DEAR MISS MANNERS: When our family went to my aunt's house for lunch, she had made a unique bread cake for dessert and she asked my dad what he thought. My dad responded that he thoroughly enjoyed it, because he did.
On the way back home in our car, the subject of responding to opinion questions related to food popped up. My dad said when it's family, you say you don't like it or you like it for a single dish because they might want feedback for future improvement. He went on to say that if it was a person you don't really know, you always say you liked it no matter what. Then he said that if it was a question about the meal as a whole, you say you liked it no matter who asks you.
My sister and my mom responded that for all three cases you always say you like the meal as to not hurt any feelings whether about one dish or an entire course. What do you think is the proper response?
GENTLE READER: As your mother and sister realize, guests should not act as food critics. Perhaps serious cooks might ask one another's opinions -- and even then, these should be given with extreme tact -- but hosts who inquire are either fishing for compliments or asking for reassurance, and guests are obligated to supply these.
Still, Miss Manners realizes that there is feedback and feed-back. With relatives, you have to be careful not to praise something you don't like with such enthusiasm that they feed it back to you on every visit.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Purchasing items at stores isn't a simple transaction anymore. Upon handing the sales clerk my money (be it cash, debit or credit card), I find I am being asked more and more often for my phone number, e-mail address, etc. Even if I have chosen to sign up for that particular store's Rewards Program or allowed to be put on their e-mail notification list, I am still asked for my personal information at the sales desk.
What happened with simply paying for my purchase and being on my merry way? How may I respond in a tactful way that I do not wish to broadcast that information and just want to pay for my purchase?
GENTLE READER: Yes, this is a nuisance, and Miss Manners is glad you do not want to take it out on the employee who is compelled to run through all those questions. You can save both of you time by saying pleasantly at the first question, "Thank you, I'm not interested, I just want to buy this."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend becomes quite upset when restaurant servers remove the dirty plates from in front of some diners while others at the table are still eating. She thinks this is very rude. I think it is both efficient and leads to a neater, cleaner-looking table and restaurant.
GENTLE READER: It is efficient, Miss Manners agrees, in that it prompts other diners to gobble down their meals to keep the pace. Unfortunately, this is treating them rudely.