My First Business Dinner

Two nights ago I went on a business dinner with a group of men. This was a new experience for me. In my old job, I was the worker bee, and there was someone else who was in charge of wining and dining.  In this new job it was just expected that I would go along. I didn’t even know this was going to be part of my job. I’ve since been told that there is a certain amount of wining and dining that will be par for the course. So, I guess I’m going to have to get used to it.

But here’s the thing: I stand out like a sore thumb. Okay, for this dinner it was largely  because was the lone woman among a group of men, but I work in the education field, so I don’t think it is going to be like this all the time. Plus, my direct supervisor is a woman and the only reason she wasn’t there also was because she wasn’t feeling well. But the truth is there are so many things about me that make me different, but I’m just going to focus on the food ones. I don’t drink alcohol. If I have three drinks a year that would surprise me, but on this program alcohol is a no-no. I don’t drink caffeine. I’ve been caffeine-free for over two years. And I don’t eat carbs.

feast

But I thought that would be fine. I could order fish and a salad, or chicken and a vegetable. No one is really going to be looking at my plate, right? Ha!

They took us to a restaurant in the East Village called “feast,” which does have a small a-la-carte menu, but is known for serving “family style” feasts. Did we want the farmers market feast (vegetarian) or the irish feast (with meat). The men I was with didn’t even hesitate. Who would eat vegetarian? they scoffed. (Me, I’m thinking. The vegetarian looked really good).  Soon four pairs of eyes were targeted on me. Would I want to go with the a-la-carte menu, or would I join in the feast?

Seriously, what could I have said. I said, I’m Irish, so yeah, of course I’ll have the Irish feast.

Now listen, I’ve been to Ireland twice and what this restaurant served was not even remotely like anything I ate in Ireland.  This was more like a tapas restaurant, if you want to label it. The waitress kept bringing small plates with tiny servings of all sorts of exotic foods that seemed Irish-ish, but weren’t.  For example, corned beef wrapped in cabbage leaves, soaked in some type of balsamic dressing. I mean, yeah, it had corned beef and cabbage, but not in any form my grandmother would have recognized. Then there was the seared cod with crisp toast. Tiny pieces of cod, with fried bread on top, and drizzled with some type of sauce I couldn’t place. And the Shepherds Pie? Seriously, this took the cake. There were tiny pastry shells filled with green mashed potatoes and topped with some type of meat I didn’t recognize. Beef? Lamb? Not sure.

There may have been about 12 different dishes brought out over the course of the evening. Some seemed safe, food wise. Kale salad with bugler and prunes, and a light dressing. Other’s were an obvious no-no, like the bread pudding with whipped cream or whisky-laced shamrock shakes. I tasted most items, with reservations: For example, I ate the cod, but picked off the toast and sauce. I ate half of the corned-beef concoction, not because I was worried about calories, but because it tasted terrible. I had seconds on the cauliflower, which was soaking in a delicious cheese sauce, so not really a low-cal choice. I avoided the real no-no’s (like the bread pudding and shamrock shakes) but I have no idea how many calories I consumed over that dinner.

In addition to thinking about the food I was consuming, I also had to keep up with the conversation. Make sure I contributed without taking over. Laugh politely at the jokes, even if they weren’t funny. Not seem like I felt uncomfortable, or that I was falling asleep as the night got later and later. This was fun. This was great. We’ve got to do it again! 

And of course there was the talk about food and calories. One of the gentleman is on Weight Watchers, so there were lots of questions about “how many points is this?” I kept out of that conversations. I also kept out of the one about working out and personal trainers. First, I was the only really heavy person at the table. Not that everyone else was super skinny or trim, but they were all in the “normal” range. Better to keep my food and exercise opinions to myself.

I think I made it through okay.  I hope at the end of the day I’m going to be judged on the job I do, not how well I can schmooze, but I’m not really sure. And I already know that I’m going to have more of these dinners in my future, so I’m going to have to come up with a better plan. One night isn’t going to kill my program, but many nights in a row might.

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3 thoughts on “My First Business Dinner

  1. I went on a school trip once where there were at least three students who had all sorts of dietary restrictions. It took longer to order because of that, but no one complained. They couldn’t eat what the others were eating, after all. I’m not saying you should lie about being allergic to the things you don’t want to eat, but maybe get across that you really do have reasons for choosing not to eat them? I don’t know. Just a suggestion.

    At worst you could maybe eat a little beforehand. That way you won’t starve if there’s little on the menu you can eat in good conscience.

    Anyway, interesting post!

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  2. the social aspect of business is always the hardest, even in jobs where you aren’t expected to schmooze it’s there. It’s hard to know how far to go and hoe much to lie, pretend to be someone else. Sometimes, it’s not worth it to lie, other times, its lies by omission and those are easier..

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  3. I think a lot of it is the male-female thing. Honestly, if I was out with a group of women clients and co-workers I would have had no problem saying “I don’t eat that.” But because it was a group of me I didn’t want to do that.

    Oh, and Emmthed, I normally have no problem with the indirect thing. I was at a group training yesterday where they served pizza and soda. The administrator practically begged me to eat something, but I had no problem saying “I don’t eat gluten” and that ended the conversation. She didn’t ask me if I had allergies or need to know my whole back-story. It was just the nature of this dinner that knocked me out of my element.

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