Monday, April 12, 2010

The Potluck Pandemic

It is a common tradition among many societal or cultural groups to gather together and share a meal provided in parts by all in attendance. This phenomenon is called The Potluck. This term derives from the United States in the 19th to 20th century, and is commonly thought to be an extension of the term, "luck of the pot."

The practice of potlucking is observed in excess by the members of the Foothills Ward (my church congregation), and let me tell you, our pot is not so lucky.

As far as I can ascertain, there are two purposes of The Potluck:

1. To one up everyone else in the party by bringing the most delicious dish,
2. To get a free meal by "forgetting" your contribution and mooching off everyone else.

In a ward made up almost entirely of starving students or graduates paying off their student loans, the second one is seen far too often. Even the affluent people can view it as "the night I do not have to cook."

So here is my story, my love-hate relationship with The Potluck.

When I first graduated from high school and entered the single's ward, I viewed potlucks with the first objective. This was my chance to show off my domesticity to the boys in my ward. I counted it a good potluck if the following things happened:

1. I was spared the "walk of shame" to the potluck table to pick up my full dish at the end of the evening.
2. I heard at least two members of the opposite sex comment on my dish when they didn't even know it was mine.
3. One of the wives of our bishopric told me I would make a great wife someday.

Over the past three years, I have made many curries, squares, pies and casseroles. The one time I made a salad I of course could not merely shred lettuce, I simply had to include baked chicken. I figured I was obligated to bring something homemade and filling because I lived at home and could use my parents groceries, and I had started bringing good food. I couldn't stop now.

So for every FHE potluck, every gathering of ward members or just friends, every Sunday night party with refreshments, I have made a big production. Except for the time I had a break down and skipped. The funny thing is, as silly as I know it is, I love it. I love making things for ward potlucks. I love cooking and showing off what I can do, but I was sick and I didn't know it.

The problem with a potluck of starving students is that so few try. I can't think of a single Monday Night Potluck I've been to that did not include one person bringing a five dollar pizza from the Little Caesar's on the way to the church, or a bowl of Kraft Dinner. You get such a weird variety a full meal is never guaranteed, and this added one more obligation to me. I honestly thought that if I didn't bring something big, everyone would go hungry.

Last Monday, it was announced that we would have a pie potluck. This was a double whammie for me. It was a potluck, and it was pie. Naturally I had to make one from scratch. Several members of my family were still kicking around from Easter, so they witnessed me running around making a raspberry pie with a lattice top.

A problem was presented when it was discovered that the oven had not been turned on to self-cleaner the night before, and my pies faced the risk of tasting like smoky turkey, so naturally I scrubbed it out myself. After I'd put them in, I began to fret that they would still be smoky. My oldest sister Jaima took hold of my shoulders and said:

"Even if they're smoky, who cares? You can just buy one on the way."

I looked at her with anguished eyes and said:

"I DON'T buy things for potlucks."

As soon as I'd said it, I realized how ridiculous that sounded. My pies turned out well anyways, but that evening, I tried very hard not to grade the success of the evening on the consumption of my pie. It even sort of worked.

Yesterday, they announced that next Sunday we will be having a potluck after church. I figured I would just bring a dish I've brought before that is relatively easy. Then that evening, I got a message saying that our activity for today would be, surprise, surprise: ANOTHER POTLUCK.

We just had one last week! What the hay? I'm starting to reconsider Colleen's philosophy of never going to potlucks. I still love potlucks as much as the next person, despite the fact I need to be cured of caring too much about them, I think three in two weeks is a bit much. I'm about one dinner of pizza, KD and Oreos away from blowing my brains out.

I am pretty sure this is the final straw. There is no way I am working hard on a potluck dish when I just did that last week, and will be expected to do so this weekend. I don't care who's going to be there.

Tonight, I will be displaying my domestic skill of slicing. I'm bringing a fruit tray.


isaacsmum said...

I love this Elena. YSA potlucks really area a game of roulette as to what you might be eating. I'm sure your slicing skill will impress everyone.

Katey said...

You could do Thai garnishes if you wnated to show off...just kidding. Seriously though, that's the thing with YA potlucks in particular. They have them a lot for a few reasons:
1.They're super easy to prepare if you're on the activity comittee.
2.Food has a way of luring nearly anybody out of the woodwork, why do you think we have refreshments at almost every church function?
3.As a starving student, food is always appealing, even KD.
Don't worry, family ward potlucks generally tend to be much better, although the competition remains.