A lovely reader named Barbara (thanks, Barbara!) messaged me last week inquiring as to my go-to potluck dish, and I’m very glad she did because there are few social gatherings I love more than a potluck. Actually, I can’t think of anything I like more than a potluck so let’s put that at #1. The perfect potluck would be outside on a warm and sunny (and mosquito/wasp-free) summer day, with a stack of picnic tables set out under a grove of trees (and all of the benches would have backs and the seats would be padded – you know what, let’s just say a bunch of groupings of first-class airplane seats). Also, there would be Igloo coolers full of that McDonalds orange drink that they used to serve at soccer games and the whole thing would end with a scheduled nap.
To answer the question, my go-to potluck dish is a fruit salad. This is not my favorite potluck food, but you never have to take home fruit salad at the end of a potluck because everyone has eaten it. Potlucks are a low-key competition to see who can bring the best stuff. You know you won if someone comes over to what was once your dish of mint chocolate chip cookie bars and says, “Are those gone already? Dang, they were good.” You accept your award by replying, “Oh, I just tossed those together. They are so easy.”
When we were visiting Michigan, one of the neighbors mentioned that she was going to a potluck hosted by a dentist, and I said that she should bring a big bowl of miniature toothpaste tubes and say that four of her other dentist friends recommended it. Not only did that joke not really land, I was sorry for even mentioning it because there’s nothing funny about being the person at the end packing up a big bowl of uneaten tuna Jello salad (or toothpaste salad) that’s been sitting out on a countertop for three hours.
I don’t think it’s any big secret that North Dakotans play fast and loose with the definition of salad; while the Oxford Dictionary defines “salad” as “A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients,” Midwesterners define it as “Anything in a bowl.” Or, if you don’t want to use a bowl, “Anything.”
I once potlucked with another woman who also brought a fruit salad, except that mine had strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, mandarin oranges, and grapes, and hers had watermelon balls and a spoon. And you know what? Her salad was eaten first. That sucked.
My favorite potluck dish is Italian pasta salad. It has my two favorite food groups: carbohydrates and dressing. I don’t potluck pasta salad, though, because I can’t make a pasta salad to save my life. It doesn’t make any sense. I know how to cook spiral noodles. I know how to cut up vegetables and open a can of kidney beans. I know how to pour Italian dressing. Yet, somehow the way I do it combines into something completely bland and disappointing.
I was complaining to one of my friends about my inability to make pasta salad and she said, “I have my great-great-great-grandmother’s pasta salad recipe; it was the only thing she saved from her village before fleeing on a weather-beaten log to North Dakota. She landed on the shores of the Red River penniless with only that recipe and her wits about her, and made her fortune selling pasta salad on the streets. I’ll give you that recipe; there’s no way it can fail.”
I tell you what, I followed that pasta salad to the river-stained letter. Then I took that pasta salad to a potluck where, lo and behold, my friend was also there with her own bowl of pasta salad – which, of course, tasted far superior to mine.
“Oh, I didn’t realize you were making the salad for this potluck,” she said. If there are any True Crime podcasts out there looking for a topic you should tell that frickin’ pasta salad story because both of our abilities’ to trust were murdered that night.
Here are some of my other favorite potluck foods:
- Oreo cookie salad
- Those little ham sandwiches made with butter
- Sweet and sour meatballs
- Anything in bar form
- Anything in dip form
Of course, not everyone can serve up potluck salads. First of all, someone needs to bring like fifty bags of potato chips or else the potluck is declared invalid. Second, unless you plan on scooping everything into your rolled-up t-shirt like a trough, at least three people need to bring plates, silverware, and napkins. All of those could be accomplished by one person, of course, but that would defeat the purpose of the ‘luck.
You know you’ve really won potlucking when people ask you to bring a dish you are specifically known for making. One of my friends makes a spinach dip that is so good that I’m thinking about inviting her for a one-person potluck. I’ll bring the fruit salad.
I don’t have any photos of myself at a potluck because I’m clearly stuffing my face, so instead the photo above is of clouds because if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I recently became very deep.
This week’s news has a mom looking for a helpful passenger, as well as balloons and power-full women. Read on.
A mom of three is looking to track down a Fargo “girl named Ashlyn (Ashlan?)” who helped her family through a long flight. (Facebook)
Grand Forks’ Misti Kauffman has been selected to join a team of international balloon professionals to build a 300,000-balloon wonderland for the non-profit resort designed for children with critical illnesses, “Gives Kids the World Village.” (Grand Forks Herald)
Mantador’s Gary Puetz, along with his brothers Douglas Puetz and Bill Puetz, received Quilts of Valor for their service to our country. (Wahpeton Daily News)
After Dickinson’s food pantry put out a call on Facebook asking for donations due to understocked shelves, the community responded with 1,000 pounds of food within a day. (Dickinson Press)
The Power of 100 Women’s Dickinson chapter is donating $20,000 – a $400,000 milestone made possible by 250 members over six years – to the Domestic Violence Rape Crisis Center and the Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center. (Dickinson Press)
Last year the Fargo YMCA served 115,000 free lunch meals to kids over the summer months, and are expected to serve the same number again. (Fargo Forum)
The definition of the sweetest kid: Valley City’s Wade Sornsen is selling lemonade to help his mom pay for his stitches. (Valley City Times-Record)
Dickinson’s Ellisyn Ahmann is the top Girl Scout cookie salesperson in both North Dakota AND South Dakota. (Dickinson Press)
North Dakota’s Michelle Duppong is a candidate to becoming America’s 12th saint. (Grand Forks Herald)
Let’s Be (Official) Pals!
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