Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

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Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Jenise » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:16 pm

Telling my husband who introduced me to curried meat stuffed pita sandwiches the other day, I remembered mine.

I was a young newlywed, and had invited a couple to dinner who were coworker of my husband's. Their names were Ranjit and Indira Chana. I served spare ribs. PORK spare ribs.

I didn't make the connection until about a year later when, at another dinner party, I overheard some conversation about the meal we'd just had and our hostess said, "Well, we knew you didn't eat pork...." Oh my god, how I admire those people now because they never said a word. That almost redefines the word 'gracious'.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Paul Winalski » Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:56 pm

A friend who I work with and I had just taken a Chinese cooking course, and we agreed to cook for a party of co-workers, hosted by one of the co-workers. The food came out OK, but only after total pandemonium in the kitchen. Somehow we succeeded in dirtying nearly every pot, pan, and utensil in the place, and caused a grease stoppage in the sink drain. Midway through the proceedings we had a hot wok ring that needed to be taken off the stove--NOW--and in the panic it ended up being thrown onto the kitchen floor, where it melted a nice ring into the linoleum.

We managed to clean up the rest of the mess, but we couldn't do anything about the damaged floor. Our host said, "Well, I suppose I can tell the landlord that a flying saucer landed there or something."

:oops:

-Paul W.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby JoePerry » Fri Mar 24, 2006 12:22 am

I've set off Mike and Carla Lawton's fire alarm on New Year's Eve every year for the past three years.

That's embarrassing.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Paul Winalski » Fri Mar 24, 2006 12:42 am

JoePerry wrote:I've set off Mike and Carla Lawton's fire alarm on New Year's Eve every year for the past three years.

That's embarrassing.


My fire alarm story doesn't really fit this category, since it happened while I was alone and therefore didn't embarrass me in front of others.

Paul Prudhomme's wonderful Chicken and Andoulle Gumbo from The Louisiana Cookbook starts off by breading the chicken pieces in seasoned flour and deep-frying them. It took five tries before I succeeded in doing this without starting a grease fire.

On the occasion in question (my third attempt at the dish, if I recall correctly) I didn't get started cooking until about midnight. I was tired and hungry, and therefore eager to get the deep-frying stage over with and to get on with the dish (which has a 45-minute simmer at the end). So of course I overcrowded the pan. 365-degree oil bubbled dangerously over the side and onto the electric stove element. Ominous black smoke started curling up. "This looks bad--it's out of control," I thought to myself, and I took the pan off the heat. Not a moment too soon--foot-long flames burst up from the heating element as I hustled the hot pan to safety. I turned off the burner and soon had the fire out, but not before thick, black smoke had permeated my townhouse, setting off all of the smoke alarms.

More fearful of waking the neighbors than anything else, I opened all the doors and windows in the place and fanned the air around the smoke alarms until they had stopped wailing. Now, this was the middle of January in New Hampshire, and the outside temperature was about 5 degrees F. During the smoke and pandemonium, my exclusively indoor cat had taken the opportunity to escape the chaos through the front door. So I spent several minutes outside, in the freezing cold, calling, "here, kitty kitty!" while trying to avoid waking the neighbors up, all to no avail.

So I was forced to leave the door open until the cat decided it was too cold outside and deigned to return (about 1/2 hour later). Meanwhile it was now freezing cold inside and I finished making the Gumbo while wearing a parka.

-Paul W.
Last edited by Paul Winalski on Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Jenise » Fri Mar 24, 2006 1:21 pm

Willy Pickett wrote: called my mom not long after this brilliant affair and she said "oh, I don't know her, she's a friend of Sylvia".


So this is what I missed by having my mother die young? That's SO funny.

But I agree about asking people. I do now, but back then I hadn't really figured out the world yet, and I was as color blind as I was naive. I didn't think of that couple as anything but fellow Americans in spite of their accents. It had never occurred to me to ask ahead of time about dietary restrictions based on culture or religion.

Now I just ask, "is there anything I shouldn't serve?"
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Randy Buckner » Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:43 pm

"you do like rattlesnake don't you?"


Had it more than one time -- tasty stuff.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Chris » Fri Mar 24, 2006 5:13 pm

Can you elaborate on the curried meat in a pita? Indian? We have a pita shop near us in Napa (Small World), but it's the standard shwarma, lamb, or chicken...good stuff.

An embarrassing incident? I have one that occurred during my first marriage. The ex worked for Napa County and a new county administrator had been hired. His family was in the process of relocating to Napa, so he was doing the bachelor act for a few months. We had him over for dinner and I made a spicy chicken and rice dish. I mentioned the spicy factor just as the boss was putting his first forkful into his mouth and it was like a cartoon: his eyes bulged, his face reddened, and I swear that little wisps of steam escaped from his ears.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Jenise » Fri Mar 24, 2006 5:34 pm

The curried lamb sandwich--the bread was more like a naan than a pita, actually, and folded in half to enclose ground lamb cooked with onions, bell peppers and a lot of curry seasonings. Nothing else added, no yoghurt or anything, though I can't be sure she didn't offer same as a table condiment. I'd have skipped that, of course. At that same meal I discovered mango pickle. Not sweet at all, not a chutney, but a mix of green mango hunks in a paste of spices and oil. It was love at first sight for me and that stuff. Most newcomers, however, dislike it intensely. Bob calls it "Janitor in a Drum".
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby G Stewart » Fri Mar 24, 2006 5:51 pm

Jenise wrote:"Well, we knew you didn't eat pork...." Oh my god, how I admire those people now because they never said a word. That almost redefines the word 'gracious'.


Mine was about 3 years ago when we had some friends from Milan round to eat and stay for a day or two. I put together a Tunisian-style dish with chicken marinaded in yoghurt and various spices and aromatic things including mint.

Turns out one of them was allergic to mint...

Luckily I found out before he started eating the stuff, but it did kind of mess up the evening :oops:
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Jenise » Fri Mar 24, 2006 6:52 pm

Nice of you to join us!

But yeah, aren't allergies tough? Your guest probably thought beforehand, "Should I say something about my mint allergy? Naah, after all, what are the chances?" I'll bet he never accepted an invitation again without mentioning it.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Paul Winalski » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:54 pm

Jenise wrote:At that same meal I discovered mango pickle. Not sweet at all, not a chutney, but a mix of green mango hunks in a paste of spices and oil. It was love at first sight for me and that stuff. Most newcomers, however, dislike it intensely. Bob calls it "Janitor in a Drum".


The Indian name for these is Achar (oil piclkes). The ingredients are a (usually acidic) fruit or vegetable (mango, lime, chile, ginger, and garlic are all favorites), salt, an agressive spice mixture, and oil to seal it all from oxidation. Traditionally the mixture is cured in direct sunlight for several weeks, and then it can be kept without refrigeration just about indefinitely.

Back in the mid-late 1970s there was a very traditional, vegetarian, Udipi Indian restaurant in Worcester, Massachusetts called Annapurna. Every dish had a little dab of their homemade lime Achar on the side. They also sold it retail in jars. I've had its equal from commerical Indian pickles, but never better.

A little goes a long way.

-Paul W.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Stuart Yaniger » Fri Mar 24, 2006 11:17 pm

Ah, curry. Not a faux pas, but still an embarrassing moment:

It was many years ago when I was in graduate school. Living in Salt lake City, which had close to zero ethnic cuisine, I had learned to cook some of my favorite Indian dishes. After some time, I felt like the stuff I was making was pretty damn good and would often have friends over to try something "exotic."

A guy from India joined our research group. Fresh off the boat (airplane, really), in the US for the first time, he and his wife were pretty lost, so we all did our best to help them adapt. I invited them over for dinner and determined to cook some of my specialties, just to make them feel more at home. Sambar, idlis, alu chole, saag ghosh, pullao, if memory serves.

Anyway, I spent much of the day getting ready, doing preps, and throwing the dishes together. The Indians arrived punctually, we sat down, popped a few illegal beers (not 3.2, horror of horrors, smuggled in from Wyoming), and chatted while dinner finished cooking. I served the dishes Indian-style, all at once in a simulation of a thali.

Big hit. They ate EVERYTHING, leaving not a molecule behind. I was beaming with pride at pleasing this tough audience. They said, "Stuart, we can't thank you enough. This is fantastic!"

I blushed a bit and stammered out some thanks for the compliments.

The wife said, "You need to give me a recipe for these dishes. They were so delicious! And so unusual for us! What do you Americans call this?"
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Celia » Sat Mar 25, 2006 2:18 am

Apricot lamb. I don't want to talk about it... :oops:
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. - Albert Einstein

Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby G Stewart » Sat Mar 25, 2006 11:29 am

Jenise wrote:Nice of you to join us!


Randy R. pointed me to this place saying that I might find it of interest, and he wasn't wrong :)

Jenise wrote:But yeah, aren't allergies tough? Your guest probably thought beforehand, "Should I say something about my mint allergy? Naah, after all, what are the chances?" I'll bet he never accepted an invitation again without mentioning it.


You know what the spookiest thing about it was? The night before I actually dreamed that he was allergic to mint. Normally I don't even remember what I was dreaming about the very instant before I wake up, but this dream stuck in my mind for some reason. Being the scientific kind I just dismissed it as nonsense. Until Guiseppe told me he was allergic to mint, that is...
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Jenise » Sat Mar 25, 2006 3:44 pm

Paul Winalski wrote:The Indian name for these is Achar (oil pickles)... Traditionally the mixture is cured in direct sunlight for several weeks..."


Great information, I didn't know either. But I love the mango pickle! Lime pickle is also incredibly good, but the mango is my favorite of all. I eat it straight out of the jar, to my husband's abject horror, and I also love it spread on cold slices of cheese.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Jenise » Sat Mar 25, 2006 3:49 pm

Stuart Yaniger wrote:The wife said, "You need to give me a recipe for these dishes. They were so delicious! And so unusual for us! What do you Americans call this?"


ROFLMAO! That's a priceless story, Stuart. And you have me blushing over some Chinese food I made a few weeks ago for a couple where the wife is Chinese--I'll bet she was thinking the same thing.

Hey, good to see you again.
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Daniel Källberg » Sat Mar 25, 2006 3:51 pm

None at home...yet.
At work however, that's another story. The one thing that still makes me shriver is the time when i served a party of 40, Creme Caramell. They looked fantastic until the plates began going out to the guests. At that point they imploded and it quickly became soup Creme Caramell. :cry:
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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Barb Freda » Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:04 pm

That story is VERY funny, Stuart...LOL funny for sure.

I'm wracking my brains, but I don't think I've ever had a terrible thing happen. When I was about 12 I remember being a guest at my dad's partner's house for dinner once. They were newly arrived from Taiwan. Dinner was incredibly delish.

Then for dessert, red bean cakes. To us kids, it was like kidney bean jello. You know our parents raised us right, because to a T, each one of the four of us choked down at least one cake.

My parents commended us afterwards. But red bean cakes will NEVER be on a menu of mine.

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Re: Your most embarrassing dinner party faux pas?

Postby Cynthia Wenslow » Tue Mar 28, 2006 12:02 am

Stuart Yaniger wrote:The wife said, "You need to give me a recipe for these dishes. They were so delicious! And so unusual for us! What do you Americans call this?"


Oh, now I have tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard!! Thank you!
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Crepes

Postby ChefCarey » Fri Mar 31, 2006 2:27 pm

Many years ago I hosted monthly wine dinners (well, not *exactly* "hosted" - they paid.) I had roasted a couple of kids outside for this one (No! Not *that* kind!)

The meal and the wines were very well received. About 75 diners/drinkers.

I had a real spiffy crepe dish I was going to wrap up with. While most of the individual portions were assembled in the kitchen. I wanted to do some pyrotechnics in front of the crowd, though.

Set up a copper rechaud on a cart in front of the folks.

As the waiters were bringing out the preponderance of the desserts,I fired up the rechaud and put my copper pan on it. My timing was impeccable Got it quite hot. Put butter, the crepes etc in. (You think you see where this is going, but you don't. )

I began adding an array of liqueurs to the pan. I had some of the giant matches with which to light the pan. Added a little super duper 150 proof flambe liquid to insure a good fire.Went to light it with a flourish. Unfortunately I flourished right into the pan's handle with my flourishing hand - the result being the pan flying off the rechaud and landing in a fortunately empty seat at the front table (guest was in the bathroom) , catching the chair on fire.

I said Voila!
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