Why I Like Potluck Dinners
Over the holidays, I attended a family gathering that included a potluck dinner. It made me realize anew how much I enjoy potlucks. First of all, I like the name: potluck. The very sound of it makes me smile. Say it aloud a few times: potluck, potluck, potluck. Isn’t it fun to say? The compound word has three “explosive” consonants: p, t, and k. The two short vowel sounds might even qualify as slant rhyme. They don’t quite rhyme (ah as in father; u as in cup), but they almost do. (The great American poet Emily Dickinson often employed slant rhyme in her poetry. Too much perfect rhyme makes a poem “too sweet.”)
Where does the name, potluck, come from? It is implied in a 16th Century English work of Thomas Nashe, when he wrote: “food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest, the luck of the pot.” Others say the name is related to the North American indigenous communal meal known as a potlatch—a word meaning “to give away.” Some names for potluck have religious connotations: faith supper, fellowship meal, Jacob’s Join. Another fun name is fuddle (which also means “intoxication.”)
One reason I like potlucks is because everyone contributes to the meal—often with their specialty dish. For example, Uncle George carries in a big pot of chili, cousin Marilou brings her famous sauerkraut balls, Aunt Kathy totes her delicious (and healthy) veggie pizza, Grandma carries her to-die-for apple strudel, cousin Donna brings all kinds of homemade chocolate treats, and the list goes on and on and on. The quality and diversity of the food is what makes the meal so good.
But at the heart of every pot luck dinner are these indispensable factors. First, the sharing of the food preparation. In other words, no one is stuck with all the work. Secondly, there’s the coming together of family and friends–usually at someone’s home, a party room, a park, or wherever. And thirdly, there are always tasty surprises on the menu. The food doesn’t have to fit a specific theme or ethnic tradition—such as American, Italian, Bohemian, Mexican, Chinese. No, your tacos can sit next to those sauerkraut balls on your plate, and it’s perfectly acceptable. Or you can eat your Italian sausage with Bohemian dumplings if you want. And always you can have more than one kind of dessert. So take a piece of that apple strudel plus a lemon bar smothered in chocolate mousse if you choose—and no one will stop you!
All this talk of a potluck dinner not only makes me hungry, it also makes me wonder: Is a potluck meal a good image for the Kingdom of God? In some ways, I say “yes.” The Kingdom of God comes when we not only accept our diversity, we celebrate it. To the Kingdom we bring our “specialty dishes,” honed through the trial and error of our earthly choices. At our Heavenly meal, we will sample the amazing variety of one another’s gifts, cherish those gifts we know and love so well, while risking to enjoy a new dish we have never experienced before. And we will do all of this gathered together, telling stories, with lots of laughter and lots of love for our Heavenly Host and for everyone else too. Yes, for everyone!
Do you like potluck dinners? Why or why not?
Do you have a favorite dish you like to bring to a potluck?
Is there any dish you hope will be served at a potluck?
Are there any dishes you were first introduced to at a potluck?
Do you think a potluck is a good image of the Kingdom of God?
PS: Let us remember in prayer Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (April 16, 1927-December 31, 2022):
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he and all the faithful departed
rest in peace. Amen.
Our song today is (appropriately) a Eucharistic song, Dan Schutte’s “Table of Plenty.” Just the title conjures up the image of a potluck meal with tasty food spread on a long, long table. The song exudes the joy of the gathering, where saints and sinners are welcome, and God will provide for all that we need…
As usual, I encourage you to share a comment below. We all love to hear from other readers!
Good morning, Sr. Melannie…Happy New Year!
Love this topic! This year Kerry and I hosted a Christmas Eve bash — the first since 2019 — and in addition to guests bringing various libations that may “fuddle” the brain a bit, they also bring food! For example, my brother-in-law brought his famous San Francisco chicken — delicious! And the best part about all of this sharing is that we don’t have to shop for about a week! But yes, I think you’re right, such gatherings are Kingdom-of-God moments, and you know what? The Kingdom of God is delicious!
John, Thanks so much for your enthusiastic response. Yes, we must be on the lookout for those “Kingdom-of-God” moments. And yes, such moments often come during our joyful moments and in our simple sharing with one another! Melannie
I loved today’s reflection. So much so that I hope to share it at the first potluck with my parish’s new group (Just Older Youth, a.k.a JOY).
Ann, I’m honored that you’ll be sharing this blog with your new parish group’s first potluck. And I LOVE the name of the group: Just Older Youth, a.k.a JOY! On Christmas Eve one of my nephews asked me if I feel as old as I am. I said, “Not really. When my arthritis is acting up and when I look in the mirror, I know I am old. But inside, I often feel like an 18-year-old girl!.”… Thanks for your response, Ann! Melannie
Dear Sr. Melanie,
This is my second time to read your blog. I’ve always love your reflections on Give us This Day although short and far between. I belong to two clubs that I named Joy Club. We are all retired Pilipino nurses on the first one. There are 10 of us and we meet once a month at a designated host house. And potluck it is! We share not only each others delicacy but also a lot of fun and laughter as we reminisce of life in the Philippines. We are each others support group. Our conversations have transitioned from children getting married, birth of a grandchild, facing retirement, and now physical diminishment. We mourned when a member passed away from Covid. Potluck get togethers is indeed a preparation of kingdom living while still on earth.
Clarita, How wonderful that you have such a great support group! And that you’ve been together so long. Yes, I agree that your potlucks are indeed “A preparation of the kingdom while still on earth.” Thanks so much for writing! Sr. Melannie
Sister Melannie, I always love your reflections. This one made me want to check my calendar and plan a potluck dinner and share this reflection.
I seemed to have dropped off the eblasts you send out on Mondays. I tried resubscribing but it says that my email is already in your system. Miss the Monday emails. How can I get back on the list?
Kathi, I’m glad this blog made you want to host a potluck! How wonderful!… As for not receiving my blog on Mondays, I know all about this problem. Our IT team is supposed to meet with me and see if this problem can be resolved. For now, I am powerless to fix it. But I encourage you to go online, search for my blog (just type my name and sunflower seeds and it comes up). Then bookmark it for yourself. That’s what many of my readers are doing. I am still posting a reflection every Monday… Sorry for the inconvenience… Thank you for writing. Your enthusiasm gave me a boost! … Melannie
I thought of the movie, “Babbett’s Feast” I loved the idea of shared meals.
I agree with you, Carol, about the movie “Babbett’s Feast.” It’s certainly beautiful and memorable!
Thanks for writing. Melannie
FYI. I do not get your blog each week in my emails on the date it was sent out but I go to my email of July 11th and there I find your weekly emails. I don’t know why this happens but I am always glad to see your weekly inspirational emails. Thank you for your insightful messages.
Glad you have a way to get my blog in your email, Donna. Hopefully we can get the problem fixed soon. Melannie
Melannie I’m a little late in reading this since it does not come in email any longer I am going to repost this on our parish website and maybe we can get Dinners for 8 rebooted. Thanks for all.