Monday, January 16, 2012


Ever been to this site: Tastespotting?

It's a self-described "community driven visual potluck." I like it! The beautiful pictures and ideas make my mouth water a little, even when I'm not hungry.

Ever participated in a potluck?

You know, the event where everyone brings a dish and, without much organization, you have a smorgasbord of homemade (and some store-bought) delights? As a girl who grew up in a Baptist church in Texas and with deeply Southern roots, as you can imagine, I've been to my fair share of potlucks. I see them going one of two ways...awesome or butter-filled blah.

You see, some potlucks are around a theme, like "breakfast" or "Mexican." For example, at a "Thanksgiving" themed potluck, you'll see:
Turkey, ham, dressing, veggies, rolls and lots of desserts.

The fun in the potluck is that it takes very little planning and, as dear old Forrest says, "you never know what you're gonna get." On the long table of "Thanksgiving-themed" prepared foods, you could have one kind of turkey, three kinds of ham casseroles, no stuffing/dressing, 5 kinds of potato dished and 12 pies. Yeah, it happens.

Potlucks are rarely healthy (because Grandma doesn't know how to cook without butter) but usually so delightful you won't even notice your bulging belt. I've always enjoyed them, but this week brought some clarity that I hadn't thought of before.

At my internship--you know, the one at a Baptist church--they have a chef on staff to prepare weekly meals for normal meetings, Bible studies, plus the occasional funeral or other event. He mentioned at our last staff potluck (once a month) that it was almost sad when they hired him because that took out the need for potlucks, those times when everyone brought a dish to the dining room and they all shared together. The chef went on to say, once he understood the importance of the potluck, he's made an effort to provide the main course/meat and allow others (when they'd like) to participate in the potluck.

You see, it wasn't about making his job easier because he'd have to cook less, but there's something really wonderful in a potluck. People from all different places and situations bring an offering of nourishment to a collective table and break bread together. Sometimes the dishes are family recipes passed down to generations, while other dishes were from a box or a mix that were thrown together last minute. Some people prepare their most famous casserole or their prized chocolate cake for the occasion, while others experiment and risk it all with a new recipe.

Stay with me here, but I think potlucks are holy. Potlucks symbolize the smorgasbord of people that come together and worship God in certain places. You try things you might never have touched before because someone you love made it. You are surprised by some tasty things and turned off by some creamy looking vegetable that surely would give you heartburn even if you look at it twice. But you gather around the table of dishes with other people and you come together and eat. 

Potlucks were originally documented by Thomas Nashe in 16th century England, with the "luck of the pot" of whatever food you had around to prepare for an unexpected guest or traveler. It evolved into what it is today by the 18th century. Bring your self, your love and your care, and set it on the table. That is kind of our mission, isn't it? Even if all we have is a basket of burnt biscuits or dry mashed potatoes, set it on the table because someone else will bring other things to add to the meal.

So, when you think of planning your next dinner party or function, perhaps forego the caterer or the restaurant where you usually all meet, and think about having a potluck instead. It never goes out of style. Please do be careful to label your dish, if it isn't instantly recognizable. :)

Happy eating! Laurel

1 comment:

  1. Love this! :) I had never thought of pot lucks this way, but you are so right about them! :)