I personally believe the Baptists have a “lock” on the best potluck dinners. My Catholic friends would argue that point, but I stand firm. And I have attended a lot of potlucks over the years at a lot of churches. Hands down, the Baptists win.
When you walk into the Fellowship Hall there are at least six (sometimes eight) rows of tables. Each row has wooden signs – most likely handmade by grateful husbands – announcing: Salads, Bread, Vegetables, Entrees, and Desserts. My sister, a modern-day potluck scout, previews each serving line to see which one has the best desserts. Then she lets the rest of us know which line to get in.
The potluck is not just another meal. It is a grand celebration. All of us ladies reserve our absolute best recipes for these occasions when we get to show them off before our brothers and sisters in Christ. And show them off we do!
“Mom, that smells wonderful!” my son exclaimed. “It’s for church, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.”
“See? I told you,” he whispered to his brother. “I knew she didn’t cook it for us.”
I have found a distinctly gratifying (and positively carnal) pleasure in being recognized for a popular potluck offering.
“Who made the ham biscuits? They’re terrific!”
“Why, that would be me,” I confess with a soupçon of humility mixed with a boatload of pride.
And I enjoy being coaxed to prepare a particular dish by a church member.
“Oh, I hope you will bring your cranberry salad. I always look forward to it at Thanksgiving.”
“Of course. And I’ll make a little extra so you can take some home with you.”
Sometimes the conversation is more like: “Oh, I guess you’ll be making the cranberry thing again this year, huh?”
And that’s a fair assumption. I’m not a particularly good cook. In fact, I only know how to make six things, so I have lots of repeats. I mean, cranberry salad is good at Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe Valentine’s Day (well, it’s red). I have even stretched it into the Fourth of July.
Of the six things I know how to make, I must say I make each of those six things rather well. The rest of the time I microwave, chop, slice and dice, or purchase ready-made. But for those six things to be appreciated by others, well, it’s more than an ego boost. It’s an affirmation that I have attained a sublime level of culinary achievement that cannot be matched by anyone else – unless their six things are the same as my six things.
Over the years the six things have changed a bit. At one time I made my own lasagna noodles with spinach, baked sourdough bread from a 100-year-old starter, and turned out red velvet cake with mystery icing like a professional.
Eventually my endeavors descended to lows I am almost ashamed to admit. My downward spiral began with creating creative vegetable platters creatively, continued with preparing variations on store-bought items (like filling a round of bread with deli spinach dip), and my final downward plunge — buying a box of frozen éclairs.
Now I’m on a definite upward tick. I’m thinning out the tired dishes, beefing up the tried and true, experimenting with new recipes and waiting for feedback from the potluckers.
Chicken dishes have never been my forte, but I tried a new one with a potato-cheese-sour cream-corn flake-mushroom sauce mixture that almost worked. My doctored-up sweet potato and pecan casserole got raves last month. I’m trying it again this month. Well, maybe it’s too soon. And I introduced my now famous oatmeal cake with cream cheese frosting (or was that buttercream?). I forget.
Never mind. I’ll keep at it. Who knows? By the end of the year I may be able to cook SEVEN things!!
“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” — Psalm 128:1-2