DEAR MISS MANNERS: I enjoy cooking. I have lots of cookbooks, and I watch cooking shows and attend cooking seminars. My family and friends enjoy my meals and dishes, helping themselves to seconds and leaving clean plates.
They do not play with their food, cough their Brussels sprouts into their napkins or feed the dog to politely hide an inedible mystery meat.
And then there’s my husband. He will supplement my carefully and artfully prepared meals with almost anything he likes that’s not included. For example, I served shrimp and grits (a little Parmesan cheese and scallions on top) with a side of lemony roasted asparagus. He poured barbecue sauce on top and also added pinto beans, olives, Brazil nuts and blueberries.
When I have questioned him, he says that other chefs create unusual combinations -- as if he is a culinary trailblazer.
In actuality, it’s hurtful that he doesn’t like my meals and has to hide the taste or enhance the menu. It’s also, visually, a “gag” moment for others to watch him mix this mush together on his plate.
He shows more restraint when eating out, but can’t seem to resist the barbecue sauce urge. What can I do? I’m not sure I want to divorce him.
GENTLE READER: Well, could you decide before Miss Manners gives you a thoughtful response?
In the event that you choose to keep your husband -- if not his behavior -- make a deal with him. Limited experimentation by way of condiments or garnishes, not main ingredients, may take place with your food when you two are alone. But when you are in company, this habit must be limited to changes agreed upon in advance.
You may further remind him that he always has the option of making the meal himself, start to finish.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Depending on the situation, there are times when I have wanted to scream at people for their lethargic response to a request for help or for an answer to a query. Because I was desperate for the help or for the answer, I never said a word, because I could not afford to alienate the person.
If I am correct, you once wrote that you did not like the expression “I’ve been busy” because it implies, “I have a full life (and you do not).” Having made me wait a very long time and then hearing the excuse “I’ve been busy,” I want to reply, “Doing what?”
I realize that in some cases, a better excuse for the delayed help or answer would be, “It took so long because I really didn’t want to help you.” As I am sure you can tell, I am trying to type my frustration away as I request your help.
What is a polite verbal and/or written (when it is email) response to someone who gives the “I’ve been busy” excuse without providing any detailed explanation?
GENTLE READER: “Of course I understand. I will refrain from making any more urgent requests until your schedule is more freed up.”
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)