Is your favorite thing about the holidays food related? Mine totally is. Listen, no judgment, some scientists have found that humans may be genetically predisposed to consuming more calories in the winter. It was probably an important survival tactic for our early ancestors. I am totally going to blame my genes the next time I don’t fit in my jeans.

One of the most festive ways to consume winter calories (and perhaps my favorite) is attending a good ol’ fashioned potluck dinner. You know what I’m talking about, everyone shows up with a dish to share. There’s always too many mac and cheese dishes, a whole car load of casseroles, a plethora of pies, mountains of mashed potatoes, oodles of noodles…I could go all day. We’ve all probably been to a dinner like this.

But, something struck me as I was thinking about fulfilling my genetic predisposition of caloric intake this year. 

Why is it called a potluck dinner? Is there a lucky pot I was never told about and am totally missing out on? Am I supposed to bury a prize in my next lasagna dish? What is the deal?

It turns out that back in the middle ages unexpected guests and travelers who showed up around dinner time looking for a meal were treated to the “luck of the pot”. Basically, whatever was left over from the evening’s meal, still simmering over the fire, was fair game. 

Can we please bring this custom back? I would absolutely wander around at dusk, taking my chances on my neighbors left overs. I smell what they got going on next door and I am all about it.

Sometime during the 19th century, the potluck dinner took on it’s modern day meaning. It’s really not clear why the transition occurred, but it is certain that the potluck is an American Tradition. The act of coming together as a community and sharing a meal was born at a time in our country when almost everyone was fighting, settling alone in unfamiliar places, or just trying to survive.

So the next time you’re eating Tammy’s tomato and turnip casserole, or Darren’s famous deep fried twinkies, remember that you’re actually taking part in a long lived and important tradition. One that was born in our country at a time when we all really needed it. 

Now could you please pass the pasta salad?

Share this with your fellow potluckers!