How to win your Mother-in-Law over in One Meal

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What to cook, what to talk about, and how to

survive with minimal collateral damage.


By: Christina Vetter


Congratulations! You’ve finally found your prince charming, and now you two can ride

off into the sunset to your castle on the hill and live happily ever after…right? Well, similar to

any fairy tale, there is always more to the story. After all, Prince Charming has to slay a dragon

before he wins the maiden’s hand. Don’t think you’re getting off any easier. In many marriages,

in-laws are infamous for being “villains”, and unfortunately, a mother-in-law is usually cast as

the worst of them all. The wife/ mother-in-law relationship is a tricky one, no doubt, but that

relationship can actually be something pleasant, or at least tolerable. Life isn’t a fairy tale, and

not all situations are the same, so take these words as guidelines instead of strict rules to adhere

to. If you and your mother-in-law are not very comfortable with each other yet, here are some

ideas of how to interact with her next time she comes to dinner. First of all, the most important

rule of all, make sure your house is clean. Don’t just shove dirty clothes and piles of junk into a

spare closet. Make that house sparkle to where it will stand proudly under the most detailed

inspection, because that’s exactly what will be happening. Along those same lines, don’t change

anything about how you and your husband style your house. If you know your mother-in-law

loves anything girly or sparkly, but the thought of pink ruffles makes you want to vomit, forget

trying to make your home look like hers. If you don’t have any up already, think about hanging

some pictures of you and your husband laughing and doing fun things together. She may not

realize it, but this will send a great little reminder into her heart of how happy you make her son

(after all, that’s usually the bottom line for her anyway). Now that she’s in your house, the most

dreaded topic of all is going to be on your mind. What’s for dinner? If you have a chance,

practice what dish you’re going to make ahead of time. That way, when your cooking for such a

scrutinizing audience, you will feel a little more collected, and bonus: you’ll look like the

cooking genius you know is hidden somewhere inside of you. If she lets you know she will be

arriving the morning of the dinner in question, don’t panic. Just make sure you choose a dish that

has the difficulty level you’re comfortable with. Don’t worry if you practically burn cereal,

you’ll be fine with something for beginners. When deciding what to prepare, avoid her “famous”

recipes (even if it’s only famous in her eyes). If she has a fried chicken recipe that her Great

Great Grandmother concocted in a dark tiny kitchen back on the farm, opt for something else.

Even if she is the only one who thinks her homemade alfredo is the best thing that’s ever

happened to fettuccini, avoid making your own version. Don’t give her the opportunity to say

that her version of your cooking is her son’s favorite. Instead, make something simple and easy

for everyone to eat. Try to remember to make something at least a little on the healthy side,

because no mom wants to think that her son is being fed bacon and butter hand over fist. On the

other side, don’t serve tofu and bean sprouts if that’s not normal for your family. Show his

mother that you’re taking care of her son’s health while keeping him fed and happy at the same

time. If you need an idea, Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers (recipe below) can be a good option. Now

that you’ve avoided the biggest hurdle of all, no matter how scrumptious your cooking is, there

will be time for conversation. If you don’t know each other very well, or your husband isn’t

much of a talker, this can be a very awkward time of the evening. A good rule of thumb is stay

on mutual topics. If you are a die-hard Republican, and she is a devout Democrat, avoid these

topics like the plague. However, if you know that you both share a passionate opinion about a

certain topic, use that topic to bring you together. Even if you don’t completely agree on every

detail, sharing similar and different takes on something you both agree on will make her respect

your opinion, and in the end, she will respect you as an adult. Overall, be yourself, but be the

best you can be. She gave your husband life and raised him for the first part of that life, so at the

very least, you can be grateful that she helped make your beloved Prince into the man he is

today. No relationship can be fixed overnight, but using these tricks can make the next dinner

date something to enjoy.



Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Makes 5 peppers


5 green bell peppers, tops and seeds removed

½ onion, small diced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp oil

1 can black beans, drained

½ C corn

1 can diced tomatoes, chipotle flavored

2 C cooked brown rice

Salt and black pepper to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese to garnish


-Preheat oven to 350 F

-In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat and sweat onion and garlic.

-Add beans, corn, tomatoes, and rice and heat thoroughly.

-Add salt and balck pepper to taste

-Stuff peppers with as much rice mixture as will fit and top with shredded cheese.

-Bake on a foil lined cookie sheet until cheese is melted and peppers are soft to the touch.

-Serve immediately.





Christina is the in house food writer for A Bundle of Thyme and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy. You can read her monthly column, The Fearless Kitchen, here.

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