Monday, July 29, 2013

The Church Potluck: A Lengthy Dissertation

The church potluck: if you have never been to one, I'll pray for you. You have my sympathies. I was just reminiscing about the wonder that is a church potluck. I mean, a good old-fashioned, cooked-by-farm-wives type of potluck, not the kind where there are all manor of supermarket containers littering the buffet. Growing up, our Loma church knew how to put on a potluck. There was always enough food for everyone to go through for seconds, or fifths. There were always soft, fluffy dinner rolls and slow-cooked beef that probably came from an actual cow, as in, a cow that someone raised themselves. Sometimes there would be a pig roast and that was the best. Someone would donate a pig and a few guys would camp out in our yard and start it in the middle of the night so it would be done to perfection just after church. Also at the potluck would be various dishes which would evoke proclamations such as 'Oh, did you see these! Nancy made her famous won-tons!' Hearing this would cause children and adults alike to mentally calculate which side of the table would provide a quicker path to the coveted dish. Woe to the man who shuffles up last in line, for his paper plate shall remain destitute. (Hezekiah 47:2) At a good potluck, you are also guaranteed to find at least three kinds of baked mac and cheese (not Kraft for heaven's sake) topped with breadcrumbs. If you are lucky, you might get the nice crusty part on the edge. It might even involve bacon bits. There will also be at least one crockpot (either rusty red or avocado green in color) filled with baked beans. These baked beans will likely not be the kind that Dad makes, and therefore not worth sampling. Unless you manage to get the chunk of salt pork, which has an odd way of making you feel like you won a prize even if it is a chunk of fat. As you move farther along the buffet line (cobbled together of prehistoric folding tables and covered with red and white checked plastic) you will find a variety of vegetable dishes. I can't vouch for the adults, but us kids skipped over that part. After all, parental supervision on a potluck line is lax at best and the dessert table calleth. After the vegetable dishes come a variety of desserts. There will be your odd assortment of gelatinous salads. I have never understood why Jello is categorized as salad or a dessert. It is not remotely healthy, unless you consider horse hooves to be good for what ails you. Perhaps the addition of celery makes it a salad? And in the absence of chocolate it can hardly qualify as a dessert. It was many a potluck I took the gamble on a Jello 'salad' and took a bite only to find that it harbored nuts, mayonnaise or celery. Fail! Marshmallows, however, were a suitable addition according to anyone under the age of 10. After the questionable Jello creations come the real desserts. These are not high-brow desserts ripped from the pages of Bon Appetit. No, these are your down-home recipes, ripped from the pages of Grandma's cookbook. The desserts may include a Jello Poke Cake (again with the Jello!), a least 4 pans of brownies, a chocolate cake with fudgy icing, a bundt cake, some cake that is dense and involves nuts and raisins (horrors!) and the obligatory package of hydrox cookies. Never real Oreos. Just the fake kind. If you have done it right, you should come to end of the table with a Chinet plate loaded at least 42% past capacity, with a fluffy dinner roll perched on top and your 'pre-dessert' tucked carefully next to your pasta salad (Debbie's pasta salad of course). Us kids sat at the designated kids' table which was usually located right next to the giant map in the Fellowship Hall that still includes the USSR. I would venture to bet than any kid at the table could find Bolivia in about 3 seconds since that map was often used to show us where our missionaries lived. Before digging in, it was necessary to set your plate down and go back for the beverages. And by beverages I mean two big coolers filled with red Koolaid and powdered lemonade. I think I drank enough Koolaid at the church functions of my youth to effectively pickle my insides for life. Once the Koolaid was procured, it was time to dig in. I would like to say we politely noshed while speaking of proper subjects like the virtues of obeying your parents but instead we spent time determining who could say the books of the Bible fastest or who could burp the alphabet. When we had eaten through most of the food on our plates, it was time to go through the line again. By now, the won-tons were but a distant memory, but there is a small square of enchilada just begging to be liberated from its Pyrex dish. The enchilada cries out for love so you give it company in the form of a brownie, two cookies and piece of coconut cake. That's how you suffer for Jesus. After eating dessert it is time for the children to run free and the parents to chat for hours. At this time, us kids would do things like roll quarters down the wheelchair ramp, sneak down to the deep ditch (since we skipped the discussion on obeying our parents) and swinging from the branches of the weeping willow in our yard. After a while, we might wander down the potluck line one more time. At this point there would be a few brownies left and half a package of the obligatory hydrox cookies which we would take and wash down with Koolaid. Then we would go back to playing until our pack of wild kids would whittle down to nothing. If we were lucky, our best buddies would be accidentally left at our house for an extra hour. Sometimes, their dad would go home to irrigate and when their mom went home, she would think the kids had went home with him. At some point they would realize that the kids were still at our house and come and get them. Then the party would be truly over, at least until the next potluck.

1 comment:

Shay said...

I have fond memories much like these, but mostly from family reunion potlucks and not church potlucks. Our old church in L-town would have things like a bucket of KFC and Kraft Mac with cherry tomato halves on top. I've been wanting our church to have a potluck forever but nobody seems to want that?!