My fiancee used to be the Volunteer co-ordinator for a moderate sized Science Museum in Central Ohio. In addition to this springboard position, she was also born to a human family, and as such, has human-like relatives with whom she must associate and converse. Unfortunately, the most common way for Ohioans to converse with one another is the occasion known simply as a “pot luck”
For the uninitiated, a pot luck involves a large number of people convening in one location; it is also “highly suggested” that all the aforementioned people bring some type of food for others to eat. The thinking behind this being that if everyone brings a dish to share, everyone will have enough to eat. The reality, however, is that the assembly will consist of no fewer than 70% old people who will bring one of 2 things:
1.) A dessert that will give you diabetes upon biting into it (they’re gonna die soon anyway, what the fuck do they care about disease?)
2.) ___________ – salad. Common examples include, but are not limited to: Pasta Salad, Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, Broccoli Salad, and Salad Salad.
Being a fledgling chef who doesn’t really WANT to be a chef, I am a big deal at these potlucks. And, thanks to the ubiquity of Food Network and an interminable amount of time Old People have to watch it, almost every person in attendance (read: those w/o food industry experience) has an overromanticized idea about what it means to be a culinary professional. Such delusions inevitably lead to one…singular…question:”Oooh, what did you make?” What I hear when people utter such bullshit is this:
1.) What did you bring that’s not a tooth-rotting dessert?
2.) What did you bring that can make us feel like we’re fancy and high class instead of lower-middle class rednecks?
Most of the time, I respond with a emotionless “nothing.” I don’t want to make anything for you unappreciative bastards. For one, I hate the culinary industry. I hate that I spent damn near 45 thousand dollars to graduate with honors and subsequently have an “honorable” job “honorably” washing dishes or “honorably” working a drive-thru because some illegal immigrant will work for sub-minimum wage doing the same GD thing. I hate making the same dish over… and over… and over again. And I especially hate the fact that the profit-driven industry is more interested with pushing out an imperfect product just to make some $ than building a customer base with quality product plated elegantly… but I digress.
For two: I don’t really feel like catering (pun fully intended) to the whims of fake assholes who want me to spend more money than I have and time than I want to just so they can feel more important than they really are. If you don’t want to each 11 different types of pie or 47 different types of salads… either DON”T COME to the potluck or BRING SOMETHING DIFFERENT. I don’t understand what’s so hard about these solutions. Furthermore, I don’t make anything fancy because, for as much as people WANT to think that they have advanced palates, they don’t. The majority of people who attend potlucks don’t want to be subjected to anything new, or avant-garde, or anything that isn’t some bastardization of a menu item from one of the Americana restaurants. You know the ones: jerseys of local sports stars adorn the walls, stock family photos are ejaculated onto the remaining spaces. Specials vary from establishment to establishment… but face it, they’re all the same.
Sure, I COULD make something fancy: I could spend a few hours making soda crackers from scratch. I could cook a Roast to a perfect medium rare (the doneness to which meat SHOULD be cooked). I could slice the roast to 1/16″ pieces, shape them onto the soda crackers, top the crackers with a dainty dollop of horseradish infused whipped cream and some scallions. I could serve those hor’s d’oeuvres to you on a silver plateBut you wouldn’t eat them. You’d comment on them to be polite, but ultimately I’d end up going home with 40-45 of those little canapes. My inner fat kid would then eat a large number of them out of sadness and a feeling of failure when I got home, and the rest would get thrown out a week later after I unsuccessfully tried to store the leftovers in my refrigerator.
So what SHOULD you do? That’s easy. Make something different and then encourage the chef to eat it. He may not like it, but he’s going to think of you at least a little more highly than all the rest of the wrinkled pre-zombies at the pot luck. And, chances are, if he ever DOES make something fanciful… he’ll offer you first crack at it. And, if you get in REALLY good with him, it might actually HAVE crack in it… which will make the old people that much more tolerable.