The Sugarhill Gang aren't the only ones who have been over at a friend's house to eat and the food just ain't no good. But according to Chowhounds, there are ways to identify a bad cook before trying their food. Here are some of the signs you might have a doozy of a meal coming your way.
1. The person has long acrylic manicured nails: "Not only do I not believe that any culinary school worth its salt would allow a student to attend classes sporting long/fake nails," says inaplasticcup. "I also think that (sanitary issues aside), there is a sort of preciousness to the maintenance of those nails that might very well keep a person from becoming a GREAT cook."
2. They've got a pantry filled with iffy ingredients: "Too many cans of processed ___," sums up caviar_and_chitlins. "If I look into a pantry, and see lots of cream o' crap soup, powdered sauce mixes and the like, few good (and dated) spices, and little to no good veg in the 'fridge, then I'm pretty sure dinner isn't going to be very good." A bad refrigerator is equally ominous, says givemecarbs, bemoaning the sight of the "pre-grated Parmesan cheese of doom," while others quail at the sight of ReaLemon and bottled garlic.
3. Their kitchen's too clean, with, as givemecarbs says, "pristine state-of-the-art appliances that just scream 'don't mess me up.'" An unused oven is another bad sign. "I went to a friend's for a potluck and turned her range on to heat my quiches and the range instructions (still in their plastic) began to burn," says smartie. "About 10 minutes later there was a funny smell of burning plastic and my friend said 'oh no we don't use the oven.'"
4. They cling to a belief that any one ingredient, such as bacon, truffle oil, or Sriracha, makes any dish better. tatamagouche, who actually enjoys both truffles and truffle oil, complains that "ubiquity devalues it. Besides, half the time, people use too much or too little truffle oil." Samuelinthekitchen calls Sriracha "red hipster sauce. Like hipsters, the belief that Siracha improves everything is about 40 percent true and 60 percent somebody tedious saying it."
5. They don't salt their food. "As if that's such a virtue," sneers Cakegirl. "Food without ANY salt equals food without flavor. Also, a lot of people say 'I never cook with salt,' not realizing that they cook with a lot of processed foods (canned tomatoes, condiments, etc.) that contain plenty of salt."
6. The names Sandra Lee or Rachael Ray come up. "I see a lot of cooks who ... watch a lot of TV, make no effort at research beyond that, order the same handful of things every time they eat out, and dub themselves a master chef," says cowboyardee. "So fair or unfair, this is the truth—if I discuss food with someone for the first time and they voluntarily—without prompting—bring up Rachael Ray or another TV host in the first minute, I assume they're one of the types you described. Until proven otherwise. It's not 100% accurate. But as a rule of thumb, it works."
7. They've got dull knives and poor knife skills. "Especially if someone's been cooking for many years, if there's not a certain fluency to their knife work, I do wonder why they wouldn't shore up on a skill that's such a big part of the process," says inaplasticcup.
8. Their kitchen has a dearth of local ingredients. "If a cook lives in an area with a great ingredient but has never cooked with it, I tend to wonder how they think about their food and cooking," says JeremyEG. "I know a cook who lives on the coast of Maine who has never cooked with shellfish. Not for religious or health reasons but because they don't belong in her special 'pineapple and chicken' recipe."
9. They show a lack of discernment between different styles of the same ingredient, e.g., someone claims they "can't tell the difference" between full-fat yogurt and nonfat, or margarine and butter. "Not that there isn't a place for some of those products, but if you can't tell the difference, then I'd find your cooking abilities suspect," says Ruth Lafler.
10. They make well-done steaks. Need we say more?
Just missed making the list: They have tons of (suspect) "food allergies," they're light beer drinkers, they're followers of Hungry Girl, they've got a refrigerator full of saved ketchup and soy sauce packets, and/or they've got a spice rack with dusty jars of herb and spice blends on it.