4 Rules To Bringing Black Food To The Office Potluck
In general, I work in a pretty good office. Everyone is invested in our company’s overall success over their own. People smile and say hi to you when you walk past them in the hallway. We even have a healthy mix of women, black folk, and other non-white male employees. I count those blessings every day. However, that doesn’t mean that I’ve escaped racial politics. I’m not so naive to believe that I go to a utopian world every day where race, gender, nationality, or sexuality have no meaning. And I operate accordingly.
However, when the office potluck comes around, I know that my blackness is free to roam. It’s damn near expected. Since the dawn of time, black folk have been loved for what they can provide to others. And second to our world-reknown physical prowess, our ability to throw down in the kitchen is beloved by all.
Just know, there are four rules to follow for your own micro-fight against white supremacy during the work festivities:
1. If you can’t cook, don’t cook
Black folk that can’t cook are usually made very aware of that fact, commonly in a spectacular and public fashion. Don’t use the office potluck as your chance to prove all of your friends and family wrong. Do not be that atrocious American Idol audition. You’ve already got enough working against you in the corporate world, don’t let a culinary flare out contribute to your struggle.
I know this all too well as a non-cooking person. And as a representative for black people everywhere, I know that, just like everything else in life, this one thing will likely be a key indicator on a plethora of white folks’ perception of black people’s cooking ability. Instead, enlist a spouse, boo, bae, or friend that you know can handle themselves in a kitchen. Nine times out of 10, something they throw together in 30 minutes will far exceed anything anybody else shows up with at the office.
2. If you feed the stereotypes, prepare for silent prejudice
I love fried chicken. Everybody loves fried chicken. But if you, the black person, brings it to the potluck, white folk might be put on high alert. Even if you bring store-bought wings, white people will fall over themselves not to make any comment relating you to said fried chicken. And in truth, any form of chicken (BBQ, baked, teriyaki, or otherwise) will elicit the same response.
If you do opt to bring chicken anyway and happen to cook the chicken yourself, your best course of action here would be to take compliments in stride, return compliments on other dishes when possible, and deny any requests for recipes. They can taste, but the secrets aren’t for free.
3. Beware bringing food white people might be afraid to eat
Traditionally black foods have been increasingly accepted (hence the “Soul Food Seasoning” in stores now). The advent of cooking entertainment on TV has popularized people taking chances and eating foods outside of steak and potatoes (ahem – thank you Patti Labelle). However, this doesn’t mean that you can take it to the extreme (chitlins might be too much). Instead, show the office that the best greens are slow cooked and come with hamhock and apple cider vinegar. If they want the experience, give it to them unfiltered.
4. Show up everybody else’s food without prejudice
This is the most important rule to follow. The office potluck is no time to be timid. This is your moment to put the smackdown on that office “chef” that goes on and on every day about what gourmet meal they whipped up for dinner last night. Same for the one worker who boasts about how great of a cook their spouse is. Show no mercy.
Yeah Maggie made some decent cupcakes and Joey seasoned and buttered his mashed potatoes this time. But some strong black mac and cheese will be the first dish to go, be the only dish still a topic of conversation 3 weeks from now, and force many to evaluate their life choices. And Maggie and Joey? They’ll feel some kinda way about their own abilities, prompting them to spend way too many working hours scouring Pinterest for new recipes.
At the end of the day, the office potluck is the best way to knock everybody on their asses and get no blood on your hands. Let Becky and Bob know that while they may have seniority, better pay, and the latitude to come and go at any hour they please, but they’ll never ever eat as good as you do. And if there is one thing that drives white people completely insane is not being able to have all the things.
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