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Friday, September 2nd, 2005

The Modern Potluck

In the spirit of separating technical from personal material, I stopped my last post and started this one.

WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO POTLUCKS?

Tonight we had a potluck dinner for the Band Boosters. I’m sort of looking forward to being active in the Boosters. I remember coming home from college in that aloof, jaded way that college students come home, and being secretly impressed at how excited my parents were to go to the band events for my younger sister and brother; and later, how they expressed a feeling of emptiness when the youngest graduated from high school. I was looking for that sense of community that I’ve been missing all these years since I left the church.

So when I got the announcement that there was going to be a potluck, as much as I would deny it, I was a little excited. It was set the day before payday and things have been tight lately, so I was stressing just gathering the materials, but I got an unexpected rebate check in the mail and at the last minute I was able to get what I needed.

I’m pretty sure that I haven’t been to a potluck since high school, but I still have strong memories of the way my mother used to throw herself around the kitchen in preparation for them, trying to out do herself. I remember the intimacy of those gatherings, eating each other families’ cooking. Sure, I used to take what most appealed to me, but if there was one of those dishes out there that everyone else seemed reluctant to touch, I would take a scoop just so the person who brought it wouldn’t feel as bad.

By luck, we drew a main course, and I was up late last night (well, mostly because of installing FC4), and had put on a pork roast without knowing exactly what I was going to do with it – I figured I could turn that four-pound roast into something for 15 people. But at one o’clock in the morning, while I was carving it up to put away, I checked and found I only had two and a half pounds of meat. So today I worked through lunch, left early, stopped at the store to pick up more ingredients, came home and started cooking. I broke out the big pot and made sweet and sour pork from scratch. I’d never made it before, but the recipe looked simple, and I was encouraged as I got into it that the sauce actually tasted the way it was supposed to! It actually came out ok – the real sweet and sour with pineapple and carrots and green peppers; not that battered, deep fried stuff they serve here in Chinese-American places for people who don’t know better (can you tell that I’ve actually been to China and eaten the food?)

So Chelsea and I came traipsing up to this “potluck dinner” with a real pot filled with homemade food, and I had to push a bunch of pizza boxes and bags of supermarket fried chicken out of the way to find a place to set it down. It was only my reminiscences, my feeling of superiority, and my righteous indignation that kept me from being totally crestfallen. To top it off, a parent of one of the other girls in the color guard complemented me on my dish and said that she had to go back for seconds. I brought the barely-touched pot back home. At least I discovered that she was gracious.

When I was a teenager attending one of these, my eyeballs would have been locked in on any pizza ahead of me as I patiently waited my turn in line. But of course, there never was any. In that tough, transitory stage in the late seventies and early eighties, when a wife with a full-time job was just starting to be the norm but no husband could be expected to cook a meal or run a load of laundry more than once in a blue moon, the potluck dinner was the true test of the supermom. Any mother showing up with store-bought food would have sunk immediately to the lowest rungs of the social ladder.

There’s something about that that I miss. Not the unequal distribution of household chores between the sexes and the supermom expectations that were probably the single biggest impetus towards the rise of modern antidepressant drugs. No, I’m the dad that did all the cooking, remember? I think what I miss is the quality, as defined in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read the book. It will make your life better.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, Posts About Me, Society at 02:03 PST

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Time Out

Gotta take a time out from trying to get that rt2500 driver installed on my brand-new FC4. I’ve been working at it so hard I’ve only caught a peep of the post-blacked-out-game telecast of the Chargers-San Francisco game, and that hasn’t exactly cheered me up. A lot of it was trying to relearn my Linux basics – I have not been a good boy in my stated goal of moving away from Windows. I keep using Windows because the XP login screen is what I see whenever I sit down (all right, I just know it better), but now that I’ve moved Chelsea’s computer upstairs, I’ve got an open slot on my KVM switch. I want to build a Linux webserver – maybe I should build the best Windows machine I can from available parts and turn my nice 3.2 GHz box into that server I want – and use it as my primary. I would only have to switch the KVM back when I was done, for Raquel. She probably won’t even notice the diffference – all she does is surf.

Posted by Greg as Hardware & Drivers, OS at 00:45 PST

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