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(And if you are my age, which is old enough to drink but young enough to still type shit in all caps, trust me: there are a lot of pot lucks in your future. A lot. Just–so many. You’re poor; all your friends are poor; if nine people come together, and each of them brings enough for five people, technically there is enough food for forty-five people, and that means at least some of you will get to bring leftovers home.)

(If you are hoping to bring leftovers home: season things too much in ways you like, but you know everyone else will hate.)

(Wait, no, ignore that! This is supposed to be about comradeship and sharing! Don’t booby trap your humble offerings to the altar of Friendship! The gods will frown on you and mysteriously misplace your lunch money!)


  1. Chop up some potatoes; it doesn’t really matter what kind. People will say that it does, and that you should only use red-skinned or “new” potatoes, but seriously: it does not matter.
  2. Boil them. Boiling potatoes is really easy: you put them in a pot, put in enough water to cover or at least mostly cover them, stick it on a burner, and turn the burner on. Make sure it’s the right burner. Electric stoves are tricky liars.
  3. Gas stoves at least have the decency to be properly on fire. Get a gas stove, when you can afford it or are in a position to control the appliances in your kitchen.
  4. While the potatoes are cooking, chop up onions and garlic and throw them in the bottom of a large mixing bowl with a little lemon juice. Or lime juice. Or similar. (I mean, not orange, because that would be weird.) The juice is to taste, is what I am saying here. If you don’t like it, you can leave it out; it shouldn’t matter much.
  5. But something acidic is kind of crucial. Vinaigrette also works surprisingly well.
  6. Add some mayonnaise (or vegannaise, if you are one of those people), mustard, and hot sauce (because of course there is hot sauce in this, there is always hot sauce in this, what are you, new?). Kind of swish it around a little (you can use a fork, even, if you’re fancy or thinking ahead) so it gets mixed up and looks like a real sauce. You can, at this point, taste it to see how it’s doing.
  7. Herbs are also good! I like rosemary a whole bunch, and sometimes a little cumin or paprika or whatever the hell you’ve got in your pantry that you want to put in your mouth.
  8. Also pickles? Some people put pickles in things.
  9. Some people put hard-boiled eggs in things, but that is an unspeakable wrong that we will discuss no further.
  10. (I loathe hard-boiled eggs.)
  11. At this point, the potatoes are probably done, or nearly done. If you have turned on the wrong burner (it is on my mind because, you see, I myself fell prey to the vagaries of electric stoves not five hours ago) (it helps to know that I’m writing this roughly thirteen hours less than a week before it’s to be published), they will still be quite cold, but nicely rinsed.
  12. Anyway, you can tell if potatoes are done by sticking a fork in them and seeing how much give they have. But this never made sense to me when I first started trying to boil potatoes because how the hell do you know how much give is the right amount? It is not like there is some kind of pressure meter in the fork that will go “ding” if it’s right. So just scoop one out and put it in your mouth; if it tastes done, it’s done.
  13. Wait for it to cool off, obviously, sheesh.
  14. Strain the potatoes (turn the oven off). Colanders are traditional, but hand strainers (thanks, roommate!) work too. You can make do, is what I am saying here. You can always make do. Hell, you can probably hold a plate over the pot and leave just enough room for the water to come out and it’ll be fine.
  15. Dump them in the bowl with the other stuff and stir it around.
  16. Put it in your mouth.
  17. “Warm potato salad?!” you may say.
  18. Yes.
  19. Trust me.
  20. Or, if you’re a weirdo, you can let it cool off, and then bring it to the pot luck (of which there will be many).
  21. Trust me on that, too.