Potlucks have been around since the 16th century, and even though they’re often associated with Tupperware parties and company picnics, a modern day revival is underway among a younger crowd of new cooks and amateur foodies. If you’re part of a university culture, you already know that communal living fosters collaborative cooking. Last Saturday at a small home in Oakland tucked behind big fruit trees and brightly colored bikes, I had the opportunity to attend a cozy fall-themed potluck, replete with heaping bowls of mashed potatoes (aka the food of choice for starving students), a variety of soups, breads, and everything in between.
In the 1940’s “Depression potlucks” became popular as a way to stay within a budget without giving up a variety of homemade dishes. Today, potlucks are still a popular way to save money without sacrificing a delicious diversity of foods.
Aside from being budget friendly, they’re a fun way to avoid falling into a cooking rut. With dishes prepared by friends with diverse backgrounds and heritage, potlucks offer the chance to taste many different foods, get on-the-spot tips for cooking with unfamilar or intimidating ingredients, and take home a few new recipes to try out in your own kitchen.
But maybe the best part of potlucks is that they offer an instant community of like-minded people who love to cook, love to eat, and will share their creations with others. The types of potlucks are endless- host a soup swap where everyone brings a big jar of homemade soup to trade, or try cooperative cooking where you can enjoy a week’s worth of home-cooked meals from your friends.
Enjoying potlucks is easy. The hardest part is deciding what to bring.