’m talking about are the unexpected ones. The events thrown by my boyfriend’s dad’s high school friend who invited us to dinner when we moved to Las Vegas. He was as unfamiliar with my eating habits as I was with his kitchen. It was uncomfortable, stressful and something I tried to get out of (too bad Mitch can pick out a fake cough from a real one…)

When it comes down to it, picky eaters don’t always have a choice. So, what are we to do? Here’s a quick survival guide to help you prepare for dinner parties:

1. Eat beforehand. There’s nothing worse than pretending you aren’t hungry when you’re actually starving – and grumpy – and have to watch everyone eat while you are “enjoying” your food. Do yourself a favor; have a snack before you go to any dinner party just in case you can’t find much that your taste buds approve. I’ll admit, I’ve been known to stop at the local hotdog joint before going to dinner.

2. Bring something. Oh shoot, this isn’t a pot luck is it? Even if the host does not want you to bring anything, bring something anyways. It’s calming to know you have something to eat if all else fails.

3. Start small. Not sure if you will like gourmet baked macaroni and cheese? Put half a spoonful on your plate anyways; you can always smoosh it around so it looks like you ate it. Trust me; a small spoonful can turn into what seems like the remainder of lots of spoonfuls!

4. Position yourself wisely. Whether it’s your boyfriend or your best friend, make sure to sit next to the person you came with. They know your eating habits best and are more than willing to be a team player. I’ve mastered the craft of scraping my cole slaw onto Mitch’s plate just as he has perfected switching plates so no one notices.

Pickin’ Your Brain:

  • What strategies do you use when you attend dinner parties?

Feedback Friday: 5 Tips for Picky Eaters When Placing an Order

PrintToday is the first Feedback Friday! Feedback Friday gives me a chance to hear from you about situations we encounter daily as picky eaters in a culture that will chew on almost anything. Please share your experiences and any suggestions or thoughts you might have – let’s get the conversation started!

Have you ever given specific instructions with your order but something else came to the table?

It’s not unusual for picky eaters to order a plain hamburger and receive a hamburger with lettuce, tomatoes and sauce on the bun. It’s also not uncommon for picky eaters to send it back and wait 20 minutes until the correct meal arrives. By that time everyone else at the table is done eating…

I will admit that I have received the wrong order more than I would like: I’ve been given chicken lo mein with what seems like every vegetable in the universe instead of chicken lo mein without vegetables; even a full taco has landed in front of me instead of a taco with meat and cheese only. Incorrect orders are unpredictable – you could have the easiest request (sauce on the side, please) but your meal shows up drenched in Bordelaise. In my 25 years of pickiness, I’ve learned that it might not be the server’s mistake as much as it is my own.

Five tips for ordering at restaurants to ensure the right meal is made:

1. Make a decision but have a backup plan.Whether you look at the menu online before stepping foot into the restaurant or refuse to sit down before you scan it, every picky eater has their own strategy when it comes to dining out. In my experience, it’s best when I have an idea of what I want before the server arrives. When I don’t have one, I risk receiving a buffalo chicken salad instead of a buffalo chicken salad without the buffalo, tomatoes, carrots, celery, scallions and blue cheese dressing. At the same time, it’s important to have a back-up option in mind in case your first choice isn’t really what the menu says it is.

2. Ask thoughtful questions. More often than not, the Margherita Pizza listed on the menu is actually a cheese pizza with tomatoes on top (yes, there is a difference). Find out what the dish actually is by asking thoughtful questions. Be specific but brief, no one wants to play a game of 21 questions when the ticket time is 21 minutes long. If you know the only dressing that you eat is French, ask if the restaurant carries it instead of wasting time while they list every [seven] dressings that they serve…oh wait, [eight]…oh and also, [nine]…

3. Less is more. What I mean is, don’t ramble. You don’t need to explain your life story of why you’ve come to hate Brussel Sprouts to the extent that if you see one on your plate you will puke instantly. Picky eaters generally don’t intentionally reveal our pickiness in the first place, but I have to say it…don’t be that person.

4. Clarify. There is no harm in repeating the order that the server just repeated back to you, just to clarify.

5. Smile. Picky eaters have a bad rep in the restaurant industry because we are known to impede the creative process of cooking (we realize this, people!) But is this worthy of eye-rolling and sighs of annoyance? Making the simplicity of picky eating complicated is worth smiling about.

Pickin’ Your Brain:

  • How do you make sure that you get what you ordered?