I grew up in small Kansas town in a fairly traditional church setting. Those two factors combined meant, among other things, that you could always count on a good potluck dinner served several times a year. I would have assumed then that the potluck was a universal practice. I’ve since learned in talking to others across the country that this is simply not so.
I want to first say that I have always loved potluck dinners. However, I will admit that when done in the traditional way, they can be a little tricky at times. In my estimation there are four basic categories of food at potlucks.
- Food that looks good and tastes good
A good rule of thumb for this is just to hang out at the far end of the table near the desserts. Your greatest probability of picking something up that both looks and tastes good is definitely going to be found down there. People have been known to mess up on an apple pie now and again, but generally this end of the table is safe. However, If your mother is paying attention you are going to have to brave at least one of the other three categories below.
- Food that looks good and tastes bad
Take that spaghetti in the orange Tupperware container for example. I mean who can mess up spaghetti. But wait . . . do you know when that spaghetti was made? It’s in a bowl and not a crockpot so remember, that spaghetti is stone cold (and perhaps a little stiff).
- Food that looks bad and tastes bad
You spotted it right away because it is nearly impossible to miss. It is a florescent green Jello mold and the stuff suspended inside looks suspiciously like chopped carrots. Just a tip for those who make this – it’s easier to conceal vegetables in food that isn’t semi-transparent.
- Food that looks bad and tastes good
This is the casserole you would never touch with a ten-foot-pole. The only reason you tasted it is because your mom took a scoop from her plate and said “here honey, try this. It’s really good.” Sometimes, moms are right about these things. Sometimes.
While traditional potlucks can be tough to navigate, we eventually encountered a different way of doing them. Several years ago one of our friends was hosting an event at her house and she introduced us to a whole new way of doing the potluck. She intentionally planned the menu ahead of time so instead of inviting guests to bring mystery meat swimming in barbecue sauce, she handed out copies of the recipes for everything on the menu. You still only had to cook one pan of potatoes but it was the exact same potatoes that 4 other people were bringing. This certainly took out some of the adventure from potluck dining, but her intentionality also saved us from carrots hidden in green Jello. Bless you, Linda.
No matter how you do the potluck, the concept is still the same: When everyone pitches in, you end up with a feast. And if you do it with great care and intentionality, the feast can be amazing.
That is the idea behind the CAFO National Foster Care Initiative and more specifically the idea behind our brand new Foster Movement U curriculum. Each month we pick a topic and, with intentionality, bring together the best stuff we can find from organizations, leaders and churches. Each session contains a video featuring foster care thought leaders from around the country. Every session also includes PDF tools to help you provide more than enough for kids and families in foster care where you live. You can check out the first session, Foster Care and the Church, by clicking here.
Oh, and don’t worry . . . the Jello is carrot-free.