So besides Christmas music and holiday movies, the virtues of both I extolled in my last column, one of the other things I love about the holidays is the holiday potluck.
A good Midwestern girl, I love a good potluck. The best potlucks are those where there's a good mix of ages, genders and cultures, but I have to say women of a certain age make the best potluck dishes. They're the ones who haul in the crock pot for their fabulous meatballs or legendary crab dip, grabbing the primo spot on the buffet table. Don't dare move it; they earned that spot, darn it. Work around them.
These women usually have a cache of casseroles in their potluck repertoire but tend to have a signature dish that they've perfected over decades' worth of gatherings. My mother-in-law, for instance, passed down her recipe for Sausage Slices in Mustard that my husband and I have made 100 times if we've made it once for our work potlucks. Though she admits she got the recipe out of a magazine, it's still "Darlene Nordberg's Sausage Slices in Mustard." Ownership is based on where we got it, not where they got it, hence our recipe book is filled with entries of "Tina Mitchell's Ribbon Jell-o," "Judy Monticello's Reception Salad, "Sue Scanlan's Marinated Mushrooms" and "Ramona Backman's Cheesy Wild Rice Soup." Ramona and I both know she passed on the recipe from "Taste of Home" magazine, but to me, it reminds me of the first time we visited Ramona and her family on a cold winter's day at their house, then under construction, and I tried, without success, to teach Ramona to knit. I have made that soup many times, often for potlucks, and wonder whether Ramona ever found a better knitting teacher.