Potlucks are a great American tradition. The idea is that people bring whatever they want without being pre-assigned a particular dish. I’m surprised that you don’t end up with 20 bowls of potato salad and no hamburger buns. Yet somehow they always seem to work out.
Years ago, I attended a potluck held by the company I was working for at the time. We were asked to bring a “covered dish.” I was in my early 20s and had never really cooked anything more complicated than Ramen noodles. I decided to attempt to make deviled eggs. Who doesn’t love deviled eggs? I’ll be the hit of the potluck! This was before you could go “online” to look up a recipe. So, I did it the old-fashioned way; I called my mom. She had no idea on how long it took to boil the eggs: “Just ‘til they’re done.” Could you be a little more vague, Mom? She didn’t have a clue about quantity: “Just add in enough mayo and mustard until they’re creamy.” Her instructions were peppered with phrases like “just a hair” and “to taste” and “just a smidgeon.”
I decided to dive in and give it a whirl. It really wasn’t that hard. I just mixed the yellow part with some mustard and mayo and flopped it by the spoonful into the shells. Then, I gave it a “smidgeon” of paprika, just like Mom advised. When I finished, they didn’t look very pretty. But, I sampled one and it tasted surprisingly like a deviled egg, albeit a little on the mustardy side. I put them all on a nice Corelle plate, then covered them with aluminum foil (after all, they did say “covered” dish.)
Off to the potluck I went.
When I got there and uncovered them—to my horror—much of the yellow part was stuck to the aluminum foil. During the car ride, the eggs had slid around the plate like they were in a roller derby competition. I grabbed a plastic spoon and attempted to relocate the yellow part, but this made a mess of the paprika.
They looked awful.
I wanted to station myself next to them for the duration of the picnic to ensure everyone who passed by them that they tasted MUCH better than they looked, especially if you were a big fan of mustard. But, the Head of the Picnic grabbed them out of my hand and said she was putting them with other foods “of that sort.” Of that sort? What did she mean by that? Other mustard-soaked foods? Other egg products? Other kitchen disasters?
I followed her because I was curious as to where my eggs were headed. Much to my dismay, she placed them right next to another batch of deviled eggs. These were made by the company Martha Stewart. They were in a special egg plate so that each one had its own little compartment, never to come in contact with one of its brethren. She had piped the yellow part into the shells with a pastry bag, so that they laid there in perfect waves—like yellow corduroy—in stark contrast to my gooey globs. They looked like they should be in a Deviled Egg Museum; almost too perfect to touch. But, they got touched alright. People descended on her deviled eggs like buzzards on road kill. Mine were largely ignored. I did eat one, hoping it would create a sort of subliminal message that they were indeed edible. But, it was to no avail. There they sat. As the day wore on, the afternoon heat didn’t do them any favors either. I thought about pulling out the plate and doing a “party trick,” demonstrating how I could make them slide around and around on the plate, and telling people that I never really intended for them to be eaten. But, instead, I tossed them into the woods when no one was looking. It was pretty humiliating when even the animals turned up their noses and walked away.
Since that time, I’ve discovered that there are ways around having to actually prepare something in your own kitchen to take to a potluck. You can pick up slaw at a favorite family restaurant and put it in your own bowl. Everyone will rave about it and you’ll go home with an empty bowl and a feeling of smug satisfaction. Hey, don’t judge me. Who amongst us hasn’t done the potato chip grab-and-go? Not mentioning any names, but, I know someone who buys wine-in-a-box and then serves it in a fancy crystal decanter to pass it off as something far more expensive. She loves to watch the wine snobs swish it around and swoon over the “bouquet” and “body.” When they ask what vintage year it’s from, she feigns ignorance even though it was probably made the week before.
We’ve all been there; trying to balance what we think is expected of us with our already over-scheduled lives. Oh sure, we want to be a sport and bring some delectable homemade goodie from our kitchen, but sometimes we simply don’t have the time, the energy or the skills to do so. I’ve learned that life is too short to stress about trying to keep up with others who are far more talented in this area. So, if you are going to a potluck, don’t worry that you’ll show up empty-handed. When all else fails, just remember; they can always use more mustard.
Kay Frances is a Motivational Humorist who encourages people to “laugh more, stress less and take care of yourself!” She gives humorous keynote presentations and stress management workshops all over the United States. She is the author of “The Funny Thing about Stress; A Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life.” To order the book or find out more about Kay, visit her website at: www.KayFrances.com
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