Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bill can't cook

Bill is a great guy. He will give money to feed the abandoned orphans of Guatemala, but don't ever let him cook for your office potluck.

Around the holidays, the department has a holiday potluck lunch. We all bring in various side dishes and the management provides the protein. And let's face it: you can't have a potluck without casseroles. Green bean casserole, butternut squash casserole, sweet potato casserole... the possibilities are endless.

Last year, from the moment the email went out announcing the potluck dinner, Bill began bragging loudly to anyone who would listen that he would be bringing his special potato casserole. He told us how the recipe had been in his family since they came over from the Old Country back in the day and how his great Uncle Vern died in a duel to protect the family recipe. Bill told us since he liked us so much, he would prepare this dish for our potluck.

We listened to Bill rave on and on about the dish for the next two weeks. We started to be seduced by his descriptions of the dish. He told us how each bite would melt in our mouths and bring us back to a simpler, happier time. He told us that his special potato casserole would leave us pining for more. Frankly, those of us in the office were becoming excited about the upcoming potluck lunch. We were going to have the opportunity to try what seemed to be the best casserole that was known to man and we were excited about it.

The day of the potluck dawned clear and cold. The office was abuzz with discussion about what was going to be served at the potluck lunch. The usual interest in the dessert offerings was overshadowed by talk of the special potato casserole. Soon, an email was sent out to the department to announce that lunch was served.

People rushed down to the conference room and began fighting over who was next in line. Woe to the slackers at the end of the line: there might not be enough of Bill's famous casserole for everyone. The casserole presented as golden brown love in Pyrex. Bill even garnished the casserole with a festive sprig of parsley!

I managed to get a sampling of Bill's casserole. I quickly hurried to an empty seat, acknowledged my co-workers with a nod and dug into the casserole at the same time they did. We eagerly shoveled the casserole into our mouths.

Apparently, everyone else in the room had started eating the casserole at approximately the same time as the people at my table. A hush fell over the room. A few large, painful-sounding gulps were heard. Somebody gagged. One of the women ran from the room with her napkin clutched to her mouth. Someone nervously coughed. A few more people ran from the room, looking a bit green around the gills. I did my best to swallow what I just put in my mouth and then downed my drink in an effort to get rid of the burning, yet oddly metallic taste in my mouth. My eyes filled with tears and I turned to Bill.

He grinned at me. "What do you think?"

"Um, well... Honestly?" Bill nodded his head enthusiastically. "I am wondering what the heck I just put in my mouth and if I need to call Poison Control." Bill's face fell.

A few braves souls had managed to eat their entire servings. Poor Artie from Accounting ate two servings. Everyone who had eaten more than a bite ended up in the hospital. A few of them ended up having their stomachs pumped. Artie... he didn't make out too well. It was a shame about him, with it being so close to Christmas and all.

The Hazmat team that came in to handle the situation ended up taking samples to have it tested. Since Bill pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to reveal the ingredients since it was a secret family recipe, we can only go by the laboratory analysis that the Hazmat team came up with for the recipe:

Bill's Potato Casserole

2 pounds tater tots
1 (12 oz.) can of Spam
1 box of Stouffer's instant stuffing, prepared
1 (14.5 oz.) can of Cream of Mushroom Soup (condensed)
1 pound Velveeta cheese, melted
1 (8 oz.) jar of pickled okra
1/2 cup of Tabasco sauce

8 oz. Pork Rinds, crushed
12 oz. Lays Sour Cream and Onion potato chips, crushed
1/2 cup of margarine
1 package of Peeps leftover from Easter, diced (1 cup Fluff could be used in a pinch)
1 can Cheese Whiz
Parsley for garnish

Also found in the casserole were traces of Goldschlager, Potted Meat Food Product, and Fennel.

The Hazmat teams guessed that he layered the tater tots at the bottom and then sprinkled them with the diced Spam. They suspect he then topped that with a mixture of the stuffing, cream of mushroom soup, Velveeta, pickled okra and Tabasco. They hypothesize he cooked it for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven. For the topping, they think he combined the pork rinds, sour cream and onion chips, margarine, peeps and cheese whiz in a small bowl. He then sprinkled the topping over the casserole and cooked it another 10 minutes until golden brown. The final step was garnishing the casserole with parsley.

Eventually, the charges against Bill were dropped due to some technical issue involving a clerical error and mishandling of evidence. We all forgave Bill a few weeks after the memorial service for Artie.


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