My Potluck Table Surrounded by Friends

by Whitney Frykman, Tastemaker in Residence

In the role as a first-time homeowner, I envisioned hosting elaborate cocktail parties, traditional holiday gatherings, and the occasional drop-by visit. Coming to reality, with limited cooking experience and a small condo that is never clean enough, decor never quite finished sent the dreams of being the host with the most out the window. That is until the simple idea of a potluck dinner presented an easy and accessible way to entertain and eye opening moments that revealed what hosting and the term "potluck" really means. The dictionary defines it as "used in reference to a situation in which one must take a chance that whatever is available will prove to be good or acceptable.”

How incredibly refreshing.

In this example taking a risk in the kitchen, among friends. People bring what they have to the table. I connect with the part of the definition that, if among friends, whatever you bring, be that store-bought cookies or an elaborate made-from-scratch cake, the friendship you bring will prove to be more than enough.

Tactically, a potluck is a fantastic concept for those prone to hosting. You are able to focus time and resources on one menu item and make it truly spectacular. If you are time crunched, there are enough other eats to supplement. Going forward, that little table has hosted a Junior League Committee meeting with 12 women gathered around, as well as a memorable mother daughter Pizza dinner while watching Christmas movies after Black Friday shopping.

A new potluck tradition began with five friends swapping the monthly role of potluck host. When my month to host finally rolled around, panic ensued, followed by frantically searching table and chair sets at Crate and Barrel. Then, taking a breather, I stepped back and looked at my 3-person table top bar and large coffee table. These were five of my <em>closest friends</em>. They were not coming over to judge my cooking or dwelling space. What I could offer however is a warm and welcoming environment, lots of smiles, a few glasses of wine, and what I now admit was a delectable butternut squash lasagna.

Hosting does not equal perfect; and the shape of the table, the table’s location, or even what is on it does not hold the most importance. That first night, the authenticity of those friends who sat around my short, round, coffee table made the tradition something we all look forward to. That night, sharing a meal seated on the floor with cushions. Each person contributed experiences from the month before, a dish of their choice, but most importantly their friendship. This group chose to ring in the New Year with new twists on old traditions, potluck style.