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Choosing a potluck dish is harder than cooking it

A potluck is perhaps the greatest thing ever invented for a broke college kid. The concept is simple: In exchange for bringing one food item to feed a group, you get to eat a variety of foods from everyone else.

When the first potluck of the year came up, I knew I was going to make something spectacular, but I wasn’t quite sure what. I wanted to wow everyone with my cooking skills and make everyone come to me asking for the recipe. I just wasn’t quite sure what it should be.

I looked at what other people were bringing and realized I had some competition. There were fruit salads, macaroni and cheese, taco dip, lasagna, buffalo chicken dip and so much more. I knew whatever I brought, I would have to push my cooking skills to the next level.

When I was younger, I always brought things like cups, napkins or plates to potlucks. I wanted this time to be different. I wanted people to beg me to make the dish again and again.

I went crazy trying to think of things I could possibly make: a decorated cake, stuffed shells, deviled eggs or anything wrapped in bacon. Those things just didn’t seem right.

The day before the potluck arrived, and time was running out for me to make something. I decided to look through my fridge for inspiration. That proved to be very unhelpful. The freezer had half a bag of pizza rolls and two trays of ice cubes. The fridge had eggs, shredded cheese and questionable milk. The cupboards had slightly more food, but not much. I had rice, potatoes, pancake mix and crackers. After realizing that the right ingredients were not going to be in my apartment, I headed to the place that is becoming my second home: Wal-Mart.

As easily distracted as I am, I went to the $5 movies and sifted through them before remembering the original purpose of the trip. I went to the baking aisle, figuring I would look at a box of something delicious and go with that. I picked up my favorite type of cake, Funfetti, but put it back after realizing I didn’t really want to frost it. I thought about bringing Jell-O or pudding, but I’m not a big fan of either of those.

I was ready to give up and just bring a bag of chips and dip when I spotted it: the haven of all quick dinners, appetizers and desserts –– the frozen food aisle.

Calling my name was my new best friend, the Sara Lee pies. I grabbed an apple pie, checked out and headed for home.

I knew the whole point of this was for me to actually make something from scratch, but I was running out of time and caring less and less. Instead I chose to make it look like I made it from scratch. After throwing the pie in the oven and taking it out after an hour I had to add a personal touch. I covered it in foil, automatically making it look like I made it at home. I added a few comments along the lines of, “I sure hope it tastes good, it was my first time making it.”

The hard part came when people started asking me questions about what I brought. Thankfully, there were no questions about what ingredients I used. Just the typical “Did you make this?” to which I quickly answered, “Yes, I did.”

Whether they think I meant from scratch is completely up to their interpretation of the question.

As far as the success of the pie, I would say it was a hit. People may not have been clawing me for the secret ingredient, but there wasn’t a single piece left.

Mesha Baylis-Blalock  is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post.  Can you make a pie from scratch?

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