Monday, April 30, 2012

Five Tips for Hosting a Church Potluck Supper Southern Baptist Style

Go big or go home.
Yesterday, my husband and I joined my parents at their church, First Freewill Baptist in Richmond, to enjoy some seriously good gospel music followed by a potluck supper of epic proportions to celebrate the church's 60th anniversary. As the sweet tea flowed, dish after dish was laid out on (count 'em) three separate tables that overflowed with more food than I've seen in years. From country ham biscuits and fried chicken to pecan pie and sweet potato dumplings, homemade food that was carefully made with love was presented end to end inside the church's fellowship hall.

As someone who grew up in the Baptist church, potluck suppers hold a special place in my heart, not only because the food is so amazingly good (and I'm talking Jesus can take me now cuz it just doesn't get any better kinda good), but because each and every dish is created with great care and thought. The goods you'll find at a church potluck is food truly made with love. There's no highfalutin cooking going on here-- just solid, soul warming comforting eats that's been sifted, stirred and made from scratch just for you. Believe it or not, potluck's are more about sharing and giving of yourself than actually eating, although arguably the eating part sure is fun. Whether your cooking skill set is advanced baker or can't boil water, your dish is always welcome on the church potluck table, and it goes without saying, more really is merrier.

For those of you who have yet to enjoy a true Southern-style Baptist church potluck, I've assembled a few potluck fundamentals to give you an idea of what you're missing.
There must be at least five platters of deviled eggs.
Deviled eggs are the Southern church potluck's equivalent to, I dunno, utensils. They absolutely, positively must be on the table and in multiple varieties. From paprika sprinkles to plain, from mustard-tinged to mayo heavy, and from sweet pickles to no pickles at all, deviled eggs have got make and appearance. Note: potluck deviled eggs should always be served from a special deviled egg platter and you get bonus points if you also bring a creamy potato salad made from any leftover boiled eggs.
Casseroles and meat.You can't have your pudding if you don't eat your meat, and at a church potluck that means fried chicken (always), country ham (a must), sliced roast beef, turkey, pineapple studded baked ham, ham sandwiches and/or biscuits (always), and definitely multiple varieties of meat-based casseroles, which nine times out of ten, will be made with some sort of cream of mushroom soup.
Hello Jell-O.
No church potluck is complete without an array of Jell-O/gelatin/grease-cutter salads. More often than not, these salads will be made with canned pineapple, strawberry gelatin and boast multiple layers of goodness in the form of cream cheese, whipped cream, nuts, and if you're really lucky, crushed pretzels. Lime Jell-O salads are also acceptable, especially if they are made with cottage cheese and studded with pimentos. Bonus points if you bring your Jell-O salad in a circular or rooster mold versus a casserole dish.
There must be a stupid number of desserts including banana puddings.
Notice the plurality of "banana puddings". This is because more than one combination of vanilla pudding mix, bananas and Nilla wafers is required for the dessert tables (tables) which will be locked and loaded with an array of homemade street treats designed to get any young child properly high on sugar. You can bet there will be more than one pound cake, several pies (pecan, sweet potato and strawberry if the weather's warm), multiple cheesecakes, definitely brownies, and something layered with pineapple, whipped cream and canned cherry pie filling. If you're really lucky, someone will bring a vat of homemade butter pecan or peach ice cream, although this is usually reserved for the church ice cream social which I hope to address in a future blog post.
Dainty eaters should not apply. Pile up that plate or someone will do it for you.
One certainty at any church potluck is that this is NOT the place to watch your caloric intake. Run an extra mile (or 5) before you go so you can pile that bad boy up because if you don't, one of two rumors will probably be started about you-- the first being that you have some kind of eating disorder or second, and this is far worse, you don't like the food. A good rule of thumb is to avoid most anything of the salad variety (Jell-O, potato salad, macaroni salad and creamy slaw notwithstanding) and go straight for the good stuff-- grape jelly meatballs, turkey and stuffing, green beans cooked in fatback, macaroni and cheese, mystery casserole, twice baked potatoes, baked beans, mashed potatoes, pigs in a blanket and anything doused in gravy. And, you've got to really load it all up or risk having a church lady snatch it out of your hand and do the job for you. Trust me. I've had this happen and it ain't pretty.

Been to a church potluck and have a story or recipe you'd like to share? I'd love to hear it.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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  1. It's been a very long time since I've been to a church potluck, but wow! Love the multiple banana puddings.

  2. There 5 different banana puddings :) Naturally, I had to try them all...ha

  3. I must agree nothing better than a church Pot Luck supper. Love it!

  4. something tells me I'm going to enjoy a church potluck. :)

  5. You certainly had a feast before you!!! and you gave me a feast for my eyes!! I am just getting into experimenting with Deviled Eggs (seems everyone likes my BLT deviled egg recipe) so you gave me a little more inspiration!! thanks

    Ron Delaney (@delaneysrant)

  6. Happy to provide some inspiration for you. Thanks for stopping by everyone!



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