Miss Malsy on Dining

Q At a small restaurant in Baja California, the owner kindly offered me a free bowl of menudo, which my husband reminded me was tripe stew. I waved it away. Was I an ugly American?

A Anyone confronted with a steaming bowl of cow stomach deserves leeway. Menudo, like the 1980s boy band of the same name, isn't for everyone. Luckily, as a paying patron, you can eat—or avoid—whatever you choose.

But there are more gracious ways to decline a dish than shooing it away. Feigned fullness is a universally accepted white lie, so learn to say, "Thank you, but I'm very full" in the local language, as well as the terms for any dietary restrictions (vegetarian, kosher) or medical conditions (diabetes, pregnancy). Locals will surely appreciate your attempt and may be more understanding when you turn down a plate of pig's feet or escargots.

That said, the joy of traveling comes from savoring new sights, sounds, and flavors. Unless something could make you ill—undercooked meat, untreated water—try swallowing your reluctance along with a bite. After all, Americans love plenty of foods—lime Jell-O, Cheez Whiz—that strike fear into many foreign visitors. So next time, take that double-dog dare on your dinner plate.

This article was first published in March 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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