Yesterday was the third biannual Gathering of the Tribes here in Austin. The aim of the event is to bring together the Austin veg community—social groups, activism groups, animal groups, the business community—for a meal and an exchange of ideas. I learned about so many great new businesses and opportunities (keep your eyes our for a new local vegan product at Wheatsville soon!) and met a lot of great people.
I made chicken-fried chickpea cutlets using the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon as the base. I’ll post the recipe later in the week. I also ran a raffle to raise money for Sunny Day Farms. Unfortunately, that meant I was one of the last people to get food. And this is what was left.
It would have been just the chips and salsas, but someone showed up late with the sushi just as I was grabbing my food.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of the right way to do a potluck.
- Bring something. Unless you walked in off the street, there is no excuse not to bring something.
- Moreover, bring something you’re excited to eat. That’s probably not fruit salad (though we do have a big healthy eating community here, so bring fruit salad if it floats your boat). It’s also not chips and salsa, especially not Pace Picante. And it’s probably not the same take out dishes we all get at Wheatsville or Whole Foods all the time. Don’t get me wrong. I like to eat all of these thing. But as a vegan community, a potluck is our opportunity to be surrounded by wonderful vegan food that we didn’t have to cook, excepting your own contribution.
- Bring enough food to feed a lot of people. If you could consume everything you bought by yourself, you haven’t brought enough. And if you’re coming as a couple, you have to bring twice as much food. You’re both eating, so you both have to contribute.
- Don’t take huge portions or seconds before everyone has had an opportunity to get food. People bring small portion sizes so that everyone will get to try a dish. That doesn’t work if you take five mini cupcakes.
- Help out. If it’s at someone’s house, help greet people or offer to clean up. If it’s at a park, help greet people, volunteer to man a table, and help clean up. Potlucks are a group effort, so if you’re not helping, you’re taking a free ride.
I can hear the excuses now. I heard them in person last night. You don’t cook. You can’t afford it. No excuses. You’re an adult, you’re capable of cooking. (I’ll be more lenient for any university students who don’t have access to a kitchen. You can bring fruit salad or popcorn tofu.)
- Learn to cook one thing really well. That’s your company/potluck dish. After you’ve made it several times, you’ll be able to do it quickly and expertly. Call it your signature dish.
- Cornbread: this recipe is super simple (and cheap). You can get the ingredients at any grocery store. Try not to stir too much, otherwise, it’s impossible to mess up.
- Garlic bread: again, it’s pretty hard to mess this up, and everyone loves garlic bread. It’s also a lot of food cheap.
- Seven layer dip: It’s a step up from salsa, but still doesn’t require a stove or oven.
- Nachos. Canned refried beans and chips are cheap. I like to add some salsa and a bit of cumin to the beans to spice them up and thin them out. Then just scoop a dollop of beans on each chip. Add some guacamole, vegan cheddar, chopped cilantro, chopped green onion, black olives, or pickled jalapenos as a garnish. Unless you use cheese, it doesn’t even need a trip through the oven.
- Buy phyllo cups. Fill them with something. Bake. Filling ideas: bean dip, chorizo, Wayfare cheese, tofu scramble, chickpea salad, fruit pie filling, chocolate pudding, sauteed mushrooms, or nuts and chocolate.
I know there’s a lot of cooking talent in our community, and I know that everyone gets busy sometimes. But remember that these events are only as good as we make them, and I know we can make an incredible potluck.