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?