Need to feed a houseful of people? Consider going potluck!

Cherie Kimmons, author of Potluck Survival Guide, explains how to feed an entire team of hungry athletes, and what makes a potluck so special!

cookbook-closeup.jpg  Potluck Survival Guide is full of easy and delicious recipes to bring to potluck dinners. What inspired you to write this book?

Cherie Kimmons:  I spent over twenty years as a “team mom” and room mother, feeding groups of all sizes and kids of all ages. I built up a collection of recipes and ideas that worked well for groups, and people frequently requested the recipes I prepared for these events. During these years, I worked with a group of extremely talented women who knew who to cook, plan and decorate for school events, so I was absorbing lots of useful information. In my other life, I wrote for a newspaper and for HGTV, so thoughts of a book usually were close to the surface. At a writer’s workshop I attended, we were required to outline a marketing plan for our book. I was the only one in the group without a manuscript, so I had to make up something quick. I tapped what I know best: food and feeding people.  Do you have to be a good cook to prepare the recipes in Potluck Survival Guide?

Cherie:  Heavens, no! In fact, I hope that my book encourages new cooks to attempt new recipes. I used my twenty-something daughter as a guinea pig for each recipe, asking if she understood all the directions or if something needed a little illumination and explanation. As a result of her comments, I included notes with each recipe that point out pitfalls, explain ingredients or techniques, and offer suggestions for substitutions and variations. My wish is that a new cook will learn to experiment without fear as a result of trying these recipes. At the same time, there are lots of recipes that are interesting to prepare and eat, no matter how experienced a cook you are! Something for everyone. . .  You've been attending potluck dinners for more than twenty years. Have potluck events changed over this time?

Cherie:  Some things about a potluck will never change: people will try new foods they don’t get at home; they will eat too much because of all the variety; someone will bring a bag of chips rather than a casserole; recipes will be exchanged. Corn and green beans continue to be the favorite vegetables among children of all ages, and brownies are still the favorite (or at least, most eaten) dessert.

But potlucks are more inclusive now. There are dishes for vegetarians, and foods are more likely to be labeled for people with allergies. Salads have achieved a prominence never predicted by food of the Fifties. One of the most popular types of buffets now is a “build your own” bar for tacos, salad, waffles, ice cream desserts, baked potatoes, hamburgers, etc. etc. Years ago, prepared food from the grocery store was unusual in the buffet line; today a dish is just as likely to come from the grocery store or a restaurant as it is from a home kitchen.  What are some of the most important things to know when preparing a meal for a potluck event?

Cherie:  Fix plenty; don’t forget a serving spoon for your dish; bring extra disposable dishes to divvy up the left-overs; choose recipes that don’t require being really hot or really cold for their success; don’t get too crazy with exotic ingredients – you usually are playing to the lowest common denominator of tastes at a buffet (everyone likes corn – not everyone can handle artichoke hearts stuffed with blue cheese and crabmeat);label your dish, especially if it has allergens like nuts or shrimp in it (and if it has shrimp, please invite me!)  What makes potluck events so special?

Cherie:  Sharing the workload always makes for a more enjoyable experience. A variety of dishes is fun to eat – I especially love eating someone else’s cooking. Usually a potluck event is a gathering to celebrate an event and the sense of community enhances the celebration. And - food always makes things better!

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