Monday, April 5, 2010


I always like to create menus. I like to think, What is the perfect meal for this or that occasion? I make, in my mind, each component; I lay it out on the plate, I admire it, I serve it. Once I asked my husband, “What are your favorite foods? What would be your favorite meal?”

In my mind, I had already prepared my favorite: For the meat, Ham. That’s Ham with a capital “H.” The kind that comes with a bone in it and is cooked long and slow and carves loose in big sloppy savory slices. For the bread, sourdough loaves, generously slathered with butter and garlic and baked until it’s a bit crispy at the edges. For the vegetable, corn on the cob, not doubt about it. Buttered until it’s dripping off, and well salted. For my dessert, I chose strawberry shortcake. The whipped cream isn’t all that important, but the good quality vanilla ice-cream is. The shortcake is like my mother always made, a sweet biscuit glazed in sugar, split and served still warm with ice-cream and lots of sugared strawberries inside and on top. In answer to my question, my husband thought a bit and answered, “Roasted lamb, Ham, pork chops, and a great big T-bone steak!”

I think it’s a guy thing.

So recently, I was thinking again about what my favorite menu was. And I came to the conclusion that it was… Potluck! Yes, potluck dinner is my favorite menu. I’ve always thrived on variety, and that’s just what you get. Especially when the instructions are random, like, “Bring what you would want to eat, and we’ll trust that we get a good spread.” Sometimes that works out, but sometimes that means a whole table full of iced lemon cake, brownies, Mrs. Smith’s apple pies, ambrosia, chocolate chip cookies and a lone bucket of fried chicken.

There are some foods that I think were just invented for potlucks. They always show up, but I’m not sure they are real food, since they are never on a regular dinner table. And they taste too good to be real food, sort of like potato chips. I’m thinking of something called “company potatoes.” I ate this at a potluck dinner and could hardly restrain myself. From what I could tell, the main ingredients were grease, starch, and dairy product. Inquiring more closely, I discovered it was composed of frozen hash browns, condensed cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, and cheddar cheese. Mmmm….

In a good potluck spread, you’ll see the same beloved friends. Bucket of fried chicken, lasagna, enchilada casserole. Chicken casserole with broccoli and creamy cheese stuff, a crock-pot full of beans. Meatballs. Green salad, potato salad, macaroni salad (at least two versions) and Chinese chicken salad. Rolls and butter. At least one Jello dish. Chips and French onion dip. A veggie tray. For dessert, see above.

Even though a potluck is sort of a chancy thing, you will find a certain predictability. Sometimes a party is held as a potluck. But most of the time, a hostess will want more control over the victuals, and that’s when she plans her own menu. So what would be the perfect menu for a Bluegrass Jam party?

Let’s plan that most of the attendees will be playing and singing. For that reason, I’m going to skip the tortilla chips and nuts. There is nothing worse that trying to sing while little particles of chips and nuts are tickling your throat. Oily finger food is also a no-no. Who wants to get greasy paw-prints on their vintage Gibson Mastertone? Fussy items like souffl├ęs are out. Why would anyone want to spend any more time messing around in the kitchen with something fancy when good music is being enjoyed by other people, and you’re stuck at the oven?

So I think I would put some pulled pork in a crock-pot, a few foil-wrapped sourdough loaves, very lightly buttered and heated, out beside it, accompanied by a veggie tray and a couple of dips. Sodas and beer in a well iced chest, and apple pie at the side.

What’s your perfect menu for your favorite kind of party? Or do you prefer to trust to potluck?


  1. Was I here when you were? I've been so busy that I'm losing track. You should be honored that I'm (sometimes) looking at your blog, because reading/talking about food/cooking is BORING to me. But, myself cooking, eating, well, that's good. I've got a breadmaker now with a gluten free setting, and 25 kinds of ingredients that go into gluten free bread (kept coming up with recipes that called for some odd ingredient that wasn't even at Watsons, had to go to Whole Foods, e.g. to get "Millet Flour." I like to cook, but I don't like to talk about it. :--)

  2. Unfortunately you were gone while I was there. I left a book for you and one for Amelia.
    I should write a blog that combines horses and food... a pleasant challenge to contemplate.