Potluck 101

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Greetings Citizens,

As the holidays bear down upon us, you may be wondering, “How can I consume 25,000 calories in 17 minutes?”  It’s not easy for those of a delicate constitution, but as a man who eats like he’s preparing to survive a harsh winter (and let’s be honest, the next winter as well) I have developed some tips that will help you accomplish a new holiday goal.  My experience was built upon years of Public Service Potlucks, and I’m like a Jedi Master of Food Acquisition.  I keep a plate with high sides in the bottom drawer of my desk and I am 100% not kidding.

  1. Get your drink before the potluck starts.  You need both hands for the food line.
  2. Maneuver your way to the front of the buffet.  Pretend to tie your shoe, admire the pastel flower print above the table, fake a phone call and casually wander that direction; figure something out, be creative.  I am not a proud man, I am a hungry one.
  3. Take a plate AND a bowl.  It’s tricky but you can balance the plate on the bowl.  It’s like a food basement.  You’ll be glad for the extra room.
  4. Fork and spoon go in your pocket while you’re loading up.  Don’t get cocky and try to hold them in your hand, this will lead to disaster, or worse, smaller portions.
  5. Place similar food species together, like colors on a color wheel.  Pasta salad mingled with enchiladas = bad.  Tri tip mingled with potatoes = good.  You can’t avoid food touching each other, but you can control the Weird Taste Contamination.
  6. Bulky items go on the edge of the plate.  Taquitos make a great barrier to keep your meatballs from rolling the length of the conference room (that happened to me twice).  Mushy stuff goes in the middle, but I don’t need to tell you this.  Or do I?
  7. When you get back to the table you’ll be tempted to tuck in.  DO NOT DO THIS.  March your ass over to the dessert table.  Karen’s Lemon Squares will go fast.
    1. Secondary advantage: most people will just be sitting down to eat and you’ll have first choice of which of the three dozen cheesecakes to try.
  8. At some point you’re going to be grossed out and your plate will look like a pile of self-loathing and regret.  This will pass.  Keep going.  Did your mama raise a quitter?
  9. Be casual about getting seconds.  I often pretend like I’m looking for another fork or a napkin but I’m really scouting out anything I might have missed on the first pass.  Again, I am not a proud man.  This is reconnaissance.
  10. Wander slowly and casually, like you don’t really care.  Scoop up some of the crock pot mac and cheese, look at it with disdain, shrug and place it on your plate like you’re being polite and are just *trying* some. Crock pot mac and cheese is good.  It can also serve as a secure dock for the deviled eggs.
  11. Ignore the dirty looks, whispers, sneers, rolled eyes and the finger that Wanda from Personnel gave you.  This is Eat Day and their scorn masks deep-seated jealousy.  Feel pity for them.

Finally, do not try to use my tricks against me if we ever cross paths at a potluck.  I once made a coworker cry when she reached past me for an extra bread roll and I’m not even sorry.

Good luck out there, soldiers.

Matt Grigsby
Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he's a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.
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