DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m usually adept and at ease when entertaining or being entertained, but for some time I’ve noticed a perplexing problem when dining at friends’ homes.
I’m often offered whipped cream, butter, a Coke, etc., only to be served fake “whipped cream” and “butter” right out of a plastic tub! (The containers are the least of it.) The “Coke” has occasionally been a no-calorie, store-brand carbonated beverage that in no way could be mistaken for a “Coke.”
The worst was when a friend suddenly went on a low-sodium diet and didn’t salt ANY of the dishes she cooked for a dinner party. The entire table was surreptitiously looking around, trying to see if anyone else noticed the food had no taste at all. When someone timidly asked for salt, a shaker was produced that contained a bitter salt substitute. Ugh.
My friends are educated, reasonable people. Shouldn’t they be honest about what they are actually offering? Doesn’t a hostess have a responsibility to have on hand things that people actually like, even if she doesn’t?
And what is the correct thing to do when the misnamed item is in front of you and you know it will ruin whatever you’re about to eat? (I’m not a food snob, but let’s call a spade a spade. A tub of “yellow something” isn’t butter!)
GENTLE READER: How was the company? Or did you not look up from your disappointing plate?
These are your friends, not your chefs. If they were selling that food, you would be justified in criticizing the ingredients. But they invited you into their homes at a time when few people entertain, partly because of the problem of dealing with food fussing.