Competitive Potlucking: Promotion
The beauty of social media is that it can not only be used to issue invitations to a party, it can also be used to remind invitees of the upcoming event. The hosts can occasionally post a little tidbit to the event page, attempting to wring one or two more responses from the semi-responsive guest list.
Let me put a finer point on this: has anyone else notice that the RSVP is dead?
I bemoaned this death years ago, back when we were throwing birthday parties for our kids and wondering how many of their friends would actually be showing up for the bowling, or the crafting, or the tubing. It was kind of a half-annoyed process of “We have to pay per head, and the invitation asked for an RSVP, and so now I have to call you up on the phone and chase this information down?” Fortunately, at least with the easy-response system built into Facebook, there are quite a few folks who do indicate if they will be able to attend or not. You know, like 20%.
At any rate, as we closed in on the evening of our Nostalgia Potluck, I enjoyed tossing the occasional post onto the event page, both to remind folks of the event but also because I find the intertwining of food and memory to be endlessly fascinating.
Thus, a few weeks after the invitation first went out, I reminded potential guests:
Two weeks left to mine your memories and identify those foods that are lodged deep within your hearts. Or, y’know, stop by the Holiday gas station for a pack of Twinkies. Whatever works.
The most iconic food/memory association in literature was written by Marcel Proust in his Remembrance of Things Past. Dude could hang some words together, so let’s be glad he and I had a falling out some years ago. He won’t be at the potluck; due to his absence, the rest of us actually stand a chance at winning the “story” prize.
“…one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory–this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?”
A week or so after that, I posted:
As a shout-out to Halloween fears of the 1970s, I’m currently thinking I might make apples with razor blades in them as my potluck offering. You’ll vote for me, right?
Go ahead and fill out your ballot using blood from your tongue instead of a pen.
The day before the party, I recalled:
A few years into marriage, I learned even more about Byron’s family. Showing up for a Christmas family gathering, I stood, stunned, as Byron’s grandma and aunt bustled around the kitchen, preparing the entree.
It was to be HAM PATTIES.
As often also happens when I’m in the classroom, I had a moment of paralysis, thinking, “I don’t even know what’s going on here.”
Sliding out of the kitchen and into the basement, Byron and I had one of our patented tete-a-tetes, wherein he explains the world to me. I hissed, “What in the hell is a ham patty?”
“We had it off and on at family gatherings when I was growing up. Basically, you buy a ham and then ask the butcher to grind it up.”
I heard his words, but I didn’t understand. I had to use “hell” a second time. “Why in the hell would you grind up a perfectly good ham and then make PATTIES out of it?”
“It’s war-time cooking, really, a way to extend the meat by grinding it and then adding things like bread crumbs to it. So it makes sense in times when food is short.”
Bemused, I wondered, “Does your grandma know the war is over? Or should I go upstairs and complain about FDR and the shortage of nylon stockings?”
Grandma Johnson DID know the war was over; however, she continued to make ham patties for special occasions because, for her, WWII had–to be honest–been the time of her life. She met and married her pilot husband; she served proudly in the WACS; she started her family. For the rest of her life, she adored the music, stories, and fashion of WWII above all others. And, yea, the food too.
I like to think that if she were still alive, Grandma Johnson (“Call me G-Gma!) would bring a platter of ham patties to tomorrow’s potluck.
Later that day–really pummeling the invite list–I added:
Reasons to bother yourself and get the hell over here tomorrow night:
Byron hung lights and planted torches;
there’s a black bear working the neighborhood these last few days. Yesterday, it was exactly where Byron just hung lights and planted torches, and how is it not fun to protect potluck food from marauding wildlife?
Such tales are the stuff of legend, I say!
Finally, the morning of the potluck, I tantalized those few who hadn’t yet unfriended me on Facebook:
Gift baskets and cards for tonight’s winners. This shizz is gettin’ serious, people.
Yea, I know you’re wondering what’s wrapped up in those baskets.
To find out, read my next post. We’re getting there, Gentle Readers. I’m giving you time here to make your offering for the party.
Get crackin’ on opening up those cans of beans, slicing that Spam, and weeping (shoulders shaking with emotion) over how much you miss your grandma. Or, more specifically, since she was kind of a crabby grump, how you miss her blueberry pie. Chicken noodle soup. Chestnut stuffing.
Creamy pearl onions.
Her Christmas specialty: