Le Duc and I enjoy hosting dinner parties and I'm not above boasting that people have begged for invitations.
He's a marvelous cook of the French bistro persuasion, as witnessed by my hip circumference. (But I have sterling cholesterol levels, so the French diet thing works that way.)
We recently invited a couple to our home. "Oh," said the man, "I follow 'Eat Right for My Type' ", and proceeded to launch into an excruciatingly detailed lecture about his regime, while his wife glared at him. "Perhaps a restaurant some time", le Duc replied in the politely neutral tone I know (after 23 years of marriage) means "when-hell-freezes-over".
Nancy commented (on my post about fragrance) that people's imposition of their requirements is a form of control and attention.
I often see this from women in their mid-20s and early 30s when they order in a restaurant: "I'll have the Cobb Salad except can I have soy cheese and turkey bacon, and can I have that with ginger dressing instead and just a teeny bit of avocado?" Though phrased as a question, the tone of voice clearly implies an order.
If you don't want the oomphy fatstravaganza that is an honest to god Cobb, don't order one.
For dinner parties, we accommodate some basic preferences: vegetarians and our friends who observe religious food laws. (Some are observant at home, and not when dining out. As my friend Michel said, tucking into le Duc's baby back ribs, "I belong to the oldest religion in the world... hypocrites.")
We ask new guests if there's a deathly allergy. We have a steak for Christine when we serve grilled sweetbreads with morels, a dish that we and her partner Jim adore. We love her and realize they're a stretch for some people.
But if you don't eat food that's on the menu of a good French or Italian restaurant, you wouldn't want to break bread with us, and vice-versa.
At our dinner parties, I have experienced:
1. A man who refused to eat one bite of the four courses prepared. "I don't eat that" is all he would say. What did we serve? A first course of sauteed sea scallops. Blanquette de veau. A simple frisee salad. Homemade raspberry-apple tarte. His mortified girlfriend told us he lived on cheeseburgers. (At that dinner he lived on wine and bread.)
2. A first-time guest who told us cheerily, "I eat anything!" As it turned out "anything" did not include jambalaya or salad. Didn't like 'spicy food'; didn't eat shrimp, tomatoes, lettuce.
3. A longtime friend on a special diet for years: no red meat, no fruit, no sugar, no nightshade vegetables, no gluten, no dairy, no alcohol except beer. Le Duc bent over backwards, grumbling, for her. Then she fell in love and suddenly it was bagels with inch-high cream cheese, plate-obscuring T-bones and rafts of Champagne in bed with the beau. Guess what? No adverse effects.
I tell my sons, "When you bring a girl home, I don't care about her family background. I don't care what colour she is, or what she wants to be... just don't bring me a girl who peers warily at her plate and says, 'What's in this?'."
I was reared to eat what was served, with gratitude for the labour and generosity involved, to contribute to the conversation at the table, and to thank the hosts.
What has happened to make people so picky, even when they don't know a chick pea from a lentil?