Your personality revealed at a potluck

The food you eat is as much a part of who you are as your bad knock-knock jokes

There’s no question that this killer chip dip will have everyone at your potluck gathering around the same table.
There’s no question that this killer chip dip will have everyone at your potluck gathering around the same table.
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There’s no denying food’s ability to bring people together. Whether it’s a family dinner, a fancy date or just pizza with your housemates, food not only gathers us around a table but initiates good conversation and helps us get to know one another better.

For that reason, I’ve always held the potluck in high regard. A potluck provides an opportunity to taste the fruits of your friends’ culinary labours, while at the same time allowing you to cultivate interesting conversation and learn more about each individual that attends.

According to a study done at the University of Alabama in 2005 entitled “Comfort Foods: An Exploratory Journey into the Emotional Significance of Food,” eating particular foods when we’re away from home can be comforting because they remind us of specific situations in our lives and can conjure up memories and images of a time when life was familiar and soothing.

The study says college students often use objects such as food items to anchor themselves to identities tied in with family histories or ethnic backgrounds.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see how much personal significance can go into some of these made-for-sharing recipes.

Harrison’s Killer Guacamole

Unlike other dips such as salsa, hummus or those endless variations of artichoke and spinach dips, guacamole stands out in an endless crowd of things you can use to enhance your chip-eating experience. Guacamole is simple to make and tastes amazing. I find it also serves a variety of purposes—it makes a great dip to serve at a party, a comforting snack for when you’re knee-deep in school stress and also makes for a fun dish to prepare with a significant other. I recommend serving my killer guac with organic blue tortilla chips. Ingredients:

3 fat, green avocados (wait three or four days after buying them so they’re mushy enough)

1 lime

1 roma tomato, diced

1 jalapeno, minced

1 quarter of a regular-sized Spanish onion, minced

1 yellow pepper, chopped

Chopped garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, lemon juice (optional)

1. Get a big bowl. Cut the avocados open vertically and remove the pit. Squeeze the goods out into the bowl, and squeeze about half a lime in, too. Beat it up with a fork until it becomes a paste neither too fine nor too chunky. 2. Add the tomato, jalapeno, onion and yellow pepper.

3. Time to spice it up! I usually throw in some garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, a bit of lemon juice and the other half of the lime. A teaspoon amount should do the trick but feel free to experiment to taste.

—Harrison Smith

Chicken Parmesan

I first made this mom-inspired dish for a fancy Valentine’s Day dinner with very little knowledge of how to cook, let alone how to make something that would actually impress my dinner guest. Halfway into my prep—with cans, jars and cutting boards littering every free inch of counter space—I realized that I didn’t have a meat mallet, which was essential to the recipe. Much to my housemates’ delight and horror I frantically ran upstairs to our tool box, grabbed a hammer and—after throwing the chicken into a sealed Ziplock bag—went to town flattening that meat like it was meant to be. The meal turned out well, and, to my surprise, my housemates have adopted my choice of tool to make this recipe.

Ingredients:

4 skinned and boned chicken breasts

1 large egg, lightly beaten

½ cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

1 ¾ cup spaghetti sauce

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped parsley (optional)

1. Place chicken in a heavy duty Ziplock bag, flatten with a meat mallet (or hammer).

2. Dip chicken in egg and dredge in breadcrumbs.

3. Cook chicken in butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until brown on both sides.

4. Spoon spaghetti sauce over chicken and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, cover and simmer for an additional five minutes.

-—Katie Elphick

Tropical Fruit Salad

I picked up this recipe from my boyfriend’s cool older sister last February on Mardi Gras when we were cooped up in an apartment trying to combat the harsh Montreal weather with a hearty feast. This refreshing and tasty fruit salad is a great way to round out a meal and provide much-needed vitamins for those surviving both school and winter.

Ingredients:

1 can coconut milk

2 cans pineapple nibs (or one fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and diced)

4 fresh ripe mangos, peeled pitted and diced

½ inch fresh ginger root chopped finely (or substitute with ginger ale)

2 tablespoons honey

cinnamon to taste

Optional:

Additional fruits like peaches (4 fresh OR 1 can), apples (1 fresh), nectarines (4 fresh), or apricots (8 fresh) as available.

-—Adèle Barclay

Bakes

This summer I went on a volunteer project to Guyana. When I was there our Guyanese group leader taught us how to make some of their local dishes. Bakes are a sort of doughnut-type pastry served at breakfast, often with salted fish. I wasn’t a big fan of the fish, but the bakes were a real treat for all of us because most mornings we had to eat oatmeal. When we learned to make them, we measured things out with bowls about the size of a rice bowl. Making this recipe is more about the ratio of the ingredients than exact measurements.

Ingredients:

4 bowls flour

1 bowl sugar

1 package yeast (about 5 grams)

1 cup boiling water

1 cup cold water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Mix the four bowls of flour with the one bowl of sugar. You can add more or less sugar depending on your taste.

2. Open the yeast packet and sprinkle on top of the dry ingredients, but do NOT mix.

3. Pour one cup of boiling water over the mixture, followed by one cup of cold water so the mixture isn’t too hot to touch. Add more cold water slowly if necessary.

4. Using your hands, knead the dough, making sure to lift the dry ingredients from the bottom, and then make a fist in the dough on top. Continue until the dough has roughly the consistency of bread.

5. Cover the dough with a tea towel and allow it to sit and rise at room temperature for one hour.

6. Fill a wok with the vegetable oil, making sure that it is at least 2 inches deep in the bottom. Turn it to medium heat.

7. Take a ball of dough, just smaller than the size of a tennis ball, and flatten it, so it’s circular and about a ½ inch thick.

8. Deep-fry the bakes by placing them into the wok. The bake will rise once one side is cooked (after about three minutes) and will have a dark golden brown colour. Flip the bake over and cook for another three minutes on the other side. Make sure not to heat the oil too much or else the bake will cook quickly on the outside, but still be doughy on the inside.

—Lesley Hawkins

Mars Bar Squares

Mars bar squares remind me of my grandma and summers at my cottage with her. Every time my siblings and I would visit we would get so excited to have her squares. She would make them each and every night for dessert—although we would normally we would sneak into the fridge before supper and devour them all. When my grandma passed away, my aunt decided to carry on the tradition of making the squares at the cottage, so now whenever we eat them we think of my grandma and all of our childhood summers with her.

Ingredients:

4 Mars bars

3 cups Rice Krispies cereal

½ cup of butter, melted

1. Melt the butter in the microwave. Break up the Mars bars and add them to the butter. Mix until they melt.

2. Stir in the Rice Krispies. Press the mixture into a pan and refrigerate until set.

—Christopher McBride

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