Toronto
3 min

Hummus is taboo

ELENA EMBRIONI AND JAKE ROY. Bring to a boil. Credit: Image by Paula Wilson

Winter, she is here, beknighting us with frozen foreheads, shrunken lungs and the most fruitful potluck season of the year. Where can’t you take a pan of potato pancakes or pancetta?



There’s the drunken office party, the non-profit get-together, school functions in the milky cafeteria and the big mama bonanza of them all: The Lesbian Potluck.



This ritual carries the most weight for me because a) I’m a dyke, b) Like many other dykes, my pal is poverty and c) I might stand a chance of getting some tail if I bring a randy rum cake.



The history of lesbian potlucks rises from necessity. It stems from ideas like the Native American pot latch or urban raise-the-rent parties; it’s an economically viable method that provides cheap and filling substance and builds social ties.



We’ve used potlucks as an addition – and sometimes exemption – to meeting in smoky bars where alcohol is the main focus. Although the premise of the potluck remains unchanged, there have been waves of evolution that effect what and why we bring what we do.



Sport dykes are almost always on the barbecue tip. Burgers and dogs (beef and bean curd), potato salad, baked beans and lots of beer and iced bevs. Not very different from a mainstream tailgate party, except that girl with a mean sidearm gets to go home with the star forward who sports a sequined jog bra.



It’s high carbs and proteins to replace the ones that have been depleted in the day’s activities and allows the camaraderie to continue.



How about a backyard get together for some ladies in Austin, Texas? Lots of barbecue here, too, but one might find a sweet selection of Jell-o molds, homemade lemonades and iced teas, fried chicken and secret recipes from the family name.



There is an equal emphasis placed on food and social fodder because of the laid back environment of such a town. Jet-set to Toronto where space is more of an issue and a great mix of different cultures intersect.



A smaller get-together for sure, and a variety of dishes that live in the TO environment.



Then onto Paris, where the potluck isn’t as prominent as in North America. The bulk of the meal is prepared by the hostess and side-dishes are mere emphasis, but still a token of good will.



In the plague years of Affluenza, we are bombarded with cooking shows and recipe CD-ROMs and Martha Stewart is a local hero and certified freak.



There is an increasing pressure to perform and steer away from the traditional fare, which at lesbian potlucks has fallen into the category of The Unmentionables: Any container of hummus, crappy baguettes, baby carrots, pita bread, chips and generic salsa, and hard domestic brie.



If one puts her ear to the ground, she can hear lezzies scrambling for cookbooks bought on-line or rushing to the latest specialty food shop to purchase a delectable dish that will allow a greater focus on the socializing, rather than the status of our untouched tin pan.



Amidst the panic, though, are still factors that prohibit all to go as smoothly as we’d like.



Let’s say you’re in a partnership where one of you does the majority of the cooking. Butch or femme, we are still women who do the brunt of the world’s work, and it may be easier to buy something instead of crumpling under domestic pressure.



But what if you don’t have a job, or have a shitty paying one? Is there a way to compensate for the lack of preparation through purchase? Some can get away with it, by having a certain knack of how to shop thriftily without sacrificing presentation. Some don’t care, and they are usually the ones who bring The Unmentionables. But I am telling you, ladies, if one of these exhausted items hits the buffet table, you better have some outstanding charm and flirting capabilities, because the girlies are taking note.



Simple solutions include sharing the cost of creating a large entree with a friend; lasagna is staging a comeback. Choose an effortless item, like a beverage, and spruce it up with some fruit zest or give everybody a paper umbrella (purchased at the dollar store) with their drink. Even a dessert of a 99 cent mango in a 99 cent pot of sticky rice can elevate your status from lass to Lady Fancypants.



Mind you, not all of the responsibility should fall entirely on the guest. The hostess has an equal duty to coordinate the affair by giving direction. Allow room for diversity: More if you can, less if you can’t.



In queer culture, themes are innate; take a tip from our fag brothers and create some universality with motif. There are plenty of foods of cultural capital: A Southwestern gala complete with spurs and wagon-train attire. Pick up a Raga album when they all arrive with raita and tandoori chicken. Doesn’t Viking food still exist?



So relax, dig your heels and know that the possibility to flow with the feast exists.