It all comes down to brownies and pasta salad

So tomorrow (and Friday) I’ll be participating in that most popular of office and workplace traditions for social gatherings, holidays, retirements, etc.: The Potluck. Yes, I feel this warrants capitalization. Because, as a modern woman working in a modern workplace in the “Real World,” I’ve whipped up a few dishes for potlucks at both of my two jobs this past year. My mom told me last summer that I didn’t really look all workplace official until she saw me in my “business casual” pinstripe slacks and heels, carrying a wrapped dish on an orange tray out the door.

Let me go on the record as stating that I have no problem whatsoever with potlucks. For those of you who may not be savvy to what, exactly, a “potluck” is, basically it’s where all of your friends and co-workers bring in a dish to share for a “banquet”-style luncheon. Or dinner, I suppose, if you’re at work that late (I’m not, I assure you). Usually around my office we have potlucks for co-workers who have taken new positions and are leaving the company — to retire, to commute downtown, wherever. And they’re usually nice affairs complete with fried chicken, potato salad and more than enough dessert to give everyone the requisite sugar rush to make it through the 3 o’clock doldrums.

No, my problem is not with the potluck as a whole. My problem is more like what to actually make for the potluck. Though I’ve lived 23 years and should probably know far more about cooking than I actually do, I typically stick with the easiest route imaginable: I bring dessert. Everyone loves dessert. Brownies, cookies, pies, cake — anything will suffice. And the best part is that you typically don’t have to drag home all the leftover, combed through food at the end of the work day — because there is none. Your co-workers will devour it ravenously and without provocation. Make sure you still have all of your fingers after you walk away from that dessert table — especially after everyone around the office drifts back for seconds (maybe when they think no one else is looking).



But what do when the old failsafe no longer applies? At my office and the bookstore where I work, I’m usually the Brownie Girl. I absolutely love brownies. I mean, what’s not to love? Layers and layers of chocolate, sometimes still warm from the oven… and there are plenty of them. I make two pans for potlucks. And my friend Kelly makes me give her one before I even set them out in the conference room.

Sometimes, though, my brownies are not needed. Dessert positions have already been assigned. Several co-workers are bringing cookies, several more bringing cakes. Brownies are an unwanted addition. Brownies are just a little bit too much. We need entrees, my co-workers tell me. Beef. Chicken. Side dishes. Potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese.

And this is where the back-up potluck dish comes in — yes, I break out the pasta salad. And not just store-bought pasta salad, either (though that is quite delicious). I get the Salad Express type, where you boil the noodles, mix up the seasoning and mayo and other deliciousness, then whip it all together and allow to chill. Even I, with my nonexistent culinary experience, find pasta salad difficult to mess up. That goes double for brownies — they’re easy and everyone loves them.

I have a farewell potluck tomorrow afternoon (brownies) and a dinner potluck at my bookstore Friday night (pasta salad). If I really want to go crazy, I might bring brownies to the bookstore potluck, too.

Why mess with success?

*Brownie photo from Flickr. Thanks! 🙂