How NOT to Entertain Dinner Guests

Okay, readers, here’s my tip of the day. When you are entertaining and having dinner guests, do not – I repeat – DO NOT serve as your main dish a recipe from the Jenny Craig cookbook.

Many years ago, Bryan and I were a young (boring) married couple living in a condo with no child or pets. We were thrilled to accept a dinner invitation to a friend’s new home. Even though we may have been boring, we were young and jumped at the chance to leave the house (as opposed to today where we never leave the house).

We both met the host couple before, but this was the first dinner invitation we received from them. When we entered the house, there were no aromas of a home-cooked dinner wafting in the air.  We are having dinner, aren’t we? I wondered.

We breathed a sigh of relief as our hostess led us to the dinner table for our feast. She prepared — chicken parmesan with pasta. Being the Italian-food lovers Bryan and I are, we couldn’t wait to dig into this savory delicacy.

Yet when she gave us our plates, something seemed amiss. The pasta was bare. The chicken looked very dry. And most importantly, where is the cheese?! I took one bite of the chicken (in which the breading actually stuck to the roof of my mouth) and realized it was the most flavorless dinner I’d ever eaten.

Is this a joke? I’m wondering. What kind of dinner is this?! I felt like Peppermint Patty when she was served a Thanksgiving “feast” of toast, popcorn, pretzels and jelly beans from Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

And then our hostess said the words I will never forget …

“Since I work at Jenny Craig, I always cook from the Jenny Craig cookbook. Tonight’s dinner is one of our favorites from the book.”

So THAT was it! This low-sodium, low-fat, low-calorie food was also low – very low – on taste. Being the polite guest I was, I didn’t dare reach for salt to put on the chicken. And even when she brought out the container of salt, it was actually a substitute. Even the salt was fake!

I kept telling myself to be polite and eat the dinner. Bryan and I could always high-tale it to a drive-thru on the way home. Thank goodness she had the good sense to serve an Entenmann’s pastry for dessert. Not the best desserts in my opinion, but better than the Jenny Craig special.

Several hours later Bryan and I thanked our dinner hosts and wished them good night. We got in the car, looked at each other and burst out laughing. Truth be told, I felt sorry for the husband. If he thought that dinner was good, imagine what would happen if he ate one of my dishes. Or even a Costco take-and-bake dinner.

I’m telling you this story not to rant against Jenny Craig or any diet program for that matter. It’s simply a story about how a starving couple was served a tasteless low-fat, low-calorie dinner that was called gourmet entertainment.

The point is when you’re entertaining, think of your guests and not just about you. Splurge and make something with – I don’t know – butter or real salt. Move beyond the comfort zone.

Bryan and I have not seen that couple in nearly ten years. This was not a decision based on that dinner. Just time and life happening. But I do often wonder about them — how they are doing; what jobs they have; their kids’ names; and most importantly, if they’re still eating from the Jenny Craig cookbook.

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