Friday, August 21, 2009

The Dreaded Potluck Dinner

I have a confession. I am not all that confident in the kitchen. You'd think after twenty-three years I'd have the hang of it by now. You'd think after three years in Uganda where I made absolutely everything from scratch, I could hold my head high.

I can't.

It's not that I'm a bad cook. I mean, take a look at any of my boys and you can see that they're not about to starve to death. I can put a tasty dinner on the table. And I love to bake. I don't do it often because I'd have to lose more weight than I'm already working on, but I love to bake. I'm just not really confident in the kitchen. I've had my share of "oops" and things.

I think part of my problem is that I just don't really enjoy cooking. I'd much rather be reading. In fact, sometimes I have a book in my hand while I'm cooking. Come to to think of it--that could by why I have a tendency to burn things. But I really didn't get some of the standard domestic genes that most women have. I won't go into every gene that I'm lacking because this post is about cooking. And my ego can only take so much at one time.

Since I'm not confident in my cooking, I tend to mess it up when I'm cooking for other people. And I really got nervous when we moved here to Florida. Our church has a fellowship once a month. Okay, so I could have one or two "potluck" ready meals that almost always turn out right and then I'm good. Except that here they always have a theme for the fellowship. One night it might be Italian, the next month tex-mex. Then we might have soups and stews or a pasta night.

If the theme weren't intimidating enough, the women in this church can cook! They turn out some mouth watering dishes that have me hiding my head in shame. One lady usually makes homemade rolls for the fellowships. Two others could run a catering business if they wanted to. And then there's me. When it comes to food, I don't aim to be the best or have the tastiest meal. No, I set my sights a little lower. I aim to have a middle-of-the-road dish. I know my dish won't be the one in demand, I just don't want to be the dish everyone avoids on the table. If people aren't going to be looking for which dish I brought because I'm so good, then I don't want them looking to see which dish I brought so they can give it a wide berth. Yessiree I absolutely crave mediocrity.

Unfortunately, I don't always hit my very modest goal. I haven't had any huge errors on fellowship night, but I'm not always as mediocre as I'm shooting for either. It's become a standing joke (one I started, so don't pity me) that I complain about people not taking enough of whatever I brought. I really started questioning my abilities when one dear soul suggest that, as the pastor's wife, I already had so much going on that I ought to be excused from bringing anything to any of the fellowships. Now, this person meant it sincerely and he or she was being incredibly sweet. However, when you tend to look at things in a warped way (and I do), it fit perfectly with my knowledge that I'm not at the top of the pack in the kitchen.

Last month we had an ice cream fellowship. Along with the homemade ice cream, we had sandwiches and chips. Now, I've made my share of homemade ice cream before. If we wanted ice cream in Uganda, we made it ourselves. Problem was, it always had a very weird taste to it. I chalked it up to the powdered milk that we had to use, but whatever. So I wasn't going to volunteer to help make the ice cream. But sandwiches! Come on, who can mess up sandwiches. This would be a night when I could hold my head up high. I can make sandwiches with the best of them.

Or not.

I chose to make tuna sandwiches. And because not everyone likes onions or pickles or dill in their tuna, I simply mixed together tuna and mayonnaise. I even packaged each sandwich in an individual ziploc bag so that it would stay fresh. No one knew who had brought the sandwiches, but still everyone seemed to be walking right by my offering to get at other, more appealingly displayed sandwiches. I ended up taking half the sandwiches home. Plus, everyone else gave us whatever leftovers they had as well. (Pastor's family with lots of kids = we always get the leftovers. Yea!) The next night one of the men commented to my son Matt that he felt bad for us having to take all those sandwiches. Matt told him that we really didn't mind--they all ate them anyway. (Including mine, but he didn't spell that out. Come to think of it, I think they fed a lot of my sandwiches to the dog.) But still, the man went on. He felt sorry for us because some of those sandwiches were horrible. One set of sandwiches had absolutely no taste at all. It was like eating cardboard. Really? Matt asked. Which ones were those?

The ones in the ziploc bags.

Matt didn't tell the man that he'd just insulted my sandwiches. But Matt thought it was highly amusing when he told me about it later. Apparently they were bad enough that the man has mentioned them again a time or two.

Maybe I should have tried peanut butter and jelly.

But hey, don't feel too badly for me. We've had another fellowship since then and no one complained about what I brought. I even got a few compliments on it.

I brought the ice.


  1. Jill, you are hilarious!!! I think with a large family, quantity eventually becomes more important than quality, right? My growing children don't complain (usually) about what we have as long as there's enough! :)

  2. You are a girl after my own heart! I have a dear friend who can make spam look good...and then there's me. Glad to know I'm not alone in the kitchen! Great read!!!

  3. I SO feel your pain, but I have to admit that I laughed. Sorry. I have a pot-luck post for a church dinner also and it got me into tons of trouble. So, I'll share...may as well. It's too late to redeem myself. ;-)


  4. Awe, Jill don't be so hard on yourself. You are funny and I know you are taking it well. It does feel good when people eat what you brought.

    Hey, do you ever get to bring dessert? Make a package of Brownies or buy them at the store pre-made. People love them.

    Now on the other hand, folks should keep their comments about potluck food to themselves. It can surely hurt some feelings.

    Take care

  5. Oh too funny! You are getting a complex. I have a couple tried and true recipes oh and I always bring home made brownies. I can´t fail at those. well, except for the time I made them for the football team and they turned out more like fudge mush than fudgie brownies. They all thought it was to go on top of the ice cream and loved it! thankfully.

    Guess, we´ll just have to keep working at it. I totally would rather be doing something else than cooking.


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