Pass the green bean casserole

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

In planning for a luncheon, one of my friends asked, “What should I bring?”

The hostess said, “Let’s take our chances and make it a true potluck. Bring whatever you want.”

It worked nicely. When we uncovered our dishes, we had four pasta salads with vegetables and one vegetable medley with no pasta. This was truly luck of the pot; through some potluck logic, we all turned to the same page of the cookbook.

We were very happy with our pots of pasta and primavera (spring veggies), and we spent a lot of time talking about potlucks we’d known.

“When I was in college we had a true potluck, like this one, because believe it or not, every dish had something to do with broccoli,” said Shar.

Pd joked, “Was that during the first Bush administration?”

I said, “I started a group once where the one rule was ‘I’m making no rules regarding the food, so bring whatever.’ We twice wound up with all Kentucky Fried and once with all cake. It was a political group, so everything was an issue, our funnest issue being the food issue.”

Mary said, “In Indiana, we called it a ‘pitch-in’ dinner.”

“That’s cute,” said Shar. “In Florida they say, ‘Bring a dish to pass.’ I always get this picture of casseroles zinging back and forth across the fellowship like frisbees.”

Then Mary said, “It’s illegal to have a potluck in Arizona.”

This was hilarious enough for us to come up with all the reasons why there would be such a law, the first being that politicians no doubt did it because potlucks don’t benefit corporate. The second being that it must have been a Democrat legislature because Republicans want less government. This statement doubled down to: “Rs want to be in our bedrooms, but they don’t care about our kitchens, so it must have been the Ds.”

Other possible reasons came up for and against outlawing potlucks:

“Makes sense; potluck food is awful.”

“Makes no sense; the best dinners are potluck.”

“A lot of the dishes look so disgusting they should be unlawful.”

“Must have something to do with the no-germ thing of serving food and there being no accounting for how clean people’s kitchen habits are; the puzzle to that being, ‘Yes, that’s why we have health inspectors in restaurants but not in our homes?’”

“Potlucks are so unfair,” Pd said. “I always bring a meat dish and some people bring store-bought cookies.”

Mary finally brought out her smart fone to back up her statement about the Arizona law allowing potlucks only in the workplace, meaning that Arizona church basements and backyards were illegal venues for “you bring the potato salad” parties. In 2016 the law itself was outlawed, relieving the 16 percent of the population over 65 in the state of Arizona; which by the way, Mary informed us, is the most corrupt state politically in the country.

“More than Illinois?” I asked.

“More than New Jersey?” Shar asked.

“It has to be true,” said Mary. “Harvard study.”

“Any state that would outlaw a past-time this popular must be corrupt.”

Once, NPR called for potluck stories. I didn’t hear the outcome, but apparently potlucks are as newsworthy a past-time in America as they are law-worthy, and we get to eat while making fun of the mystery dish.

Please recall, also, that the first and most famous meal in America, Thanksgiving, was a potluck.

The Fourth of July approaches – enjoy a dish to pass.


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