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Respectfully Yours: Courteously look a gift meal in the mouth

Dear Jacquelyn,

What do you do when you don’t want to eat the food being served at somebody else’s home, but don’t want to be impolite? How do you courteously refuse a meal?

Dear Reader,

When you are a dinner guest, it’s generally expected you accept whatever is placed in front of you.

Accepting an invitation to dinner is a social event. If you can’t stomach your host’s meal, it would be impolite to outright reject what’s on the table.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some loopholes that allow you to maintain a polite demeanor.

Typically, when a meal is served, there is more than one item on the plate. If you simply don’t like a certain food on your plate, say nothing and discreetly move the food around the plate.

Your role as the guest is to be gracious. If you don’t like the meal and your host asks whether you like the meal, focus on the positives.

Don’t address the dish you didn’t like, acknowledge the hard work your host put in. A helpful phrase is: “I really appreciate how much effort and thought you put into dinner. Thank you.”

You might be tempted to resort to sitting quietly, staring at the others who are eating. This is where an uncomfortable feeling will seep in.

To avoid drawing attention to yourself, I recommend you try your best, eat very slowly, and be chatty. Make interesting conversation and do your best not to stand out.

In the future, if you know there’s a chance you could arrive at a dinner party only to find you can’t eat what’s on your plate, have a little snack before you head out the door.

The last thing you want to do is hurt the feelings of the host. Being a gracious dinner guest means finding polite ways to navigate prickly parts of the event.

Respectfully Yours,


Have a question? Email: jacquelyn@ptd.net. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training.

All Rights Reserved &Copy; 2024 Jacquelyn Youst