It’s that time of the year in America, the season that inspires more fear, more trepidation and horror than nearly any other: Holiday Potluck Season, where inexplicably, in offices all over the country, everyone brings a dish from his or her respective kitchens to share with the masses as a gesture of community and goodwill.
That sounds absolutely harmless, you say. What a fantastic idea! To that, I reply a deep and resounding, “No.” I’m here to tell you that potluck dinners are the stuff of which nightmares are made. Let me explain.
First of all, you have to deal with the people that have conveniently “forgotten about the potluck.” This is, of course, a big, fat, hairy lie. They did not forget. They made a decision to not make anything at all, but this doesn’t keep this person from eating. No, this person brings nothing, but continues to eat all of the things.
Additionally, when you’ve poured a ton of money, time, effort and dare I say love into your own potluck dish, but Erica from accounting brings paper towels and plastic forks that she picked up on the way into work, is that somehow supposed to be even in the eyes of the Potluck Gods? I’m telling you right now, it’s not even. But, since the napkins, paper plates and sodas were already taken on the sign-up sheet, you didn’t have a choice but to cook something. So that’s just sour grapes.
You didn’t have a choice, so you had to cook, but that guy from the cubicle down the hall brought obviously store-bought pastries from the grocery store bakery. However, someone needs to explain to him that you should at least take the “Reduced for Quick Sale” stickers off the plastic boxes. You’re better than that, cubicle guy. Come on; think. Your co-workers at least deserve to believe that you think that they’re worth full-price grocery store pastries.
The pumpkin loaf in the plastic container, though probably stale, is technically still safe to ingest. But there’s a whole host of other potluck horrors that most definitely are not. You know the ones I’m talking about, right? The dish with what looks like whipped cream, green onions and olives, that is conveniently served in the stained GladWare so it’s all set to be tossed directly into the trash after the potluck is over because no one is eating that. Or there’s the mystery mayonnaise dish that may as well be called “Find the Toenail.” And then there’s the person that obnoxiously sniffles and sneezes and coughs and says, “Oh, I made lasagna.” No, you made FLU-sagna. Thanks in advance for the fever and chills I’ll have in a couple of days. Appreciate you. Anything in a crockpot tends to trigger the old gag reflex, and the Jell-O salad that has chunks of stuff floating in it and smells like old-lady freezer burn is out. Eating deviled eggs at a potluck is like taking your life into your own hands. And let’s not forget to mention that this potluck food sits out for six hours without benefit of refrigeration or heat … No, thank you. I’ve already had Ptomaine poisoning this month. That’ll be a hard pass on death for me.
There are also the potluck dishes that are, for better or worse, attached to the people that brought them. You can’t eat anything made by Sharon in Human Resources, who comes to work covered in cat hair every day, not unless you want to fish a hairball out of the crab salad she brought. You won’t be able to stop thinking that your co-worker Paul’s tasting spoon and Paul’s serving spoon might be one and the same, even though his cold sores are mostly gone for the time being. Then there’s that one girl, that no matter how good her food looks, you won’t eat it merely on principal because she’s horrible to everyone in her immediate vicinity and you’re afraid you might ingest the hate. The obligatory office vegan just sighs deeply, huddled over to the side, bemoaning the fact that she “can’t eat anything here,” and that she brought a dish that is “gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free and sugar-free,” and you think to yourself, “Is it air?” Penny from down the hall thought she was being so smart telling everyone that she got a jump on the potluck season and started freezing her dishes back in the summer and is perplexed as to why suddenly no one is hungry. No, we’re not hungry. We all just ate. Something else … that wasn’t the consistency of cat food.
Regardless of your potluck phobias, you go make a plate to be nice. It’s the holiday season, after all, and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, right? Your plan is to go back to your desk and move the unidentifiable stuff around on your plate until no one is looking, and you can dispose of it covertly, but then you get trapped by the sweet lady that made the 14-layer salad, wherein six of the layers involve mayonnaise of some kind, and you’re forced to take a big bite, straining not to make a face while her eyes are fixed on you until you swallow.
It’s your good deed for the potluck season. And you’re off the hook until next year.
by Carrie Huckabay
Carrie Leigh Huckabay Carrie is an actress, teacher, writer and lover of blueberries who resides in Amarillo with her husband and two sons. She can be found online at carrie_leigh.livejournal.com.