Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dinner on the Ground Diaries

Children have more taste buds than adults.  Did you know this?  This information makes me want to rewind to 1984, to Houston, Texas.  I would rewind to a scene of a Sunday afternoon, standing in a musty fellowship hall, staring at rows of tables covered with olive green and burnt orange Pyrex bakeware.  More than once, I got the motherly arm grab for turning up my nose at something that didn't look appetizing.  You know the grab.  The one that makes you want to yell "Ouch! That hurt!", but you know better than to yell that because you did it once and it didn't work out so well for you.  But if I could rewind to 1984, I would tell my mother about the taste bud thing because I feel certain that we didn't have such information back then.  Truthfully, I think I would tell the old ladies in our church first.  My mother was a great cook.  The old ladies?  Not so much.  Tuna casserole, broccoli and cheese casserole, green bean casserole, enchilada casserole.  Enough casserole to feed an army.  Or a Baptist church. 

In the South, we called this "Dinner on the Ground", not "Grounds", although I am certain we were just mispronouncing it.  In 1984 it made sense to me.  Sometimes, when there were not enough tables and chairs, I would get together with my siblings and friends and go outside and we would sit on the ground, working hard to keep our macaroni and cheese and fried chicken legs on the flimsy paper plate that we balanced on our knees.  Everywhere else in the United States, though, people were calling these events Potluck Dinners.  The concept was and is the same, though.  Jell-o salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, and the aforementioned plethora of casseroles.  

For the most part, I hated these dinners.  Hated.  Sometimes, though, I would get lucky.  Sometimes a nice church member would consider my childlike taste buds, and they would bring macaroni and cheese.  Not the homemade kind with the cold, curdle-y, lumpy cheese.  Ugh.  Even now that makes me gag a little.  Nope, I wanted the kind with the fake cheese.  It was smooth, creamy, cheesy, and unnaturally orange, and I loved it.  Of course, there was also the dessert table.  I always passed up the weird green jell-o salad that looked delicious and marshmallowy but was filled with pistachios.  I passed up anything covered with fruit.  I went straight for the chocolate.  Chocolate chip cookies, brownies, chocolate cake.  And the best part?  My parents were never watching to see how much of my dinner I ate or how much dessert I consumed.  

This blog will be like those dinners.  Some days it will be cold green bean casserole and some days it might be chocolate pie with extra meringue, if you're into that sort of thing (and I am).  Some days you might get tired of the casseroles and you might bring your own suggestion to the table, or you might throw in some comments to get the conversation started another direction.  That's just fine.  We are family here.  The up side is, you will never find a hair in the food.  You will never have to worry about whether or not I licked the spoon while cooking.  I almost always do.  And you will never have to ask the person standing in line next to you "Who made this?", regarding a particularly unappealing dish.  But if today is a cold tuna casserole day, just promise that you will come back tomorrow.  Tomorrow might be better.  It might be store bought.  It might be Kraft cheese and macaroni.


  1. I love this. I love the vividness: "rows of olive green and burnt orange Pyrex...." I love the picture. And seriously, the little curtseys you take at the ends of these--"It might be Kraft Cheese & Macaroni"--are just so elegant and so darned cute, I am completely charmed. Not that I wasn't already.

    1. I have to say that I laughed reading this name. It's still funny two years and many changes later.

  2. I think I may need a new pair of glasses, because my eyes were crossing as I was trying to focus while reading. :-) Yep, I remember Potluck Dinners. I remember my mom making icky green bean casserole (which, oddly enough, I LOVED as a kid, but HATE now), tuna casserole (with peas on the side...canned peas...YUCK and DOUBLE YUCK), etc. The Jello salads I could usually deal with, but like you, I tended to follow the commands of the chocolate chip cookies and the cakes.

  3. I hate these "dinners" as much now as when I was a kid. Perhaps more now as I've come to understand that just because someone looks nice and clean at church doesn't mean that their home doesn't resemble the inside of a dumpster. I particularly avoid anyone's "offering" that I know has pets. Pets are dirty little creatures and who's to say that little "pooky" didn't get to lick the spoon or that good ole "Sister Bertha Better Than You" didn't pet "pooky" or pick up after one of her "accidents" and go right back to hand mixing that meatloaf.

    Potluck dinners are just that, potluck. I've never been that lucky and having a heaping helping of someone's covered dish cheesy surprise isn't going to change that.



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