You’ve toiled in your kitchen for the better part of the day, preparing one of your culinary delights to share with family or friends. When the appointed time arrives and forks start diving in, the positive reviews you hoped for begin to fly:
“This is phenomenal!”
“Would you send me the recipe?”
“I’m savoring every morsel.”
And then, in one fell swoop, your elation is brought back to earth:
“You know what would make this dish even better? Have you ever made it with ricotta rather than cream cheese?”
Floodgates officially opened:
“Right! And maybe salted butter rather than unsalted?"
“I could totally see this working with the sour cream swapped out for yogurt.”
(Mealtime with Mister Manners is a column that delves into a smorgasbord of modern-day dining dilemmas.)
This is now a thing — until it no longer is
As of last week, this clumsily critical behavior has an equally clumsy name: "invidious comparison eating," or "ICE." A pejorative coinage that seems to have zero lineage before 2023 is now popping up in various online outlets, decried by HuffPost as “one of the rudest dining habits ever.”
Recipe one-upping is apparently a bigger problem than most of us may have realized, for the very same story refers to it as a scenario witnessed by “millions of estimated Americans.” Exactly who conducted the estimating goes unstated. Nor do we learn which judge deemed this behavior worthy of a place atop the rudeness heap, surpassing or at least sharing space with belching, taking thirds before others have had firsts, and chewing with your mouth open.
Should you be offended?
Though some know-better types may revel in crushing egos with their unsolicited two cents, I believe a great many home cooks — dare I say “millions of estimated Americans”? — enjoy and even ask for constructive comments from trusted fellow gourmands sampling a just-served dish. In my experience, this is especially true if it was said home chef’s first time attempting a particular recipe.
Does that mean houseguests should feel at ease firing off an unrequested critique? Absolutely not. The first order of sampling a meal prepared for you by another is to consume it with appreciation — not attacks.
So, what should a pride-filled home chef do if the ICE-man commeth for dinner? I suggest acknowledging the comment without taking it to heart. Something along the lines of:
“You think so? It’s an interesting suggestion.”
At which point I would shift gears to a seeming non sequitur which in fact would be anything but:
“May I freshen anyone’s drinks?” And to the table’s apparent instigator of all things invidious (not to mention insidious): "Sam, can I get you any more ICE?"