I’ve been working in the same place for more than five years now, and in all that time, I’ve allowed most of my coworkers to believe that I don’t know how to cook. In fact, I’m quite capable of cooking and baking, although I rarely do either because I live alone and I’m lazy. But the main reason I let everyone keep on thinking I’m clueless in the kitchen is so that I can avoid being dragged into the Pot Luck Wars.
Bringing a dish to a pot luck or to an ailing coworker is a tricky business with almost no winners. I have seen friendships end over pot luck dishes. I have seen physical fights to get to the pot luck sign-up sheet. I have seen women crying in the bathroom because their pound cakes didn’t have as many slices missing as someone else’s pound cakes. I have personally witnessed with my own eyes a knock-down, drag-out fight when two women decided to make a birthday cake for a third person. The presence of two cakes at a single office party was enough to make people whisper about the NERVE of that WOMAN behind closed office doors for the rest of the day. Maybe even for the rest of the week. Oh, and the building imploded and someone kicked a puppy.
Everything in that last paragraph is a lie, by the way. Well, except for the very first sentence. And part of the sentence about the two birthday cakes.
The Pot Luck Wars are primarily fought by women. Most guys get out of them in one of five ways:
- They make their wives cook something and then bring it in.
- They offer to bring something like napkins or plastic forks.
- They bring a bucket of KFC.
- They offer to give money instead.
- They ignore the fact that it’s even happening.
I tend to go for options 2 or 4, if option 5 won’t work for some reason. There’s probably some feminist commentary in there somewhere but I’m as lazy a feminist as I am a cook, so I won’t bother.
The main reason I avoid the whole pot luck thing is the drama. But the secondary reason I avoid it is because my family has a remarkable knack for bringing The Dish That No One Will Touch.
On a Baptist church table with 40 different macaroni salads, my mother’s macaroni salad won’t even have a serving spoon in it. Instead, the serving spoon sits neatly on the side, just in case the other 39 salads run out and someone is starving to death and will die without macaroni salad. In that case, the person will take a teeny, tiny bit of it – like a half a spoonful – mostly just to be nice, I think. We think this may be because it has peas in it, but come on! The peas are good! And green!
Ginny and I have both taken the macaroni salad to pot luck things in college with identical results. In fact, when I took the macaroni salad to a college pot luck, I’m not even sure the Saran wrap came all the way off. The only good thing is that we all love the stuff, so we never have to go to the trouble to make two batches. We just make the one, banking on the fact that no one will eat it and we’ll have plenty for ourselves later on.
This also happens with my mom’s awesome and wonderful Spanish rice, which may not be authentically Spanish but is most certainly awesome, wonderful, and ricey. In fact, it’s one of my favorite dishes in the whole world and so I’m always glad when no one touches it at the pot luck. She also used to make these grody-ass porcupine meatballs from like one of those 70s recipe cards and I hated those things, and I don’t know how well they did at pot lucks but I know we always brought some home. Ew.
One year, I had an athletic banquet of some kind and my mom either forgot to cook or didn’t have the time. So she stopped at the grocery store on her way home from work and got some potato salad, fried chicken, and banana pudding from the deli. Because my mom is insane and didn’t want everyone to know she hadn’t cooked, she scooped it all into her Corningware dishes and set them out on the tables next to the various buckets and boxes of fried chicken and biscuits from KFC, Hardee’s, and Bojangles.
And of course you know what happened next. She took those Corningware dishes home completely empty. In fact, I think someone may have licked them clean. She vowed never to cook for pot luck again, but her perfectionist neuroses won out and she still makes stuff for every pot luck.
She finally hit on a winner, though – one of those weird breakfast casseroles where you dump eggs and hash browns and sausage and shit into a dish and bake it for a million years. I hate it because it has sausage in it, but it always gets snatched up at the Baptist Easter pot luck breakfast. So in order to avoid the hideous scourge of being the church wife who didn’t bring a hot dish, and also because of the pride that comes from finally making a dish that people will eat, my mom will get up at like 4 in the morning on Easter Sunday to make that casserole thing.
Probably she should do like I do and bring plastic forks, or ignore it entirely.