meals

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.

Love, hate, crave - the intensity of food relationships

Broccoli, broccoli, wherefore art thou broccoli?
Ah, chocolate, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Pork chop loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not…

So I am on about day 20 for Whole30. I decided to try this health reset plan for January because 1) I way-over indulged during the holidays and desired not to drink wine/spirits for 30 days; 2) my daughter & son-in-law were also participating…you know, strength in numbers; 3) I wanted to see if the change in diet would affect my rheumatoid arthritis; and 4) let’s be honest: although it is not truly a “diet” I was hoping to shed a few pounds.

Surprisingly, the shift in my food choices has not been as difficult as I’d anticipated. It was not easy to eliminate the cream from my coffee (and I use half & half because what’s the point if you use that weak milk stuff?) but that suffering only lasted for 2 days and now I’m okay with black. We had already been trying to incorporate more vegetables into our daily meals so that was cool. I think the hardest thing has been to make sauces and dressings that didn’t use any soy, sugar or unacceptable fats but once I stocked my pantry with the funky staples that are utilized in so many of the W30 work-arounds, it’s been easy to whip up what I need to make a salad or recipe delicious.

I’m not sure if I’ve lost much weight. Probably a few pounds but one benefit that I had not anticipated and is a huge plus: my blood pressure has come down. Although throughout my adult life my bp has been almost vampire low, in the last year, it has spiked dangerously. My doctor had prescribed meds but I found they made me put on even more weight so I was avoiding the pills. But in two weeks time, my readings have ticked down to an acceptable level!

So now I’m a little afraid. Of wine. Of cheese. Of sugar. Of grains. Of soy. Will I learn to love my waffles again? Have I said goodbye forever to sushi rolls and chocolate chip cookies? Nah. Because just as in real-life relationships, the key to a satisfying, healthy relationship with food is moderation. So I will be back enjoying a cheese plate and a glass of wine with my husband on Friday nights. But I’m going to continue making extra veggies to fill our plates. I may even try to maintain Whole30 compliant meals during the week with a return to a “regular“ menu on the weekends. And honestly, I’ve been so impressed with the recipes that my daughter and I have found and creatively put into our weekly menus that I’ll make them again. The Whole30 Cookbook is filled with many delicious (albeit labor-intensive in many cases) meals so I will continue to cook from it.

I love food. Period. Though it’s not the center of my life, it should be the vehicle by which I add nutrition to my being and if I derive pleasure as well, then that’s a bonus. So what am I craving most after the end of these 30 days? Stay tuned…