The other night, I cooked up a feast for my family. I made panzanella with roasted vegetables. I breaded and fried eggplant to make my take on Eggplant Napoleon. I bought one good steak to divide between the four of us. I sautéed mushrooms. I made sure there were plain peas on the table for my eight-year-old that wouldn’t eat the other vegetables. I decanted a red wine for my husband and me and had fresh-brewed iced tea for the boys.
When I called everyone to dinner, the boys were arguing and my husband was trying to diffuse the fighting. Things got tense, and I sat there feeling absolutely invisible and unappreciated while all of this wonderful food in front of us was getting cold. Couldn’t my three men put aside whatever it was to enjoy the food I had just made and know how lovingly and caringly I had made it for them?
So it was with great empathy that I read a blog post titled I Hit Bottom at the NY Food & Wine Fest by Amanda Cohen from the NYC restaurant Dirt Candy. She had made celery salad, and people didn’t receive it well. They became rude. They wanted forks. She had placed the salad on bread to be eaten as finger food. She didn’t have forks. People got angry. She felt that all of her work – 10 days of preparation for the festival - was greatly unappreciated.
A child, when told that some candy on the table was for display, actually threw a piece of it in her face. Worse, an adult, who didn’t like the celery salad, felt she should be able to have as much of the candy as she wanted. After being told it was for decoration, the woman opened her handbag and scooped a bunch in. Cohen describes that moment as the Candy-pocalypse, and then goes on to tell of her break down at the festival.
You need to read the post to fully grasp the situation. You may laugh while reading it, but if you’ve ever lovingly created something, whether it was food or anything else, and had the people you created it for be downright unappreciative and rude, you’ll also appreciate her descent.
I have seen the type of behavior Cohen experienced at festivals that I’ve attended. I’ve seen people demand a full glass of wine at a tasting table at a wine festival because in their own words, “I’m going to get my money’s worth.” I’ve seen someone ask the winemaker of his own wine, “Would you actually drink this stuff?” I’ve heard people loudly exclaim that food is “awful” or “disgusting” or “horrible.”
And, I wonder, when I see and hear those things, “Where are your manners?”
It is rude to say to someone who has just shared something with you that he created (and you chose of your own free will to try) that what you’ve been offered is bad, or disgusting, or some other derogatory word. Not everything is going to be your liking. And yes, sometimes, a chef or winemaker can get it wrong. That is no excuse for being rude.
In our home, we’ve taught our boys there are two options that they can say when they want to be excused from the dinner table. They must look at the person that made the meal and say, “Thank you for dinner. It was very good. May I be excused, please?” Or, they may say, “Thank you for dinner. May I be excused, please?” The second option is for when the food wasn’t to their liking. During dinner, if they aren’t thrilled with the food, at home they may ask if there are any leftovers they can eat instead. At someone else’s home, though, they are to eat what they are offered and be polite.
I think that food festival goers should follow something similar to my house rules. If you like what you’ve been offered, say so, and remember to say thank-you, too. If you don’t like what you’ve just tasted, simply say thank-you and move on to the next table. There is no need to be rude. You can appreciate the hard work that went into preparing for the event, even if you’re not thrilled with every taste you take, can’t you?