A Friendsgiving spread complete with stuffed squash, roasted vegetables, tomato soup and other seasonal dishes. Stephanie Gerson / Daily Nexus

So. You got invited to a potluck or, to be seasonally specific, to a Friendsgiving. Great! Only one issue: You don’t know how to cook. That’s fine, every Friendsgiving needs someone to bring the sparkling cider, the wine or the plates. But, what if you’re done being the drink-bringer? The perpetual provider of paper plates and plastic spoons? What if you want to take your first steps into the culinary world? I’m here to help, with a couple of easy-to-make ideas to get you in and out of the kitchen without fuss, and with a delicious meal for your friends. 

Seasonal salad

Do you know how to put things into a bowl? Great! That means you’re capable of making a delicious salad. It might not sound like the most exciting contribution, but I think it’s certainly one of the most necessary. During a meal laden with heavy gravy, creamy mashed potatoes and starchy yams, something crisp, fresh and green can be a much-needed breath of fresh air. Seasonal, autumnal ingredients make for some of the best salads: apples, pears, cranberries (fresh or dried), kale, swiss chard … the potential for deliciousness is endless. Just cut everything up into slices or bite-sized pieces and toss them in a bowl with some dressing. You don’t even have to make the dressing! You can buy any number of delicious salad dressings from your grocery store. Who’s going to know? Nobody. Me? Don’t worry, I’m great at keeping secrets. 

Charcuterie board

Making a charcuterie board is also extremely easy. Plus, for whatever reason, they seem to carry a lot of clout; everyone loves posting a charcuterie board on their Instagram story. It’s as simple as buying some crackers, fruit, cheese and cured meat, and arranging them nicely on a cutting board or plate. It’s a perfect appetizer for pre-dinner grazing and will surely be appreciated at your Friendsgiving. 

Baked sweet potatoes

I’ll never understand why the Tribe of Thanksgiving Elders decided the best way to prepare sweet potatoes was to bury them in marshmallows. It’s an affront to the delicious sweetness already held within the humble sweet potato. Sweet potatoes need very little to become a stunning side dish. Set your oven to 425 F, poke holes all over the sweet potatoes with a fork and put them in the oven for 40-50 minutes. That’s it. Test their doneness by stabbing them with a knife: if it cuts through easily, it’s ready. The deliciousness-to-difficulty ratio is through the roof here. These sweet potatoes are beautifully fluffy, sweet and satisfying. Cut them open, throw a pad of butter and some salt inside and you’ve got a delicious side dish. 

I understand the fear surrounding potlucks. Despite cooking for years, despite being the editor of this section, I still get nervous when I’m feeding my friends and my family. It’s scary to cook for people! However, it’s also a great way to show your friends you love them. I find so much fulfillment in feeding those I love, and I’m sure you will too. These three ideas are perfect if you’re looking to get into cooking this holiday season; they’re delicious and easy … what’s not to love?

A version of this article appeared on p. 14 of the November 17, 2022 version of the Daily Nexus.