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The Potluck Curse

December 20, 2010

I am a pretty easy-going person most of the time. I don’t get stressed often and although I am passionate about the things in which I believe, I’m okay with other people disagreeing with me. I only get bent out of shape really easily when I’m surrounded by people who can’t drive well.

But there is one thing that stresses me out more than anything else in the world. A thing that makes my palms sweaty and causes me to contemplate the meaning of life and whether having friends is really worth all the hassle of get-togethers.

I’m talking, of course, about potlucks. For a lot of people, potluck dinners or parties are the chance to show off their cooking skills and their favorite recipes. They look at a potluck invitation and their mind starts racing, filling up with ideas for how to show up the other guests. Ways to wow the partakers and make them wish every day was potluck day.

I see potlucks as a chance for my offering to be rejected and relegated to the pile of food not worth eating.

Man, I feel like I’m just pouring out my soul to the internet. I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it.

It’s a curse. Each time I’m tasked with the job of bringing food to a gathering, I follow a six step process:

1. Groan
2. Pretend I don’t care and that I’m not thinking about it, while really I think about it constantly and wonder what I could make, in the hopes of breaking the curse.
3. Start searching frantically for the perfect recipe the day before the event.
4. Seek the advice of wise, kitchen-savvy friends.
5. Make something.
6. Wait for rejection.

Sometimes the curse rears its head while I’m still cooking and I make a fatal mistake like not adding enough flour to the cookies. Other times the rejection is in the form of just making the wrong thing and no one wants to eat it. Still other times it means being the fifteenth person to bring green beans. Either way, I end up bringing home almost all of my dish and putting it in the fridge where it will stare at me and judge my inadequacy for a week until I can’t take it any more and I throw it away. Then I’m faced with the guilt of throwing away food while children in my own city go hungry.

The cycle never ends.

I think part of my problem is that I set high expectations for myself. I love cooking and cleaning and decorating and pretending I’m a kinder, gentler Martha Stwart. Instead, I just end up with a dish of uneaten green beans. Martha never has uneaten green beans.

The good news, though, is that I’m stubborn. And I will break this curse. And when I do, I will write a self-help book about it, titled How to Ride the Wave to Potluck Glory. The title is still a work in progress.

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