community

Let's Community Sup, shall we?

pot·luck

/ˌpätˈlək/ noun

a meal or party to which each of the guests contributes a dish

and also

used in reference to a situation in which one must take a chance that whatever is available will prove to be good or acceptable. e.g. "he could take potluck in a town not noted for its hotels"

This latter definition may be the reason I do not particularly care for the term “Potluck” when it refers to a community supper. Who really wants to “take a chance” on food items?? It’s as though the message is “who knows what you’ll find here…it might be great or it might be horrible, so good luck with that.” Pretty low expectations abound when heading to a “Potluck!”

I have a problem with the word, potluck, but not with the concept. I grew up on church potluck suppers where everyone would contribute a main course, side/salad or dessert. My daddy was a preacher and a Potluck Pro. How could he not be? Every sweet lady in the congregation wanted Pastor Tom to try her famous dish and compliment it’s tastiness. I remember his plate being piled so high and thick with different dishes that he couldn’t possibly tell where the squash casserole began and the bean salad ended. And the desserts! Dad had such a weakness for sweets…cakes, cookies, pie, strudel, puddings, they were all loved and loved well.

As the children of our father, we were a little less enthusiastic about the potlucks. Our mom was a great cook and yet I managed to be picky at home, so obviously I was not as trusting as Dad when we entered the fellowship halls where these meals were held. I think there are 3 types of Potluck Participants in this world.

  1. The Potluck Pro, i.e., my dad. Loves to try everything, will have seconds of anything, can’t wait to attend the casserole free-for-all. Maybe these individuals are not well-fed at home so the supper is a treat or as in my father’s case, he just loves food.

  2. The Polite Nibbler - most individuals fall into this category, I imagine. They will sample their friends’ dishes and a few others that look appetizing. This person also realizes there are sometimes a few culinary surprises in the spread and if you carefully look down the entire table before beginning, you might actually find a dish for which you would like to copy the recipe.

  3. The Potluck Snob - this person ONLY eats what his/her spouse or parent has brought to the party. End of story. No exceptions. They don’t trust other home cooks and they would rather dine on a meal they’ve eaten 50 times than be disappointed in something new.

So back to my respect for Community Suppers. I really think they’re pretty fabulous. We attended a July Fourth party at some friends’ home last week at which the hosts provided the main course (burgers, hot dogs) and dessert (decadent ice cream cake). The guests were asked to bring whatever they wanted as long as they commented on the Facebook invitation so everyone knew what was coming. From this diverse group of young families, empty nesters, singles and college kids came the following offerings:

7 layer dip, spicy sausage balls, corn & jalapeno dip, baked beans, potato salad, curried cauliflower, grilled veggie pasta salad, fruit kabobs, barley and walnut salad, cookies, shredded bbq chicken, gluten-free cheesecake bars

It was quite the spread and such a fun way to get together. The hosts didn’t have to provide everything, which made it a less stressful day for them. The guests were given the sense that they contributed to the festivities and could freely partake. And the point is to be together, sharing a meal around a community table…not to lay out a gourmet spread that someone might be intimidated by. Everyone ate well, at least until the poolside karaoke began. It was a win-win all around. Just don’t call it a potluck, please.

So much more than a pot pie

Random new acquaintance - So, do you work outside the home?

Me - Yes, I operate a gourmet foods business—specializing in pot pies.

Pause. Polite smile. Her - Oh. How interesting. (translation: not.)

This is a recurring conversation for me…different venue, new face, same expression. Sometimes I just let it slide, content to have them think that Butterfield Gourmet is nothing special. Other times I emphasize some of the other facets of the business, for instance, the holiday gift boxes which we ship all over the U.S. On other occasions, I have shared my love of writing stories and how this business provides a creative outlet for me.

However, the fact remains that Chicken Pot Pies are pretty tasty. Tender chicken, sweet peas, savory gravy are packaged in a perfectly flaky crust, forked to your mouth hot and fresh to the delight of your digestive system. And it’s a simple meal—training from culinary school is not required in order to create the satisfaction of a chicken pot pie. Many of us ate pot pies growing up, whether Grandma made one from scratch, Mom heated Marie Calendar’s frozen version, or Dad filled a casserole with chicken stew and topped it with refrigerator biscuits, we all have a memory of the ubiquitous dish.

My pot pie “journey” began with a pie crust obsession in 1988, and thence continuing to make a savory pie for dinner every single week. Later, I always made a pot pie when I took a meal to anyone- a friend who’d had a baby or a grieving church member or a new neighbor. Truly, there is always someone in need of a hot, home-cooked meal.

But is it really a pot pie that they need, or is it more? Is it what the flaky-crusted dinner symbolizes? That someone cares about you. That we know you’re hurting and don’t know what to say. That we realize you are exhausted and don’t have time to take care of yourself. That you deserve an easy, comforting meal with no hassle. That we are happy to know you.

I’ve heard many stories since I began this career as a pie purveyor. I had a gentleman visit my stand at the St. Michael’s Farmers Market a few years ago and he became a regular, purchasing the Home Sweet Home chicken pot pies each week. Once I tried to convince him to try other flavors but he explained that as he was currently undergoing chemotherapy, the chicken pot pies were the perfect meal as they never upset his stomach. (pot pie = health food)

A customer who had purchased 30+ pot pies for the holidays shared with me how she and her husband had gifted them to friends, neighbors, and work associates and how impactful these gifts were. Because the couple delivered each pie in person, pausing to visit with their recipients, it was so much more than a delicious present; it was a gift of their time during an incredibly busy season. (pot pie = friendship)

Over the past year, our children have experienced the joy of adding to their families. It’s difficult for me, as Mom, to see them struggle with sleep deprivation, new parent anxiety and the challenges of finding balance between their formerly child-free lives and currently child-rules-our-lives. I cannot help them with most of these experiences except by listening and giving occasional advice, if asked. They have to find their way. But I always know that I CAN provide a hot meal, or several pot pies for the freezer for those nights when they have no time to consider how to nourish their own bodies, while caring for their little ones. And that gives me great satisfaction. (pot pie = mom)

So it’s not just a chicken pot pie. It is love, compassion, grace, friendship, joy, comfort, empathy, reassurance, forgiveness and community. And that’s pretty darn special. 😊

If you’ve been blessed with a gift of a Butterfield Gourmet pot pie (or any other comfort food) we would love to hear your story in the comments below!