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GlorifiedRice

Unpopular at a Potluck

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I worked in an office for a few months on contract and was invited to the February Blues Pot Luck (hey it's Canada! gotta do something in Feb!)

I decided to take a huge bowl of homemade carmel corn because I wasn't sure what kind of food they liked. No one touched the stuff, it was like coming in last in some event. I took it back to my department and around 3 the stuff flew out of the bowl as people finally tried it.

I felt redeemed in the end, that I knew I had a great dish but no one would even try it at first, only once afternoon snack cravings hit!

I would have gone for your dishes in a second... As many egulleters would have! :smile:

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Ah yes - the pot luck culture. All of the situations mentioned above have happened to me, including the annoying (possibly infuriating) couple of people who either don't bring anything and expect to graze or those who try to pass off bought stuff as their own.

I'm at peace with the pot luck dilemma these days; I've come to realize it's about feeding the masses (or the group), not about what might please my palate or preferences. Unless you're participating in a pot luck for like-minded individuals who will appreciate the nuances of your carefully prepared contributions, the average PL get-together is more about items that are thrown together at the last moment and - in many cases - a good excuse to have all those chips, dips, layered salads (sorry - I do know there are good ones out there), cream cheese "creations", et al.

I completely concur with "know your group/audience" and maybe push it further to realize what most of them will bring and want to eat.

I've done ridiculous things like getting up at 4:00am so my tart/pie/cake - offering will be freshly baked/prepared and lovingly presented in the manner I'd like to see it. Complete waste of good sleeping time, unless - of course, you're in like-minded company.

I have a couple of standard fall-back items: Marinated Flank Steak with or without Roasted Tomato Salsa (from the Herbfarm Cookbook) - I can marinate overnight and then grill, or take it to the party and grill it there for a total of 7 minutes. It's terrific hot or cold, thinly sliced and served w/that amazing salsa. Even uncommitted vegetarians like it. Easy to transport, easy to serve and they fall on it like ravening hoards.

Second fallback is a pie or a tart for dessert - pick something simple and uncomplicated that looks pretty. My most recent is raspberry-lemon shortbread tart (so easy to do); couldn't find raspberries on Saturday so I used blackberries and I didn't even get a piece myself, it was gone so quickly.

I feel I'm staying true to my own standards and yet pleasing the crowd.

Rover

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I've given up. I used to organize a monthly potluck for my co-workers on 2nd shift (we were, for a time a close-knit bunch who enjoyed each other's company as well as each other's culinary talents). Then, a couple of our go-to cooks moved to 1st shift and were replaced by people with absolutely no talent nor motivation, and it became "Kent brings the main course and we all open bags of chips and jars of cheese sauce". You truly haven't lived until you've sampled 4 bags of ramen noodles with about a pound of American cheese grated into them. I really can't justify spending the morning in the kitchen making a valid effort and then coming in to an assortment of chips, candy and deli sandwiches purchased from the gift shop and the cafeteria. And then our director converted our break area into a workspace for a mid-level-almost-manager, so we have no place to eat or spread out our food.

At least sometimes my family does a potluck salad or potluck Mexican dinner and my siblings, my Mom and I all try to out-do each other.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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Another frequent potluck burn victim here. Sometimes it can be so darned capricious as to what will go vs. what won't. Even when I've known my audience and sworn something would be a hit, I can be unpleasantly surprised.

Though sometimes I do hit it out of the park. Ironically, I brought a big platter of home-made spring rolls to a fundraiser cocktail party where all the org's staff pitched in on the cooking. I took some shameless pride in the fact that my offering was one of the very few with no leftovers whatsoever, and I had several guests going "those aren't storebought? You made those yourself?!? WOW!" This was admittedly a crowd I thought would appreciate them--but the raves really blew my mind (and made my night).

Meanwhile, I'll reinforce what everyone else has said, GR, that if I were at your potluck I would have totally tanked on your dishes. I might have even indulged in some evil gloating that I had them to myself because those poor suckers didn't know what they were missing. :wink:

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Move to Hawaii. Seriously. And invite me!

I don't know about the Philly 'burbs, but all of those foods would have been gobbled up here, and people would have sought you out to ask for the recipes. And that's even with a potluck culture that's still heavy on macaroni-potato salad and brownies.

Some thoughts:

-> Could it have just been that there was an overload of food altogether? With 65 guests, if even half of them bring dishes, that's more than 30 items to try.

-> Did you arrive at the party after most of the guests had already filled their plates? I've found from potlucks that food that gets set out late is less likely to be eaten, unless it's dessert.


Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Move to Hawaii. Seriously. And invite me!

I don't know about the Philly 'burbs, but all of those foods would have been gobbled up here, and people would have sought you out to ask for the recipes. And that's even with a potluck culture that's still heavy on macaroni-potato salad and brownies.

Some thoughts:

-> Could it have just been that there was an overload of food altogether? With 65 guests, if even half of them bring dishes, that's more than 30 items to try.

-> Did you arrive at the party after most of the guests had already filled their plates? I've found from potlucks that food that gets set out late is less likely to be eaten, unless it's dessert.

No, I arrived 3rd. and then everyone brought mayo salads and chips and dips.


Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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For me, it's also a matter of what I'm in the mood for, and also what else is on the menu. For example, I love oysters, and marinated and raw fish dishes. But I generally don't take them at potlucks. They're just not as tasty when you get a bite of a sushi-type thing right after a mouthful of fried chicken and sweet baked beans and potato salad.

Some items meld well with the other things on the menu and some don't. I tend to avoid the ones that don't.

Honestly, I think when selecting something to take to a potluck, in addition to properly sizing up your crowd, you also have to take into consideration what other dishes are likely to be on the table and, just as though you were planning a menu for a dinner party at home, bring something that marries well.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'm sorry it went badly for you, it looks beautiful.

FWIW, I just don't eat any kind of seafood/fish at any party or potluck. One bout of food poisoning from a chef (less conscientious than you are, I'm sure) cured me of craving anything like that at a pot luck/picnic. I don't do mayonaisey stuff, either.

In fact, I kind of hate picnics/pot lucks and generally cook what I want to eat and just eat that.

I guess that makes me the Pot Luck Humbug.


“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”

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It sucks to go to that much effort and not have the food eaten. :(

Someone earlier posted a great idea - get someone to put some on their plate and walk around talking it up. It works.

I've take the same dish to potlucks repeatedly. Sometimes it disappears, sometimes it sits untouched. On those latter occasions, I take a big OBVIOUS portion (the serving plate clearly shows that someone's been at it),

and walk about eating it.

Somehow, seeing that someone else has tried it, makes it safe for others, and it starts to go away.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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You really just never know. It could have been any number of things -- position on the buffet vs. other things, utensils available, fear of seafood, uncertainty about ingredients, a whole host of other reasons. It was almost definitely not deliberate. People tend to fill their plates without thinking about it too hard, and often I say to myself "I'll come back for some of that" and never do.

The only other recommendation I have is that I always slightly mess up whatever I've brought. Like if it's bar cookies, I take one out, or pile them up on a plate instead of leaving them in the pan. No one likes to be the first to touch anything, especially if it looks nice.

But in general, potluck psychology is just plain unknowable. Sorry this one didn't turn out how you'd hoped.


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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I noticed that all of your dishes were heavy on vegetables, and many of those chip and dip people are not especially fond of vegetables. In my experience, they most like to round out their meals with BEER. :raz:

A long time ago, after similar disappointments, I decided to take deviled eggs to every pot luck. I've never brought a single egg-half home. No creativity, but a lot of satisfaction in knowing my food was eaten.


Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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A long time ago, after similar disappointments, I decided to take deviled eggs to every pot luck.  I've never brought a single egg-half home.  No creativity, but a lot of satisfaction in knowing my food was eaten.

Right about the popularity of deviled eggs, although I've noticed that indeed you can get creative with them. Folks will eat practically anything, including stuff they wouldn't otherwise touch, if it's mashed into a hard-cooked egg half.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I noticed that all of your dishes were heavy on vegetables, and many of those chip and dip people are not especially fond of vegetables.  In my experience, they most like to round out their meals with BEER.  :raz:

HAHAHAHAHA! YOU WERE RIGHT WITH THIS CROWD!


Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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A long time ago, after similar disappointments, I decided to take deviled eggs to every pot luck.  I've never brought a single egg-half home.  No creativity, but a lot of satisfaction in knowing my food was eaten.

Right about the popularity of deviled eggs, although I've noticed that indeed you can get creative with them. Folks will eat practically anything, including stuff they wouldn't otherwise touch, if it's mashed into a hard-cooked egg half.

I know there are many variations of deviled eggs, but I love my mother's version so much I can't think of making anything else. Just in case I get one. :wub:


Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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BTDT I have brought home Thai chicken salad, broccoli salad (Eeeew Broccoli), Swedish meatballs on different occasions.

The KFC was eaten as were the deviled eggs that one guy always brought. At least he brought something. Almost all single guys brought nothing but it didn't keep them from eating.

One guy was a former baker who brought good desserts. We were asked to bring enough to serve eight and one woman always brought a tiny noodle casserole that might serve three people but only if they weren't very hungry.

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GR - I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I would be to see your dishes at the potlucks I attend.

Even though I live in northern NJ, I have to say my experiences have been like what everyone else has been saying. I now either just make a crowd pleasing dish that I think is blah or I add a smaller dish of something a little different. I no longer make brownies and cakes from scratch - too much work only to see the store bought things get eaten. However, when it comes to savory dishes, I still make a big batch and then just bring a smaller amount to the party, along with the quick very fattening big bowl of something that I know will get eaten.

My one consistent success with something a little different is panna cotta that I bring to party every Halloween in the shape of a brain. The first year, not one taker. But as people have come to know what it is, it has become really popular.

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Our family holds an annual party, which includes a potluck dinner. Each contributor labels his/her dish with the name and contents, including potential allergens. This process helps sensitive eaters to know what is "safe" and what is not (we have a few anaphalatic shock allergy people). Typically, the dishes without labels are the ones which are left with remains.

There are many people who will not eat *anything* prepared in someone else's house, unless a family member has made the dish without any possible allergen or risky ingredient.

Too bad GR about your stuff being left over. It looked great.


Karen Dar Woon

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Aw, boo, that sucks! I know for me no amount of reason from my boyfriend on the way home (people were full, there was too much food, it was good just nobody knew what it was) takes the sting out of bringing the loser dish to a potluck.

It's nice to hear it's not just me, though. Sometimes I get to worrying that maybe I actually AM a bad cook and friends/coworkers are just too polite to tell me!

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A long time ago, after similar disappointments, I decided to take deviled eggs to every pot luck.  I've never brought a single egg-half home.  No creativity, but a lot of satisfaction in knowing my food was eaten.

Right about the popularity of deviled eggs, although I've noticed that indeed you can get creative with them. Folks will eat practically anything, including stuff they wouldn't otherwise touch, if it's mashed into a hard-cooked egg half.

Deviled eggs are my fall-back dish for work potlucks, especially in a workplace dominated by very young men whose idea of ethnic dining is Houlihan's. Likewise popular are a big pan of chicken wings and (of course) home made mac and cheese.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I will admit to a little pigging out on deviled eggs at potlucks. Reason: I LOVE them, and my doctor has limited me to two eggs per week, so I don't make them at home. But if we're having a potluck, there must be a special occasion, right?, so I get to have as many as I want, right?, since it's a special occasion and all.

I sometimes do fall back on them, and take them instead of other dishes that require a lot more work, because I have discovered the secret of producing decent-looking whites that aren't all pitted and pockmarked from the peeling process, and I love how certain other people look at me in awe when they see those pretty eggs.

(The secret, by the way, is to use the higher-priced organic eggs. It also helps to refrigerate them overnight after cooking, before peeling. I don't know why the organic eggs make a difference (although I have several theories), but it's the only way I can reliably produce nice-looking whites, and believe me, I've tried everything.)

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I'm a relatively adventurous eater, and I'm Asian, but I probably would not have touched those dishes, either. In my experience at mixed potlucks (i.e. potlucks attended by a random mix of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities), the Asian dishes pretty much always suck unless they're made by people from the same countries the dishes are from. This doesn't mean your dishes sucked, but I would have just assumed they did, so I would have avoided them.

That being said, I might have taken some shrimp, because free shrimp are always good. Spring rolls that aren't made a la minute generally aren't (the skin gets tough and dry) and noodles kind of get dry plus they start sticking together, and that's never fun to eat at a potluck, so those definitely would have been avoided by me.

And even raves from other people would probably not have enticed me to try them. I once let raves about someone's makizushi encourage me to try one, and I ended up having to suffer a biteful of the absolute worst sushi I'd ever had. Everyone else liked it, but it was really horrible (having lived in Japan for 11 years, I think I'm a relatively good judge of bad sushi. Maybe not of spectacular sushi, but definitely of bad sushi).

Potato chips are always safe at a potluck. Plus fried food is always good. It's a rule.


Edited by prasantrin (log)

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I usually hate potlucks, for various reasons... When I've hosted them, there always seem to be a surplus of chips, bread, cheese, and store-bought desserts, which generally end up being leftover. When I've attended them, everything seems to be some variation of the same, or else it involves insane amounts of Best Foods-fake-mayonnaise-laden starchy foods.

I host a lot of dinner parties, and keep control of things by inviting people I know to be more interested in food than average. When I go over to the home of someone of similar sensibilities where cooking will be somewhat collaborative, I usually figure out two or three simple things that can be prepared in some corner somewhere and will be accessible but interesting.

But when I go to a family thing, I generally have to spend more time thinking about what else is likely to be there, and what would fit in. I don't usually break out my Japanese food repertoire anymore, because even if it's appreciated it doesn't necessarily match up with what else is being served. When I'm cooking everything, I know how to do a few Asian dishes along with Western things, but it just doesn't seem to work very well when I'm contributing stuff to a family potluck.

Two things I've learned that work very well at mostly-Caucasian potlucks: savory choux pastries stuffed with flavored cheese (chevre/sundried tomato, garlic and chive cream cheese, etc), or little savory tarts made with filo, katafi or puff pastry. They're just interesting enough to get compliments, without being frightening to unadventurous eaters.


Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Add me to the list of folks who would've been going after what you brought.

I'll add to the chorus of those who say you never really know what's going to go over well. I've gotten my feelings hurt when I brought back over half a tray of some gorgeous Chocklava that I brought to a neighborhood party, while the Slice-and-Bake holiday sugar cookies went like gangbusters.

The potlucks at work are far more more gratifying. I have a small band of groupies who swoop in and ask "What did you bring?" and are sure to stock up on that before it disappears. :cool:

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Ah...sorry that went so badly for you. :( I would have tried all of it!

I suppose I've just been very lucky with potlucks. Our office Christmas party is usually a potluck affair and I've brought "weird" stuff like savory bread pudding and sesame noodle salad and all of it was devoured. One of my co-workers is Thai and she usually brings something like homemade Pad Thai and it disappears in a wink. There are only two other real foodies in the group, but apparently everyone is fairly adventurous.

For other occasions I usually make a double batch of brownies (from the recipe on the back of the Ghirardelli Sweet Chocolate and Cocoa tin), and they always go fast. Sometimes I'm told that I *must* bring them.

Kent D, your avatar looks like Rick Bayless.


Kathy

Minxeats
http://www.foodloversguidetobaltimore.com/'>Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore

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I hereby admit I make really good brownies for my family, and not-so-good brownies for other stuff.

For me, it's superlative dark chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla turbinado sugar, toasted almond or hazlenut slivers, done ala the Katherine Hepburn version, completely organic and therefore, free of calories, because that's how it works in my universe.

For crowds, whatever chocolate I bought on sale last, not always organic, and sometimes *whoa* even a mix. Life is short and it's not my job to educate people's palates at my expense.

I dumb it down a LOT for crowds.


“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”

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