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Miss Manners: My in-laws say they love my food but barely eat any of it

Dear Miss Manners: I have the opposite problem from most of your readers: Mine involves people who are too nice.

Most of my husband’s family members have been taught that you shouldn’t be honest if it could hurt someone’s feelings. They go out of their way to avoid being critical, always saying that something was good even when it wasn’t. But many of them also insist on going the extra mile, saying things like, “Oh my, this is the best ____ I’ve ever had!”

This wouldn’t bother me were it not for all of the extra work it creates at holidays and get-togethers. Every Thanksgiving, I prepare 9-by-13-inch dishes of green bean and sweet potato casseroles — fully homemade, no canned cream-of-whatever soup, using recipes that are labor-intensive — and everyone tells me they are the best thing ever. Yet only about a 2-inch square section is taken from each by the end of dinner.

When it comes time to take leftovers home, everyone takes big piles of turkey, potatoes and stuffing, but insists that these other dishes are so good they wouldn't want to deprive me of the leftovers.

The few times I have indicated that I don’t intend to make them, I am reprimanded — mostly by my husband — about how it will ruin the whole holiday if I don’t make them. How can I resolve this? I would prefer to find a way to get folks to admit that things aren’t to their liking, but I’m not sure how to make that happen.

Telling people to stop being nice is not in Miss Manners’ job description. Be wary of what you might unleash by asking people to express their unvarnished criticisms.

Just say “thank you” and make smaller casseroles. Better yet, tell your husband that if he and his family like them so much, you will be happy to teach him how to make it for Christmas.

Dear Miss Manners: My daughter informs me that after a couple marries, they are required to spend every Christmas with the groom’s family, rather than alternating, as was the practice before the wedding.

Is this an American tradition — or any, for that matter? I am not familiar with this “requirement.”

Neither is anyone else, except your daughter’s in-laws.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin

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