The food chain

As you may have noticed, I pay a lot of attention to etiquette. Some might say a little too much.

Lately, I’ve found myself in uncharted etiquette territory. I wonder if you have too.

Much has been written about online etiquette, but I have found very little with regard to chain e-mails.

Thankfully, the days of chain letters coming in the U.S. mail have passed. I remember one in which I had to mail new dish towels to people while abashedly asking my friends to buy and mail dish towels to others. I also remember wondering why this odd practice seemed unique to women.

In the past year and a half or so, I have received e-mails entitled “Recipe Exchange” from more than a dozen friends. I assume these come to me because I like to cook, am known to share unsolicited recipes and especially love getting new recipes from friends. Or maybe because my friends know I am pathologically compliant.

The first time I received a request to send a recipe to Person #1 and ask two friends to send recipes to Person #2, I obliged enthusiastically. The second time, I sent it to two more friends. The third time, I found two more friends I hadn’t picked on. Then it got ridiculous. Lately I am getting them about once a week.

Some might suggest I ignore these or delete them. I can’t. Occasions are rare when I ignore an e-mail on purpose. For lack of established etiquette on the matter, I have taken to responding to the sender with a note that I’ve tapped all of my friends—some more than once—and that I am unable to keep the chain going. And then I send my recipe for pesto torte to Persons #1 and #2, just so there aren’t any hard feelings.

I haven’t consulted my copy of How to Say It, my new manual for saying the right thing in virtually every situation, because I have lent it out. I do wonder if there’s prescribed language for declining on a chain letter.

I hope my friends reading this will not think ill of me or stop exchanging recipes with me over the course of normal conversation or mutual enjoyment of a good dish.

There are a few websites out there about how to stop friends from sending chain e-mail. The advice there pertains mostly to the kind of correspondence that promises eternal life or portends eternal damnation contingent on forwarding, within eight seconds, a PowerPoint poem about butterflies. This isn’t what I’m after. I’m just looking for a nice way to say, thanks for thinking of me but I just can’t participate. Or did I just find it?


Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Technology and Social Media

8 responses to “The food chain

  1. I will not answer a chain email.

  2. Jo

    The best way is the way you and a couple others replied to me! My one foray into passing along a recipe chain mail provided interesting responses, but it seems most honest and polite just to say it’s not your bag but how are ya?

  3. Emily Basca

    I have replied very politely, “I am the weakest link.” Once in a while if something seems that it would be of interest to other friends, I forward it but add the caveat that it does not matter to me if they forward it and I delete any suggestions/threats related to forwarding.

    If I have replied politely to someone explaining that I don’t do chain mail and they continue to include me, I just delete future chain mails. Happy New Year!

  4. Alyson

    I use the delete button.

    And then there’s the gift of Amish friendship bread and a batch of starter. If I don’t keep the starter going, is that tantamount to murder?

  5. Anita Lawson

    It’s easier for me- I simply remind them that I don’t cook; Dave is the family chef and I happily relinquished the title when we got married. He would tell you I gave it up long before that, because he doesn’t call what I used to do for me and Nicole “cooking”- he seems to think microwaving doesn’t count!

    • Anita, lucky you. Would friends then send Dave the recipe exchange e-mail? We know lots of couples and families in which the husband is the chef. I am curious as to whether the chain letter phenomenon is gender-specific or gender-neutral.

  6. Emily

    When the dishtowel chain mail arrived, several years ago, Tom and I mocked up a chain mail letter for men. We were going to ask each to send a piece of pipe they had leftover from a plumbing project! I’ve never heard of men being asked to participate in chain mail and have never seen a man’s name on the e-mail distribution lists.

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