Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the shorter days and darker nights. Maybe it’s all the added pounds and our lowered self-esteems and our sudden, burning need for winter companionship (at least my mommy still loves me!). Whatever it is, something about this time of year makes the “big, festive group dinner” something of an inevitability – even when it’s shared with people we spend the rest of the year trying to avoid.
Kissing, chatting, mingling with coworkers and relatives you haven’t seen since birth – all unavoidable. But why add to the misery by throwing gross food into the mix?
Here’s a quick list of things we’re begging, begging, you not to bring along this Thanksgiving.
Don’t bring: Plates, cups and utensils
Do bring: Crock pots, heat lamps and/or chafing fuel
Yes, plates and cups and napkins and forks = necessary. Absolutely necessary. But don’t be that guy. Don’t be the guy who waits religiously for the annual party email so he can call dibs on the easiest and cheapest provision possible. Don’t be the guy who doesn’t have to spend the next few weeks scouring the web for recipes and the few hours before the party blowing up his kitchen just trying to make something edible. Everybody wants to be that guy. Fuck that guy.
If you insist on your inability to cook though, at least make yourself useful. Chances are the majority of guests are going to be bringing dishes that only taste good when warm, if then. Why not bring an easy way to keep hot foods from getting too cold, too soggy and too bacteria-infested too soon? Trust me, the company restroom will thank you for it later.
Don’t Bring: Macaroni Salad
Do Bring: Sriracha Macaroni Salad
This is just a quick example of a boring, overdone potluck staple made a million times better with a little innovation and some cock sauce. Plus the red livens up the normally ho-hum whites and yellows of the traditional salad, which might be enough to distract everyone from the bubbling mayo swamp your coworker just brought in. On second thought, you might wanna scoot your masterpiece a few inches over to the left, just to be safe.
Don’t Bring: A single bottle of super-fancy, super-expensive wine
Do Bring: Sangria – lots of it.
Here’s the thing: all the super-fancy, super-expensive stuff should be the host’s responsibility (or, if it’s a company dinner, the boss’s responsibility). Sure, it’s always nice to bring along a bottle of bubbly to be hospitable, but consider that more a personal gift to the hosts to thank them for inviting you and not leaving you to watch Walking Dead re-runs all night all by yourself.
When it comes to keeping the party guests happy though, there are really only two things you need: cheap booze, and lots of it. I’m not saying whip out the Jungle Juice (which, if you plan on being fashionably late, probably isn’t an entirely bad idea either), but a great way to get more bang for your boozy buck is to bury the good stuff with tons and tons of juice.
My recommendation is this awesome Spiced White Wine Sangria (which, if you’ve been worrying about the safety of your outfit, should sound absolutely brilliant about now). It’s white wine, club soda, fresh fruit, jalapeno peppers and cilantro, which could be a great way to break up the monotony of the spiced rums and ciders everyone else is planning on bringing. Summer booze in the winter, ftw.
Don’t Bring: Store-bought party trays
Do Bring: Something homemade
Now, I’m not asking you to make me a gourmet dinner . . . Okay I am but work with me here. After all, it is a special occasion. Put a little effort in.
I guarantee that at least one party you attend this next couple of months, the following will happen: someone, citing quantity over quality, will pick up a party tray with enough tasteless grub to feed a whole starving army. Anything from deli sandwiches to chicken buckets to cold pizza to grocery store sushi is fair game. And people will eat them. And people will not enjoy them. And people will resent you for taking up some (hopefully) very valuable gastrointestinal real estate, just because you brought something familiar that doesn’t look like it was pulled out of your Aunt Gertrude’s ass.
But come on, there are plenty of fast, easy recipes online and in bookstores and even here on Foodbeast, wouldya look at that, that there really isn’t any good excuse not to make something with at least a little more heart and flavor.
Don’t Bring: Sugar-free anything
Do Bring: Bourbon Bacon Marshmallow S’mores
Sugar-free desserts are the spawn of the devil and deserve to be gathered up, tossed under the chimney and burned. Here’s a much safer bet which combines three things that are definitive proof that God loves everyone, even the five-to-ten pounds-heavier versions of ourselves: chocolate, booze and bacon. After all, a holiday party is not the time to be worrying about your waistline. Can’t be hateful, gotta be grateful. We we we are gonna have a good time.