Covered-dish supper: (n) meal to which guests contribute food, as casseroles.
When I was nineteen years old I had no job, but I had a music group.
It was constantly brought to my attention that I could have a job and still sing and play with my combo on weekends.
I did not favor that idea.
I thought the only way to be a professional musician was to insist it was your profession, long before your bank account confirmed it. Money was infrequent and when it arrived, we were so hungry for it that often we blew it on a desire rather than what the bills might require.
Because music groups were plentiful in that time, no one wanted to offer hard, cold cash for playing songs—even if it stimulated great enthusiasm, joy and clapping. What was offered—and may I say, even touted by a sponsor desiring to schedule our musical abilities—was a covered-dish supper.
In other words, after we got done singing, we would go down into the basement of the church and eat the food that had been brought by the concert attendees for just such an occasion.
Certain dishes were pretty well guaranteed:
There was always fried chicken (even if you were sure it came out of a bucket instead of a frying pan.)
Macaroni and potato salads were plentiful.
Someone always experimented with a rice dish, putting in some teriyaki sauce to give it “flare.”
Brownies, cakes of all sorts, pies, garlic bread, four or five concoctions with spaghetti, and once in a while some grilled hot dogs or hamburgers would appear.
By the time we got done singing, we were hungry. Also, we were starved because during the week we had not necessarily been able to procure grocery money to satisfy our growling innards.
So we learned two very important procedures:
First of all, you get more food when you compliment the food. If we found out who cooked what, we could center our appreciation in on that person and pretty soon they would bring their pot over and dump the contents onto our plates to “make sure we got our share.”
The second thing we put into practice, which took some trial and error, was to ask the smallest (and usually feminine) member of our band to walk over and chat with the ladies, asking for recipes. Well, these fine women looked at the dainty, somewhat underfed waif of a girl and loaded her down—not only with index cards containing the ingredients for their delicacies, but also boxes of leftover everything.
So even though nobody ever gave us money, we walked out of covered dish suppers with full bellies and enough food to last for two or three days thereafter.
Now, some people might think this is a terrible way to live, and I certainly can appreciate their point of view.
But I, for one, think it is quite charming to have a remembrance in my life when I literally did live hand to mouth.