Humble pie? 屈辱


Reader question:

Please explain "humble pie" in this sentence: "She was a resourceful hostess and good cook, but humble pie was not on the menu".

My comments:

Not to be taken literally, this is just another way of saying that she, the hostess is not a humble person.

She doesn't do, as they say, humble pie. She doesn't serve it and she doesn't eat it.

She doesn't eat humble pie, not her own, nor anyone else's.

Humble pie, you see, evolved from umble pie or numble pie, according to language historians. The umbles or numbles referred to the innards or internal organs of animals including the heart, the liver, the kidney and the guts and intestines.

Since it was mostly the poor and humble people - humble was pronounced "umble" by many low-class and uneducated folks - who ate umble pies to save a penny, it is only logical that after a while, eating one's humble pie became synonymous with taking a humiliating lesson.

Usually in the form of eating one's humble pie, the phrase is mainly used when one has to admit a mistake and apologize for it. Americans say "eat crow", after being humbled by a similar experience. Show your humility, in other words. Learn a humble lesson. Learn to be humble and not be so outrageously arrogant in future.

In our example, the unnamed hostess obviously doesn't, or didn't, as it were, do any of that. In other words, she was probably very proud and not at all modest in how she conducted herself.

Well, without further ado, let's read a few examples of humble pie eating in the news:

1. Following Rachael Ray’s hilariously uncomfortable stint on her show last week, Martha Stewart will appear on Frontline this evening to further criticize her erstwhile guest, whom Stewart was last seen schooling on pie dough and taunting with her invite to Puffy’s birthday party.

The Nightline story is already online, and it reveals that despite her Bedford matron’s appearance, Stewart could teach Rikers Island inmates a thing or two about blunt force. Of Ray’s appearance on her show, and of her new cookbook, she said:

"Well, to me, she professed that she could — cannot bake…She — just did a new cookbook which is just a re-edit of a lot of her old recipes. She — and that’s not good enough for me…So, she’s different. She’s — she’s more of an entertainer than she is, with her bubbly personality, than she is a teacher, like me. That’s not what she’s professing to be.”

For her part, Ray, when asked by Nightline for comment, ate her humble pie willingly:

"Why would it make me mad?” said Ray. “Her skill set is far beyond mine. That’s simply the reality of it…She does have a better skill set than I do when it comes to producing a beautiful, perfect, high-quality meal. I’d rather eat Martha’s than mine, too.”

- Rachael Ray Some Humble Pie, and Rachael Ray Eats It,, November 19, 2009.

2. Everyone loves to talk about their strengths. From commercials to political speeches and celebrities to job interviewees, people are much more comfortable talking about where they excel, rather than identifying any potential weaknesses. The prevailing logic is that hiding one’s shortcomings is the best way to put your “best face forward.”

Although this may seem like a reasonable assumption, both research and case studies highlighting the benefits of humility have emerged in recent years. One of my favorite real-life examples comes from Domino's Pizza.

In the mid-2000s, Domino’s pizza was really struggling. The incoming Chief Marketing Officer (Russell Weiner) inherited flat sales cycles in the midst of a struggling economy. At the heart of Domino’s’ challenge was the quality of their pizzas, as various internal taste tests had highlighted. Domino’s then took the extra step of gathering feedback from its various stakeholders, including customers and franchisees, to better inform their future directions. Using this critical feedback, they committed to turning out higher-quality pizza and revamped their entire recipe from crust to toppings.

Although the internal directive to change their recipe, which had been in existence for 50 years, represented a bold step, perhaps their most striking endeavor was the level of transparency they showed regarding this critical problem. Rather than try to sweep it under the rug or use creative marketing to detract attention, Domino’s took a highly unusual step of tackling it head-on.

Perhaps the most forward-thinking aspect of their re-launch was a series of commercials, which aired in 2009 and 2010. In these ads, customers were shown voicing their disgust at the quality of the “old recipe” pizza (e.g., “The crust tastes like cardboard”). These comments were then followed by Domino’s hitting the streets with their new product to re-engage with their harshest detractors to win them back.

The company also released a short-film, which provided the history of the pizza chain as well as showing the painstaking reactions from employees while hearing and reading these complaints.

As President Patrick Doyle noted in the short film, “You can either use negative comments to get you down or you can use them to excite you and energize your process and make it a better pizza. We did the latter.”

Early returns from the campaign indicated it was an incredible success, with a 14.3 percent increase in same-store Q1 sales from 2009 to 2010, with similar gains realized in Q3 (11.2 percent improvement when compared to Q3 in 2009).

This trend has continued, with the stock price climbing almost 20 percent over the past 4 years. The entire transformation is not yet complete, as Doyle is committed to providing complete transparency to Domino’s customers by 2017 by allowing them to see the entire pizza-making process.


Vulnerability is a painful, yet powerful experience. It is not easy listening to scathing feedback. However, being open and accepting allows us to build even stronger relationships with the people around us, even when we may feel the opposite. Showing our vulnerability and empathizing with the customer experience goes a long way to building a better brand and stakeholder relationships.

Despite our widespread desire for transparency and authenticity, it is very often perceived as a risky endeavor. Domino’s has shown that embracing this fear and being open to learning can benefit ourselves as well as the people around us. The next time you are facing tough feedback, remember the storied franchise that faced these messages head-on. Eating some humble pie and using this experience to maximize our potential opens us up to all of the possibilities that life has to offer. By engaging our detractors with an open mind and a willingness to listen, we can turn our harshest critics into our staunchest supporters.

- Why We Benefit From Eating Humble Pie,, July 8, 2014.

3. Sharon Stone was shocked Sunday night when her online dating profile was deleted — while the world was stunned to learn the “Basic Instinct” star can’t find a date.

"I went on the @bumble dating sight [sic] and they closed my account,” Stone groused on Twitter.

"Some users reported that it couldn’t possibly be me!” she added.

Who can blame them? The notion that Sharon Stone, bona fide Hollywood sex symbol, can’t find love seems ridiculous.

But it’s true, the 61-year-old “Total Recall” actress says. A few years ago, she told a magazine that she “never gets asked out.”

Stone’s stone-cold dating life isn’t all that surprising to celebrity matchmakers, who say being in the spotlight makes finding a partner even harder.

"It’s not easy for celebs to just meet quality people on their own because they are surrounded by leeches and users and people who aren’t sincere,” said Amy Laurent, a New York City-based celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert. “They are tired of meeting people in their same industry.”

She added that actresses such as Stone often get stuck meeting “all D-bags” at industry parties.

"She’s not going to date Harvey Weinstein’s brother for goodness sakes,” Laurent said.

It’s also difficult for celebrities to meet regular folks outside their tiny bubble world.

"If you’re on set, or in a recording studio 10 to 12 hours a day, you’re not out and about meeting people,” said Michelle Frankel, owner of NYCity Matchmaking. “With celebrities, you want someone who wants to fall in love with you, not with your job.”

At the end of the day, Frankel said, celebrities are “just looking for someone to go home with and snuggle.”

Stone — who has three adopted sons and won a Golden Globe for her role as “Ginger McKenna” in 1995’s “Casino” — is no stranger to dating outside of Hollywood. In 1998, she married the executive editor of The San Francisco Chronicle, Phil Bronstein, but they divorced in 2004.During that time, she also went through a major health scare when she suffered a brain hemorrhage that affected her speech, hearing and walking and nearly took her life in 2001.

"I was alone,” she told reporter CBS’ Lee Cowan in 2018 of her mysterious hiatus from Hollywood. When asked about dating, she admitted her trouble finding someone.

"If I wanted a man in my life it would be for partnership. It wouldn’t be an arrangement,” she said. “It would be an actual relationship. Since those are pretty hard to come by.”

Bumble, a site where women have to make the first move, is now eating humble pie and hoping to lure Stone back.

"Looks like our users thought you were too good to be true,” Bumble tweeted in response to Stone Monday. “We’ve made sure that you won’t be blocked again.”

- Here’s why Sharon Stone can’t get a date,, December 31, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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