Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

What Is Your Community's Inoffensive Meal?


Chris Amirault
 Share

Recommended Posts

It seems that whenever there is a church fund-raiser or charity auction a spaghetti "feed" with garlic bread (no fresh garlic was harmed in it's creation) and iceberg salad is in order. I live in a logging and farming community that has seen better days and folks will tend to stick with the familiar standbys. This means spaghetti, steak n- potatoes, pizza (only two pizza joints in town), Americanized Chinese (very, very sweet dishes), Americanized Mexican (most items taste of the cans they came from) and fast food. -sigh- The culinary suffering I tolerate to live where I want.  :rolleyes:

Heh. My organo-groovy church, at first glance, does a bit better than the norm at the inoffensive all-church meal thang, but as I've now hung out enough to have experienced a couple of annual events in a row, I now see that they have their own ruts as well.

So, for instance, at the annual pledge campaign luncheon, there is always some kind of pasta/lasagna dish, in both omnivore and vegetarian versions; some kind of large tossed green salad; a crudite platter with some variation of ranch dressing and/or hummus as dip; some sort of bread (usually sliced baguette and/or wedged pita); a platter of cut-up fruit; and assorted cookies. The first time I encountered this spread, I was pleasantly surprised. The second, third, and so on, well, the surprise had worn off sufficiently that I began to notice the ho-hum-ness of the food. I mean, the dishes were nice enough, but ... well ... heh--such an easily-jaded foodie I am. :laugh:

Anyway, I'm now plotting with the matriarch kitchen volunteer about helping with sneaking in a little more variety here and there. She really would like to see more variety coming out of that kitchen, but most of her all-volunteer teams tend to lack the time, interest, and/or skill set to experiment, especially when they already have what they consider sure-fire meal formulas.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I grew up in the NY/NJ metro area, and community feeds were always and invariably:

- baked ziti with red sauce (with or without meat), parmesan, and a rubbery crust of "mozzarella" on top

- green salad (mostly iceberg, some leaf lettuce pieces and shredded carrot for color, a few tomatoes and cucumbers) with Italian dressing

- industrial garlic bread

- brownies for dessert. The budget didn't stretch to cheesecake.

Out here in Colorado, I've only been to one community potluck, and as far as I could tell the only popular dishes were anything made with Cream of Soup(*). The hit of the potluck was this awful mess of chicken breast, canned green chiles, cream of soup, and prepackaged shredded cheese.

(*)Cream of Soup: any of the Campbell's Creamy soups used in cooking. Mushroom, chicken, celery, whatever, they all taste the same. Hence, cream of soup.

Funny thing about the baked ziti: when I lived in California, I brought a dish of it to a certain potluck, and even though there were wonderful Asian noodle salads and fresh vegetable dishes, people just scarfed it up. Several people had never seen it before and thought it was exotic and wonderful.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The dinner is ALWAYS the same. Two foil pans will be on the table. One will be filled with shredded beef and the other with shredded pork and bottles of barbeque sauce will be next to that. Then there will be some white bread with Shedds spread, baked beans, lettuce with italian dressing or cole slaw and tasteless blackberry cobbler. I have had this meal so many times that I have lost count.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • tossed salad -- mostly iceberg lettuce with a few microgreens, tomato wedges, Italian dressing
  • sliced Italian bread with butter and margarine
  • penne pasta with red sauce and grated "Parmesan" cheese on the side
  • roasted half of a chicken with roasted green beans and boiled then roasted potatoes
  • slice of spumoni-flavored ice cream pie with oreo cookie crust

That looks like every fund raiser meal that I have ever been served, and pretty close to 75% of the weddings that I've been to. The only subs that I've seen have been fried chicken pieces for the roasted halves, and mashed potatoes with that unnaturally yellow chicken gravy ladled over in place of the roasted potatoes. Dessert is usually a sheet cake from the local grocery store. Blah.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I posted earlier about ubiquitous gumbo dinners, but growing up, the typical fundraiser dinner was barbecued chicken, rice dressing (aka dirty rice), potato salad, baked beans, & a roll.

Dear Food: I hate myself for loving you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Alabama there's the usual BBQ as mentioned above, served with sliced white bread or buns. Also cole slaw as a side.

Around here, I have seen the infamous "fist of beef" with some kind of steamed vegetable medley (broccolli, cauliflower, and little ridge cut carrot coins - obviously from a bag of frozen), maybe lemon chicken, and some sort of layer cake or pie for dessert. ick.

Sweet or unsweetened tea for drinks. Water if you ask politely.

eta: I remember on Christmas party back in Lafayette, LA, where I first saw a big old beef roast at a carving station. I hadn't seen it at a Louisiana event before then, but my then boss from Michigan was so happy to see it, he took pictures.

Edited by FistFullaRoux (log)
Screw it. It's a Butterball.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I grimace in memory of making the rounds of book-signing parties for my publisher and, from New York to San Francisco and Maine to Florida it was a seemingly infinite number of either chicken dishes (mostly either with an ubiquitous white sauce or Southern Fried) or salmon steaks (invariably cooked to death) and a ton of lumpy mashed potatoes.

On one occasion I was actually asked what I would like served at the dinner and I suggested 300 gram hamburgers, medium-rare. Served with a nice Julianas wine that was the best book-signing party I ever attended.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hotdish (read casserole made with some sort of meat and past and cream of something soup) and bars here in MN.  Or sandwishes on squishy buns or bread with Miracle Whip.  Oh, and weak decaf.

(emphasis added)

Bars?

You mean to tell me that Minnesotans are a bunch of alcoholics?

BTW and FWIW, it's not a black gathering without macaroni and cheese.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hotel banquets/business meetings in the Seattle area:

Mixed greens salad

Baked salmon

Wild rice

Fresh or frozen green beans or a vegetable medley

Sysco cheesecake with a raspberry drizzle

PS: I speak at a lot of these same meetings, so I know of what I speak. I like to call it 'being on the rubber salmon circuit".

Edited by MGLloyd (log)

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hotdish (read casserole made with some sort of meat and past and cream of something soup) and bars here in MN.  Or sandwishes on squishy buns or bread with Miracle Whip.  Oh, and weak decaf.

My ex is from Shakopee and her grandma gave me a church cookbook from her church in Jordan. It contains about 30 different hot dish recipes. I actually do make a tater tot hot dish( that I totally revised) that my neice absolutely loves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have returned from my expedition out into the world of community meals.

Class reunion at one of the local microbrewries.

The salad was mixed greens with mostly romaine, cucumbers, plum tomatoes. Choice of dressing was Ranch and a sort of balsamic that wasn't bad. Main course was a choice of roast tri-tip or baked salmon and neither were overdone. Triptip was pink and juicy and the salmon was baked in some kind of cream sauce and was moist.

Roasted red potatoes with garlic and herbs and green and wax beans with baby carrots. There were some decent rolls with real butter. All in all a really good buffet meal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>In Seattle the inoffensive meal is inexpensive pink salmon.

<p>20 years ago, when I first moved to Seattle and was attending various business dinners, my folks back East would ask "What did they serve at dinner?" Soon they learned to ask "So, how was the salmon?"

<p>Of course, after a while I discovered the fabulous wild salmons, including Copper River, that are in a whole other realm from inexpensive salmon. And as my taste in salmon got better, the quality of the "inoffensive" salmon dinners got worse. Now much of the inexpensive salmon is flabby-textured farmed salmon.

<p>The inoffensive salmon is often preceded by a pseudo-Caesar salad (drowned in dressing and topped with gargantuan garlic-croutons and grated cheese) and followed by something vaguely cheesecake-like with raspberry topping.

<p>(BTW, great topic!)

Editor of Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner, a Take Control series ebook.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While living in Japan: sushi and/or sashimi, especially popular for gatherings where people have to stand up while eating. Usually catered, not home-made.

While living in New Delhi:

chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a sauce that contains no onions or garlic, together with some type of bread, usually fried

Rationale:

1) Lentils are too everyday, whereas beans and chickpeas, because they require pre-soaking , are more time-consuming to prepare and therefore (theoretically at least) served less often in home cooking. The extra work shows that you are going to extra lengths for your guests.

2) It is a vegetarian dish, because in a larger gathering you don't know how many people will be vegetarian, but it is usually guaranteed that a significant number will be. Onions and garlic are omitted because again you don't know how many of your guests (Jains, for example) do not eat these foods.

3) The bread is usually fried because this is the classic combination with chickpeas (the two are often mentioned together for this reason: chole bhatura = chickpeas together with fried bread). It is also popular to serve this because using oil - and ghee in particular - to fry bread is both more costly and less common than everyday breads, which are usually chappatis. Again, it shows you are going to extra lengths for your guests.

Expat Indian gatherings which often cut across regional lines.

The same dishes tend to be repeated over and over again. So much so that they get to be quite tedious. The same rationales as above apply re use of oil, more time-consuming preparation than everyday foods, vegetarian preparation, and avoidance of onion and garlic.

Dahi vada - a thick batter is made lentils that have been soaked, ground to a paste, and spiced. The batter is formed into rings and deep fried. The rings are then soaked in a spiced yogurt mixture.

Poha - (an exception here, as this can be made quickly). Flattened rice flakes fried with spices and usually a few vegetables that provide a nice color contrast with the yellow of the rice - the yellow being attained by including turmeric among the spices used.

Pakoras and/or tikkis - Pakoras: vegetable pieces dipped into a spiced chickpea batter and deep fried. Tikkis: many possible variations here, but often a filling of spiced mashed potato with a chickpea batter crust, deep fried. Served with some type of chutney.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that adding Karen and anzu's great posts gets at something. I'll start with anzu's:

While living in New Delhi:

chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a sauce that contains no onions or garlic, together with some type of bread, usually fried

Rationale: 

1) Lentils are too everyday, whereas beans and chickpeas, because they require pre-soaking , are more time-consuming to prepare and therefore (theoretically at least) served less often in home cooking. The extra work shows that you are going to extra lengths for your guests.

2) It is a vegetarian dish, because in a larger gathering you don't know how many people will be vegetarian, but it is usually guaranteed that a significant number will be. Onions and garlic are omitted because again you don't know how many of your guests (Jains, for example) do not eat these foods.

3) The bread is usually fried because this is the classic combination with chickpeas (the two are often mentioned together for this reason: chole bhatura = chickpeas together with fried bread). It is also popular to serve this because using oil - and ghee in particular - to fry bread is both more costly and less common than everyday breads, which are usually chappatis. Again, it shows you are going to extra lengths for your guests.

I read through this and thought, "You could substitute 'salmon' for 'chickpeas' and you wouldn't be far off." Salmon isn't an "everyday" protein; it's fish and thus not chicken (or, fish and chicken aren't beef or pork); instead of fried bread, that little dab of butter sauce shows that the hosts are going to the extra lengths.

I'd be interested to know what you make of the meanings of the menus above!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Church suppers *always* have posole. (stewed pork and hominy). With red chile. Around Christmas, there are also tamales. Biscochitos for desert.

Office gatherings (birthdays, baby showers) are usually centered around Frito pies, because everyone can bring in an ingredient from home, and everyone assembles their own dish: A layer of Fritos corn chips, a layer of cooked ground beef with onions, a layer of stewed pinto beans, some shredded iceburg lettuce, some chopped tomatoes, some shredded chedder or jack cheese. Someone else brings a store-bought cake with chemical tangs and gummy textures........

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wedding dinner last night:

Salad from a bag, with a few slices of red onion, two grape tomatoes, and a hot pickled pepper of the type sold in jars as pepperoncini added to each plate, drowned in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing; delivered to the plates.

On the buffet: roast beef sliced deli-thin in salty jus, half-inch-thick sliced ham, rigatoni in red sauce with a little bit of rubbery mozzarella melted over the top, little red potato chunks in something greasy, and baby-cut carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower with some crunch still left.

And wedding cake, which was white and sweet.

The vegetables were my highlight of the evening.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How about school dinners? That's institutional food if ever there was some. When I went to school (25 years ago and in England) the three daily choices were offal, salad or pasta.

I therefore grew up with a great love of hearts, liver, kidneys and faggots (and I'm aware that name of this last dish may not cross the Atlantic without some confusion), but where I come from they are "meatballs" made from lambs lungs, liver and heart, wrapped in caul fat, which surrounds the stomach of a pig.

Enjoy!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

South-central PA:

--church suppers/fire department dinners: Baked or Slippery Pot Pie (slippery is boiled) or turkey and filling (bread stuffing) or roast beef and filling or chicken and waffles

--banquets/weddings/corporate events: stuffed chicken breast is popular or a boneless chicken breast with some kind of sauce

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Slight riff on the topic:

Inoffensive food to share at school.

I have an elementary school age child and a preschooler

and there are numerous occasions for pot lucks and

cooking sessions for the kids etc. and I've had to

come up with "inoffensive" foods for the kids and their

parents to share.

(Personal rant: The kids palates are way more adventurous than most

adults give them credit for. The older they get the more

hidebound they become......

I don't buy the hogwash that kids

don't like vegetables - sweeping and false generalization -

I've seen that they will try and like most anything if

the adults are matter of fact about it).

So here's a list of successful items (Indian and vegetarian):

1. Lemon Rice or mild veg pulao

2. Cucumber raita

3. The plainest papads one can find - very popular

instead of chips or crackers. Plantain chips are good

but some find them spicy. Also pakodas and bondas.....

4. Mild chana masala

5. Mild potato dishes - e.g. the kind you stuff inside

dosais; or mild green bean dishes Indian home style....

6. Pooris and naans

7. Kaju Katli (it helps greatly if you call it "cashew fudge") :)

8. Kheer (say "rice pudding")

And all the above foods were found inoffensive i.e. everyone

at least said they liked them and the kids ate plenty.....

Milagai

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Six years of twice yearly meetings for a very high profile, non-profit organization. 24 lunches where the choices on the self serve buffet were vegetable soup, mixed salad greens with choice of two dressings - one white and one that looked like a vinegarette, roasted/steamed chicken breast with some lemon slices lurking about, roasted potatoes. Dessert was always vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce. One co-worked dreaded the March meeting which always took place on a Friday during Lent so he was left to make a meal out of the soup and salad. He usually made sure to eat lots of red meat the night before!

KathyM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the Philippines, the usual party/office fare would include:

pork skewer barbeque

bihon noodles (stir-fry rice noodles with meat & veggies)

fried chicken (but cut up in little pieces to make it look more)

hotdogs on skewers topped with mini marshmallows on the end (Usually stuck around a pineapple)

a type of sandwich usually club sandwiches or pimiento-cheese

a filipino dessert like maja blanca, bibingka, puto, etc.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I did an organized bicycle ride / camping trip this summer, 5 days with breakfast and dinner provided for over 300 riders in outdoor pavilion type areas. What we ate that week for dinner was pretty typical of what's been said so far:

- mixed green salad, hard tomatoes

- some kind of one dish red sauce pasta, normally really mushy

- rolls, w/ packets of margerine

or

- slices of cooked roast meat

- mashed potatoes w/ gravy from a packet

- overcooked mixed veggies

Followed by cake, straight from Walmart.

Breakfasts were of the same ilk:

- rubbery, mass scrambled eggs

- frozen sausage links

- limp, fatty bacon

- biscuit w/ gravy from a packet

- watered down juice and bad coffee

To be fair, these were small towns along the Katy Trail in Missouri, and 7/10 meals, all the cooking was done by volunteers either from the towns, or from MO Dept. of Natural Resources, which organized the ride.

Mission accomplished with these dinners though. Nothing offensive, it was all tasty in a bland midwest comfort food kind of way, and, let's face it, after 68 miles on a bicycle, you just want to refuel, so we ate huge portions. I loved the kitsch of it all, particularly The Pancake Man, who, for a couple of breakfasts, cooked 30 or 40 pretty good pancakes at a time using a long griddle and a batter dispensing machine that looked like a mini crop sprayer.

I suspect it's a small minority of people (among Americans at least) who produce better food than this stuff at home on a regular basis. Alot of it is on par with what my Mom cooked growing up.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...