Q: My husband and I were invited to dinner at our daughter’s in-laws last Christmas Eve. My husband is a very fussy eater, and unfortunately there wasn’t anything there that he liked. He joined us at the table, but didn’t eat. Apparently everyone discussed his behavior after the holidays and said he was extremely rude. They felt he should have stayed in the living room saying he wasn’t hungry.
It was a very informal dinner, where everyone served themselves from the counter. Would it have been better if he stayed in the other room by himself while we ate? I found out about this yesterday, and it is really bothering me.
A: No, he shouldn’t have been expected to sit by himself. However, you might have consulted with your daughter-in-law beforehand to explain that your husband is a fussy eater and offered to bring something he would eat and could also be shared with the other guests. Just as it was impolite for your son and daughter-in-law to expect your husband to sit in another room, it was just as impolite for your husband to not even make an attempt to eat something.
There is no manners rule in the world that says you HAVE to eat something that makes you gag. However, it is polite to at least try something. Who knows - maybe the chef has found a way to make that particular food delicious. That’s what the “No Thank You” portion is all about. You put just a taste of the item that is not so appealing on your plate rather than saying “No thank you.” Whether it’s a food you’ve never tried or it’s a food you haven’t liked in the past, this gives you the option to try it and at the same time shows respect for the person who has taken time to prepare it. It’s much better than just saying, “No, thank you,” unless, of course, you have a food allergy – then you don’t even want to take that taste and a simple verbal “no, thank you” is just perfect.