I wrote this on Saturday, but because of the problems discussed in yesterday’s post, I’m just now getting it published. Some subjects, although not earth-shattering, are timeless.
I don’t know if it’s Emory in particular or small towns in general, but there are a lot of pot lucks around here. In the 14 months since I’ve been here I’ve taken food to several lunches for bereaved families, desserts to the Senior Center on Volunteer Dessert Day several times, muffins and juice to a church-wide breakfast, soup to a SISTAs luncheon, cookies to AWANA, a salad to one baptism/pot luck and a dessert to another, and those are just the ones I can remember right now. This morning I baked cookies for a Sunday School party tonight and made a cake for a spaghetti lunch after church tomorrow. The SISTAs ministry is raising funds for a youth mission trip to China.
I like to cook, and I’m pretty good at it, but when you take food to an “event,” there’s some expectation of presentation. Let’s just say I was absent the day they taught presentation in Home Ec or was standing behind the door when the Martha Stewart genes were passed out. I think my friend Mary got my share. She can make a simple snack of cheese, crackers, and fruit look like a feast, and her home-baked goods always look like they came fresh from the most elegant bakery in town. She says the secret is paper doilies on the platter, but I can never find paper doilies in the store, and the rare occasions when I have them, I never have the right size.
My lack of presentation skills isn’t a problem at home because I serve the plates in the kitchen, and David doesn’t care what it looks like once it gets to the table as long as he has a fork or spoon handy. It’s not even much of a problem when we have company. I have a few nice serving bowls and platters, and I usually serve buffet style. Once the first person is through the line, the presentation is lost anyway. But I always feel inadequate when it comes to taking food somewhere.
First of all, I don’t have any of the cute carry-along containers that every other woman who ever attends a potluck seems to have. When I take a hot casserole, instead of a baking dish with its own lid, cozy insulated zippered case, and convenient carrying handles, I end up covering my dish with aluminum foil, putting it on a cookie sheet or in a cardboard box, and surrounding it with towels in the hopes that it will be at least slightly above room temperature at serving time.
I try to avoid taking cakes, because mine have a tendency to cling to the pan with great tenacity. When I get brave and lucky enough to end up with a whole cake, I don’t have one of those cute tole-painted cake carriers with hinged clasps to secure the top to the base. Instead, I have a monstrous Tupperware antique that no longer snaps and burps and whose handles have long since gone the way of all small plastic items that you knew were in that drawer just last week. On the other hand, if I decide to take a pre-sliced cake or cookies, my serving trays are never the right size or shape, and my careful arrangements always look haphazard by the time I arrive at my destination.
The funny thing is, nobody seems to notice the odd appearance of my offerings except me. Maybe they notice but are too polite to mention it, or maybe they look beyond the appearance and see the spirit with which it’s offered. At any rate, by the end of the evening my dishes seem to be as empty as all the others, and no one goes away hungry.
It’s about time to finish this up and get ready for the party tonight. I’m looking forward to some fun and fellowship and to some really good food. My cookies got a little too brown on the bottom, but David ate two at lunch and didn’t complain, so I guess they’ll do. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch, too. My cake stuck again, so I guess I’ll slice it up. I’m also supposed to take a loaf of French bread, so when I go to the store to pick it up, I’ll see if I can find one of those disposable aluminum platters for the cake. I wonder if they have paper doilies.