Ask Caroline

Caroline Manzo tackles questions on coming out, engagements, and in-laws.

on Jun 6, 2011

Tiffanie from West Palm Beach, FL says: My mother-in-law cannot cook. Early in my relationship with my husband we let our families pick their chosen holidays for us to attend. His mom wanted Thanksgiving, and now I'm stuck eating dry turkey, stuffing out of the box, and canned pork and beans. When I make any meal for my husband, I know he enjoys it and regularly asks for thirds. At his mother's house he left half the food on his plate. He commented, "Thanksgiving is not all about the food," which let's me know he's aware that she cannot cook. I'm miserable and want to tell him I cannot do this year after year. I suggested we could arrive earlier next year, and I could help her in the kitchen. He said no! How do I bring up my dissatisfaction with her cooking without causing conflict with him?

Caroline says: Sorry, Tiffanie, I'm with your husband on this one. Your mother-in-law can't cook. So what? We're talking about one day a year here. If your husband feels like it's an intrusion for you to prepare the meal with his mother, then you should respect his decision. He's right; the holidays are more than just food. He obviously knows his mom's cooking isn't the best, but he understands the value of spending time together with family so he's willing to overlook that.

I don't know what your relationship with your mother-in-law is like, but has she ever hinted that she'd like help in the kitchen? Are there any other siblings or in-laws to bounce the idea off of? Another thought would be to prepare something at home and bring it with you as an addition to the meal. However I need to stress one thing, if any of these options would cause insult or hurt your mother–in-law's feelings, then drop it.

Bottom line is this -- as I already told you, it's only one day a year, it's not going to kill you to eat dry turkey. Look at the bigger picture and deal with it.