Before social media, women enjoyed limited exposure to homemaking feats of other moms. Outside of school functions, church picnics, and dinner parties, most moms could go about their business anonymously drinking Tab and serving Friday night pizza. No one knew or cared if you cut your kids PB&J into Pac Man shapes or whipped up a beautiful paella for dinner. At your kids birthday party you could happily open a bag of Doritos and serve a plain box cake in the pan. There was no shame in that. No one judged.
Of course there have always been the supermoms organizing holiday class parties, hosting themed birthday celebrations, and coordinating the Pilgrim and Indian Thanksgiving feasts at school. (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Grosspietch.) But back in the day, folks had to physically show up to be impressed. No one took pictures and shoved them in your face.
Today we live in the age of information and online self-promotion. We wave our awesomeness in each other’s faces nonstop. Pinterest … Facebook … Instagram … Twitter … blogs … online magazines … every social media platform is saturated with creative snacks, fancy desserts, recipes, and culinary triumphs. They are paraded through our newsfeeds. Every. Minute. Of. Every. Day.
And I can’t believe some of the stuff you broads make.
We are asked to bring food to a billion events all year long. And the stakes are high. Because its cultural practice to snap a pic for social media of everything from the organic, gluten-free, veggie-laced Minion cupcakes made for a pee wee soccer game to the intricate floral petit fours created for a bridal shower.
It can be a mom eat mom world out here.
I’ll admit, I play the game. I do. I am the first one to post a pic of something cool I made on social media. If I create a pink & lime green Paris themed checkerboard cake per my daughter’s request on her tenth birthday, you better believe I’m going to solicit some online high fives for it.
I almost, almost, could snap under all this pressure. I could feel like I had to keep up with greatness at all times. I could spend my days browsing the web for my next big culinary success and download the perfect photo-editing app to enhance the image. But I have a secret weapon. A guardian of my psyche I never saw coming.
I grew up with a mama who believed bringing a dish to pass need not be a stress-filled endeavor. If other women wanted to kill themselves in the kitchen they could go on with their bad selves. But my mom favored an effortless dessert and she brought it to every school or church potluck … Oreos.
Other moms toiled at home over everything from layer cakes to standing rib roasts sure to be the talk of the buffet table. My mom piled us in the conversion van and headed to Pick-n-Save for a pack of Oreos. At school she’d waltz up to the buffet and toss that package down between Lois’s meatballs and Judy’s sherbet punch with nary a second glance. She didn’t offer excuses about how busy she was, apologize, or crack a self-depreciating joke. Nope. She didn’t give a rip what anyone thought about it.
I never met anyone so flip about not trying to impress anyone.
Sometimes we’d ask why she didn’t make something homemade, even something easy like sloppy joes or a tater tot casserole. But she’d just wave us off with a bright smile – breezily reminding us, “Everyone loves Oreos.”
And she was right.
Do you have any idea how freeing this is for me?
It’s not that I don’t have the chops to be elaborate. I can make killer cinnamon rolls from scratch, French silk pie with homemade chocolate curls, and I once crafted an Angry Birds cake I’ll be bragging about until the day I die.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with getting creative or fancy. I actually enjoy making things pretty from time to time. But mom taught me I don’t have to feel like a failure if I show up with chips and salsa as my dish to pass. Her blasé attitude towards potlucks reminds me that life is too short to worry about impressing everyone all the time. And you know what? Oreos are, in fact, always a hit at a potluck.
Last night the kids were invited to youth group game night. A few hours before the event I checked the invite and was alarmed to see “bring an appetizer or dessert” in the instructions. I was coming off ten days of an extra kid and didn’t feel like making a big fuss. I racked my brains for what to bring. Then it hit me, Oreos!
I threw Obbe in the car and burned rubber to the grocery store. On the way I told him stories of how Grammy used to bring Oreos to everything. Yes, everything. He was impressed. (And mom, he expects you to show up with Oreos the next time you visit.)
When I arrived at game night I spied a plate of elaborate cupcakes topped with dice made out of sugar cubes. But I didn’t sweat it. Nope. I slapped those Oreos down on the counter right in the package … just like my mama taught me.
The kids lit up with excitement and so did the other moms, “You got Double Stuff?? Awesome!” And according to my kids, the Oreos were the first to disappear.
P.S. Here is a text between my mom and I which proves that while I might have a smart mouth, I came by it honestly.