I am so obsessed with food I formed a victual society. It’s called Potluck Challenge. We meet every couple of months in my home, and about twenty challengers gather each time. There is not usually marijuana in the food, but most attendees love to imbibe before, during, and after dinner.
We ask challengers to bring approximately twenty mouthfuls of their dish—just enough for everyone to try a sample but not eat it as a meal. When they arrive, a butler takes their dish, gives it a number, and writes out the ingredients list so each contribution remains anonymous. We want to vote on the dish, not its maker. It is not a perfect system, but we try our best to keep who made what a secret.
We also suggest tipping the butler because they end up doing most of the work. The butler is simply a volunteer who serves and cleans up for dinner and tips. The loser is supposed to do the dishes, but one cannot trust them to do a good job.
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How It Works
Once everyone arrives, all the samples get laid out and we commence to tasting each dish. When dinner is finished, every challenger gets to vote off the dish they liked the least. Whichever dish gets the most votes loses. There can be only one loser, and there is no winner.
It is the best potluck you’ll ever attend in your life.
Also, it turns out nobody cares that much about winning, but everybody cares that much about losing. In that way, Potluck Challenge is a metaphor for life. Few people are motivated to win; most people succeed at life because they are terrified to lose at it.
Case in point: my Grade 6 track and field event. My strength was shorter sprints. Anything longer than two hundred meters and I was winded. During tryouts, however, I was forced to participate in an 800-meter race.
The other runners and I were staggered on a round track to equal out the distances. Positioned directly behind me was my arch enemy, Karen Larsen. I think I hated her because she was always wearing new and fashionable clothing to school, and I only ever wore out-of-date, hand-me-down clothes from my sisters. In hindsight, that year had been particularly sparse because my sisters had recently turned 16 and 17 years old, stopped growing, and started smoking cigarettes.
That year, I wore a pair of hand-me-down jeans with long zippers that started on the side near the hip and zipped all the way down to the hem. I could zip them up to make them tighter or zip them down to make them looser. At the beginning of Grade 6, those zippers were all the way up to the hip. At the end of the year, they were all the way down to the hem.
My oldest sister, Lissi, started laughing at me over breakfast one morning. She said I “always wore the same thing” and that she thought I was “gross.”
“These are the only pair of pants I have,” I protested.
Everyone had a good laugh around the table at my expense. My family was rough that way. We were all stiff upper lip and no mambi pambi. My mother, waving her spatula around, demanded to know why I didn’t ask for a new pair of pants. I shrugged my shoulders. I was the youngest of four kids; I had never asked my parents for clothes before. Shoes and clothes, always used, just magically appeared in my bedroom. I didn’t even know you could ask for new clothes. Being a kid is weird that way.
“You can’t be brave if you’ve only ever had wonderful things happen to you.” - Mary Tyler Moore
So, back to the 800-meter tryouts, where Karen Larsen was situated behind me in her fancy new track suit. I, mortified, was in faded and stretched out Adidas shorts.
The gun went off and I started running faster then I had ever run before. There was no way this preppy bitch was going to beat me. Winning wasn’t even close to my goal. Not losing to Karen Larsen was my ONLY goal. Normally, I would peter out after two hundred meters, but not this time. When I heard her deep breaths catching up behind me, I ran even faster. I ran so hard I came in third place out of eight.
I turned around to toss a victory glance at my nemesis, but she and her matching track suit were nowhere in sight. Instead, there was Janie Johnson saying, “Holy shit Dunsdon, you never ran so fast!”
That year, I ran the 800-meter relay in our provincial-level track and field meet. I lost.
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What does sixth-grade track and field have to do with potluck parties? Everything. I learned a valuable lesson that day: winning isn’t the point; not losing is. I didn’t want to beat Karen; I only didn’t want to lose. It was the greatest motivator.
Potluck challenge wasn’t created because I had been to a bunch of great potlucks. It was designed because I’d been to a bunch of shitty ones.
Delicious food in a restaurant didn’t inspire me to cook at home. Mediocre food did.
Similarly, when I challenged the courts over my gingersnap cookies, it wasn’t to prove I was right. It was to avoid being proven wrong and labeled a criminal. My run for city councilor was not because I was happy about the city and how it was being run. I ran because I was pissed off with our current leadership, or lack thereof.
Thanks, Karen Larsen.
All bad things can become good, if you let them. So, when life gives you lemons, make these amazing Lemon MeReggae Tarts.
Lemon MeReggae Tarts
Makes 12 tarts
- 12 tart shells
- 6 grams shake flour
- 3 tbsp butter, divided
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Bake tart shells at 350˚F until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
- Sauté shake flour and 1 tbsp of butter on medium heat for two minutes. Then, add remaining ingredients and whisk together until smooth.
- Still on medium heat, stir mixture constantly until it thickens.
- Turn off heat and add 2 tbsp of butter. Let butter slowly melt into mixture.
- Pour mixture into baked tart shells and let cool.
Meringue Topping Recipe
- 2 egg whites
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 4 tbsp white sugar
- Beat egg whites on high.
- As you beat eggs, add the vanilla and cream of tartar first. Then, add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until very stiff peaks appear.
- Top your cooled tarts with the meringue topping and bake at 350˚F for six minutes or until the meringue is a light golden brown.