Thursday, 28 August 2008

I wanna be a chocolate god post 5: how to get on my truffle list

Ooooh. Raspberry dark chocolate and cardamom white chocolate truffles. Layers of goodness. Here you see an army of the white chocolate centers (vegan white chocolate, cocoa butter, freshly ground green cardamom, powdered soy milk), and then the finished truffles, with the dark layer made using the method described here. I made the centers, let them harden overnight (they're not melty, they're crumbly), and then wrapped them in prepared dark chocolate/raspberry stuff. Please read this about chocolate.

Now for the long, long rant. I cook a lot. I bake a lot. I make truffles. There are people who I love to give treats to, and those who rarely get any. Why? 

How to get me to give you truffles:
(or cake, or cookies, or entire dinners)

1. Say please and thank you. They really are magic words. People like giving gifts to those who appreciate them. There is little pleasure in (and therefore little motivation to)  giving to those who are dismissive or rude. 

2. A gift is not an act of charity or obligation. It is an expression of love, friendship, goodwill.. etc. Acknowledge it. You are being given something that, by definition, you have done nothing to deserve. How wonderful! Acting like you are simply getting your due makes you look like a selfish, spoiled, entitled asshat.

3. Unless constructive criticism is solicited, don't offer it. If someone is perfecting a recipe, or wants to know if there is anything that would make you like it more, they'll probably ask. Otherwise, you're being critical and mean. 

4. Say something nice, and ONLY something nice. "Thank you", for example. Don't use backhanded compliments like "Wow, this is much less repulsive than I thought it would be." If you categorically hate a certain ingredient, politely turn the gift down, or accept it ("thank you") and put it aside to deal with later. If you willingly bite into something you know you hate, and you find out (oh the shock!) that you still don't like it, it's your problem. At that point, you just have to suck it up. 

Oh, and just in case it's not obvious, comments like "this is good for a vegan cookie" or "wow, this tastes like real cake" are backhanded compliments, are rude, and will put you in my "no presents" book forever. 

5. Be generally nice. I'm more likely to take the time to set some yummy aside for you if the thought of your sweet little mug fills me with joy instead of anger. Just to revise, being nice is not just the absence of being mean. Being nice goes beyond the contractual relationship that we have (colleague, flatmate, whatever). Some things that are nice: washing out someone elses coffee cup when you're doing dishes anyway, turning off your cell phone during dinner, not putting in your ipod earphones when someone else in in midsentence. Saying hi, bye, please, thanks (ie, not treating people like furniture). Being sensitive to other people's comfort (So, inviting me out to dinner, and then eating steak in front of me is NOT NICE, because it means that I can't enjoy my food. In fact, it means that I'll probably be focusing mainly on not gagging. If you can't envision eating in a restaurant without eating steak, then don't invite me. We'll do coffee instead, or just go for a walk, okay?).  Basically, being nice is actively noticing someone is there, and doing little things to make their life better at no real cost to you. I don't give truffles to people who treat me like furniture, or who clearly expend the minimal civil amount of time and thought on me. Like I said, gifts are not charities. I do give out stuff as charity, but that's a whole different pot of beans that we can get into another time. 

6. If said truffles are part of a dinner/afternoon tea, be a gracious guest. Show appreciation. (Basically, do 1-5). Barring genuine mistakes, it is unacceptable to arrive with a gift or contribution that the host is ethically opposed to. For example, it is rude to bring non-vegan wine to a dinner party that I am hosting, even if I am the only vegan there. 

7. Don't be a martyr. You are not doing someone a favour by accepting their gift. They are doing you one by offering it. Graciously accepting a gift is a skill, so learn it. If you ask me to make you something (even "just so you can try it") and then go on at length about how very open minded you are to deign to accept my vegan truffles/ice cream/cake/sushi, you will never get them again, even if you follow that up with groans of pleasure, profuse thanks, and by nominating me for Grand Poobah of the Cooking Universe. Similarly, if it takes a little extra time or effort to locate "something vegan" to feed me or bring to dinner, don't whine about it. If coming to my dinner parties is such a horrible chore, choose not to come. If you choose to come, be a gracious guest, not a martyr. Gracious guests get invited back often and fed goodies. They are a joy. 

Basically, unless you are in a restaurant, people are not your personal chefs and are in no way obliged to make you anything, ever (though I'd hate to live in a world where people only did what they were obliged to do). If they do, it's because they're giving you a gift. Act accordingly, and you shall get more gifts (everyone wins, because nothing is more fun that giving gifts to those who are good at accepting them). Act like they're your personal household staff, and you will soon find that if you want truffles, you'll have to pay for them. 


medici said...

Ooooh, I love the courtesy rant! Genuine good manners are a treat. Thanks for writing about them in such crystal detail. I think that I want to make you a pot of delicious beans now. I wonder what I have in my fridge ...

sinead said...

Thanks. It's odd, you know. I love cooking for people, but it's not at all unusual for "friends" to start treating me like their personal chef once they discover this. Which is totally counterproductive, because then I just stop cooking for them.

I've been someone's chef. They paid me. I made what they wanted, when they wanted it. That's the way it works. But actually, even they "got" the difference between me "doing my job" and me doing a little something extra. While they would ask me to change things about dinners etc., one always graciously accepted things like truffles and cakes,while the other was very ungracious about them (truffles and cakes were not part of my job). It was really eye-opening to have the two different kinds of cooking for people side-by-side in my life for a year, and to note how I gradually shifted to only making treats when the gracious employer was home and the ungracious one was away.

But yeah, good manners (and gracious guests) *are* such a treat. People totally underestimate the impact of really basic good manners, and totally overestimate the effort that it takes to have them.

Jake said...

Well said. I also love cooking for people who appreciate it. It's so gratifying to see people enjoy something I've made. I just have one quibble with you:

not putting in your ipod earphones when someone else in in midsentence

This shouldn't be in a list of things that are nice. It should be in the list of things that don't make you a complete asshole.

Jake said...

Oh, and I wanted to add, thank you for writing this blog. It's truly inspiring. *loves* I know you don't do it for me, but I appreciate that you do it.

sinead said...

Are you kidding?!! I *totally* do it for you! If I can't feed you in person because of pesky long commute between Edinburgh and Toronto, then I need to resort to makeshift feeding, like this. *MWAH* Because you're one of the people who is nice and gracious and has good manners. So there.

Liz² said...

Please... (see, I'm opening with please, *this means I want white chocolate truffles sooo bad :P*) I wish I could forward this to a small certain people. Wonderful list! Admittedly most people I know are completely appreciative, but every so often I'll go far out of my way to make something to get greeted with a litany of 'improvements' I could make. And from people who don't cook and don't know from a microplane! Sorry, I suppose I'm ranting without naming names... but anyway, I know where you're coming from. Doesn't something handmade with love actually taste better than something you make yourself anyway? I know food gifts taste like heaven to me...

Thank you. :D

Jake said...

*glee* *blushes* etc.

Maybe this is the subject of another post, but on the topic of gift giving: It is possible to be rude while giving a gift/doing a favour. Not that you would ever do this, but you touched on it a bit, so I'll expound. Trying to make someone a gift of something you know they find objectionable is rude. In addition to bringing non-vegan wine to your vegan host, it is rude to invite someone to dinner, and then have the only thing they can eat be a side salad, or veggies and dip. If you can't bring yourself to make a decent vegan/vegetarian/peanut-free meal, don't invite your vegan/vegetarian/peanut-allergic friends over for dinner. Do something else for them.

sinead said...

@ Jake... hear hear!

vegandwhatnot said...'s kinda sad to hear that you've run into so many ungracious people. Mebbe I just surround myself with some really awesome people, or mebbe Canadians (and former Canadians) are genuinely very polite.
I have one non-vegan friend who I love to bring goodies, and in turn, she's been trying very hard to come up with an awesome new treat she can make for me (which will so go on my blog once she's worked it out). We are amused by bringing such glee to each other. We both do funny dances and or make bizarre noises when we are suddenly faced with foods we love...I think excited dances and inexplicable noises (not groans after tasting, just like you said)should be on the list of awesome responses to gifts.
Jake- your comments on gifts are amusing, and yeah, could definately be discussed further. I find it rude when people give gifts with the clear idea of benefitting themselves (they know you'll share, or that they'll get to use the gift in some way). It tends to be very transparent, and I've noticed that it's very common in very self-centered people (fortunately, not the type of people I intend to spend any time around anyways).

Thanks for the chocolate-related awesomeness, again, sinead.

sinead said...

lol. yeah. canadians do tend to be super-polite, in my experience, though I know some notable exceptions...

I'd just like to stress that the VAST majority of my friends are awesome and appreciative and polite and are going to be flush with goodies for my lifetime (as much as geography allows). Why would I be friends with people who weren't awesome?

Most of the rudeness that I deal with isn't from people who are deliberately rude, but from people who are just plain thoughtless and self-centered. I don't end up being close friends with these people, but a few of my acquaintances or "friends of friends" definitely fall into this category, where they're interesting, smart, funny etc., but not particularly thoughtful. Which is probably one of the reasons that I'm not closer friends with them.

I think that part of it is that I *do* cook a lot, and so I tend to give out a lot of goodies, so people start to expect the goodies... And I love feeding people. I really really do, so I usually default to "hand out goodies", even to people I've just met/barely know. Gives me a large sample size of people, so there are bound to be some asshats in there.

Miss Kris Dove said...

So true. I always hear those backhanded type of compliments from omnis when I cook anything for them! Those chocolate truffles look utterly delicious btw.

Anni said...

Sinead - I just found your blog and let me tell you I completely relate to your rant, thanks for posting this!

I've had friends bringing smelly French cheeses to dinner parties hosted by me and my vegan husband, making it very hard for us to eat at all while being in the same room with the said cheese. And yes, unappreciative flatmates are not quite unknown to me either - I will always remember the day I served a certain person sparkling wine with mango and raspberry sorbets, and they started gagging loudly and explaining why they thought what I was serving was repulsive... I laugh about it now but I sure didn't laugh then!

sinead said...

Hey Anni! I read your blog all the time... did you ever find my special offer for finnish vegans reading my blog (it still stands if you can find it).

Sorry to hear that the experience of dealing with rude and ungracious people is universal.

Houseguests *always* fill up my fridge with cheese. I have an omni roomate, so I don't feel like I can ask them not to, seeing as there is usually cheese in the fridge anyways, but it is demoralizing when I make them all sorts of hummous and other spreads and they go out and buy rotted cow milk. Our cooking is soooooo much better than rotten cow milk. Sheesh.

Anni said...

Sinead - I found your offer, and will most definitely mail you some salmiakki! You'll find my e-mail in the About-page on our blog, will you please drop me a line and we'll work out the details.

I used to live with a cheese-eater too, but it didn't bother me that much then. Somehow the smell has only started to repulse me in the past few years, maybe because I have a cheese-free home now? Anyway, I like to think that many people are heavily addicted to cheese, and that makes it a little easier for me to understand why they can be so insensitive sometimes. Cheese-rehab is what they need!

Kitty Kat said...

So, if i say please oh please oh please almighty chocolate god... can i get on your truffle list? *bats eyelashes*

Come on, i had to try :-)

Love the blog btw :-)


sinead said...

Dear Kitty,

When the Kitchendancing truffles go international, of course you can be on the list! In the meantime, might I recommend making your own? The only thing more fun than surprising your friends with homemade truffles is inviting them over to help you roll homemade truffles. MmmmmMMmm. Chocolate-covered friends....

Kitty Kat said...


*gleefully looks forward the glorious day when your truffles take over the entire world*

*gets distracted by the thought of rolling friends in chocolate......*