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I'm a good cook. Can I step in and help my host as a guest?

The question

I have a reputation as a good cook and, as such, my friends often try to 'impress' me with their cooking. Sadly, the results are often horrible. The last time this happened, I tried to step in to save a boiling pot of jambalaya shrimp that were about to turn to rubber. People were furious and said I'd 'insulted the host.' But I'm tired of watching meals that I'm going to have to eat being ruined. What do I do?

The answer

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It's a rare host who won't be at least a little hurt when you jump in to rescue a meal, no matter how badly they're banjaxing it. If you simply can't help yourself, try offering your assistance before the trouble starts and in a non-specific, non-judgmental way. (Try "Is there anything I can do to help?" rather than "If you don't let me in there fast, that turkey better know how to stop, drop and roll.") If the host accepts your offer, be tactful about it and avoid mission creep at all costs – you should do only what you're asked. But your best bet is to stay out of the kitchen, and be gracious when you're served, no matter how gaggy the dinner is. If you can't handle that, maybe pick better cooks for friends.

Follow food writer Chris Nuttall-Smith on Twitter: @cnutsmith. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail style@globeandmail.com..

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