Holiday gatherings with the family are not always known for their spirit of congeniality, and if your family doesn't resemble a tranquil Currier & Ives lithograph in the first place, inevitably at least one relative will pull a hurty-dur, either on purpose or not, and say something at the dinner table that makes everyone else smack their hands on their hips and say, "Oh-hell-no-you-did-not-just-say-that-shit."
It only makes sense that if someone is cooking you a turkey, mashed potatoes and pie, you should sit down, cram your gut in grateful silence and squash any inclination to offer a backhanded, insincere or alcohol-flubbed accolade to the punctilious cook. But liquor and family and idiocy mix about as well as liquor, idiocy and anything else, so before popping the cork on that bottle of bubbly this year and unsealing your noise-hole, here are five compliments NOT to give the cook on Thanksgiving:
1. "This turkey is great and all, but remember the deee-licious one my ex-wife made last year?" Opening the ex-files at the table is a pretty bad call even when your extended family is not front and center, and comparing one stuffed bird to another is an etiquette breach with far worse consequences than a belch at the table.
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2."This smoked salmon is great -- and I know you only paid $8.95 a pound for it with a coupon even though it actually costs $11.95 a pound." Even if you are a certified public accountant, nobody likes "that guy," meaning the one who talks about money, prices, discounts or how much legal tender the hosts hucked out to buy dinner ingredients. Complimenting the cook's frugality is one thing, but putting dollars and cents out there makes your chef look cheap and feel cheap.
3. "This green bean casserole is good -- especially if you're really hungry." Putting the hardworking cook's victuals on the level of "anything to fill the stomach" is a fantastic way to get a turkey leg right in your cranberries. Too many Smirnoff blueberry-lemonade coolers might make you see French-cut green beans, mushroom soup and those little fried onions as lacking creativity and culinary intellect, but this ubiquitous hot dish should not be taken for granted, and neither should its preparer, especially if you're the kind of d-bag who doesn't bring anything to add to the Thanksgiving feast except your farts and best wishes.
4. "This food looks yummy, but I'll bet it's really fattening." This compliment is an unpardonably stressful one for cooks because you are generously saddling them with the responsibility for your lack of self-control, and tacitly implying that they are to blame for you Hoover-ing crescent rolls and mainlining gravy until your bowels are clogged. If you want to stay out of the fatty food zone, then stay home and lick the back of a lettuce leaf while you jack up the incline on your treadmill.
5. "This dinner is so good. If you weren't my sister/cousin/brother/brother's wife, I'd marry you." Perhaps you intend your quasi-incestuous banter to illustrate that you can appreciate their marshmallow yams in ways their partner never will, or that you have no problem flouting the laws of nature and the state to gain access to their recipe for deviled eggs. The season of giving only goes so far, though, so unload your lustful thoughts onto your Facebook page or onto an unsuspecting stranger on the light rail. Otherwise, next year you may be served up an ex parte order.