The potluck dinner! This is how tired, hungry, lazy dinner parties are done nowadays, and it’s one of my favourite ways to get together with friends and family. Potluck suppers were popular when I was growing up, and they’re on the rise again.
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Here’s the thing: a lot of us have full-time jobs, and some of us might be racing kids around to activities, and the idea of putting on a dinner party is just plain overwhelming. A lot of the time it just doesn’t happen. The potluck dinner is the answer to that!
Where did the word “Potluck” come from?
In doing some research for this episode I ran across a couple of competing theories:
- The First Nations Potlatch
- Middle Ages England “Pot” + “Luck”
The First Nations Potlatch – which means “to give” – is a beautiful and ancient giving ceremony. Gifts and food are given away during ceremonies celebrated at the naming of a child, a marriage, and when mourning the dead. The person hosting the potlatch rises higher in status the more they give away, and it’s not uncommon for the host to give away all of their possessions.
“Many people believe that a rich and powerful person is someone who has a lot. The people who speak Kwak´wala, the Kwakwaka’wakw, believe that a rich and powerful person is someone who gives the most away.”
The second theory, that “potluck” originated in Middle Ages England, stems from the simple idea of not letting food go to waste. Leftover food would all go in the same pot and would be served to unexpected guests. So, if you dropped in unexpectedly, you would literally be taking your “luck” of the pot!
The Hygge Connection
You might’ve heard me talk about hygge in a couple of my podcasts this past winter. It’s such an important, beautiful concept that I’ve recorded three podcasts on the topic (you can find links to the episodes below). In essence, hygge are Scandinavian guidelines for living simply and with grace. It encourages us to slow down, and take the time to seek out or create a space we can share with loving friends and family. It often involves food and drink and lots of laughter.
A potluck is the perfect opportunity to get hygge, not only because it brings people together for food and drink and laughter, but also because it’s egalitarian. We already know that human beings like to feel that we’re a part of something. That we want to make a contribution.
At a potluck everyone is encouraged to bring a dish to share. Sometimes people go all-out and bring their signature dish! When we’ve hosted a potluck Thanksgiving at our house we’ve been treated to some beautiful variations on traditional offerings. The meal ends up being really fantastic, as though they’ve been cooking for three days.
A Thanksgiving potluck is a little fancier than what I’m getting at for today’s purposes, though. Mostly I try to keep my potlucks as simple as possible.
I was reading some articles in preparation for this episode and I came across one article that said (and I’m paraphrasing here but you get the idea): ‘You want to be very organized for your potluck! You want to create a Google Document and get people to sign up with what they’re bringing….’ This sort of goes against what I think is the best part of hosting a potluck dinner. In today’s busy world, a potluck is the answer to putting together a great meal with very little effort on any one individual’s part.
So I say, “To hell with the spreadsheets!” You might end up with three of the same dish, or you could end up with a meal that’s all desserts (this actually happened to me). But you’ll have brought together some of your favourite people, you’ll have shared some laughs, and if you eat ice cream and brownies for dinner you’ll have a great story to tell!
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From my home to yours,
Val’s Hygge Podcasts
Your Family Village Episode 14: Creating The Hygge Life: Guidelines For Living
What do comfy sweaters, candles, book clubs, and fall camping? If you can’t quite put your finger on the word, maybe it’s because you’ve never heard it before! The answer is Hygge. Hygge is the Scandinavian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. It has become a defining characteristic of Danish culture. Since the Danes remain some of the happiest people in the world, it’s worth taking a look at Hygge, which is thought to be one of the big reasons for their life satisfaction.
Your Family Village Episode 15: The Hygge Life: How To Create A Family
Hygge is a concept that originates in Denmark, and relates to being cozy, connected, and to paying attention to the little comforts life has to offer. In this episode I explore the idea further, and talk specifically how you can use Hygge to create community and family connections that will help you thrive.
Your Family Village Episode 16: Gezelligheid: Creating Happy The European Way
Gezelligheid is a Dutch word that relates to the heart. It’s a lot like Hygge, but concept is more about a feeling, rather than words to describe it. In this episode, Val talks about her first-hand experience with Gezelligheid in Haarlem, Netherlands, and how we can apply it to our lives in North America.