Want to play Miss Manners? Who is in the wrong here?

What are the demands of etiquette when dining with friends who follow a different code of eating than you do?

One of my childhood friends has lately become a vegetarian, in accordance with the customs of her new husband. We had entertained this couple twice since their marriage, once with a quiet meal at our house at which I served non-meat dishes only, and once at a larger gathering where I offered both meat and non-meat dishes at a buffet table. Both times she and her husband seemed to have a good time.

Last week they invited us out to dinner, and the restaurant they chose served a variety of mid-eastern ethnic cuisine. I chose vegetarian dishes out of sensitivity to their views, but my husband ordered a meal that included lamb. Our hosts didn’t say anything, but I felt a definite coolness in the conversation throughout the dinner.

When I spoke with my friend the next day, she admitted her husband had been offended by my husband’s meal choice. As he sees it, my husband had ‘maneuvered’ him into violating his ethical code by causing him to pay for the consumption of animal flesh, despite my husband knowing that her husband finds the eating of meat morally abhorrent.

I tried to smooth things over with her, and have suggested to my husband that he should apologize to her husband, but he refuses. He says that by selecting a restaurant that served meat dishes the host had implicitly given him the okay to choose anything on the menu, and that if the possibility of this happening was so upsetting, then the host should have chosen a vegetarian restaurant, or at the very least said something about us not ordering meat before hand.

Needless to say, things are chilly right now, on many fronts. I didn’t think asking my husband to apologize just to smooth things over was out of line. He says he has done nothing to apologize for, and is angry that I am taking my friend’s side over his. In fact, I don’t think my husband was truly wrong, just not as considerate as he could have been…but I don’t want to lose this couple’s friendship over this.

Who is right and wrong here, and how can we proceed to make everyone feel placated?

I’d side with your hubby. Unless his former friend announced prior to the meal being ordered that it was against his moral principles to pay for meals containing meat, your husband did nothing that he should apologize for.

I’m with the husband too. Asking someone to change their personal habits seems rather abhorrent to me. I like the way you did things by the way, your large gathering was teh perfect compromise between meat eaters and non meat eaters.

While I do think it was a bit inconsiderate of your hubby to order a meat dish knowing that his host has moral objections to eating it…

you don’t give your location, but any decent-sized city is bound to have at least one vegetarian restaraunt and your hosts could have chosen to take you there to dine. If there is no veggie place in your city, then your host should have made it clear that his objections to the consumption of animal flesh extended to the financial facilitation of same.

I’m with your hubby.

Another on the side of your spouse. Why should someone else’s preference dictate what you eat? If you’re alergic to dairy, does that mean I can’t have cheese on my burger? They need to chill.

Well, I agree with Qadgop, but it doesn’t really fix the problem, does it?

What about this: tell you husband he was right, but that the friendship means a lot to you, however you’re not sure it means as much to them if they so easily chose backing away rather than communication.

Then ask you husband to offer to recompense them for the meal he ate, you can offer to give him the money yourself. He doesn’t really have to apologize, he can just say he feels bad that there was a misunderstanding, and that he didn’t mean to offend them.

If they accept the money they’re not really your friends, I’m sorry to say, but if they appreciate the gesture and decline, maybe it can be smoothed over.

Okay, that was my try. Next!

Your husband is 100% in the right. He has absolutely nothing to apologize for, and shouldn’t even be expected to.

It’s just plain presumptuous to expect anyone else to follow your own eating habits, even if you do believe that you’re doing it for moral reasons. And bringing money into the situation is even worse; it’s downright petty. If he were going to have a problem with paying for your dinner, he never should have offered in the first place.

Frankly, your friend’s husband sounds like a sanctimonious jerk. If he’s not enough an adult to be tolerant of the fact that some people eat meat, he’s got no business socializing with them.

Veggie boy is just being a prick. Bringing up the money is just a manipulative way to make you feel guilty. Your husband has nothing to apologize for.

I also disagree with Asbestos Mango that your husband had any obligation to avoid eating meat just to avoid offending Rabbit boy.

You say you want to preserve a friendship, but real friends do not try to exert sanctimonious conditions on your behavior or demand apologies for not being like they are. Don’t let this guy make you eat shit. Friends don’t do that.

I think your friend’s husband sounds rather controlling and self-righteous. If you give in this time, there’s only going to be a next time and a next time. I’ve known my share of veggies and vegans- hell, I’ve been a vegan- most of them couldn’t give less of a crap what someone else eats but you do run into the zealots now and then. You can’t let them intimidate you. You owe them nothing.

“He says he has done nothing to apologize for”

I agree. If the other couple (who were buying, apparently) were so opposed to consuming meat OR paying for meat in any way, they should not have chosen a restaurant where they serve meat, period. To me, this is like someone who is “morally against” the consumption of alcohol getting pissed off that you ordered a beer with dinner when they were treating you. I dont’ see how their moral beliefs should affect your behavior, honestly. If they don’t want meat, then they dont’ have to eat it, but they shouldn’t be pressuring you to behave the same way. It’s not their place to do so or their business.

Their behavior was WAY out of line- mentioning it and being all pissy. I think maybe they need more like minded people to be friends with if their going to be so judgemental. Who needs to be walking on eggshells in front of friends?

Let’s say that I invite people to an ethnic restaurant that serves [insert cute domesticated pet here].

This is considered part of a normal diet for this particular culture, yet it is abhorrent to me to consider eating [cute domesticated pet].

My guests order [cute domesticated pet] from the menu.

What do I do? Enjoy my meal and the company of the people with whom I am dining, accepting and appreciating that there are cultures that differ from my own.

If I can’t accept that fact, then I will slowly narrow my circle of business and social interactions until I am by myself because nobody else acts just like me.

But the host wasn’t the one eating it. If host has moral objection to paying for it, host either needs to state that up front or not invite others to restaurants. Or invite them to his home and prepare veggie dishes.

My own rule of thumb. If I invite a person to a restaurant, they get to order whatever the hell the want.

Another vote for hubby.

I can’t add anything else that hasn’t already been said.

Amen. If the other couple’s vegetarianism is based on moral grounds – which is perfectly proper – then they should not have been filling the coffers of an establishement that deals in animal flesh. Me, I’d pay the price, tax, and tip of the lamb dish, then decline all future offers of dinner with them. Keep your friendship alive with movies, or something.


I will second Zette’s point: I would say that their choosing to frequent a restaurant that sells meat should be the main issue here. By even patronizing the place, he is giving implicit consent and approval to the consumption of meat. I realize this is a strict interpretation but his panty twisting over the friend ordering meat opens the door.

How come your friend’s husband doesn’t find it morally abhorrent to patronize a restaurant that serves meat?

Ooops. DesertDog beat me to it.

Putting myself in this guy’s place: my religious beliefs disallow alcohol. So I never drink. I haven’t got any problem, however, with being at a gathering or dinner at which alcohol is served (though I never serve it myself, at least partly because I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what to buy :)). And if I was treating friends at a restaurant, I would not have a problem paying for something cooked in brandy, or my friend’s beer. If I did, I would have to say so beforehand, or take her to a place that doesn’t serve liquor. After all, her beliefs don’t say one thing about alcohol.

This guy is being a jerk IMO. I guess I’d say, try to preserve the friendship with your friend, but forget about going out to dinner with them.

Okay, seems to be a clear concensus that hubby doesn’t need to apologize. Which I guess means I have to apologize to him for suggesting he apologize…well, no biggie, I’ve been wrong before, and hubby doesn’t hold grudges or bring up long ago misbehaviors in future arguments the way we women do sometimes. :wink:

To address some points:

Yes, friend’s husband’s opposition to eating meat is an ethical/moral thing. Which is why I can sort of see his point. It’s similar to the way that those who oppose abortion don’t want their tax money used to pay for them – paying for murder is not much different morally than doing murder is the argument. Which is why I chose a veggie meal… OTOH, yeah, why were we in a meat-serving restaurant? I don’t know, but maybe friend’s husband just craved that cuisine, and assumed we as his guests would automatically conform to his customs since he was the host. Like we could have ended up at Pizza Hut if he craved pizza, assuming we’d naturally pick only cheese and veggie toppings.

Still. I really thing he played the major role in this ‘problem’: he chose the restaurant, he didn’t say anything ahead of time, and he could have spoken right up with my hubby ordered and explained his stance and asked him to chose something else. (Though he probably was trying to be polite to his guests at that point and felt he couldn’t…)

And, of course, there’d have been no chance of a problem at a vegetarian restaurant or at his home. I mean, hubby and I are pretty much well socialized people. We’d eat whatever was served and make agreeable noises about it, and my carnaphile hubby could always get a quarterpounder or something on the way home…

Well. I guess I’ll call Polly tomorrow and see if offering to repay the money makes any difference, but I really don’t think it will. I don’t have the impression her husband is cheap, or manipulative or controlling, it’s really a moral thing for him. Maybe we should offer to make a donation to some animal charity instead. Some place that saves old horses from butchering or the like.

The thing is, Polly is my oldest friend, we’ve been there for each other since sandbox days. I don’t want to lose that. And I don’t want her to feel she’s lost me, either, because I’m afraid she’s going to need a friend sooner or later. Her husband does seem a bit…strange… to me in some of his attitudes. The religion thing is a biggie – when you ask him what faith he follows you get this convoluted explanation about how Americans don’t know much about his religion (Jainism, I think it’s called, though I’m not sure of the spelling) and what little they do know is based on the ‘popular’ form which has grown corrupt and decadent and the leaders of his sect has gone back to the basics and are following the ‘pure’ form and… and it’s probably unfair, but whenever he starts talking that way a little voice in my head starts chanting ‘Fundamentalist Wacko, beware, Fundamentalist Wacko, beware’… Which, again, I know I’m almost certainly being unfair, because he really seems to be a nice guy, we had very pleasant conversations when we were together the earlier times, and he seems to treat Polly fine and she’s happy…and yet… I dunno. It’s probably just prejudice on my part, but I really want Polly to know we’re still close friends and she can call on me if anything goes wrong.

I think I’d best concentrate on making this a girl-girl friendship and leave the husband-husband interaction as small as possible.

Okay, I’ll be the voice of dissent here.

There are plenty of vegetarians–myself included–who are economic vegetarians: our goal is to not support the meat industry, and so we try to prevent our money from going toward the production of meat.

A meat-selling restaurant will look at the dishes they sell. If they sell more meaty dishes, then they’ll purchase more meat. If they sell fewer meaty dishes, then they’ll purchase less meat.

They’ll purchase the meat from resellers, who will make the same calculation. The resellers will purchase the meat from farmers. If the farmers sell more meat, they’ll raise and kill more animals. If the farmers sell less meat, they’ll raise and kill fewer animals.

For myself, although I sometimes end up paying for folks’ meat purchases, I definitely feel pretty weird when I do it. I feel that by paying for meat, I’m encouraging the restaurant to view meat as profitable, and that’ll go right back down the line until the farmers consider killing more animals to be profitable. I’m not at all comfortable with even this indirect level of supporting the meat industry.

So, to that degree, I can understand where the friend’s husband is coming from. The financial issue isn’t an excuse: it’s the very heart of the matter for him.

That said, he should’ve spoken up. He should’ve said, “Listen, I’m sorry, but I can’t pay for meat; it’s a moral issue for me. Would you be willing to pay for your dinner? Otherwise, I’m happy to pay for a vegetarian option.”

Sulking about it is not okay.

That said, why the hell is your husband being so self-righteous about it? Does he get a blue ribbon if he wins? Jesus–he needs to suck it up, apologize for making the other guy uncomfortable, and get on with life. His testicles won’t shrivel up in response.


If you want to offer an apology for the confusion (to preserve the friendship), go ahead. (I don’t think you have to apologize to your husband for asking; you were just trying to maintain the friendship unless you were nagging him.)

I would say that it would be appropriate that you and your husband refrain from meat in any future encounters, regardless of the venue, now that you know how it upsets the other guy–not bowing to the will of the guy, but simply to avoid giving offense (and threatening your friendship).