Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Table Talk - Good Old-Fashioned Church Potluck

Praying before the Thanksgiving Fellowship Meal
I don't know about you, the but word "potluck" sends shivers down my spine rather than rumbles in my tummy, and my experience is that the food is usually yucky, not yummy (good rhyming, eh?).

This week we didn't have our usual Sunday dinner because we had our annual church Thanksgiving Fellowship Meal.  It was a great meal with traditional turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy accompanied by a plentiful "potluck" of delicious side dishes and dessert.  Everyone had a great time and was very well fed.  But you don't know how hard I've worked over the last four years to make these "meals" a success.

When my husband and I first took over the church, there were bi-weekly "Pot-Bless" meals (because "luck" isn't a Christan word).  Tables were rolled out and chairs set around them, with a used paper placement in the center for a pitcher of water, salt and pepper shakers, and a container of toothpicks.  Seriously.  That was the first sign that this was not going to be a good meal.  The second sign was in the kitchen.  Food began arriving in slow cookers and towel-wrapped casserole dishes (I distinctly remember a little bowl of someone's left-over scrambled eggs from breakfast).  Hmmm.  Pretty skimpy offerings, so the ladies went into the fellowship room and outside to where two huge deep freezers were located and began pulling out food to supplement the meager spread.  Left-over rice, freezer-burned rolls, some nondescript vegetables in the shape of a green rock from being thawed and refrozen were selected for defrosting.  The microwave was just a-hummin'!  I was so excited when one of the ladies offered to run to Safeway for some roast chicken!  That day I vowed to my husband that come Fall when we officially became the lead pastors, "Pot-Bless" meals would receive their final blessing.  So for a whole year we didn't do potlucks.  We had lots of social events, but the church provided the food and my mother and I prepared it.  Then the next year we introduced what I call a "controlled potluck," where the church provides the main course and the people provide sides, signing up on a sign-up sheet under the category of the food they would like to bring, i.e., vegetables, desserts, rolls and butter, salads, etc., to ensure we had a variety of foods that complimented the main course.  This worked as far as selection goes, but we still came up short time after time.  So this year I announced that the church was providing the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy and beverages, and everyone else was to bring TWO dishes---one side dish and one dessert---and each dish was to be enough to feed their family.  So, "If one dozen cookies won't feed your family, then you need to bring triple that."  Well, my pep talk worked.  This year the tables were loaded that we actually had to set up two extra tables to hold everything!  It was wonderful.  Looking over the abundant spread, I thought to myself, "The thing I'm most thankful for this Thanksgiving Meal is for this Thanksgiving Meal!"  Everyone was fed, even going back for seconds and thirds, and we made up bundle after bundle of left-overs to send home.  It was a great day.  The pot that once ran out of luck has now been blessed!

P.S.  Do you know there are actually whole websites, blogs and articles on pot-lucking?  They cover topics like food poisoning, dirty kitchens, bad cooks and more.  So I think it is safe to say I'm not in the minority with my aversion to these events!

So what do YOU think?  Love them or loathe them?  Tips for success?  Horror stories or glowing testimonies?  Tell me!


  1. I think you are a brave women, taking on the sacred pot-luck! I am pleased with the outcome of the event. Very thankful for the sanitary conditions of the food preparation. But still am not willing to sample other folks fare.

    The only thing I have ever enjoyed at a potluck is the strawberry pretzel and jello salad, with a layer of cream cheese fluff. I remember it from my childhood.

    Keep me in the kitchen, busy and happy on pot-luck-days!

  2. Kev says that he has never had one bad experience with potluck growing up ... and he had many of them in the United church. He wishes to add that it didn't stunt his growth!

    My first potluck was in a town named Barf ... oops, I mean Bawlf, Alberta. I thought it was a cool idea until my brother-in-law pointed out all the mayonnaise loaded salads sitting under the scorching sun. That was it. I was not hungry anymore. Having gone to other potlucks ... I try to discreetly ask who brought what and choose from there. I wasn't always that smart and that is how I actually tasted some octopus. Whatch out ... you never really know what you eat!

    Note: I burst out laughing so hard after your second sentence that Kevin wanted to know what was so funny. Even though he couldn't relate ... he sure laughed!

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