Ruminations on a Rainy Day.

Be of good cheer, misery loves company, most of America is having some pretty foul weather too.  At least ours locally is only rain, which regrettably never seems to stop or hasn’t for about two weeks.  So gardening in abeyance, the greenhouse is up to date, cleaned, furbished and all planted up for the summer.  We have had lots of showings for the house and have had to keep it in an unnatural state of cleanliness.  The dogs have been issues with slippers and spousal unit chained to the vacuum cleaner.  (My tendinitis conveniently precludes me thankfully from operating said creature. I remain queen of the dishwasher and washing machine which only need button pushing!)

So, there is bugger all to do except crafts.

However, since the beginning of June all my clubs and organisations have their annual ‘pot lucks’.  I have come to dread these fetishistic rituals of early pioneer life.  Here in the North West, full of well meaning woolly liberals dutifully garbed with the regulation sandals and droopy skirts, the standard of cuisine is abysmal to put it kindly.  I darkly suspect that the ‘luck’ has entered into the title from the fact that you are damned lucky if you escape without being poisoned!  It ranges from sad glutinous rice so called salads with some lingering lonely frozen peas and carrots wandering about looking for company in a sea of chemical dressing to dangerous woggo rubbish (gratuitous inclusion just to get ‘her indoors’ going) such as quinoa improperly cooked with dubious unidentifiable veg from tropical countries and non too sanitary at that!  Desserts that masquerade as ‘home made’, the artful bitches buy dime store crap, remove it from its tell tall ‘cheap tin tray’ (apologies to Masefield) and put it in a classy dish and attempt to pass it off as their own (excretion most likely!)  You get the idea.  The worst of the lot is that there are virtually no meat dishes, just a vast array of mucky looking vegetarian nonsense and nasty chemical desserts.

Anyway, I have been caught too many times over the years, chained to the bathroom etc etc and have developed detective skills to identify edible possibilities.  First one tries to note who brings what.  There are actually a few people left that can cook properly from scratch and significantly produce quality edible food on a regular basis. Next one eschews all dishes which have macerated the ingredients beyond identification.  Avoid predressed salads with cheap dressings. (you can smell them!) Dessert identification requires one to leer from a low angle to observe and inspect the crust to detect machine crimp to the edges, one tries to approach the table when it is not crowded otherwise other guests think you have developed a sudden spinal disease!  Then you have to judge the texture of the creamy toppings, real cow juice or chemical concoction?  It is not the done thing to ram you finger in the pie and lick it, which would allay all doubt instantly, unfortunately!  In order to make sure you do not starve in the land of plenty I take goody care to take a meat dish, plus it is essential to take your own wine in sufficient anaesthetic quantities to sterilise said food and maintain equanimity.

Rhetorically I’m damned if I know why I go to these things.  Well actually I do, I’m an officer of most of these organisations and feel obliged to support such.  All of the hostesses are really nice generous people of whom I am rather fond.  Plus one has a good subject for endless subsequent bitches on rainy days like this!  To be fair, spousal unit, who runs on his guts likes a good bitch about food too, he eats it all just to see how bad it is so has become my official taster, one day he’ll rue the position and fall to the ground writhing over the latest dish of eels!  I am continually puzzled that well heeled people, in fact some of the best heeled people in the County are willing to produce such derisory cheap crap, none of them are short of a bob or two.  You only have to look at their homes, cars and jewellery to see that they are not hard up and yet they appear to think it quite acceptable to produce something that cost no more than a couple of bucks, a total mystery to me.

I don’t actually remember ever going to a pot luck in the UK.  If one was being entertained the host provide the food or contributions of cash ensure a caterer is employed.  Have any of you ever been to this sort of bash?  I did note some alarming cupcakes that I wouldn’t have touched with a bargepole at some of the Jubilee bashes that looked like they were iced with axle grease rather than butter cream!  All I can say is if you have never had to endure this sort of thing squash it dead as and when some bright spark decides it as suitable for some community bash!


Author: christinaosborne

Landed on one side safely.

18 thoughts on “Ruminations on a Rainy Day.”

  1. In France when we had a pot-luck do, people signed up to bring sweet or savoury. I have to say the standard was pretty high, though there were a few who just heated up a pizza and chopped it up. I was usually asked to make trifle or cranachan, having introduced these desserts at my Scottish evening. I don’t think I’ve ever been to such an event in Britain, though I have recollections of my mother going to coffee mornings and being very critical of the standard of some of the baking. Thanks for an entertaining post, Christina.

  2. Well I’m sorry about your rain,it’s 82 and bright sun here at 5:30pm (low humidity too).

    Pot luck? No luck more usually. As you say the only defense is to make and take something you can eat and eat a healthy helping of it before it gets gobbled up. And what is it with the quinoa and hummus and the like, what’s wrong with human food.

  3. I know LW, my brother’s goats used to eat better than that!
    Chick peas for God’s sakes, all very well if you must as a thingy with drinks but as a main meal? Where the hell do they think they are, deepest Swaziland?

  4. CO, I think I love you.

    For the avoidance of doubt, that is in a non-sexual, non-committal and non-confrontational sense, of course.

    A superb post.

  5. Sheona I haven’t had that dessert since I lived in Aberdeen nearly 40 years ago.
    Could make it here they have lovely raspberries in this County but the cream is execrable, even their double double cream only just holds the peak. I cheat, tend to add half a leaf of fine French gelatine if I’m doing something fancy even if its not in the recipe, who wants whatever to bloody collapse on turning it out?
    Yanks never turn things out they are always in bowls and none of them own a forcing bag!
    Actually I think half of them don’t own a saucepan either from the taste of it all!!!

    What really tickles me are their fancy kitchens, it appears to be absolutely nothing to spend $50,000 on a refit and yet they are unable to cook. Actually I believe there is an algorithm whereby the amount spent on kitchens and granite counters is in direct inverted proportion to the owners ability to cook!
    Sometimes one wishes one was a mathematician.

  6. JM glad to amuse. Actually I sit here laughing myself silly as I compose derisive drivel to the ultimate bitchiness, just the way to cheer oneself up on a seriously grim day!

  7. CO, may I add to your fear of others’ concoctions the widely held view that making cakes cleans the hands beautifully?

  8. Hello CO. I have been in London for precisely one week and it has rained every day. When I left Cape Town it was sunny and warm. Of course it is winter there and summer here so perhaps that explains it.

    In any event, I sympathise with you concerning the culinary threats that you face. I have eaten many fine meals in American restaurants but have never tasted a decent home-cooked dish.Though there was always an ample supply of it, it generally came from the deli section of the supermarket. I was once served leg of lamb in Atlanta, which was a surprise and though it was grossly over cooked and carved into chunks, I did give 10/10 for effort. But my biggest whinge (silent, of course) at such social events was always aimed at the cheese platter that only ever consisted of tasteless waxy lumps, dubbed Swiss if they were yellow and American if orange.

    As for fresh cream, I only ever found it once during my 5 years in the country. We were having Sunday brunch in a restaurant (not IHOP, I hasten to add) and I was brought a small pot of cream for my pancakes. Having tasted it and discovered that it was the real thing, I asked the waitress what it was. She failed to detect the irony in my voice and provided me with a gushing explanation. For those who do not know America, cream generally comes in an aerosol can. There is something called ‘Half-and-half’, which is supposed to be creamy milk, but it is nothing like the real thing.

    You are quite right about the kitchens. The ovens are always immaculate, never having been used. Hot plates are used for boiling the kettle to make tea. (For some reason they do not do electric kettles in the US.) Microwaves are used for reheating yesterday’s takeaways and that is about the full extent of American home cooking. In my experience. But I did find most Americans to be warm and generous hosts.

  9. Sipu, spot on!
    You can buy electric kettles here but they are extraordinarily expensive because they do not sell that many.
    Needless to say it was one of my first purchases.

    Janus, thank God I hadn’t read that comment before I went! I would have truly starved and checked manicures instead!!!

  10. I first came across the word “quinoa” in a novel a few days ago. Since the heroine was cooking it with chicken for her dog, I didn’t bother about it. Now I have googled it and not rushed out to see if I can find it, but made a mental note that it’s something I could dish up to husband’s vegan cousin next time he visits.

  11. Sheona
    It is weird stuff. A distant relation of rhubarb I believe, comes from a similar flower. The one advantage is that not being a grain it is gluten free. Very useful when the non existent gall bladder is playing up. Strange to relate but a diet of quinoa, beets and spinach will sort the lower bowel out quicker than anything else.
    Useful for IBS, much better and quicker than any medicine I have ever known.
    It cooks up most similar to couscous ie little frogsborney granules of nutty taste but softer. I use it for a basis for a salad with shredded chicken in it but would certainly suit nuts, say cashews with a good olive oil and balsamic dressing for a vegan. Here it comes from Peru and Chile and is expensive about $5. for a small box. So I tend to keep it for strictly for medicinal emergencies. Never give it to visitors in case they think I’m a liberal pansy!

  12. PS My objection to it at pot lucks is that people overcook it to a glutinous mass and then drench it with cheap corn oil and cider vinegar etc quite utterly disgusting. Net result it gets a bad press but it is the cook’s fault not the ingredients. Needs to be on the al dente side.

  13. For the ethnic record, pot lucks don’t fly here at all. If you are invited to a meal the hosts expect and are expected to provide the lot, with the possible exception of the bottle (and flowers) presented by the guests. It’s all about that ‘hygge’ thing – making people feel cosy.

  14. Interesting Janus that it has that connotation in Denmark. Here it really is a vestigial hangover from the pioneer days when everyone was so spread out and often short of food. The only time they saw anyone socially was if they were near enough to get into town and go to Church on Sunday. No one was rich enough to feed others except as payment for work so they all bought a covered dish and ate communally and had a social get together after service.
    I do know churches that still do it today, a Lutheran just down the road even goes so far as to have a garden out the back that the parishioners work, they eat their own veg at a supper every Wednesday night after a service Any extra veg is sent to the foodbank. A good 100 turn up every week, I hear about it from one of my little old lady friends.

  15. I vaguely recall reading some years ago that the term ‘pot-luck’ came from the time when domestic cooking was more or less confined to hanging a pot over the fire and visitors would have to take their luck as to what had been put into that pot.

    In good times there might be the odd rabbit or chicken, but more often than not it was just veggies and herbs. Having seen what might come out of an Elizabethan ‘pot’ at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Sussex and read a fair bit about ‘peasant’ food – I reckon you got away fairly lightly, Christina!

    While I agree that a lot of people buy ‘crap ‘ food and dish up ‘crap’ meals – cheap food does not necessarily mean dreadful meals – it’s all about knowing how to cook.

    I have been invited to ‘plate parties’ here in OZ. Much the same idea as your ‘pot-luck’ parties. And, I suspect, also a ‘vestigial hangover’ from the pioneer days.

  16. Boadicea – You really need to visit The Cave, and soon. Bring The Bear too.


  17. Boadicea, your comment about rabbit and chicken only being found in the pot “in good times” reminds me of the Catalan dish of lobster and chicken. Apparently lobsters were ten a penny at the time it was thought up and you chucked them in to make your little bits of chicken go farther. Interestingly I found the same combination – crawfish and chicken – in Grenoble the other week, with the same origins. You used what there was a surfeit of to make the special ingredient stretch to feed more mouths.

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