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Author Topic: Bringing dishes/enough good food  (Read 10916 times)

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kareng57

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #30 on: November 25, 2012, 11:18:18 PM »
OK,  apologies all around.   I think the thought of 2 cans of processed beans thrown in with a can of processed mushroom soup sent me into toxic shock and I forgot my manners!  I'm sure the real version is much better.

The point was:  that's not how it's SUPPOSED to be made.  make that casserole properly and it's yummy.  With only two ingredients, its garbage.  Also, I love candied yams with marshmallows.  Butter, brown sugar, marshmallows and cut up and parboiled yams, bake until bubbly, YUM!!!  (Idaho mashed and marshmallows - nasty!!!  Would never be done.)


"Garbage"?  I think that's pretty nasty.

If you think that I'm a purist as to sweet potatoes/marshmallows - not at all.  I hate sweet potatoes cooked even by themselves, let alone with with garnishes like marshmallows.  But - obviously many people like this dish, and it's not for you to decide whether it's a "good" or "bad" dish.

FauxFoodist

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #31 on: November 25, 2012, 11:25:55 PM »
OK,  apologies all around.   I think the thought of 2 cans of processed beans thrown in with a can of processed mushroom soup sent me into toxic shock and I forgot my manners!  I'm sure the real version is much better.

The point was:  that's not how it's SUPPOSED to be made.  make that casserole properly and it's yummy.  With only two ingredients, its garbage.  Also, I love candied yams with marshmallows.  Butter, brown sugar, marshmallows and cut up and parboiled yams, bake until bubbly, YUM!!!  (Idaho mashed and marshmallows - nasty!!!  Would never be done.)


"Garbage"?  I think that's pretty nasty.

If you think that I'm a purist as to sweet potatoes/marshmallows - not at all.  I hate sweet potatoes cooked even by themselves, let alone with with garnishes like marshmallows.  But - obviously many people like this dish, and it's not for you to decide whether it's a "good" or "bad" dish.

Pod.

I have to admit that I *am* a purist when it comes to many dishes.  However, I think we all know well enough as members of an etiquette forum how not to slant what we write when opining on something.  There's definitely a better yet still effective way to convey one doesn't like something without calling it garbage.

blarg314

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #32 on: November 25, 2012, 11:57:54 PM »
When things are sliding downhill there are a few things that can be done.

- The organizer can send out a reminder before the next time, with notes about amounts (bring enough to feed your whole group) preparation times (hot dishes must be cooked in advance as there is no time to cook stuff at the event).

- Individual first generation families can put pressure on their offspring to bring enough food, properly prepared.

From an individual perspective, you can stop trying to compensate for the poor offerings, because as long as you (plural) do that, there's no incentive for the others to step up, because they can bring a substandard offering, and still get a nice meal.  This may mean that the meal gets skimpy for a few years.

What may happen, though, is that the structure of the meal itself may need to change to meet the needs of the new generation. If you've got a substantial fraction of the group who isn't really interested in cooking good food for a potluck Thanksgiving, then the current model isn't working very well.  You could go to an assigned potluck - each family unit is assigned to bring a particular dish or type of dish, in an amount that scales with the size of the unit (ie, large families bring more stuff than single people).  You could pare down the cooking duties to people who are willing to participate, and charge a fee to the rest of the participants to cover ingredients, ensuring a well planned meal in adequate amounts.  You could move to a catered meal and split the costs.

What I don't think will work is advising individual people that their cooking is terrible, and that's why no-one is eating it - if you know them well enough to do that without really hurt feelings, you'd probably already have done so.

I'm wondering if the really egregious bad food offerings are the result of a passive aggressive tactic - someone who really doesn't want to make a dish and cart it over to the gigantic family gathering, but feels they have to because not going would cause too much of a fuss.


cicero

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #33 on: November 26, 2012, 01:50:47 AM »
Thank you all for your suggestions.

Creating a sign-up is a really good suggestion, as is requesting that people bring specific quantities of each thing. But....because I'm not the hostess, would it be rude for me to suggest these things? Unfortunately (in this case) Host Aunt is a total sweetheart (read: spineless) and doesn't like to upset anyone, EVER. I'm not sure she would want to address these things at all.

it's absolutely *not* rude for you to suggest this - and it would probably work better if you had some "family backing". and make it about facts not feelings/opinions. not "the green bean casserole tasted bad" or "the mac and cheese tasted like rubber" (even if this is true), but more along the lines of "we need to have a system of serving hot foods; at the last gathering the green bean casserole was stone cold".



« Last Edit: November 26, 2012, 02:03:19 AM by cicero »

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cass2591

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #34 on: November 26, 2012, 01:57:41 AM »
I think it's best if we got off the sub topic of personal taste, in this case food. What one person thinks is garbage someone else is going to think is the yummiest thing ever. While I agree it's probably more diplomatic not to call something garbage, in the end, nobody is insulting anybody. It's personal opinion, that's all. Nobody is saying "you're stupid for liking that because it's garbage" but rather expressing their own taste.

As I said it's not the most diplomatic way of stating one's view because it's just as easy to say "I don't like it", but in the end, it means the same thing and I don't understand being insulted, or, as is often said here, taking offense when not intended.
 
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Raintree

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #35 on: November 26, 2012, 03:44:05 AM »
Unfortunately I believe there is not much that can be said about the quality of a person's contribution. An email reminder to bring enough to feed the number of people you are bringing and then some, OK. Delegating categories of food (sign up for mashed potatoes, salad, a veg, etc) is perfectly fine. But there is no way to politely say, "Look, please don't throw tins of processed food together" even though you may be thinking it. And then of course, everyone's within their rights to say to themselves, "Those Thanksgiving dinners at Aunt Mabel's are always revolting; let's do our own this year."

Of course, some families may choose to be blunt, and throw etiquette out the window for the sake of restoring the quality dinners: " A number of us have observed that the quality of dinners in past years has deteriorated. Let's all step up the effort a bit and attempt to make a quality, home-cooked meal instead of the sort of thing you might throw together for yourself on a weeknight after working late. Let's start a sign up list (then list things like mashed potatoes, not instant....brussels sprouts.....green salad....pumpkin pie.....). Include categories like paper plates, wine, other drinks, for those who aren't comfortable cooking.

Some families might not be offended by this kind of bluntness, but I guess it's a know your audience thing.

VorFemme

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #36 on: November 26, 2012, 09:22:50 AM »
I grew up as generation 3 in a family where Grandma (either one) cooked until her kitchen was steaming and smelling like a holiday feast.  Generation 2 (parents' generation with their siblings and spouses) seemed to have a contest on loading the table with MORE - side dishes, desserts (card table overflowed at times onto the side tables in the living room where the lamps usually lived in one grandparents' house - the other grandparent used the portable dishwasher as extra dessert serving space, as it was counter height), and "stuff". 

I learned at an early age to take at least enough for my family to a potluck (grew up in the Southern Baptist Church - I swear some of those cooks could walk into a military chow hall and have no trouble fixing dinner for a couple of hundred people on fairly short notice - just give them enough cook's helpers to work with for peeling the potatoes for mashing and the carrots for whatever they were going to use carrots for).  Seriously - if there weren't leftovers for two days without any more cooking by Grandma, the various aunts came back carrying more (and their husbands had to help carry things in, too). 

Family reunions with Dad's family are a lot like the same thing - and generation 4 is now in the catering group as generation 1 is down to about three living people in their 90s who were up to coming to the last one (the cousin of grandma's who played the piano at the church for my folks' wedding was one of them). Generation 5 is mostly still in school and learning to cook.....and being tasked with carrying stuff in for their grandmother and mother.  The men are setting up the tables, putting out the chairs, and setting up any family photos or family trees.  Rather traditional farming area - but it works for them/us (I don't always get to go).
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Sophia

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #37 on: November 26, 2012, 01:43:23 PM »
I've given this some thought.  I wonder if in addition to the sign-up sheet there could be little signs made to sit in front of each dish.  I've always thought that peer pressure/social standing was why church potlucks usually have quality and quantity.  But when potlucks get to be a large crowd of people that rarely see each other, then the social pressure goes away.  So, if there was a little paper tent in front of the dish labeling it that said,

Green Bean Casserole
provided by
Mom, Dad, Child1, Child2, Child3 and Child4

Then everyone knows who provided that dish.  The family knows that everyone knows.  It is also really easy for everyone to figure out that a really small dish brought by 6 people was insufficient. 

I was raised to be willing to eat just my contribution to a potluck.  I've wondered before how it would work if the organizer said ahead of time that "Every contributor should be willing to just eat their side dish"  That probably couldn't be done and shouldn't be.  But it is one of the thoughts that has run through my head at a bad potluck. 

cicero

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #38 on: November 26, 2012, 01:51:28 PM »
I've given this some thought.  I wonder if in addition to the sign-up sheet there could be little signs made to sit in front of each dish.  I've always thought that peer pressure/social standing was why church potlucks usually have quality and quantity.  But when potlucks get to be a large crowd of people that rarely see each other, then the social pressure goes away.  So, if there was a little paper tent in front of the dish labeling it that said,

Green Bean Casserole
provided by
Mom, Dad, Child1, Child2, Child3 and Child4

Then everyone knows who provided that dish.  The family knows that everyone knows.  It is also really easy for everyone to figure out that a really small dish brought by 6 people was insufficient. 

I was raised to be willing to eat just my contribution to a potluck.  I've wondered before how it would work if the organizer said ahead of time that "Every contributor should be willing to just eat their side dish"  That probably couldn't be done and shouldn't be.  But it is one of the thoughts that has run through my head at a bad potluck.

good idea.

if applicable, add note on the sign for dietary restrictions (e.g., dairy; includes nuts; vegan (includes tofu); very spicy; etc).

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VorFemme

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #39 on: November 26, 2012, 02:15:22 PM »
Last time I went to the family reunion - I took Grandma's (German) Apple Coffeecake - the recipe came from THAT family.

I labelled it as such, as apparently it hadn't been available at the last few reunions.....and I put my name & email address beside it for anyone who wanted the recipe from me (so it wouldn't be lost again - Dad hadn't had any in years and was mourning the loss of his mother's recipe - I've taken it to every visit I've spent with that side of the family since - and printed recipe cards for my aunts). 

It is very popular - not too sweet - perfect for breakfast on a holiday or weekend and even a "not too sweet" addition to the dessert table.

It was posted to the recipe folder years ago......
Let sleeping dragons be.......morning breath......need I explain?

Hmmmmm

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #40 on: November 26, 2012, 02:53:28 PM »
CL32, I'm also curious why the parents of the second generation aren't providing their own offspring some feedback.  I really think the best approach is for them to get feedback from their parents or siblings.

In your example, are Cousin 1 and Cousin 2 siblings?  Or does Cousin 1 have a sibling that contributes appropriately that could say "Hey, Sis, 3 cans of cold food does not equal an edible casserole."  or "Hey Bro.  You need to contribute more than a box of crackers."

ladyknight1

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #41 on: November 26, 2012, 07:26:12 PM »
I can totally relate to your situation OP. In two different contexts, the potlucks I have attended recently have been less than successful. Each of these semi-annual gatherings have been successful in prior years.

One, we went from 20 local office staff to a combined group with another office for our fall potluck. In prior years, we always had plenty of food for an afternoon snack and lunch the next day. This year, we ran out of food before people had first servings. All of the people that got the food plated and served were last in line, and had the least selection.

Two, this is a family gathering for an award ceremony in a youth organization. I have never before seen so many cheese and cracker trays. We grilled up beef brisket and chicken tacos, while one family brought ice and that was it. We have another of these gatherings in two weeks, and I put up a sign up sheet for cold appetizers, hot appetizers, drinks and desserts and asked that each family bring enough to serve 10 people. We will be asking for no more than 3 cheese and cracker trays, as the kids don't seem to eat those as much.

OP, I think you can definitely make this a more successful gathering without singling out those whose food has been less than pleasing in the past.
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Raintree

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #42 on: November 26, 2012, 08:28:48 PM »
I've given this some thought.  I wonder if in addition to the sign-up sheet there could be little signs made to sit in front of each dish.  I've always thought that peer pressure/social standing was why church potlucks usually have quality and quantity.  But when potlucks get to be a large crowd of people that rarely see each other, then the social pressure goes away.  So, if there was a little paper tent in front of the dish labeling it that said,

Green Bean Casserole
provided by
Mom, Dad, Child1, Child2, Child3 and Child4

Then everyone knows who provided that dish.  The family knows that everyone knows.  It is also really easy for everyone to figure out that a really small dish brought by 6 people was insufficient. 

I like it.

2L bottle of coke.
Provided by:
Cousin3, Kid 1, Kid 2, Kid 3, and Kid 4, husband, husband's sister, neighbor kid, friend from out-of-town, and mother-in-law.

Might shame people into upping their contribution.

Lynn2000

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #43 on: November 26, 2012, 08:57:52 PM »
I POD that some top-down organization seems necessary here. It doesn't necessarily have to come from Sweetheart Aunt, as long as she approves of it in advance. It would probably be best coming from someone in the oldest generation. If the problem is so serious I'm sure others will have noticed and be glad that someone is offering suggestions.

I like the idea of saying, very specifically, how much food/etc. to bring--like 10 cups of mashed potatoes, or 100 disposable plates. People who don't normally cook for large groups may honestly have no idea how much total food is needed (though the single 2L of pop seems rather egregious!). Or what non-food supplies are needed--I am not a cook and would much rather be told that I could gainfully contribute by bringing X number of paper napkins and plasticware, than try to guess at what size cheese tray I should pick up, or worse attempt to cook something large when I never cook at all!

I also like the idea of labeling dishes. Not so much for shaming purposes as for actual information--in a gathering this big it would be really helpful to know who brought what, as a point of conversation and compliments (where applicable). Also it would be really good to have problem ingredients/notes pointed out. As another part of the organization you could tell people you were doing this, so they really need to tell you (whoever) in advance what they're bringing so you can make the cards ahead of time, which would force people to be more engaged in planning their contribution.

With a small family potluck I would say some of these things were overkill, but with an operation this size I don't think that's too much to ask of people; they know what they're getting into if they agree to attend. I think when coordinating something of this magnitude it's best to just be extremely clear and matter-of-fact, and not dance around.

In terms of the quality of the food I don't think you can really say anything. I like the phrase "vote with our spoons." If someone gets mad that their dish is not consumed--whatever it is, maybe it's delicious but just too spicy for this crowd--they have the option to not bring it the next year, or not attend at all if they're really upset. I think complaining about it only makes them look silly.
~Lynn2000

doodlemor

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Re: Bringing dishes/enough good food
« Reply #44 on: November 26, 2012, 09:28:57 PM »
One, we went from 20 local office staff to a combined group with another office for our fall potluck. In prior years, we always had plenty of food for an afternoon snack and lunch the next day. This year, we ran out of food before people had first servings. All of the people that got the food plated and served were last in line, and had the least selection.

I read of a great way that a boss dealt with this somewhere recently here on ehell.  At the very beginning of the meal the boss got up in front of the group and said something like......

"So many people have allergies and things that they can't eat nowadays.  Let's go around the group before we start and each of us can tell what we brought in case someone has a question about what is in a dish."

I think that the poster said that several people slunk out after he made the statement.