Wish me potluck
Guest poster John Lindner expresses my potluck anxiety much better than I could. I want people to be impressed by what I bring, I just don't feel like spending time cooking for
the peons my neighbors, who would just as soon have a taco casserole. My only quarrel with John's excellent post on a timely topic: He doesn't include a Johnbalaya recipe. EL
Do you go to potluck dinners, picnics, company Christmas food days, gatherings in church basements or other group diney things that require you to bring food for all?
Do you get potluck anxiety? Do you worry whether you should go artful, thoughtful, complicated, or last-minute, processed, obviously-purchased-as-an-afterthought-as-you-raced-down-the-Royal-Farms-snack-aisle? ...
Or are you known for something? (Mrs. Smith will bring her famous Jell-O salad; Mr. Potz, his sinful etouffee; Ms. Sloozell-Von Tweeg, her traditional bread pudding...)
Once upon a time, a bag of Ruffles and a twelve pack would get me into all the parties I wanted to go to.
Then I discovered the joy of cooking. I got fancy. And my stuff always got rave reviews, if not for taste, at least for imagination.
Eventually, I tired of sacrificing two weeks to planning, preparation and cooking up a platter of artwork that would be plopped down next to barbecued cocktail weinies and a mac and cheese casserole. Why was I busting tuchus? The other cooks had the right idea: simplicity and volume.
For a while, buying hummus and pita chips and dumping them in Tupperware and Baggies worked. Friends at least had to guess whether I made it myself. But hummus didn’t remain exotic. When you’re the tenth guest to walk through the door with a bowl of mashed garbanzos, it’s time to fish another part of the lake.
I thought I struck gold years ago when I concocted a home-made pesto pasta dish that worked as well cold as hot. Went over big. A pleasant surprise. It wasn’t reliable enough, though. Too seasonal. Once I ran out of home-made pesto I was lost. And I didn’t like sharing my last couple of batches of summer goodness. So pesto went by the wayside and I was back to potluck anxiety.
Then I discovered Johnbalaya. It’s easy but clearly takes more thought than chips and Helluva Good dip. It’s relatively cheap and people like it. Two Saturday shindigs in a row now, and I think this is my new dish-to-pass standby. Twenty years from now I’ll be known as the guy who always brings that big farty dish with the funny name everyone raves about.That or they’ll stop inviting me to their parties.
(Photo of an empty plate by Colin Brough courtesy stock xchng)