Modern Potluck

Erin Lott

4 Stars

August 23, 2016

You know, I would like to say that I am a sophisticated urbanite who does not hanker for the staples of my childhood potlucks. However, I would be lying. 

Yet such hankerings do not include Jell-o molds. Nope. (To be clear, I have nothing against the Jell-o set. I love my aunts dearly.)  

Kristin Donnelly of Eat Better, Drink Better has recently launched a new cookbook that drags the potlucks of yore into the modern age. Gone are the green bean and cream-of-mushroom soup (condensed, of course) casseroles, pigs in a blanket, and cheese balls rolled in mixed nuts. Instead, Donnelly sets a new rules that include

  1. Staying power to the food (it's gotta withstand its tenure on the buffet table)
  2. Simplicity (too many components equals prime fussiness; potlucks do not equal fussiness)
  3. Crowd pleaser with a bit of a surprise (it's a potluck, but it's not the 1970s)
These are all rules that I can get behind. Her modern recipes include Apple-Ginger-Bourbon Cocktails, Indian-Spiced Spinach-Yogurt Dip, Ribollita with Lemon-Chile Relish, and Peach-Blueberry Slab Pie. Yes, please.

However, one does not simply have a potluck, a true potluck, without deviled eggs. Donnelly again to the rescue, and she updates the deviled egg to have a little more punch and pizazz than your standard mustardy, mayonnaisey, gloppy affair.  Instead, she gives us toasted rosemary and smoky paprika or whole-grain mustard and tangy cornichon. Neither really whips the deviled egg into unfamiliar territory. Instead, they nudge you from the familiar to the delightful, and Aunt Jenny won't be taken too far off guard.  (Donnelly even has the solution for transporting deviled eggs!) These potlucks retain all the familiarity and coziness of a family affair and combine them with the edge of the unexpected.

On a personal (and side) note, I served these deviled eggs as an appetizer before a birthday (potluck) dinner held in our backyard for one of our friends. Said friend is French, and she and her husband (also French) had never had deviled eggs before. We had to explain that these little bites were totally retro, absolutely nostalgic, and still a little special. Let me just point out: there were none left. 

All in all, I am enjoying cooking my way through this fun little book. The recipes are pleasing, the layout easy to follow, and the design satisfying (if the cover is a little reminiscent of one of my favorite David Tanis cookbooks, One Good Dish from 2013). Plus, Donnelly is urging us to use the "power of the potluck" to come together, truly see each other for the complicated and baggy and fully human people we are, share in the labor (of love) of cooking for one another, and settle our real and imagine differences over a meal. Including ones with deviled eggs.  Now, that's something I can get behind.