What happens when eight women get together for a potluck brunch?
They bring enough food for 20.
Here’s what covered the table recently at a gathering of a group of women that I’m privileged to be a part of:
A majestic mountain of hot baked ham, gleaming in an orange marmalade glaze; creamy potato salad with fresh dill; a plate of cheeses, herbed olives and homemade fig preserves; steamed asparagus with hollandaise sauce; a green salad with slices of baby squash and zucchini; mimosas; and warm apple-blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
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Because I was less than 24 hours back from a week on the Outer Banks, I begged off cooking due to tons of laundry and needy cats. I brought store-bought challah and tapenade, plus a jar of my homemade peach jam. At the last minute, I whipped up some honey butter out of a feeling of inadequacy.
Why was I worried?
If a freak blizzard during the brunch had marooned us, we would’ve been able to last a week — probably longer, since the hostess had a well-stocked pantry, gas grill and plenty of books.
I was worried because I’m a woman, and women feed people. Our greatest fear is that we will run out of any edible item that someone – even one person – wants.
At the brunch, when the Champagne for mimosas was gone after two rounds of drinks, the person who brought the supplies began berating herself. On her third apology, I thought to myself that she couldn’t help it if we’re lushes. I blamed our consumption level on the rainy day, and a need for tart drinks as we picked at Mount Pork with our fingers like gleeful cavewomen.
It’s just how women are. We do not want to run out. We feel responsible.
Packing for the beach is another example. I bring groceries from home. Lots of them.
After driving for hours and finally smelling the ocean, I don’t want to have to hack my way through the only grocery store in town first thing. I don’t want The Hub and me to immediately cram ourselves in line behind packs of people pulling two carts apiece, each stuffed with 12-packs of light beer, bags of nacho cheese chips and pounds of ground beef.
I want to pack enough stuff that I pare our needs down to a level that opens the glorious portals of the express lane. Even if this store defines its express lane as “about 12 items.” Not 12 items – about 12. That qualifier makes the store appear to consider the express lane an iffy concept, like wormholes in space.
That “about” means that I can still end up behind groups buying enough eggs, laundry detergent and Popsicles (which a child has opened and begun to stickily consume, explaining the ton of detergent) for three family reunions. However, that event is less likely to occur in the express lane, no matter how theoretical the lane is. And most people have the good taste to look embarrassed when I give them the stink eye that says: Yes, I’m on vacation, now let me get out of here so I can start it.
I hear you, now: The grocery store is a mere 10 minutes away, lady, and you’re not stuck on a sandbar in the middle of the Atlantic.
But why should I wait until I get to the land of sand, sea and parties of 12 to buy mayonnaise, mustard and salsa? I need my locally roasted coffee, of course. Will one bag of Oreos be enough? Maybe two, just to be sure. And dark chocolate bars; you never know. Just two bags of blue corn chips and four bottles of seltzer? One more of each. And popcorn.
There’s room. We’re driving a giant metal tote bag.
And our current favorite microbrew. I refuse to face the horror of anything with “light” in the name. Strawberries and lettuce will do fine in the cooler, and just put that bag of tomatoes in the back seat out of the direct sun.
Wait, is that jar of mayonnaise big enough?
Moose is a Raleigh cookbook author and former News & Observer food editor. Reach her at debbiemoose.com.