A Silent Showdown: The truth behind potlucks

I don’t know how to feel about potlucks.

I’ve found from experience that the inner workings of potlucks are somewhat more complicated than one might think. It sounds counter-intuitive, but there is a type of stress involved. At least, so long as it isn’t a “student” potluck, in which everyone assumes that everyone else will bring actual food, so the only thing there is to eat is chips, dip, and soda. But when it comes to “family and friends” potlucks, the kind we most often associate with the word “potluck,” there is no hiding from the fact that it is all just a competition in disguise–we all feel sorry for that one person whose plate went untouched. Let’s face it; it always happens. Someone always ends up saying, “Hm, who brought this?” and it can be great, or it can be terrible. While the whole point of a potluck is for everyone to be involved and have a good time, it is a event in which judgment ensues, and no one says anything about it. It’s hard to say whether this is good or bad.

It’s almost like a classroom scenario, in which you answer a question in a manner you thought quite impressive, but the only response you get is a “hm,” and a bunch of hands go up in order to refute your theory. It could be terrifying, depending on how you feel about it. On the other hand, your answer really could be impressive, so much so that no one else dares to add to it. You just have to bring your game to the table.

I’ve never really liked that kind of pressure. Sure, you get to try other people’s food without having to stress out about preparing it yourself, but things are unpredictable. One always tends to worry, “will anyone touch my food?” or “what the heck should I bring?” and the worst part is, there are handfuls of unadventurous people. Your dish could be absolutely amazing, but people have never seen it before, so they don’t touch it. Instead, they go for the store-bought brownies, and you end up with a broken heart. Well, maybe not that far. I remember my mom would bring these great Asian salads to community potlucks, but some of the leaves were purple and good lord there was arugula inside, so it went untouched. Instead, everyone went for the Caesar salads, iceberg lettuce, and “Chinese sesame chicken” salads (come on, people). At least my mom’s cooking is the star of all our family/friend potlucks. (Who’s losing now?! *laughs*)

Sometimes it’s just disappointing, because people go for the familiar things. Cupcakes will always be a winner. The macaroni will always be a winner. We are all just looking to be crowd pleasers.

Has anyone ever felt the same?

Luckily, I am always that person who just brings all the utensils to potlucks in order to avoid having to go through all the trouble of thinking of food to bring. The funny part is that people always expect me to bring my baked goods, but I never do (ha). I know eventually I’ll move on, but I’ll have to find a sure-fire potluck recipe first.







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