Pot Lucks are popular party events in the United States of America and it is a large meal get-together organized by a family, a church, a group of students, or a department in a college, where everyone brings a different dish and all of the participants join each other for a fabulous feast of specialties. Because all sorts of things are brought to the table, everyone gets out more than they put in. It may sound old-fashioned, but I think it fits our modern lifestyle though it is somewhat against Chinese tradition that the host usually prepares all the food for the participants invited.
The idea of the potluck party is that no one family or an institution is burdened with the cost and preparation time of the meal and everyone gets to try something different that usually isn't made in their home. Pot Lucks are also great opportunities for neighbors and friends to meet, for colleagues and peers to share their stories in life and work, for people to make new friends, and for showing off specialties.
Although the term “potluck” suggests a random assortment of dishes, it's likely to turn out better when the host does some kind organization by discussing with and assigning your guests a specific course or beverage to bring along. Otherwise you might risk the chance that all of your guests will bring only desserts.
The host needs to get ready some plates, cutlery , napkins and other utensils. The host must also be sure to have enough room in the refrigerator and a few coolers standing by to keep everything cold that needs chilling and for keeping ice for drinks, etc.
There are different forms of potlucks. For a potluck between 10 and 30 people, a volunteer offers his or her home as hosting place. During my two-year stay in the U.S.A., I attended many of this kind of potlucks. One was the regular terminal get-together of the Modern Languages Department of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse outside the house of a professor by the Mississippi River. We shared various delicious food prepared by the professors and the facilitators from over ten nationalities including Mexican, Russian, Spanish, German, French, Indian, Moroccan, and of course Chinese.
Students at colleges and universities, especially international students, are fond of holding potlucks for their birthday, graduation, and other celebrations. Students usually arrange it in the evening and very often sing and dance crazily after the meal.
If there are over 30 participants, usually people prefer to put it in a church which is more spacious and almost all the utensils are available. (Sometimes, for a larger party, each participant may be asked to contribute an additional $1 or $2 for purchasing plates, cutlery, napkin and beverages.) A Chinese student delegation was welcomed by the local community of La Crosse city in Wisconsin in the form of potluck at the basement of a Christian church. About sixty people including the city mayor and many members of the Sino-American Friendship Association came to the party with a large variety of food and beverages. The Chinese, though not used to American food, were satisfied for they could choose their favorite.
At the end of the potluck, participants are expected to help host with the cleanup. It could be fun too — some of the best conversations happen in the kitchen. Upon leaving, usually guests express their thanks to the host for his or her organization and hospitality.
The potluck is an opportunity for members to meet, visit, and orient. You share diversity of cultures on food and experiences and strengthen the understanding and relationship in an easier way for everyone. Whether you are talking about food or anything else, when individuals come together to give life to each other through community, you've got a potluck.