The South isn't unique when it comes to basing the majority of our social gatherings around food. We eat food when we are happy at Christmas, we eat food when we are sad at funerals and we eat food everywhere in between. Nothing else will cause us to get off the couch, out of church, home from work or off the beach faster than the promise of food. The more kinds of food, the better. That brings us around to the topic of potluck dinners.
Contrary to popular belief, potluck dinners tend to turn out better when they aren't organized. I suppose that a hapless "Head of the Committee" type who tends to helm shindigs such as potlucks could try to achieve some sort of order by declaring a theme or assigning different dishes to people, but they will more than likely end up repeatedly banging their head against a wall.
The main reason for the above referenced futility is that everyone has "a dish." Mabel is famous for her hash brown casserole and, not wanting to disappoint her real or imaginary fans, Mabel always takes her hash brown casserole to dinners. Always. You can sign her up to bring a 7 layer salad until hell freezes over and she will still bring her casserole, thank you very much.
Yes, even the most carefully and diligently planned suppers tend to sport potatoes made about 23 different ways, 485 deviled eggs, salads containing every shape of pasta known to man, some kind of mystery shit that is an un natural color and appears to have marshmallows in it, 15 different congealed salads, a pure tee massacre of fried chickens, several trays of ham and biscuits and for the health/fiber conscious: One pot of green beans or butter beans swimming around in enough lard to launch a ship from shore.
Not unlike funeral grub, potlucks can spawn some fierce competition. Every Southern Belle strives for perfection and some Belles are a little more...zealous...than others. I am sorry to say that, from time to time, I have witnessed some very un-Belle behavior in the sisterhood.
The first method of Potluck Combat is probably the most obvious: Table control. Sure, a Belle is certainly welcome to drop off her her cucumber sandwiches and go off to mingle and be sociable, but she's more than likely "not from around here" if she does. If said Belle was "from around here," she would know that--if she wants anyone to taste her cucumber goodies--she needs to keep a hawk eye on the self appointed head of the kitchen: Gladys.
The plan is diabolical in its simplicity. Someone has to make sure that everything runs smoothly at the grazing trough. Heaven forfend that there aren't enough napkins and spoons! (Sigh. Back of the hand to the forehead) Gladys will throw herself in front of the bus/take one for the team and subject herself to the kitchen while everyone else gets to go off and have fun. St. Gladys of the Jello Molds.
If Gladys is really aggressive in her Queen of the Kitchen status, she will commando raid a Belle before the poor thing can even make it halfway to the kitchen. Gladys will take the Belle's covered dish from her and fly back to the kitchen where it may or may not make it to the table. Depending on how another's food competes with or compares to Gladys' recipe, food will either make it to the table, experience a brief five minutes of exposure on the table (just long enough to say it was out) or will never see the light of day.
Of course, there are more subversive ways to operate within the potluck web. Someone could always have an "accident" and drop the tray while scurrying to and fro, but I need to give you one critical caveat with regard to this method: Food "accidents" only happen in non-breakable containers. The tin or aluminum trays that are purchased for one-time use (or washed and pressed into service yet again) are easily sacrified to the tile floor, but if you drop Pyrex, Corningware, Tupperware or the belated Grandma Milton's best casserole dish, I can assure you that said "accident" will be your very last act upon this earth.
On occassion, a Southern Belle comes along who is so gifted at recon and subversion that she has the ability to delegate to minions. Control Belle is dying to know how her cheese noodle casserole holds up against the one Edna Collins brought, but it would be a cold day in hell before she's caught actually nipping a little spoonful.
Accordingly, Control Belle's husband is snatched from the corner and pressed into service by walking innocently around the potluck table, spooning little bits and bites onto his plate under the watchful eye of his wife. Theoretically, Husband tastes the food and reports to his wife, but I would argue to you that a husband required to do that sort of work would never report to his wife that anything, anything tastes better than his own wife's food. She knows where he sleeps.
My take on the situation is that, if someone wants to do all of the work--regardless of whether or not it is for their own purpose--I'm certainly not going to stand in the way. Besides, seeing as I hate mayonnaise and bacon and--as those items are a major components of Southern food groups--I already know that folks aren't going to be crawling all over themselves to get to what I brought anyway. So, knock yourself out, Gladys. Please.