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Kirby: Can I trust you enough to eat your potluck?

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published May 22 2012 11:23 am • Last Updated May 22 2012 09:11 pm

The first time I heard the word "potluck" was as a kid being dragged to a church supper by a pair of slavers. Over the howling, my parents promised I would like it. There would be food.

I wasn’t impressed. I’d been lied to about church before. A lot. I argued that if church food was anything like church preaching, they should show a little mercy and just kill me now.

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The old man readily agreed. He was in the process of pulling the car over when my mother intervened. She said I would like the food. It was nutritious and well prepared.

Because I’d heard the same thing said about liver and cabbage, I wasn’t at all relieved. Further investigation was necessary.

Me: "What kind of food will there be?"

Mom: "We don’t know. It’s potluck."

Two images immediately appeared in my 10-year-old head. One was a toilet bowl, the other a kettle regularly used by cannibals to cook and eat Christian missionaries.

Since either of these would be worth seeing in use at a church dinner, I happily shut up and went along with it.

I won’t bore you with the extent of my disappointment. The food at this particular potluck may have been nutritious, but it looked awful. I ate as little as possible of the following:

Hot dog and potato casserole.

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Gelatin salads resembling bell jar specimens.

Something … boiled?

No liver, though. Certain things simply won’t be tolerated in any house of worship.

Since then, I have eaten many a potluck meal. Some of them were heavy on pot and decidedly light on luck.

The best one was in the Army, when my squad pooled what we had for a final meal in the field. Everything was culled from the remnants of our C-rations.

Two cans of turkey loaf, one can each of fruit cocktail and peanut butter and a package of hot chocolate mix stirred together in a helmet went well on cracker pieces. It’s amazing what hunger and Tabasco sauce can fix.

Note: OK, that was slightly embellished. It sounds better than the truth, which was that we brawled furiously over some grape jelly and two Chesterfields.

The worst potluck meal — which is absolutely true — was a ward supper where everyone complimented the person who brought a nice macaroni-tuna salad, the principal ingredient of which turned out to be Utah Lake carp.

Judging from the reaction — the bishop’s wife couldn’t stop retching — that’s not something you want to find out in the middle of eating it.

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