Don’t Swedish My Meatballs

I know it is un-American to dislike a table full of crockpots. And I understand that people *think* they are appeasing the diverse tastes of their guests when they allow folks to bring their own food. But lately, potluck dinners have become a mix of Top Chef and Survivor, where nobody wins.

In my community, potluck dinner parties have quickly become the housewife/househusband Hunger Games. I used to LOVE potlucks as a kid when they were more of an affordable buffet meal and less of an adult cooking tournament. Today, a potluck is a dog-eat-dog competition, which not only requires impressive food, but impressive serving utensils. (Mangowood serving tongs shaped like tulips, anyone?)

Sure, potluck parties sometimes make sense. Potluck work events. Potluck post-season soccer picnics. Potluck family reunions. But, even in the most appropriate setting, potlucks become cutthroat. Who can make the better salad course (complete with at least two non-traditional toppings like cranberries and feta)?  Whose peanut butter and M&M brownies can actually appease the sugar-obsessed kids?  Who can spend the most on a pre-made gourmet, gluten-free, specialty store side dish?

Once the guests arrive, they plop their contributions on a table full of mismatched courses. Potato salad and fruit skewers. Wild rice and English muffin pizzas.  Bacon wrapped asparagus and cinnamon muffins. It’s impossible to know who baked what, which can be a problem when you are trying to avoid anything from ol’ Uncle Jim’s kitchen.  However, there are a few guarantees at a potluck:

Someone always brings the less popular artichoke dip.

Someone always brings plastic forks smuggled from the break room at work.

Someone always brings a bag of cheap chips and canned salsa.

Someone always brings a homemade cinnamon crumb cake with apple topping and a side of vanilla bean ice cream.  (Overachiever, eh?)

And someone always brings sweet and sour meatballs, which are fought over until guests realize they were made by Chuckie, the mechanic with less than manicured fingernails.

Sure, hostesses *think* that potlucks are fun.  But that’s because hostesses don’t have to do anything for a potluck except pour themselves martinis and taste-test food while their friends sweat over the competition.  It’s a brilliant move, really, as long as the guests take home their dirty dishes and mushy leftovers.

Yep, attending a potluck dinner is about as fun as attending a Blue Man Group show. They are both inevitable, frustrating, and make you wish you had spent your evening elsewhere.  But you’ll never beat ’em, so you might as well join ’em.

Pass the deviled eggs.




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