Let's Community Sup, shall we?

pot·luck

/ˌpätˈlək/ noun

a meal or party to which each of the guests contributes a dish

and also

used in reference to a situation in which one must take a chance that whatever is available will prove to be good or acceptable. e.g. "he could take potluck in a town not noted for its hotels"

This latter definition may be the reason I do not particularly care for the term “Potluck” when it refers to a community supper. Who really wants to “take a chance” on food items?? It’s as though the message is “who knows what you’ll find here…it might be great or it might be horrible, so good luck with that.” Pretty low expectations abound when heading to a “Potluck!”

I have a problem with the word, potluck, but not with the concept. I grew up on church potluck suppers where everyone would contribute a main course, side/salad or dessert. My daddy was a preacher and a Potluck Pro. How could he not be? Every sweet lady in the congregation wanted Pastor Tom to try her famous dish and compliment it’s tastiness. I remember his plate being piled so high and thick with different dishes that he couldn’t possibly tell where the squash casserole began and the bean salad ended. And the desserts! Dad had such a weakness for sweets…cakes, cookies, pie, strudel, puddings, they were all loved and loved well.

As the children of our father, we were a little less enthusiastic about the potlucks. Our mom was a great cook and yet I managed to be picky at home, so obviously I was not as trusting as Dad when we entered the fellowship halls where these meals were held. I think there are 3 types of Potluck Participants in this world.

  1. The Potluck Pro, i.e., my dad. Loves to try everything, will have seconds of anything, can’t wait to attend the casserole free-for-all. Maybe these individuals are not well-fed at home so the supper is a treat or as in my father’s case, he just loves food.

  2. The Polite Nibbler - most individuals fall into this category, I imagine. They will sample their friends’ dishes and a few others that look appetizing. This person also realizes there are sometimes a few culinary surprises in the spread and if you carefully look down the entire table before beginning, you might actually find a dish for which you would like to copy the recipe.

  3. The Potluck Snob - this person ONLY eats what his/her spouse or parent has brought to the party. End of story. No exceptions. They don’t trust other home cooks and they would rather dine on a meal they’ve eaten 50 times than be disappointed in something new.

So back to my respect for Community Suppers. I really think they’re pretty fabulous. We attended a July Fourth party at some friends’ home last week at which the hosts provided the main course (burgers, hot dogs) and dessert (decadent ice cream cake). The guests were asked to bring whatever they wanted as long as they commented on the Facebook invitation so everyone knew what was coming. From this diverse group of young families, empty nesters, singles and college kids came the following offerings:

7 layer dip, spicy sausage balls, corn & jalapeno dip, baked beans, potato salad, curried cauliflower, grilled veggie pasta salad, fruit kabobs, barley and walnut salad, cookies, shredded bbq chicken, gluten-free cheesecake bars

It was quite the spread and such a fun way to get together. The hosts didn’t have to provide everything, which made it a less stressful day for them. The guests were given the sense that they contributed to the festivities and could freely partake. And the point is to be together, sharing a meal around a community table…not to lay out a gourmet spread that someone might be intimidated by. Everyone ate well, at least until the poolside karaoke began. It was a win-win all around. Just don’t call it a potluck, please.

Happy New Year! Woof!

              2018 is the year of the Dog

              2018 is the year of the Dog

Confession: I am quite proud of my Asian heritage. I love being a "halfie" -- Dad is Anglo (white boy) and Mom is of Asian descent. My brother, sister and I grew up very aware of our "difference," teased by our American cousins, treated as a novelty by Taiwanese relatives, adored by members of our father's church. Our mother, too, was so proud of her halfie children. She grew up poor in Taiwan, of mixed race herself (Japanese/Chinese), and adored anything Western (American). She wore poodle skirts in the 50s, and watched every Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable and Grace Kelly film that made it to the screens in Taipei. It was purely chance (an act of God) that brought she and my father together and she immediately swooned over his movie star good looks - tall and thin, with hazel eyes and shiny white teeth. He was so good looking, she thought he would never find her attractive. But he adored her petite, exotic beauty, and then gave her the best gift ever -- three halfie children!

I grew up hearing pride in my mother's voice as she declared mixed-race children to be the most beautiful of all offspring and lacking in flat feet, flat noses, and possessing superior intelligence. Lol. Ring familiar? Every mother swells with delight over their progeny. For me, her pride led to a fascination and appreciation for my heritage, and especially the cuisine. We did not live in Taiwan long but I do remember fondly some of my favorite foods from that short time.

Jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings. My mother and grandmother would make hundreds at a time, using triple stack bamboo steamers. After steaming, my father could wolf down dozens in one sitting, dipped in a simple sesame oil-soy sauce-ginger mixture. I preferred them pan-fried after steaming, with a crispy bottom. Spicy Diced Chicken with Green Peppers. In my mind, this was my mother's signature dish. A lot of preparation went into each of her courses;  dicing the chicken into exactly the same size cubes, ditto with the bell peppers, hot peppers and slices of fresh ginger, marinating, double wok-frying and finally, sauced and brought to the table. Spring Rolls, not the Vietnamese version with rice paper but not Egg Rolls either with a thick doughy wrap. My mother's spring rolls had thin, crispy skins and were stuffed with lots of hand-shredded cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, strips of lean cooked pork and tender baby shrimp (if she felt like splurging). We didn't ever dip them in Sweet & Sour Sauce and only in simple soy sauce.

So with the advent of Chinese New Year, I have occasion to celebrate my heritage! Although I no longer have children in the house on which to bestow red envelopes as I received from aunts and uncles in Taiwan, I am able to stuff myself with Chinese cuisine. Chopsticks up!!

 

Side Note: Our family is obviously Christian so we don't really follow or believe in the Chinese Zodiac calendar as a true indicator of personality and one's future. But just for grins and giggles, my family has 2 Rats, 2 Dragons, a Horse and a Snake. You can find out which sign pertains to your year at this site, and feel free to try and guess which is my sign! 

 

Super Bowl LII: It's all about the food

Let me begin by saying that I hope this is the least watched Super Bowl of all time. I dislike both teams, the commercials in past years have been lame and I'm all around down on the NFL these days. That being said, yes, we ARE having people over for a Super Bowl "party." LOL

Because I hate to break it to you, Tom Brady, but there are more chicken wing fans than individuals who want to see you win another title! According to the National Chicken Council, Americans will consume 1.25 billion chicken wings this weekend. Also on America's menu: 11 million pounds of chips, 4 million pounds of pretzels, 2.5 million pounds of nuts, 8 million pounds of guacamole, and 50 million cases of beer. Additionally, Super Bowl Sunday is the 2nd biggest grilling day of the year. (What's number 1? Think fireworks and patriotism.)

So it's only natural that I enjoy taking advantage of the occasion to try out some new dishes on a captive audience. From the FCI (Fine Cooking Initiative), I'm serving up 

Mashed Cauliflower with garlic & anchovy Crostini

Ricotta & Goat Cheese Tart with Fresh Figs

Pancetta & Parmesan Tartlets

Kale & Caramelized Onion Turnovers

Pasta with Crab & Bacon

Haven't decided on a sweet yet...any suggestions? And I'm not serving wings but I think I'll do a twist on the Buffalo classic with the following recipe from a famous NYC restaurant. 

The Meatball Shop Buffalo Chicken Balls

What's your plan for Super Bowl Sunday? Will you order take-out like 48 million other Americans on game day? Whatever you do, have fun, eat well and maybe pick up some Tums when you're at the store (antacid sales rise 20% the day after!) 

 

369170_buffalo-chicken_1x1.jpg