For a long time now I have been thinking about writing an essay on the decline of entertaining in one’s home. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I feel like Paul and I (and a few treasured others) are the only ones doing it anymore with regularity. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining; I get it – entertaining at home can be hard work that’s not for everyone. Just the work involved in getting the house ready is daunting, and that is before you even set foot in the kitchen. Nevertheless, sit down dinners have been the road most traveled for us in part because we like having complete control, and we won’t have to worry about something awful showing up on our buffet table. But sit down dinners are a lot of work, and lately, I find my mind drifting toward the uncharted territory of the potluck party that somewhere along the line I swore off…then along comes this book, Modern Potluck.
I will never forget my last potluck party. It was a television viewing party, and it was such a long time ago, I don’t even remember what we were viewing. What I do remember was a small group of 10 or so and a dinner spread that consisted of three potato salads and two trays of deviled eggs. Fortunately, there were a couple of original thinkers in the group (I wasn’t one of them) that provided a couple of welcome variations on the potato and egg theme. That’s when I learned that potlucks required planning and can be fraught with disaster, and I swore them off. If you have ever experienced potluck failure, or if you are just looking to hone your potluck prowess, this book is just the resource you’ll need for pulling it all together.
In Modern Potluck, author Kristin Donnelly walks us through the many aspects of putting together a potluck party. Everything from planning, adopting a theme, and making sure the menu is diverse is covered thoroughly and succinctly. Modern Potluck is not only useful if you are having a potluck; it is also an excellent guide if you are going to one. The book covers topics like food safety, portion size, and transportation. A comprehensive list of Potluck Rules is laid out for organizers as well as guests, making it a perfect book for party givers as well as partygoers. If you are an entertaining masochist like me and prefer to do all the cooking yourself, you are also in luck. In addition to all the hosting tips, Modern Potluck contains many recipes that are ‘party-friendly’ and geared towards entertaining (if doing it all without help is your thing). I think you will also find, as I did, that many recipes are ideal for simple family meals. The recipes have an ease of preparation that would make them perfect for a weeknight dinner. Ease of preparation and emphasis on fresh ingredients are two factors that define Modern Cuisine. Just as these factors help to define Modern Cuisine, the picture on the cover of Modern Potluck and the beautiful photography throughout the book, illustrate it perfectly. But just what is Modern Cuisine? I guess it means many things depending on whom you talk to, but the author explains it best:
“During the past decade or so, there has been a shift in the way many Americans eat. People are adding far more vegetables and other plant-based foods to their plates. They’re seeking out meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised sustainably. They’re also more open to ingredients from around the world like the North African spice paste called harissa and the funky Southeast Asian fish sauce. The “modern” in this book’s title addresses all these factors—including that we’re more adventurous than ever about our food, but in some ways also more restrictive.”
It is this spirit and approach that appeals to me the most about the recipes in this book. Finding something original that travels well is challenging when thinking about deciding what to take to a potluck, and this book is full of great ideas. Who wants to show up at a potluck with the same old dishes that people have been bringing to potlucks since day one? If you enjoy classic potluck staples like ‘Seven Layer Salad’, and ‘Deviled Eggs’ you will love the updated treatment they receive and the fresh, modern sensibility. The recipes in this book also include many gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian offerings that are very appealing, especially when you are not sure what dietary restrictions your fellow party revelers may have.
Modern Potluck is concise, complete, and packed with great food, beautiful photography, and helpful tips. It is a must have for anyone who likes to entertain or be entertained. I fully expect to visit this book frequently as I try to take some of the pressure off myself and start letting my guests help out with the cooking.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.