The holiday season brings out the Potluck in all of us. I have already been invited to three with more to follow. Being the competitive person that I am, I always imagine that this is the Pillsbury Bake-off with a million dollar prize and I have to have the award winning dessert. Of course I consistently do, since no one in their right mind bakes anything from scratch and I equate the holidays with eating desserts five times a day.
I am so thankful that I no longer work in an office where the annual Holiday Party was a potluck dinner at the Boss's house and the planning started in October. First, we had to pick a date that everyone could be there and you couldn't get out of it, because if one person couldn't make it, they would try another date until they wore you down. Then the sign-up sheets would start circulating, and everyone was forced to bring a dish. Then the excel spread sheets would come out and everything would have to be balanced. This was only a twelve person department, but it took two months to put together. The single guy would always bring the paper goods, and no matter what, we always have the obligatory schizophrenic jello salad that couldn't decide if it was a salad or dessert, that brought back memories of my Aunt May. This being California, you always have at least one ethnic dish which is the hit of the party, such as tamales and/or spring rolls. Not to be outdone by the health conscious, fat free hummus and organic vegan enchiladas seem to appear. Of course, you frequently have the wise guy who volunteers to bring the salt!
Then you have the surprise dish made with Campbell's soup and Velveeta cheese, and the infamous wieners in a mystery sauce. The one that always got me was the fruit salad made from bags of frozen fruit when we live in the number one fruit-growing state in the nation. I always covered dessert, and my reputation as the Martha Stewart of Southern California was at stake. I never disappointed, if I must say so myself.
Next came the annual gift exchange and the one that always seemed to win out was the mean spirited, bring a $20 unisex wrapped present, and after you open it, the next person can pick another wrapped present, or steal yours. For some reason, this wasn't very much fun and I could tell feelings were hurt especially when someone stole the two pound box of See's candy only to have that person end up with the singing Santa toilet paper holder.
The worst part of the the whole thing was the forced socialization with people you are required to spend at least 40 hours a week with anyway. The wine made the whole situation bearable, but it was still uncomfortable trying to be best friends with the person who had stabbed you in the back two days prior to the party. Not to mention being the person whose dish was hardly touched because it was terrible. I always ate some of the most atrocious things because I didn't want anyone's feelings to be hurt.
The strangest thing is that now when I go to potlucks, everyone is just told to bring something sans spread sheets and it ALWAYS turns out with just the right balance of food. One of life's mysteries, I guess.