Bring a plate
If you’re asked to bring a plate and you’re looking for cheap options, consider:
- hummus with crudité
- potato salad
- baked potatoes with garlic butter
- pikelets, buttered, with a delicate slice of strawberry on each
- apple tart
- rainbow jelly (of which more later).
Make these dishes yourself from scratch and avoid recipes with expensive ingredients and it won’t hurt your pocket too much (but I’m not guaranteeing that it won’t hurt your waistline).
Christmas Day 1970: The women ferried out plates buried beneath piles of turkey, ham, gravy, peas and five kinds of roast vegetables. I wasn’t much of a meat-and-three-veg girl so I didn’t understand why this was supposed to be so special but I felt everyone else’s excitement (and I did like the potatoes).
Naturally there were seconds and even thirds. (Nanna had, of course, catered to allow for this.) Just as traditional were the remarks about why we were eating a hot roast on such a hot day but it was good-natured banter and no-one really considered any other option. It was Christmas, it was turkey: it was as simple as that.
 Incidentally, it can be useful to have a sturdy festive plate to put your function food on. My friend Jill has a big melamine platter with a picture of a slightly leery Santa on it and she hates it and has been sending it to school break-ups and end-of-year Scouting functions for a decade (covered with fairy bread or sausage rolls or shortbread as appropriate) and is disappointed every time it makes its way back to her. She wants bring-a-plate to turn into leave-a-plate, but it just won’t work.
 Which sounds so much more appetising than cabbage salad.
 My nephew Jack whipped up a batch of meatballs for a family barbecue that were very popular until someone asked him what meat he’d made them from and he replied, “I’d rather not say.” (Mind you, knowing Jack, I’m guessing he used standard beef mince from Wendy’s freezer and his only reason for being cagey was to disconcert us.)
 But not cranberry sauce, which hadn’t reached the Mallee yet.
 And wasn’t even interested in two-meats-and-six-veg.