Perspective | Ask Amy: How Do I Tell My Mother-In-Law Her Food Is Making Us Sick Without Offending Her?

Dear Amy: I learned how to cook from my mother, grandmother, and aunts — who all lived under the same roof. In a Latin family like mine, it was a given that women learned to cook. I loved being among these wise ladies.

Fast-forward to now. I am married to a wonderful man. Although he’s not Latin, he has fully embraced my family and culture. My husband comes from a small family, and his mother likes having everyone over for dinner.

The problem is that this woman cannot cook, and she has no interest in learning.

There are family members (including my husband) who get physically sick after eating one of her meals! I’ve tried bringing over a side dish, but she takes offense. A cookbook that was given to her is collecting dust. She declines help in the kitchen.

The poultry and whatever other meat she serves is burned on the outside and raw inside. Nothing she serves has any flavor, and she doesn’t get why people are eating small portions of food and why no one wants leftovers.

Going to restaurants is an ordeal because she complains about everything she orders and sends it back. She doesn’t see anything wrong with her lack of cooking skills!

I won’t invite her over for dinner because she claims she has food allergies and other illnesses that have never been medically diagnosed.

Amy, how do we tell this woman that her cooking is making us sick without offending her?

— Not Hungry

Hungry: Whatever message is delivered, I suggest that you should not be the person to do it. You are justifiably proud of your culinary tradition, but you are dealing with someone who did not grow up in that same tradition and quite obviously will not embrace it.

Your mother-in-law doesn’t see anything wrong with her lack of cooking skills — because she doesn’t have cooking skills, and doesn’t seem to want to acquire them.

Food seems to be an extremely important sticking point for both of you.

No one should consume food that is obviously not safe to eat, and if meat is undercooked, you should avoid it. Your husband (not you) should ask his mother, “Mom, could you cook this longer? I’m not sure this is cooked through.”

You could work on becoming more tolerant all-around.

The idea is for you to demonstrate that you can create in your own home the generous, loving, hospitable and lively culinary tradition that you grew up with.

Invite your mother-in-law to your home for meals, and let her know that if she is nervous about eating your food, she can bring her own, but that you will always set a place for her, because, as you know — love and kinship surrounding the table are the most important ingredients of all.

Dear Amy: I have 40 years of AA sobriety and meeting experience. I recently asked a church in my hometown for permission to have meetings there. I was sent a letter stating that there were not any rooms available.

I know this is a lie because they just added on to the church two years ago.

I feel discriminated against and like a bad person sitting in the parking lot. I know I cannot change their decision, but why would a church say no to people who make up 15 percent of their congregation?

Other churches in my city host AA meetings, so why not this one?

— Seeking a Meeting

Seeking: You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about the availability surrounding this particular space, as well as the motivations of the people who have turned you down.

Church committees generally review requests for space, and their refusal might be because of a booking conflict with another organization, or because they can’t afford the cost of the utilities and personnel required to keep the building open and heated off-hours.

Accusing them of lying is unwise and unkind. Fortunately, there are options for meetings in other local spaces, as well as online (

Dear Amy: Your recent letter from “Distressed Dad” really made my blood boil. His 20-year-old daughter lied that she had been vaccinated for the coronavirus, when she had not.

I don’t always agree with you, but I did appreciate your response here, asking this father to put his daughter’s risk-taking into perspective.

When I thought about it, I realized that my own kids had often behaved in a similar way at that age.

— Survivor

Survivor: As a parent, I’ve been there — several times.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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