Confessions of a meal mooch who took a risk on a stranger
July 27th, 2011
10:30 AM ET
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Linda Petty is an editor at CNN Living. She likes boxed mixes, tarted-up vegetables, letting produce rot in her crisper, eating breakfast at her desk, raiding your pantry, ice cream cones and other frozen delights.

Some people love to cook. I do not happen to be among their number. I cook so that I won’t starve, consume only processed foods or eat from take out menus too much.

I don’t cook for fun. However, many of my friends and family do cook for fun. And I am among their biggest fans. I love to get invited to a great home cooked meal.

My friend Carol makes a meatloaf that has made grown men weep with gratitude when they get to take the leftovers home– if there are any. Becky makes a simple salad of romaine, fresh veggies and homemade dressing that is almost a meal of its own. Tom’s gatherings always include pork loin and beer-can chicken. He seems to always invite women to bring all the labor intensive side dishes and desserts.

My brother-in-law Steve makes great soups that can warm you up on a cold Michigan day and he mans the outdoor grill year round. My other brother-in-law Dan in Kansas slowly roasts pigs in some sort of magic box that makes the meat melt in your mouth.

I am the sort of food-illiterate person who reads cookbooks just to drool over the pictures - which may be why I accepted an invitation to dinner from an Eatocracy reader earlier this month.

I did check out his websites – both his and one that details every step during the construction of his house. I liked his writing – straightforward, honest, descriptive and concise, as well it should be from a college teacher.

I sent back a timid email asking, "What time and what should I bring?" Bob answered back with details about the dinner, the wines and his friends.

My own friends feared I would end up on the menu, served with a side of fava beans. They wanted to set up all kinds of checks: call when you get there, we’ll call you an hour later and here’s the code word to say for us to call the police. I turned down that offer because it just sounded too sitcom-y.

Instead, I showed up at the appointed hour carrying a bottle of Malbec, and he was at the door to greet me. Everyone was in kitchen tasting two kinds of cheeses with some crackers. Betty was putting the finishing touches on the chicken parmigiana. Brenda whipped up a salad. Soon we moved into the dining room where Bob’s homemade French bread joined the feast.

There's nothing like good food, good wine and good conversation among new friends to make the time pass quickly. And I must have passed muster because I was invited to join the group again on their regular dinner night.

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Filed under: Culture • Dining • Eating Clubs

soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Dryarae

    Hey, guys. I'm here. Sorry it took so long. I had to put the kids in front of the TV while balancing my Hardee's cup so I could get back to talking with my friends.

    Oh, wait. Wrong thread.

    July 28, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  2. Dave

    Spelling Nazi and Patrickk are probably one and the same. I bet he is from England, home of the boiled meals and rotten teeth.

    July 28, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  3. Kristi

    People, why do you keep feeding the trolls? Haven't you learned by now?

    July 28, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  4. Emelia Kanson

    Personally, I never believed in "fine dining". There are just so many amazing foods and experiences to be had. To try to narrow it down like that... Well, it hardly seems very fun at all! From a fancy French dinner, to having a simple Japanese rice ball for a snack, to those fantastic, exotic spices and recipes from India and Thailand... The list goes on. All food has potential to be connected to a good experience–"fine dining" seems like such a restrictive term to me.

    July 28, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  5. Two words for you

    If you remove the A and the T from Patrickk, whaddaya get??????

    July 27, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  6. adventuregirl

    I answered other because there was no button that described my thoughts. I would go, but with some due dilligence first. What type of home, where is it located, what is their occupation, a phone call first perhaps , a bit of pre-meal insight and then I'd let my instincts guide me.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Two words for you

      @adventuregirl....I can tell you whatever you want to hear, but if my plan is to chain you down in the basement and tell you to "put the lotion on the skin or else it gets the hose" then thats whats gonna happen- I'm Just sayin'

      July 27, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • d

      due diligence would be a contact time and an extra speedloader. Better, a public place and a big ugly friend.

      July 28, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  7. Chef MATT

    This weekend I'll be making crawfish etouffee omelettes with cajun cheese grits. Everyone is invited EXCEPT PATRICK THE D0UCHE!!

    July 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Two words for you

      @ ChefMATT I am so there, what can I bring? (well besides Patrikk of course ;)

      July 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Multi-Tasking @ Work

      I'm coming over...what kind of wine/booze do you want me to bring? I do hope that there is great coffee w/chickory as well, lol...Enjoy it sounds delish

      July 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • analystgirl

      Chef Matt
      Are you anywhere near Monterey, CA? Anytime... any wine .... I am in!

      July 27, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  8. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    @Patrickk (with 2 K's) so sorry for your absent parents on your upbringing. they would/should of taught you that if you can't say anything nice don't say it at all. well, Mr. Lonely Patrickk, having kids around at dinner is fun, they are creative little beings! who can't laugh at milk coming out of their cute little noses. as for entertaining, we have always set the table with fine china & glasses with great music for friends coming for family, we are pretty low key and do not believe on having the TV on. if it's just me and the kids, we will watch a movie and have finger foods and laugh forever....these moments create memories and the kids know when to be kids and also when to watch their manners...I do see a table for 1 @ the STFU cafe for you as everyone indicates...

    July 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  9. James

    I'm guessing Patrick is one of those guys that's sitting in his mom's basement. He's probably 40ish, blad, bad skin and over weight. He's sitting there eating Cheese curls dreaming he could be of what he speaks of. You can be any one online, faceless and using what ever name you want.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  10. Two words for you:

    Roasted Brussel Sprouts

    July 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • The Witty One

      I feel like there is something wrong with this....I just can't put my finger on it.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
      • LOL

        LOL again thanks for the laugh! i really needed it.

        July 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Two words for you

      Its whats for dinner

      July 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  11. Babs

    I would be the one doing the cooking and inviting and yes it can range from casual backyard BBQ to multi-course meals with fine china and sterling silverware. Fine wine and fine friends – and that is friends of all ages.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  12. Bailes

    @ Mildred Cheers!

    July 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  13. Mildred

    @Patrick You mean European families don't have kids? Or they're not around at dinnertime? Or they're always unspeaking little statues through the entire meal?

    When I sit down to eat with my fiance, at most we have classical music on, but normally no music at all (his preference). The plates all match, the tableware matches, likewise the glasses (which don't come from Hardees. In fact there isn't a Hardees in my entire state. And we have different glasses for water and wine glasses for different types of wine). We talk about a wide range of subjects. And if we want dessert, we can walk around the corner to a couple of different cafes for coffee and a dessert to share.

    Wow... sounds a lot like your concept of dining...

    July 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  14. Mike

    I'd have to say I'd have to take a friend. You just never know about people these day.
    Patrick discribed our neighborhood BBQ's! Lota fun in my small red neck town.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  15. Patrickthetroll

    Patrick is just a troll and no one should respond to him. He's just wanting attention.

    July 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  16. LOL

    i can't help it!! look at that face that guy is making on the right! i haven't stopped laughing since i looked at it!

    July 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Bailes


      WHOA! lol, thanks for pointing it out- he's like this. is. the. coolest. gadget EVER!!!!!!

      July 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
      • LOL

        i had to come back and look at it again! still laughing. i know pathetic but i needed a good laugh today!

        July 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  17. Bailes

    Well you just described dinning at my house in my AMERICAN home on any given night- oh you forgot to include the light Jazz playing in the background. You are so pretentious and your assumptions are ridiculous. You probably sit in silence because you have no one to dine with you.

    Patrick, your table is ready (for one) at the STFU Cafe Bon appetite!

    July 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Bailes

      Sorry the above was @ Patrick

      July 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  18. Evil Grin

    I would take my minions. Especially my food tasting minion. You never know when a hero will disguise himself, invite you over for a meal, and try to rid the world of its next overlord.

    However, I think when meeting a stranger in their home for the first time, it's not a bad practice to bring along a friends or family member. Also when meeting a stranger to buy something you found online, or when picking up a stranger hitchhiking on the side of the road.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  19. Patrickk

    Fine dining is about the experience...about sharing the pleasure of the company of others, while enjoying a meal that nourishes the body, mind and spirit. About the pairing of the right wines, entrees and acoutrements.

    American "dining" usually involves kids running amok, televisions blaring in the background and glasses from Hardees.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Amayda@Patrickk

      It should be impossible to be able to sterotype an 'American' as America is a melting pot of cultures. You have apparently only met the crude ones. There are many of us that truly enjoy what a Supper is supposed to be. I, however, make it a point to not include snobs like you into my social circle.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • lawlawlawl

      lolol I think patrick watches too much TV. He forgot to mention we only eat burgers >.>

      July 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Myka

      If you aren't already go back to what ever country you came from. Many dinners I've had and been to don't involve any of those things. Kids, TV, togo cups from fast food. I am a true sophisticated American. I wanted to call you all kinds of stuff but that wouldn't be very nice mannors of me.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
      • Patrickk@myka

        Perhaps you mean "manners"?
        Thank you for proving my point about the "culture" of Americans.

        July 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
      • Myka

        @ Patrick
        OMG I've made a typo and you are so perfect oh great one that has never made a mistake ever in his perfect PATHETIC LIFE.

        July 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
      • Spelling Nazi@Myka

        Geez. Your spelling & grammar out stinks anything Patrickk said.

        You called yourself a "sophisticated American"?!?! LMAO!! Leafing thru a dictionary instead of watching American "Idle" would be a better use of your time.

        July 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
      • Spelling Nazi@Myka

        You made 5 grammatical and spelling errors. 3 were in your first line. Your sh!t smells much worse than Patrickk's.

        July 27, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
      • Myka

        @ Nazi
        Wow you and Patrick must be friends. The way a person spells and their grammer is a sad way to judge people. LOL and yes my sh!t smells just as much as yours or any one else's does.

        July 27, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
      • @Myka

        I'm pretty sure that Patrickk, spellingnazi and Patrickthetroll are all the same person...some people just don't have anything better to do with their day and hate their own life enough that they have to create alternate personalities online for themselves to justify their existence.

        July 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
      • Spelling Nazi@Myka

        Wow. Is that the best you got? You're spelling is atrocious; your post has lost its punch; your defense (probably meant as an attack) strategy has no sense of originality. Patrickk is not me – and I am not him.

        You just keep punching at that wet paper bag. I'm sure it'll give way soon.

        July 27, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
      • Sacrebleu

        Children... children...

        July 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
      • Spelling Nazi@Sacrebleu

        My dad's bigger than your dad.

        July 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • sophist

      I feel sorry for you. Too bad you have to take a very small sample of dinners and project that across the rest of the American population. All dinners I am invited to don't involve TV, I don't know what a Hardee's glass is, and entail multiple courses. You must have offended someone with your pretentiousness and they decided to have some fun at your expense.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Scott

      you sound like a big DB, just like me Step Dad. It nourishes the mind, soul...whatever you freaking bore me with your lame wisdom.

      July 27, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Kathryne

      Dear Patrickk, you are an ill mannered and willfully ignorant individual. I attend dinner parties on a fairly regular basis and there is never a television 'blaring' nor are there badly behaved children running amok. There is, however, great conversation on wide ranging topics, there are beautiful wines and gorgeous food prepared with love by excellent cooks. These parties often include people from a variety of cultures ranging from the US midwest to the Middle East. What they nearly always lack are boorish cretens who are too lazy to do more than rely on sweeping stereotypes to classify people. Though it might be interesting to have such a person at the next one, perhaps you have an email where I could send an invitation?

      July 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Dave

      Patrickk – I much rather be sitting in a McDonald's eating a Happy Meal than to be stuck in a fancy dinner with the likes of you! If you are such an expert on American dining habits, then pray tell me how you became so? To us, dining is sharing good food with good friends and family and enjoying life. Sounds like you have neither good food, nor good friends you pompous POS!

      July 28, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  20. Patrickk

    The only reason I would dine in the home of the typical American would be to be amused by what you call "dining" have the most undeveloped and unsophisticated tastes that I would be compelled to educate my hosts on what true dining is.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • MeE

      Stir Stir Stir

      July 27, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Mildred

      Ok... what's your definition of true dining?

      July 27, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Fondue

      My, what a joy you must be to dine with. As I always say, every dinner party needs a pompous and pretentious pr!ck.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:36 am |
      • JBJingles@Fondue

        Then Patrickk is your man! When is the dinner party??

        July 27, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Sacrebleu

      You're probably French. Get over yourself.

      July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Person

      Phhfffffsssssst!!! Troll-be-Gone! Poof...

      July 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Big Bubba

      Patrickk you dun have a purdy mouth..come a little closer sonny boy....i gots something to show ya...

      July 27, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Ted

      I find it hard to believe that people can argue over food. Of all things food is where people come together if that means it is sharing half of my MRE with a buddy or, Grilling out under the Carolina sun it shouldn't make a difference. Dining is made by the company your in not the food you share.

      July 30, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  21. Steve-o


    July 27, 2011 at 10:44 am |
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