Ever Told a White Lie in the Kitchen?

Written by Angie's List Staff
Updated August 11, 2016
illustration of woman sneaking food to a dog from the table

A whopping 67 percent said they didn't wash their hands before cooking. Gross!

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Picture this: You’re hosting a dinner party for your nearest and dearest, and your mother-in-law wants to know if everything is made from scratch or if you — gasp! — are serving store-bought food. You’ve spent the day in your kitchen, making your own rolls, slicing and dicing veggies, basting chicken with a homemade marinade and mashing the potatoes — but you just didn’t have time to whip up an apple pie, too.

Do you tell your extended family and friends the truth, or say the entire meal is a labor of love? 

We were curious about just how honest Americans are when it comes to kitchen conundrums like this, so we surveyed 2,000 people throughout the U.S. about the white lies they’ve told as a host/cook and as a guest. How common is not washing your hands before cooking? Are men more likely than women to snag a cocktail wiener off a platter with their unwashed hands? And which states are more prone to dining no-nos? We’ve got all the dirt below!

Lying in the Kitchen and at the Table

map showing states with most white lies/bad behaviors

Think your state boasts the best behavior in and out of the kitchen? We presented our survey takers with a list of white lies related to home cooking and dining. Their responses have been broken down in several ways: first, by state.

If you call North Dakota home, you’d be right. Respondents in North Dakota admitted to the fewest small lies, with an average of 4.5 fibs per person. Maine (5.2), Tennessee (6.0), Iowa (6.1) and West Virginia (6.2) are also states where you’ll likely find honest chefs and dinner guests.

When it came to the highest number of white lies, Vermont claims the dubious honor with nearly 9 fibs per respondent. Perhaps the declining enrollment of the famous New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier — which was put up for sale in February 2016 — has led to fewer Vermonters being trained in proper kitchen protocol. Despite our survey findings, the Green Mountain State’s focus on the production of local food and drink makes for some amazing farmers’ markets, fresh produce, and, of course, maple syrup for all the at-home cooks out there.

Serving a Plate of Lies

illustration showing bad kitchen behaviors

The U.S. government and the CDC stress the importance of properly washing your hands before chopping carrots, rolling sushi or taking part in any other kind of food preparation. But how many of us follow this rule? According to our survey, less than a third! Nearly 67 percent of respondents said they don’t always break out the soap before cooking. That’s a troubling stat since the kitchen is the most germ-ridden part of a home. One study reveals that a kitchen sink harbors 100,000 times more germs than the bathroom!  

Food-borne illnesses can also occur when people eat food that was dropped on the floor. A quarter of our respondents confessed that they would serve food that has landed on the floor, and nearly 40 percent believed the five-second rule was a legitimate reason to eat food that’s touched the floor. 

In answer to our question about claiming a store-bought meal to be homemade, about 16 percent of respondents said not only that they would do it, but that they have done it at least once.

Kitchen No-Nos: Women vs. Men

illustration showing difference between men vs. women and telling lies in kitchen

If you’re going to a friend’s house for dinner, you might want to ask who’s doing the cooking! While men have their strengths in the kitchen, you may have better luck with hygiene if a woman is wearing the apron. Men were more likely to serve food on dirty dishes (10 percent of men versus 8 percent of women) and spit in or somehow spoil a person’s food (5 percent versus 3 percent).

When it comes to the white lies told to guests, men take the lead. Nearly 18 percent of male cooks have served food purchased at the store and claimed it was a product of their culinary skills, compared with only 14.8 percent of women. More men than women also took credit for a recipe that wasn’t theirs. And almost 6 percent of men have told their dinner guests a meal meets gluten-free or vegetarian diet requirements when it doesn’t — fewer than 4 percent of women confessed to the same indiscretion.

Poor manners

illustration showing bad dining behaviors

At-home chefs have admitted to their fibs, but what about the guests who enjoy their lovingly prepared meals? We asked our respondents a range of questions about their unsavory dining habits. What topped the guilty list? Almost 92 percent have taken food off a shared plate with their bare hands. Of course, this isn’t nearly as bad as the 13.3 percent who have taken a bite of food and put it back. 

Other food disclosures include double-dipping (nearly 82 percent), swiping food off another person’s plate (46 percent), drinking out of somebody else’s cup (34.5 percent). What do people do when they are served food they don’t care for? While 74.5 percent still rave about it to the host, others choose a different approach: Half have stuck the offending food in a napkin, and over 38 percent have fed it to the dog. 

With 3.4 percent of the U.S. population dedicated to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and another 15 million Americans plagued with food allergies, you may have received requests to accommodate special diets at your dinner parties. But are your guests being honest? A shocking 14 percent of our respondents admitted to faking a dietary requirement to get an extra-special meal.  

Bad Guest Behaviors: Women vs. Men

illustration of bad dining behavior of women vs. men

While men indulged in more bad behavior when playing host, women were more likely to be poor dinner guests. Female respondents hardly differed from their male counterparts. Women had just slightly higher percentages in four of the nine bad dinner habit categories including using their hands to take food from a communal platter (93 percent vs. 90 percent) and double-dipping (82 percent vs. 81 percent). 

There are two indiscretions with quite large gender gaps: telling the host you enjoyed the food when you didn’t and stuffing food into a napkin to avoid eating it. Women take a strong lead in both categories, which supports the theory that women often avoid conflict (or deal with it in different ways than men).    

Which offensive behaviors are men more likely to commit? Keep an eye on your male guests for consuming somebody else’s unattended food or drink, sneaking Benji a hunk of meatloaf, and slipping a piece of nibbled cheddar back onto a communal plate.

Cooking Up Compliments

Whether it’s a dinner party with 15 colleagues or a meal for your whole family, playing host (and chef and waiter and maid) can be taxing. Sometimes shortcuts are in order when cooking in the kitchen. A chicken drumstick that was only on the floor for three seconds. A store-bought chocolate cake. A lasagna that wasn’t your own recipe. White lies revolving around the kitchen are mostly harmless, and, if you’re guilty of them, we’ve found that you’re in good company.Of course, spitting on somebody’s burger or serving full-gluten crackers to your gluten-free pal are big no-nos that will likely keep your guests from coming back to your home. On the other side of the equation, you, as a host, might not extend another invite to your cousin if he’s a chronic double-dipper or inveterate food thief.

The next time you’re prepping for a party, keep your guests’ best interests in mind (i.e., wash your hands frequently). And after your next meal at a coworker’s house, be sure to show genuine gratitude for his excellent cooking — and don’t feed his dog your leftovers!

SOURCES:www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2016/02/13/a-potential-buyer-sniffs-around-the-new-england-culinary-institute www.uticaod.com/article/20150827/LIFESTYLE/150829516 www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/clean/ www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html www.nhs.uk/Livewell/homehygiene/Pages/Foodhygiene.aspx www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/abdominal/Pages/Food-Poisoning-and-Food-Contamination.aspx www.vrg.org/blog/2015/05/29/how-often-do-americans-eat-vegetarian-meals-and-how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegetarian-2www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats www.nbcnews.com/feature/maria-shriver/how-men-women-can-learn-better-resolve-their-differences-n198016 

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