One of the things I love most about my job is the attraction and retention work I am part of with Southern Alberta’s rural communities. Coming from a rural community myself, it feels a little like going home when I travel out to one of these towns or villages.
Over the past four years, I have had many opportunities to break bread with the community members I work with. Whether a special holiday or just a regular monthly meeting, someone usually brings home baked sweets to share. It’s definitely a perk of my job. On occasion, I have also had the privilege to join in community celebrations to welcome new physicians, fundraise or acknowledge RPAP Physician Award recipients and I am always so impressed, especially with the delicious food. Especially when the menu is potluck.
Whether at a church gathering, a community event or family meal, the invariable success of potlucks have always bewildered me so I decided to do a little research. Turns out, the potluck has an interesting history.
The term potluck came from the practice of never throwing anything away. Meal leftovers would be put into a pot and kept warm, to be used to feed people on short notice. Early on, visitors showing up at an inn or tavern for a meal took the "luck of the pot." The word “potluck” first came into use in English in the late 16th century.
By mid-1800s, the meaning of “potluck” expanded to include the idea of a communal meal where each guest brings a dish to be shared. The Oxford English Dictionary adds “… sometimes without arranging beforehand which dish to bring,”
Thomas Nashe, who wrote during Shakespeare's time, first wrote about the potluck. In 1592, Nashe included the term in his stage drama, Summer’s Last Will and Testament;
“Because you are my countrymen and so forth; and a good fellow, is a good fellow, though he have never a penny in his purse. We had but even pot-luck, a little to moisten our lips, and no more.”
A potluck can also been called a potluck dinner, a spread, Jacob's join, Jacob's supper, a faith supper, a covered dish supper, a dish party, a fuddle, a carry-in and others.
Whatever it’s called, I look forward to sharing a meal in this way. It’s an opportunity to connect with others, have a laugh or two and even do a little networking. And of course, enjoy some delicious food.