When you are a single female, office potlucks are met with a mix of anticipation and dread.
The dread part comes first. It’s the moment you realize that you must go to the store, buy a week’s worth of groceries, and make a dish for your closest coworkers, knowing you’ll only get a spoonful.
Did you just think I should’ve just bought some prepared potato salad at the deli, slapped a spoon in it, and called it good? Yeah, I heard you. I have my ways. I can only waggle my finger at you, and, in my best stern voice say “Shame! That’s cheating!”
Because, for us single females, despite the cost which blows our monthly budget out of the water, potlucks are *really* about showing off.
Our Betty Crocker genes don’t get out much. With no regular “audience,” we have no one to impress with our culinary acumen. We tend to go home, shove our deli meat into some maybe, possibly, good bread and call it dinner.
This is where the anticipation comes in.
See, as much as there is dread and anxiety over the cost, there is the excited planning that goes into high gear. It’s not enough to bring a dish people will like. It’s time to impress them with exotic ingredients or techniques. They can’t be too exotic or no one will touch them, and no one is impressed with having the only untouched dish at the party.
The ideal potluck dish has got to look excellent, taste fantastic, and be sufficiently complicated or mysterious (how’d she do that??) to become the chief topic of conversation for the meal.
“Gosh, I haven’t used my melon baller in years, maybe I could use it to scoop out servings of salmon mousse, serve it on tiny homemade crackers with a touch of that caviar and serve it with some sparkling wine I made from last year’s grape harvest. I’ll just whip up the crackers from the hand-milled flour right after I put away the deli meat. ”
When you start sounding like a contestant on Iron Chef explaining their sea bass three ways, with truffle oil foam and poached quail eggs, or twice killed pork rendered on planks of maple and cedar, it might be time to dial the whole thing back to eleven.
The minute you decide to make a more reasonable dish, you start to panic and imagine that one of the single guys at the office could taste your masterpiece, fall madly in love with it, and want to be married within the month. It’s worth the hours spent hand-milling flour if it catches a man.
I wake to the smell of a burning batch of crackers, and wipe the drool from my face, and the dream has faded. Maybe store-bought crackers aren’t cheating after all.