I’m new to the forum so I apologize if this topic has already been covered. But I just returned from a thirty-person family potluck reunion of distant cousins and have to unload my opinion without offending my relatives.
In particular, my complaint is that the young women attendees appeared to have wandered into the nearest grocery store and picked the first cheap slop they ran across. There were tons of little containers of noodle/vinaigrette salad and mushy potato salad loaded with preservatives; purchased Mexican layered dips, several dry, tasteless eight-inch cakes in aluminum foil pans, and a couple of grocery-store plates of dried out carrots and celery crudités. No fresh fruit.
In past years, I remember some of them bringing unshucked ears of corn and whole, uncut watermelons and then expecting the phantom old ladies in the kitchen to prep it all while they sat out at the picnic tables drinking their wine coolers and catching up with their young cousins.
And, God forbid, there seems to be some kind of law among the young that says you can’t bring more than one dish and the hostess must provide properly-sized pans, serving dishes, and serving utensils for their contributions.
Across the board, the old people, including me, brought thoughtfully-chosen homemade stuff. One old widower always brings an expensive, beautiful Honey-Baked ham (he can’t cook) and one of the other old ladies brought her big, beautiful bowl of homemade potato salad with its potatoes still in recognizable chunks and with chopped onion and homemade dressing and with hard boiled eggs. (She cooked the eggs at home, and then peeled, chopped, and folded them into the salad at the party. She also sliced some of them and decorated the top with the slices so the whole bowl looked very fresh and appetizing). So my contributions were intended to fill in and make a rounded meal around the ham and potato salad.
So I shucked and cut the kernels off enough fresh summer corn to fill my largest pot. In connection with that, I brought my own big strainer, a pound of butter, a box of salt, and a sieve-type serving spoon. (I don’t expect my hostess to provide anything—she has enough to think about.) In years past, I have tried cooking and buttering the corn at home and then just reheating it at the reunion. Not the best idea. It loses its crispness and seems mushy. Then brainstorm—duh—this year. Since it only takes five minutes to cook the stuff on site, I prepped it all at home and then cooked it there and it was perfect. I thought there would be a lot left, but it was all gone at the end of the meal and complements abounded. (Heck—they appreciated it in years past when it was mushy, but I wasn’t happy with it.) I don’t think all potluck dishes have to be complicated with tons of ingredients. As a diner, I appreciate simple, fresh food at home and I like to see it on a potluck table, too.
I also brought my family’s version of Ambrosia, i.e., five-cup salad that I double to include two cups plus of each ingredient—sweetened coconut flakes, mini marshmallows, and sour cream mixed together. Then two cups of drained pineapple tidbits folded in, followed by two cans of drained mandarin oranges also folded in, but with a few held back to decorate the top. How hard is it to make that? And, to me, it always seems like a good sweet dish to go with summertime sliced ham and is best made a day or two in advance. That, too, was all gone at the end of the day and I had to give my annual promise to bring it again next year, along with the corn. Yes, I know it’s junk food, but they always claim they love it.
Also, to provide a bit of tang, I brought a dish of fresh-picked cucumbers which I sliced and to which I added just chopped onion, vinegar, salt and pepper. I resisted adding a dash of sugar because the Ambrosia and someone else’s baked beans added enough sweetness to the meal.
I also brought fresh ground Starbucks coffee grounds (both regular and decaf), a coffee measuring scoop, my own 12-cup electric coffee maker, a quart of 1/2 and 1/2, a container of sugar, paper coffee cups, and plastic spoons. The hostess provided the water. I have a big Farberware electric coffee urn that I’ve brought in past years. But this year I admitted to myself that it takes too long to perk (we get started in the morning and people are ripe for coffee) and then half of it sits there being re-heated over and over in the afternoon – not the best condition for coffee. This year, with my 12 cup coffee maker, I had no trouble keeping up with the demand and would pop into the kitchen and make a fresh pot every now and then, including a pot of decaf for the more aged among us.
And finally, I brought a Costco chocolate bundt cake because it is simply a much better cake than I can make—it’s very moist and not too sweet with just a smidge of frosting on the top. (I’m not talking about their big chocolate layer cake with the chocolate shavings all over it – to my taste, it is way too sweet.) Again, this year, that cake was completely gone while the grocery store sheet cake and the little eight-inch cakes just sat there.
There! I’ve unburdened myself. When did I become this old woman who complains about the young whipper-snappers?