Potluck – Friendsgiving

Potluck – Friendsgiving

The saddest potluck I ever attended was in a Yaletown condo in Vancouver. The hosts had contributed a tablecloth and a stack of plastic glasses; my friend brought a bag of taco chips; and I, somewhat showing my age, brought shrimp cheese puffs (they have a creampuff base if you’re interested). Otherwise, there was no food and hardly any alcohol.

Friendsgiving[i] potlucks seem to be the current generation’s answer to Thanksgiving and they could pave the way for a resurgence of potlucks.  The popular food blog, The Kitchn, offers ten rules for hosting and/or attending a Friendsgiving potluck. These include having an online sign-up sheet; requiring the host to cook the turkey but providing vegetarian/vegan options; bringing a gift for the host even though you are also contributing food; having a fully set table; not critiquing anyone else’s food or feeling sad if one’s own potluck dish remains uneaten – very practical rules for any potluck[ii].

The word “potluck” was first used in 1592 in the sense of “a regular meal made available to a guest for whom no special preparations have been made”[iii]. In that context, the unfortunate Yaletown potluck was just fulfilling the definition.  Potlucks have come to mean food that is intended to be collectively shared – or in my favourite definition, “whatever is offered or available in given circumstances or at a given time”.

All potlucks require confidence in the food handling habits of the cooks, transporters and servers. The Kitchn suggests that it is bad manners to turn up at a potluck with ingredients for a recipe that requires two pots to cook in and a preheated oven. Better to make a quick trip to a deli on the way to the potluck.

Edith Hewitt Milligan (1875-1960) was very likely at the Yeomen Picnic along with eight children.

In the early days of pioneer picnicking, food poisoning stories abounded. “Leaves of Yesteryear: A History of the Bon Accord District” relates the following incident:

“Many will remember the Yeomen Picnic that was held in 1916 as a near disaster as most of the people attending got ptomaine poisoning. The cause of the trouble was never determined and while there were no deaths, there were a lot of very sick people well into the next day” (Chubb & Milligan, 1968, p. 177)[iv].

Whatever or whenever we celebrate, it’s worth remembering the value of food and company and being grateful for small graces in life.

[i] Friendsgiving is soon to be a major motion picture to be released in 2019. The plot is not great but at least Margaret Cho is in it.

[ii] https://www.thekitchn.com/the-10-commandments-of-friendsgiving-237772

[iii] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/potluck

[iv] Chubb, J. & Milligan, H. (1968). Leaves of Yesteryear: A History of the Bon Accord District. FWUA: Author.

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