I have a couple of rules in regards to potlucks.
Rule #1. Do not spend more than $10.00 on your contribution.
Yeah, okay, sometimes I stretch it to maybe $15.00 or so, but generally, I keep it on the cheap side. Why? Because if I were buying myself lunch, I'd probably spend less than $10.00 to feed myself (which I kinda consider a splurge, but whatever). Once, I spent about $60 dollars to bring this fruit tray thing to a potluck and everyone else brought $2.00 bags of chips and warm diet sodas, and I felt jipped the entire time.
Now, I stick with the $10.00 rule, and even if no one brings anything good, I still have my dish and it didn't cost me any more than what I would have paid on a lunch for myself.
Rule #2. Make something homemade.
This really helps with Rule #1. because you can make a delicious, crowd pleasing contribution just by making your dish at home.
Rule #3. Hot foods need to be hot. Cold foods need to stay cold.
This sounds like a simple rule, but trust me, it isn't. You have NO IDEA how many times I've politely gotten the tiniest spoonful of cold eggs at a breakfast potluck out of obligation.
I will bring my contribution hot, even if I have to make it there. My crock-pot is recognizable at work. I also keep an electric frying pan there, which we use surprisingly often.
I've even been known to bring in my electric griddle to whip up (hot) pancakes (hot cakes!) at our monthly staff meetings.
Lately, my rules haven't been working out. A couple of months ago my coworkers and I coordinated to bring a very O'odham breakfast to our monthly all-staff meetings. Everyone was signed up to bring; eggs, bacon, chorizo, cecemait, fruit, ba:bas and I was signed up to bring beans.
I cooked my beans overnight in a crock-pot. In the morning, I woke up early enough to mash the beans to a creamy perfection and packed cheese to have on the side so people could sprinkle it on if they wanted.
The bag of beans and the bag of shredded cheese probably cost me about $7.00 total. Awesome.
Under Ten Dollars? Check.
Homemade Deliciousness? Check.
Hot food being served hot? Check.
I cleaned up, made a couple of trips to my car, got in and happily drove away.
Less than half a mile from my house, someone cuts me off and I have to slam on the brakes...
I can hear the crock-pot full of beans turns over.
What?! Why did I even put them back there!?
I U-turn back to my house. Open up the door to the backseat.
Yup. Beans EVERYWHERE.
I showed up with doughnuts. This was over a year ago... even now, every time I sign up for beans someone reminds me of the "bean incident" and says something like, "are you SURE you're going to bring them." Uggh. I still haven't lived it down.
Tomorrow there is a potluck at work. We're moving to a larger, more permanent campus on Monday, so we're kind of saying goodbye to our old beloved home. It's been stressful. Not only are we trying to pack and clean our offices, but students are still coming in for services that they desperately need in the middle of it all. It's been a long, busy, messy week.
We're going to have a cleansing too, and one of our college elders is going to smudge us so that we go to the new campus with good, happy thoughts instead of taking the stress of our move with us.
I'm looking forward to the smell of sage burning and my thoughts, prayers and frustrations floating up into the sky with the smoke.
Then of course, we're eating. 'Cause what's a gathering with Natives, if there isn't food?
Because of my rules, I felt I was limited on what I could bring. I couldn't bring a crock-pot to work because I'm going to be bringing a bunch of things home. I still wanted it to be cheap and homemade, so I thought I'd bake something. I love baking, so I didn't think it would be a big deal.
I decided to buy a couple of boxes of brownie mix and also make some home made blondies (instead of chocolate, you use brown sugar, they're like caramel bars. They're good.)
It's been a long week. I'm tired. It was my daughters' first day back at school, so they were coming up to me every few minutes with another form to sign and another syllabus to read and telling me about their day as I baked. I was enjoying baking and just hanging out in the kitchen.
The first batch of brownies comes out okay. A little crispy on the edges.
No biggie. I just keep baking. I make the second batch of brownies, then immediately get to working on the blondies.
The blondies you make by melting butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan on the stove.
I tried something I've never tried before... I tried to double the recipe... The butter and the sugar weren't dissolving fast enough for me and I began to get very impatient. Finally, after stirring the butter and brown sugar mixture and seeing no results... I did probably the exact opposite thing you're supposed to do to brown sugar on the stove top.
I cranked the heat.
I cranked it waaaay up.
Then it started to smell. The WHOLE house filled with the smell of burnt brown sugar.
Let me tell you, brown sugar smells AWFUL when burnt. It's a nose-hair-burning smell.
It's also molten lava. The instant it touches cold water it solidifies, so I couldn't pour it down the sink and I couldn't throw it in the garbage can, cause it would melt the garbage bag and/or my plastic garbage can.
So I left the funky-molten-death on a rack to cool a little before dumping it out.
I guess I waited too long. It solidified sooooo badly that I actually had to put it on the stove again, just to heat the sugar a little, so I could get the cake of brown sugar out of the pan!
It was rock hard. I seriously thought I was going to have to throw away my pan! I spent about half an hour getting the cake of burnt-brown sugar out of the pan.
Finally, I'm frustrated and I just want to get the brownies packed and ready to go for the morning so I can go to bed.
I cut into the first pan and I'm very, very, VERY aware that the edges are super-crispy. The edges are so crunchy that they make a noise when you bite into them. (Which I TOTALLY had to do for quality control purposes, of course.). I decide that I'm going to take them anyway, because the centers are fine, so I finish cutting them and turn to grab the second pan of brownies.
I look on all the counters and I don't see the second pan.
I look on the stove. It's not there.
It's not on the kitchen table.
I'm standing there confused.
Where the heck did I put the second pan of brownies???
Then I realized: They're still in the oven.
Long story short. For the first time in five years, I will not be contributing to potluck at work tomorrow.
The brownies with the crispy edges. They're not potluck worthy, so I guess we'll just have to eat them. Darn.
This is the solidified brown-sugar-cake I accidentally made. This is a garbage shot. I didn't get an am-I-going-to-have-to-throw-this-pay-away? photo because I was frantically trying to save the pan still.
"Translations" - (Remember, I'm not a linguist and I'm an awful speller in all languages)
cecemait - O'odham "tortillas" (yes, quotation marks necessary)
ba:bas - potatoes