Bringing something new to the table: A potluck with Mariléne Phipps-Kettlewell

Allison Mueller

Senior Emily Dean dishes up food at the Alumni House on Monday, Sept. 21. (Photo by Taylor Nyman)
Senior Emily Dean dishes up food at the Alumni House on Monday, Sept. 21. (Photo by Taylor Nyman)

Kaysey Price/Winonan

Winona State University hosted Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell as the first visiting author in this year’s Great River Reading Series on Monday, Sept. 21.

Phipps-Kettlewell read from her collection of stories, “The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti” in the Science Laboratory Center. Before the reading, Professor Elizabeth Oness’s advanced fiction writing class took the opportunity to welcome Phipps-Kettlewell with a potluck at the Alumni House.

When everyone gathered in the living room of the Alumni House, the class questioned Phipps-Kettlewell about her writing style while enjoying a myriad of dishes prepared by the students.

Senior Jonathan Lee, one of the attendees of the event, said Phipps-Kettlewell was a great speaker.

“She was soft-spoken, but whenever she spoke, she meant business. I could tell her normal speaking voice resonated highly with her writing style,” Lee said. “Overall, I had a good time. And since most of the students knew each other, it made the potluck more like a cool party, although it was for class.”

During the discussion with Phipps-Kettlewell, one student asked her whether she preferred writing poetry or fiction. Phipps-Kettlewell suggested literature genres, the divide between fiction, non-fiction and poetry are a façade.

Phipps-Kettlewell portrays this blending of genres in her writing. Her stories follow a cadence and transformation more akin to poetry rather than a linear plot, which fiction usually demands. During her reading, Phipps-Kettlewell asked the attendees to listen for the transformation she was trying to portray as she read bits and pieces of her book.

Similarly, a potluck is a blend of dinner food, desserts, and salads. If there was no variety, there would be no meal.

Since potlucks rely on every individual to bring something different to the table they can often be stressful, especially for college students. There is certainly room for error when cooking for a large number of people.

Lee brought crab rangoons to the potluck.

“It’s pretty much a wonton wrap with filling inside. Although I’ve made the recipe before, my experience was pretty stressful, only because Mondays are my busiest days, and I felt I had put too much on my plate to do, pun intended,” Lee said.

Lee had to prioritize his time in order to get the crab rangoons made for the event.

“I made the filling Sunday night, and folded the wontons and fried them on Monday between classes. Throughout everything I managed to concoct something in time,” Lee said.

Senior Nick Lee decided to bring nacho cheese dip to the potluck. He explained how, although potlucks are fun, “things can go awry,” like his nacho cheese dip.

“My cheese wasn’t melting, and I had to try four different methods to melt it.” Nick Lee said. “In the end, I guess it worked out, but you should be prepared when making culinary dishes. They may be a bit more complicated than you first thought.”

While there are many factors involved with potlucks, once everything is laid on the table buffet-style it can create a smorgasbord of food that may be well worth the stress.