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Our friends make the same (boring) meal every time they invite us for dinner

The question: Our next-door neighbours are good people, but numbingly boring cooks. In the dozens of times they've entertained us over the last 15 years, the only thing they've ever served is overcooked beef tenderloin with baked potatoes and salad. We do like them. But we've begun avoiding them because we just can't bear to have the same meal again. What should we do?

The answer: You know how people say it feels better to tell the truth? It won't in this case. And it sounds like you'd rather not lose them as friends, which you will do if you continue to spurn their invitations. Instead, I'd suggest a two-pronged strategy.

First, invite them out to a restaurant before they have an opportunity to ask you over again. Maybe tell them, "We don't get out to restaurants enough." Be sure to split the bill so they don't feel they're in your debt – you never want to be in a crappy home cook's debt, believe me. Repeat as necessary.

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Second, if they do manage to squeak under the wire with an invitation (and they will), get over yourselves and accept. And then do what I do before other people's dinner parties: Have a proper meal beforehand, and fake that you don't have the appetite you once did.

Follow food writer and restaurant columnist Chris Nuttall-Smith on Twitter: @cnutsmith. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail

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