After church, there is always a trickling of people who drip their way to the fellowship hall for potluck. That hodgepodge of pasta salads, soggy lettuce, eight different potatoes that have choked themselves on butter, mayonnaise, or sour cream, and mac and cheese that was tossed by unwashed hands. It is, in short, a real to life scrapbook of every type of vegetarian side ripped from the dozens of southern living magazines across dozens more dentist offices and clinic waiting rooms. This smorgasbord of food is lovingly laid out by church ladies desperate to make the pull out tables, plastic bowls, and flimsy silverware look decorative, by adding festive tablecloths and napkins, sporting some type of pattern, such as leaves, easter eggs or Christmas ornaments, and sometimes all three. To add to the festive flair, arrangements of plastic flowers are placed at the center, bought in the 80’s by a church lady, which have not been dusted since. But the true star of this feast is the punch. It sits at the end of the long table in a clear plastic bowl made to look like Waterford crystal but is spiderwebbed by the multiple cracks brought by its endless visits through the dishwasher. But it didn’t matter, because that imperfect punch bowl, held the perfect drink.
Outside the walls of the church, I have never had any beverage like that of potluck punch. It is a beautiful callback to the 50’s and 60’s with cool lumps of rainbow sherbert floating in a fizzy pool of sprite or ginger ale. Sometimes pineapple or orange juice is added, with the unspoken stipulation that it must be Dole’s, and from a can. There is a set time when the punch is at the perfect consistency; Out long enough that the blobs of sherbert melt, leaving frothy, rainbow cushions, but not too long to where the soda goes flat. That’s the time when you dip in the clear plastic ladle, disrupting the floating sherbert, and pull out a ladle full of sweet fizzy ambrosia. It’s sickeningly sweet, but somehow perfectly refreshing. It makes up for the dry vegetarian meat, the ravioli cooked to mush, and pellet riddled rocks passing as store bought chocolate chip cookies, because with every other sip you have the bliss of a small lump of sherbert slide on your tongue, with the pop of ginger ale, and everything tastes perfect.
Photo Cred: Food Network