Copyright Linda Marcas 2002 - All Rights Reserved
Bring a Dish
There's been a commercial on TV recently, in which several people,
as they each arrive at a party, chirp brightly as the door opens, "I brought the
green bean casserole!" This is pretty cute, a gentle spoof on what might
happen if everyone who went to one of those "bring a dish to share" parties
had the same idea. Green bean casserole must be a Midwestern specialty; I
didn't grow up around here, and I was in my twenties before I ever heard of
it, and the friend who was making it found that hard to believe. Now, with
all the trendy cooking shows and foody fashions, this holiday staple seems to
have become a cliche, and I think that folks are actually avoiding making it,
because they don't want to seem old-fashioned or boring. Green bean
casserole is rapidly becoming an Endangered Recipe.
This must be what happened at the NB News Christmas Party; we had
ham, potato/cheese casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, little
smokey links in barbecue sauce, beef-and-noodles, and crescent rolls, with
shrimp dip and crackers before, and a dozen or so desserts after. Not
counting the dip and desserts, the score was two-and-a-half meat, four-and-
a-half starch, and the only green thing on my plate was the sleeve of my
sweater. It was all good food, and I'm no big health nut, but I did miss
having something, anything, green to eat.
I've been to a lot of parties, more of the "graze as you go" type than
the "sit down to dinner" kind, which is why I was to blame for the little
smokies in BBQ last Sunday night. I was a bit pressed for time, and I
figured the teenie weenies would be quick and easy for me, and not too
weird for everyone else. Most of the other parties I go to are vegetarian or
partly veg, so I try to take something that everyone can eat, like hummus and
pita bread, or fake crab bits and cocktail sauce, or brie and French baguettes.
I never have any leftovers to take home, so I know people like those things.
North Baltimore, however, just isn't a hummus and brie sort of town, so I
was trying to play it safe. A few years ago, I had to participate in a
mandatory pot luck Thanksgiving lunch in a factory I worked at; I took crab
bits, and nobody would eat them because they thought they were too strange.
I learned my lesson: when bringing a dish, it's important to Know Your
From the host's point of view, for parties that have become annual
events, I try to be reliable as far as always bringing the same thing. One
friend holds a barbecue every 4th of July; she knows that, if I'm coming, I'll
bring cole slaw made with cabbage, a few carrots, and Marzetti slaw
dressing, along with my own cooler to keep it in and my own spoons to
serve it with. She appreciates the fact that I don't ask her for refrigerator
space, and, since the slaw always disappears, I think the other guests like
having something recognizable and ordinary on the table next to the seven
varieties of pasta salad and heavenly hash. For New Year's Eve, our host
and the other yearly guests know we'll bring three different flavors and heats
of hot-sauce-spiked devilled eggs.
A bring-a-dish party isn't the place to try out a new recipe, particularly
if you might see any of those people within the next six months. Without
general instructions from the host, i.e., "bring a salad" or "bring a dessert,"
you might end up at a party with six varieties of potato salad. In my humble
opinion, the words "Jell-O" and "mold" never belong in the same sentence,
unless one is cleaning out the refrigerator in an abandoned trailer. Aside
from that, any party is just one meal, and, as well-fed as most Americans
are, it isn't going to kill you. Nevertheless, be prepared; you never know
what might happen when the invitation says, "bring a dish."
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