Whenever I am asked to bring something to an afternoon or morning tea or suchlike, I have a theory about what it is best to take. This is born out of hard-won experience, and a bit of guesswork, and by way of justification for actually being quite lazy.
We all know I can't bake for toffee. I can't follow recipes. It is kind of depressing. It pretty much rules out making an amazing chocolate cake, or ginger slice, or cheesecake. It's just as well I have a couple of old standbys that always seem to hit the mark and make people think I am better at cooking than I am.
On Sunday I went to my good buddy SG's little boy's third birthday party. The brief was to bring a plate - something to share, and something that the kids might eat too. And there was even a request for one of my go-to dishes. Which is just as well really, 'cos if it had been for a carrot cake, I'd have been screwed...
A while ago I wrote this about one of my favourite southern party bites - the cheese roll, or Southland sushi. I made a bit of a bastardised, hybridised version with some leftover cheese sauce. It was pretty good, regardless, but this time it was time to get back to the "classic" style.
The hilarious thing is that for people who didn't grow up with them, they are a bit of a revelation - they are quite delicious. I made the classic onion soup/reduced cream dip, mixed in a little grated cheddar, and spread it on pieces of sandwich-sliced white bread with the crusts removed, and rolled 'em up. I sprinkled a little more cheese over the top (you can never have too much cheese), cut them down to bite size (hey, it's a kids' party!), brushed with some butter, and chucked them in the oven.
I thought I would also make my other staple - egg sandwiches. Little triangles of mashed boiled egg, chopped parsley and mayo with some cress, or rocket, or, in this case, sprouts for a little peppery kick. So, so simple - plenty of seasoning, and laid out on a big white platter.
Look, here's the thing - I just don't reckon it is worth getting yourself in a flap trying to make something to blow everyone away when basic, hearty tucker like this is always so well received. And I reckon there are a few distinct reasons why this is.
First, most people, apart from raging gutses like me, are only going to eat a couple of things. They will not eat more than one sweet thing, two at the most. If you do savoury things like the egg sarnies and cheese rolls, people convince themselves that they can have a few of these - that it is sort of more like "proper" food - less "treat-y", even though my plates have heaps of cheese, and heaps of mayo, respectively.
Second, these are familiar things that people associate with these "bring a plate" kind of events. I reckon if you give them just a bit of a zhuzh, they really hit the spot - bit of extra cheese on and in the rolls, peppery sprouts in the sandwiches. Whammo!
And third, it means that even if the rest of the spread is ropey savouries and ghastly salmon things, there will at least be something there that I like to eat.
Not that this was the case at this three-year-old's party - ginger loaf (I love ginger loaf!), profiteroles, and a chocolate mud cake. All excellent afters to follow through with after an egg sandwich (or three), or a cheese roll (or four)...
So - how bout it? What is your go-to dish when you are asked to bring a plate? What do you make if you are trying to impress, and what do you like to see at these kind of events? And what do you go for by preference, and in what order?
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