Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter, Pot Luck

If I have learned one thing from After Hours with Daniel Boulud, it's this: a great meal is one part great food and one part great company.

If you don't have Mojo TV, it is worth seeking out videos of After Hours. Boulud assembles a group of famous guests -- intellectuals, artists, actors -- for a meal in a famous restaurant. The show splits its time equally between the food and the guests' conversation.

Pot luck invitation

My After Hours moment was at lunch this Easter. My friend Linda invited me to a small pot luck lunch. Linda was hosting some special guests. Chicago jazzman Ken Vandermark was in town with the Dutch Ab Baars Trio.

I'm a huge fan of Vandermark. I have at least 25 of his CDs, including the prize of my CD collection -- a rare 12-disk live set in Poland. Saturday night was the first time Vandermark had ever played Houston.

I also heard a rumor that the local musician known as Jandek might show. Jandek is quite famous in underground circles. He has released over 40 albums since 1978. But until recently, his identity was so secret that no one had any idea who he was. There was even a movie speculating about who he might be.

I knew I had to go. And I knew I had to bring something appropriate for pot luck.

Something about pot luck

My memories of pot luck lunches come from lawns outside of Baptist churches in East Texas. Everyone brings a casserole. Almost all the food is overcooked, yet designed to please a crowd.

Pot luck is synonymous with surprise. You never know what kind of food is going to be served. Or how the combination will work together.
For these musicians from far away, I wanted to make something uniquely local. Linda asked me to bring something like potatoes. So I made two dishes.

The first was a recipe from the 1968 Junior League of Houston Cookbook. It was a casserole of thinly sliced potatoes, condensed milk, shredded cheddar and pickled pimientos and jalapenos. It was a cheesy dish in every sense of the word. It was quintessentially pot luck, and quintessentially Houston.

The second was a more modern dish - sauteed, shredded sweet potatoes tossed with tequila and lime. Unconsciously, I arranged the tequila-soaked limes in something of an Easter pattern.

Linda made a fantastic pot roast, greens, some fish dishes, and some very artistic cupcakes:

Pot luck isn't just food

I enjoyed talking with Ken, Ab, Jandek and all the other musicians.
But the best part of lunch was something interesting and spontaneous that happened as we finished eating. Sonia, a local musician, pulled out her double bass and started playing and singing. Ab joined on a Japanese flute.

Their impromptu improvisation was a surprise. It was an interaction of different creators coming together to make something -- something much greater as a whole than its individual parts.

Something that will never again be repeated in quite the same way -- just like a pot luck diner.


Anonymous said...

Hi! Just wanted to let you know that I featured this post here: http://www.29-95.com/music/story/jandek-just-everywhere.

I couldn't find your email address, but mine is sara@29-95.com if you want to tell me more about what sounds like a very interesting dinner party.


YoungHouston said...

Anything from a Houston Junior League Cookbook is sure to be a big hit (and "quintessentially Houston").

www.sillones.nom.es said...

Quite worthwhile piece of writing, lots of thanks for the article.

baster said...

By the way Boulud was also featured in the second season finale of the Canadian television program Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag, where his cookbook "Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City" was being tested
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