Thursday, June 20, 2013

Church potlucks in the Age of the Internet

There is really nothing funny about church potlucks. Okay, there is. Jell-O. Actually, the great purple Jell-O wave of the 50s,  60s, 70s and 80s has faded into nothing but a joke about predominance of Jell-O at church potlucks. Jell-O is harder to find at today’s church potluck than finding a person who is happy with the direction of the church. Jell-O has been reduce to VBS and the occasional nostalgic dish of the hip mom doing the retro recipe she found on the cool retro mom’s blog.

Fed on diet of the Food Channel, Martha Stewart, and O living, and all those foodie sites, the modern day potluck can be a cornucopia of exotica and cuteness. Desserts like baked pound cake cut in strips looking suspiciously like french fries and  topped with raspberry sauce and served in a McDonald’s Fries container make hard to know what to do. Eat it or admire its cleverness. Of course I ate the foo-foo fries without the proper admiration, to the dread of my wife for her uncouth husband. They were cute, but they were tasty. For men, taste trumps cute.

Then, there are the leftovers extravaganza casseroles. Everything in the fridge is thrown into a dish and topped with lots of cheese and cream. It is important with these dishes to make sure to tell people that it was grandma’s or a beloved aunt’s recipe. This keeps any unChrist like critic from setting you free with some unwanted pesky truth.

For the most part the open potluck becomes a contest of taste. Many people feel the anxiety of cooking for them and the anxiety of having to sampling all the dishes while at them, less you insult someone by not tasting their culinary concoction. We all admire the bachelor who brings a bucket of fried chicken he pick up on the way in. If it were only that easy. I remember a particularly good hunter bringing his various kills in the form of wild game chili. The challenge was real men eat moose, elk and deer in a mixture of beans and spices. It was good, but buried in spices, all that game tasted liked chicken.

Churches understand the nature of competition and the drive to outdo your beloved neighbors and friends, so they use a technique of targeted potlucks. Pick a theme like soup, Mexican, pasta, or chili and you can at least control the culinary adventures. But people, armed with Google, are ever more clever. Homemade churros, a delicate pesto gnocchi or an exotic chili from a small town in the Guatemala famed for its Mayan green chili sauce suddenly find their way to the themed potluck.

Being Mexican, when Mexican is chosen, I feel the pressure. So when Mexican was chosen in our recent potluck, I found my grandmother’s empanada recipe online. At least I hope that the recipe was like my grandmother's. It seemed like something she would make. I made my own Dulce de Leche, sautéed apples and made the cream cheese dough. My wife love the condition of the kitchen after my Googling adventure, but that’s another story. At the potluck, I was relieved that they turned out just like grandmother’s, or at least like the ones I hope I remembered she made. I got the compliments. No one saw the kitchen I left at home, no doubt. Yet, somehow the past connected to my present. Is that what potlucks are about?

Was the wedding in Canna a potluck? I like to think so. Water to wine, I wonder I I can Google that?

This humor first published with Spokane Favs at :

No comments: