The old-fashioned potluck, or covered dish dinner, has a lasting place in society. It’s a good way for a diverse group to come together for a meal. We’re all familiar with the format and don’t mind contributing to the meal. But – the potluck is outside my comfort zone, even though I’ve sponsored such meals myself. That’s why, when we received an invitation to a potluck dinner at the home of people we don’t know – and amongst people we don’t know -- I almost threw it away before Mike could see it. This potluck was a regional meeting of a statewide organization to which Mike belongs with a conservation focus he appreciates. Sure enough! He wanted to go.
And, since the location was near Moscow I knew the attendees would be mostly Moscow people. Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Moscow people who have their roots elsewhere. Is a potluck amongst Moscow people really so much different than amongst valley residents, you ask. A resounding “yes!” is my reply. Those intellectual Moscow folk are bound to sprinkle lentils on top of deviled eggs or make dips out of who knows what. It’s not so much that I mind that. No, I don’t mind at all. It’s that I’m immediately insecure as to what dish I should provide from my limited repertoire.
“Cheese grits,” offered helpful Mike. So, yesterday afternoon I made “Kathy’s seasoned cheese grits.” Because I don’t like garlic, the traditional ingredient in cheese grits, I used seasoned salt and seasoned pepper. And this proved to be a good choice. Those folks recognized the dish and cleaned them out. Unbeknownst to me, the host provided ham, and grits are a great accompaniment.
Well, that was the good part. But – there’s always something I just don’t understand. When I double-checked the invitation, I saw that we were to bring a beverage to share. It never occurred to me that the beverage should be wine or beer. It just didn’t click with me. See – that’s what I mean about the intellectuals on the hill. If they mean “bring a bottle,” why don’t they say “bring a bottle?” The picture it drew to me was that the host wasn’t providing beverages, so I took a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke, which works in the valley but was out of place here – and which no one touched except Mike and me. (I have to say it tasted ever so much better than the “natural” soda provided.)
But the reason I’m writing this is to tell you about the “tomato jam and lemons” offered with goat cheese and baguette slices on the appetizer table. I wished I could share it with son-in-law Nick. The provider had written out the ingredients, which I hastily copied on the back of my grocery list: lemons, cumin seed, cinnamon sticks, juniper berries, cloves, tellicherry peppercorns, cardamom pods, allspice berries, sugar, cherry tomatoes, unsalted butter, champagne vinegar, lime juice, molasses, fresh ginger, kosher salt.
I thought it was delicious. But you do see what I mean about the Moscow folks, don’t you? I've never heard of juniper berries, allspice berries or cardamom pods, champagne vinegar, or tellicherry peppercorns. KW