The Chicks are absolutely thrilled to have fab and funny author pal Catriona McPherson back for another visit to the coop! Scot in a Trap, the fifth book in Catriona’s darkly humorous Last Ditch Mystery series, is out this week. Grab a copy for the holidays and an extra copy to put under the tree for your favorite reader friend. Today, Catriona talks about rules that should be adopted for potlucks and other communal eating occasions.
Have you finished all your Thanksgiving leftovers yet? Or are there still some safely tucked away in the freezer? Even recklessly tucked away in the fridge? Hopefully, not insanely lying around at ambient temperatures, but you do you.
SCOT IN A TRAP opens on Thanksgiving morning and while the plot is murder and the subplot is #MeToo, the sub-sub-plot is definitely leftovers.
I love leftovers. So, it was a sad day in my new country when I found that, here in California at least, when you bring something to a potluck and it doesn’t get finished, you take it home again! How did I find out? I eyed up a cheese ball (What can I say? My friends are classy) I was too full to even think about. “That’s lunch for the week sorted,” I said to myself. Then, at the end of the night, I saw the cheese-ball-bearer re-Tupperwaring it and slipping it into her bag. Eh?
Next potluck, I got sneaky. I carved off a hunk of . . . I think it was paté with some kind of berry topping . . . and hid it in a cupboard. Unfortunately, my dad found it when he was doing the dishes and thought some party guest had dumped it there because they didn’t like it and didn’t want to offend whoever had made it. So he helpfully hoyed it into the bin.
For these reasons and more, my first rule for sharing food is
1. She who folds the guest towels gets the leftovers.
Rule 2 is also about potlucks. They’re a great invention, in their own way. You can feed twenty people without breaking the bank or the spirit. But! There are always some sneaky freeloaders, aren’t there? There’s always someone who brings a bag of Doritos and eats seven pieces of fried chicken. There’s always someone who brings cheese and crackers and eats three slices of Black Forest gateau. Shame on them:
2. Thou shalt not eat anything nicer than your thing.
Is this practical? Would it start an arms races ending up with everyone bringing lobster? Oh no, what a tragedy that would be. Finally, on the subject of potlucks, I’ve had the experience of planning and executing a dinner party for ten people, where the word “potluck” appeared nowhere in the initial invitation or subsequent exchanges and yet opening the front door to greet a guest with a foil covered tray who – get this –changed the temperature setting of my oven to finish off her dish. And took the leftovers home.
3. Menus must be respected.
Next, sharing food in restaurants. I’m not even going to talk about tapas, that triumph of passive aggression. God, I hate tapas. If there are six of you they bring five things, if there are five they bringfour. I’ve never been out for tapas in my life and not wanted to stop for fish and chips on the way home. No, I’m talking about an ordinary restaurant – Chinese, Thai, Indian, Jamaican, Ethiopian –where a group of friends or colleagues might gather for sustenance. There are menus – starters and mains / appetizers and entrées – and no need for any trouble. Until that one person – and there always is one – utters these words: “Let’s order for the table and eat family style, shall we?” It should work. You should be able to order enough yummy stuff for everyone. People, it never works. It never works because the person who suggests it only suggests it because they A. are pretending to eat healthily and believe that the lamb pasanda they swallow is calorie-free as long as they didn’t order it or B. always wanted to try curry goat but suspect they won’t like it. So:
4. Order what you eat and eat what your order.
I’m going to end on a happy note. For a decade, I was in a pub quiz team that met once a month in an Irish pub and argued about the length of rivers and the highest grossing movie of 1990. Then the pub closed down and the quiz went online. So, we decided to meet in one another’s houses once a month to eat, drink and argue instead. There was just one rule:
5. No fuss; no cleaning.
We stick to it. We order pizza and buy ice-cream and there are no guest towels involved. It’s heaven. (And six people can’t finish two giant pizzas; so the host’s lunch is all set for the next day.) What food-sharing rules would you add – or subtract – from these, Chicks? I’m open to reason except on tapas.
Catriona McPherson (she/her) was born in Scotland and immigrated to the US in 2010. She writes: preposterous 1930s detective stories, set in the old country and featuring an aristocratic sleuth; modern comedies set in the Last Ditch Motel in fictional (yeah, sure) California; and, darker than both of those (which is not difficult), a strand of contemporary psychological thrillers.
Her books have won or been shortlisted for the Edgar, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Lefty, the Macavity, the Mary Higgins Clark award and the UK Ellery Queen Dagger. She has just introduced a fresh character in IN PLACE OF FEAR, which finally marries her love of historicals with her own working-class roots, but right now, she’s writing the sixth book in what was supposed to be the Last Ditch trilogy.
Catriona is a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime. www.catrionamcpherson.com
So, do you have a go-to dish for potluck invitations? Do you prefer to meet-up at restaurants? Do you agree with Catriona’s food sharing rules? Share in the comments.