Margie and Jules Vern are having their usual pre-church Sunday cluck season, when Margie is asked “Did you label your bars?!” In a wide eyed panic, off shuffles Margie to the basement franticly looking for a permanent marker (this needs to look “professional”). Getting back to her seat just in time, with a deep sigh “Masking tape.” This is a mistake that is only made once; never bring a new bar pan to a potluck.
A true Minnesota treat that shows up at every potluck, church basement dinner, family and community function… bars. Usually cut into almost bite-size pieces, these tiny little bars come in more flavors then you can count and most have more than one name. Some are made well and others not so much. Some look great but come from the crazy cat lady’s house and you’re just not sure if you want to take that chance. Unfortunately unless they are a regular “potlucker” you don’t know for sure who made what. Yes, all the pans are labeled, but it would be very rude to start lifting pans to see the name is on the bottom.
Traditional “Minnesota” bar pans are a 9×13 inch cake pan. They are made of thin aluminum and come with a matching lid. These are often given as a bridal gift with etching on the lid. A design of some sort and a name and/or date. This works well for knowing who’s pan it is as long as pan and lid stay together.
Bringing a pan of bars to a church function requires a labeling system. You must label the pan, the lid and the spatula (if you bring one). Some use masking tape with their name on it. This is a poor choice. When Gladys washes the pans she scrubs them so clean, like any grandma does, in the hottest water. By the time the dishes are done Helen, and Agatha’s masking tape are floating on the dish water and Betsy hasn’t been sorting pans as she dries them.
The other popular method is writing your name in permanent maker. This is a much better choice and the sign of a true “potlucker”. Margie and Bernadette have a designated set of pans, yes multiple sets, that are their “bars” pans. With some great determination the names can be scrubbed off these aluminum pans but it’s not likely. When washing pans Gladys scrubs the bumps she feels not what she sees. (She’s too busy clucking to Betsy). These pans may also contain a brushing of their favorite mauve nail polish as a marker as well; this will never go away.
Another sign of a true “potlucker” is the score marks on the bottom of the pan. These aluminum pans will have a whole bunch of cut lines in the bottom, all in the shape of little squares. They are also the first or last to be empty. Every one knows Margie brings the oatmeal fudge bars and they are amazing. They also know Betsy brings the Special K bars that are denture breakers for sure. For the best scotcheroo’s and brownies you need to find Jules Vern’s pans. Nana D makes these cherry cake bars that you take two the first time through the line. With out those score marks you look like a rookie and your bars could end up on the “left overs plates”.
The “left overs plate” isn’t all bad. This happens every time, it’s when everyone brings way too much. What is left is divided up onto paper plates and sent home with everyone. You must take one whether you want to or not. Because nothing can go to waste your “new pan” bars will get eaten by someone.
The men have had this potluck thing figured out for years. It’s just like coffee and rolls after church. You go through the line once get the one(s) you want for sure. Watch the line. Once everyone has gone through and one of the church ladies has set an extra pot of coffee on the table, they send one of the kids up to get them another. “Well, if there are any date bars, or you know, those layer bars, or whatever.” The kids know dad will eat whatever they bring and the last kid up ends up bringing back one of Betsy’s Special K bars or a bran muffin, usually with an apology.
Always use your old pan, you won’t look like a rookie and it will already be labeled.