Potluck Mojo – It’s a Real Thing

February 5th, 2017

I believe in magic. Not the pixie dust and magic wands of my children’s beloved fairy tales, nor the wizards and dragons of Hogwarts and Middle Earth (though a piece of me secretly hopes that somewhere in the world a hippogriff exists and is waiting for me to be its friend). No, I’m talking about real magic. Potluck supper magic.

You know what I’m talking about. Don’t pretend you don’t. Potluck meals possess a sort of mystical mojo. They manage to channel the holy miracles involving loaves and fish – the first plate of brownies mysteriously transforming into a well-balanced feast as more people trickle in.

A couple weeks ago, I attended one such gathering at a friend’s house. I showed up early with a cranberry coffee cake, which joined a box of baklava and a plate of cookies on the table. The hostess and I cracked jokes about the impending diabetic coma brought on by a dinner comprised entirely of sweets, but within fifteen minutes there was beef stew, pasta, taco dip, green salad, an epic cheese plate, fruit, and two kinds of cauliflower. Plus about half a dozen other desserts.

Look, I know that potlucks sometimes have a bad reputation. The word evokes images of drab church basements and a folding table laden with various mayonnaise-coated vegetables. I’ve been to that sort of potluck and it can be rather grim. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I was in grad school, I instituted a series of weekly themed dinners with a group of friends who lived in neighboring apartments. Sometimes it was ethno-geographic (Mexican night! French food!) but sometimes we just got silly. One memorable week, the theme was “foods that begin with the letter B.” Bread, bananas, bacon, beignets, and bourbon all made an appearance. What more could you want from your dinner?

Participating in a potluck is an act of faith. You put your trust in your guests to pull their weight and take their contribution seriously. You trust that the meal will come together on its own – and it does. Somebody steps up and brings the protein. There’s always at least one salad. And even if the meal is a total train wreck, you can always count on dessert.

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