Possibly Poisoning a Relationship

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Foul food?

Dear Miriam,

A few days after I came home from the hospital with my my new baby, a friend brought dinner for me, my husband and our toddler. Right after we ate, we all got sick and spent the rest of the night throwing up (fortunately, the baby was fine). Should I tell the friend that we got food poisoning from her? I don’t want to make her feel bad, but I feel like she should know. What do you think?

Signed,
Meal train gone wrong

Dear Meal,

I frequently brings meals to families with new babies, and after both my kids were born, I also benefited from other people’s generosity when my friends fed our family for several weeks. Having been on both sides of the equation, I can’t quite imagine how nightmarish this nightmare scenario really was for you. Having a newborn plus a toddler is hard enough, and being sick on top of that is both unfair and scary.

However, the answer to your question is no, don’t tell your friend. For one thing, there’s nothing she can do about it. You’ve already eaten it, gotten sick and gotten better. If she made an extra portion for herself and ate it for dinner, the damage is already done for her, too. Unless you think there’s any outside chance that she shared this meal with someone else who hasn’t eaten it yet, you’re either telling her something she already knows or telling her something that could only serve to make her feel bad, which you specifically say you don’t want to do. She might offer to babysit as recompense or to make you another meal, but I doubt you’d be comfortable taking her up on either offer.

For another thing, even though the timing points to your friend’s meal, there are, unfortunately, lots of other reasons that your whole family might have gotten sick at the same time. Your toddler could have brought a virus home from the playground, you could have caught something in the hospital, another visitor who came to see the baby could have been sick, etc. This season has been ripe with stomach bugs, and though I totally see the allure of attributing the illness to one easily identifiable cause, your friend is not definitively to blame.

I completely understand if you feel like you may need some distance from this friend for a while, since to see her and not tell her what happened would feel like you’re hiding something, but I still think you’re better off keeping your mouth shut. If she says, “How was dinner?” you could honestly answer, “Unfortunately, we all got sick and couldn’t enjoy it, but we really appreciate your generosity,” and leave it at that.

Mazel tov on the new baby, and, from here on, be well,

Miriam

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