Potluckin’

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I am almost afraid to admit this, but every week for the past few months I have been getting together with some friends to watch the television reality show So You Think You Can Dance. We are mainly a group of dancer/Pilates instructors and this show is completely irresistible to our kind. Everyone has their favorite dancer or dancers and choreographers, and yes, we even vote at the end of the show. (Go Aaron and Jasmine!) The group has been doing this for awhile, and this is my first year joining in. Everyone brings a dish or two to share and we watch the show and potluck the night away.

At first, it almost seemed like too much to commit to- getting together at the same time, same night, every week for now what seems like eternity. But each time we gather it has been such a joy, with so much laughter, and such great food shared that now I feel I have come to rely on it. I am discovering how much I needed something like this in my life. It is sad how isolated life can be for all of us sometimes. We go to work, we interact with our work or school colleagues, we come home to our dogs, kids, sweeties, or just ourselves, and plop in front of the TV or computer or with our favorite book. Rinse and repeat. I also realized that my social life lately has been a series of one on one gatherings. Usually a lunch or a dinner here and there with friends or a date with my guy. Nothing wrong with this. In fact, so much that is right about it. But I have never had a weekly gathering of people for the sole purpose of watching a show, eating, and commiserating, and I must say, I am finding it is filling a previously unknown empty space in my life.

This weekly tradition has got me thinking, where did the potluck come from? Well, according to Wikipedia, “The word pot-luck appears in 16th century England, in the work of Thomas Nashe, and was there used to mean ‘food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest, the luck of the pot’. The sense ‘communal meal, where guests bring their own food’, appears to have originated in the late 19th century or early 20th century, particularly in the Western United States, either by influence from potlatch or possibly by extension of traditional sense of ‘luck of the pot’.” The potluck also serves an economical advantage where the cost of the party is spread among the masses and leaves the hostess with more money in her pockets even if she might get stuck with the dishes every week.

Whatever the history and the advantages, it is a dying art that needs a comeback. Yes, people have been doing this for centuries. It is nothing new. But I do feel that the tradition has waned in this age and so few people gather in social communal settings on a regular basis, especially in cities like Los Angeles where one can feel a bit isolated despite its huge size.

Now what is it that makes this particular potluck so special? It is the hilarious group texts, figuring out who is bringing what. It is catching up with each other on our past week. It is checking out some guy’s online dating profile to see if he is a worthy match for someone. It is when we all decided on a whim to bring our no longer desired clothing for an impromptu clothing swap. It is discovering that someone brought fried chicken tonight! Fried chicken! It is a gathering that connects us and takes us away from our strangely antithetical social media-influenced isolation. It is the simple happiness and comfort you only find when you share food with each other. It is the bond you form with a unique group for a unique purpose. It is the luck of the pot. And lucky I certainly do feel.

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