Good Food with Evan Kleiman: Dinner Parties and the Etiquette of Ingredient Confessions

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This past week’s episode of Good Food was chock-full of interesting nibbles and tidbits, but we zeroed right in on one interview of particular relevance to Cure Takers as we gear up for the final dinner party!

We’ve all got at least one or two of those friends. They’re always on diet or they refuse to eat vegetables or they’re squeamish about sardines. We love them dearly, but cooking for them can be such a challenge that most of the time we opt to go out to eat instead.

Or is occasionally acceptable to slip something into their food without fessing up to the deed?

Evan Kleiman and her guest expert on manners, Helena Echlin of, discuss this touchy subject.

First off, they make it clear–and we whole-heartedly agree–that it’s never acceptable to trick someone into eating a food if it’s against their religious or ethical beliefs. By the same token, health-related diets for folks with diabetes, allergies, or the like should always be respected.

Weight-loss diets can get kinda tricky. We may not fully understand our friend’s decision to eat only cabbage or stave off sweets for the rest of his or her life, but we do need to respect their choice and support them as much as we can.

Having said this, Echlin feels that in these cases, doing something like slipping a tablespoon or two of cream into a sauce without full disclosure is a little white lie that enhances the quality of the meal and doesn’t really do any true harm.

In the case of picky eaters, it’s generally acceptable to include an ingredient that has been designated unpalatable, especially if the ingredient is playing a minor role in the dish and won’t be a prominent flavor or texture.

But Echlin warns against gloating if the picky eater decides they like your dish and advises only confessing if asked directly about your ‘secret’ ingredient.

The interview closes with two excellent points. First is the observation that in many cultures around the world, sharing a meal is considered sacred and it would be rude on the guest’s part if they refused to eat the food that their hosts provided.

Secondly is the idea that cooking a meal for someone is an act of trust between the guest and the host. Any decision to violate that trust on either side of the table should be handled with consideration.

Do you think that there are times when it’s ok to use a ‘secret ingredient’?

To hear the whole interview, visit the Good Food website and download the latest podcast.

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