Potluck is a regular occurrence in many communities throughout the country. During a recent potluck gathering, observations brought a number of things to mind that I think, reflect the conflicts of life rather well.
First, just a few thoughts about Potlucks. When and where Potlucks originated generates quite a lot of conversation. Up here in Northern Minnesota, I think the Scandinavians, Norwegians, and Lutherans might claim it their idea. They are very very good at it along with lutefisk, lefse, and pickled herring! Some studies make an argument for Potluck all the way back to the early days of Judaism. But, where it actually came from we are not quite sure.
Second, the term "potluck" seems to be wrapped up in its 16th century English etymology in providing a meal or provisions for an unexpected arrival of a needy visitor or stranger at one's home; hence the meaning the "Luck of the Pot."
Potluck today in the North American context often is about getting together to enjoy one another, add variety to food selections, spread out the costs of providing food for large numbers of people, showing off one's best dish, and well, the list could continue.
My observation of many Pot Lucks over the years brings some of the celebrations of the custom as well as conflict often surrounding the event. Potlucks teach me much about the challenges of daily living. And, I call it Potluck Thinking. Consider:
Potluck Thinking - People Getting Together vs. Getting People Together
Usually a Potluck is for the purpose of people just getting together to enjoy one another's company. The joy of community, family, children, grandchildren, stories of new jobs, stories of old jobs, old men telling stories, old women telling stories, the newly married couple, the newborn baby, the recent death of a friend or relative, the latest town gossip, and then there is religion, politics, and opinions. People just enjoying people is a wonderful thing!
However, often I've noticed that Potluck can be more about people getting people together for other agendas. Once, a get together was agreed upon, and as people gathered and the meal commence a few individuals began to work the tables conversing about an issue in their organization. People began to become uncomfortable and as others grew angry, it put a damper on future gatherings. Potluck turned from an innocent coming together of friends and acquaintances into suspicion and apprehension of the next event. What was it really about?
Potluck Thinking - Appreciating vs. Showing Off
I always love to try just about everything on a potluck table. The smells, aromas, textures, tastes, colors, and presentations of a dish all interest me. I've learned that the best thing about Potluck is the time and effort one puts into preparing a culinary gift for a rather uncertain group of people. Sure, friends will partake, but so will visitors and strangers. The care and time going into a Potluck creation then, is to me, an admirable quality.
Potluck Thinking - Group vs. Individual
More than once I've witnessed a Potluck lose its people-value as an individual or group made the Potluck more about themselves than the many others at the event. Once I observed an individual who traveled to every table over the course of two hours to tell his version of what he considered a very important event in his life. As he interrupted conversation after conversation a woman spoke up demanding, "Simon, not real name, why don't you just sit down and try to enjoy the meal like the rest of us are trying to do?" Simon never picked up on the hint, and continued his pester-pursuit to another table.
Here's the thing I've learned from watching people come together at Potlucks. If you're a picky eater, and you're going to pick, complain, and fuss about everything from the timing, setting, decor, presentation, venue, and taste -- well, then perhaps planning a potluck is a stupid idea to begin with in the first place? And, if the event causes so much stress that people show up to the Potluck out of sorts, upset, or angry then maybe, perhaps, that kind of Potluck is not really such a luck of the pot after all? The luck of the pot really depends of the goodness of the hearts putting into the pot in the first place. Doesn't it?
Just My Thoughts,