dinner with friends

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.