(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Sometimes life is too serious—which calls for one of those rants that reveals all too much of about the ranter. And given that people love to have gatherings around the holidays, this is just the time for talking about one of my not-that-important pet peeves: when people want to organize potlucks.

No—potlucks are not supposed to be organized. And it’s not just me that says so.

potluck or pot luck adv phr: Come on and dine pot luck modifier : pot-luck supper n phr A meal composed of odds and ends of leftovers, or of whatever turns up (1600+)

Kipfer, Barbara Ann., Ph.D., and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D., eds. Dictionary of American Slang. 4th ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

Come on, live a little! So what if you get too many desserts or salads or whatever. A potluck isn’t about telling people what to bring or knowing exactly who is bringing what. You know what it is about? Everyone coming together to share whatever they brought.

Believe it or not, it’s not really about the food. That may seem like heresy to people who love to load up their plates, but, in my mind, what really matters is the fellowship with other people. Sure, I am not a “foodie” who really cares about the variety, but I think the culture of a potluck is more about getting together with others while casually sharing food than sharing food while getting together with others.

That may not sound like such a distinction, but it is to me as someone who is not that comfortable in the kitchen. I don’t want to be so stressed about preparing for a potluck that I forget to get excited about the people who will be eating the food with me. And I especially don’t want to be told exactly what I’m supposed to bring—can I tell you how often the Ls are supposed to bring salads—which is about as far from my area of expertise as I can get. Ask me for a salad, and I’ll likely bring you a bagged salad or a relish plate from the grocery store.

What I want to bring is the same thing every time—that way I know what I’m doing and I know what I bring you is going to be good. You see, practice really does make perfect. By now, not only do people expect me to bring my chile relleno casserole, but also, they always make sure that mine is one of the first dishes to run out. You get to eat something I make well and I get to focus more on people than logistics.

Am I in a rut? Oh yes, I am. Do I really care? No. Don’t worry, I still take risks in other areas of my life—you know, like not knowing exactly how many desserts, salads, and main dishes will be at a potluck.

My favorite risky potluck happened when my book club chose red foods as the dinner theme for discussing The Red Tent. Not sure we got to sample all the food groups that night, but that watermelon certainly did go well with the red wine. Don’t even know what all we discussed that night but what I do remember is the high energy and joyful mood surrounding that particular get-together. We were really living right that night, spending time with our good friends while eating whatever turned up.

Coming together to dine really is what a potluck is all about.

P.S. I’ll just ignore that I’ve just admitted that my own potluck contribution is anything but a surprise despite my saying potlucks should be all about surprise. I guess you can know exactly what this particular who is bringing after all.