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How the Growing Potluck Trend Is Serving Up an Antidote to Trump Trauma

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Tomatoes dejected by hand, simmered into a vast Dutch oven, with garlic, salt and peppers to flavor. Chunks of belligerent beef, adobo seasoning and fresh parsley rolled into round shapes and sautéed in a expel iron skillet. Once complete, it’s served with angel-hair pasta and grated parmesan cheese. The elementary spaghetti and meatball plate is Joe Cleffie’s appreciated Italian-American family recipe. The plate is for Sarah Grey and Joe’s weekly potluck dinner. The doorbell rings. It’s Friday night, and the first guest arrive at their Philadelphia home.

For several years, Grey, a work-from-home parent, has hosted Friday Night Meatballs. Grey says the shared plate became the pill for her social isolation. Where Friday used to vigilance the waste finish to an even lonelier week, Friday Night Meatballs collected a understanding village of people from several ethnicities, domestic beliefs and food cultures. 

Now, when fear of “the other” is fueling White jingoist groups to impetus on Charlottesville, Grey says, the weekly potlucks are elaborating into a apparatus for breaking down walls of stupidity and strengthening multicultural ties. It’s a trend that’s happening opposite the country, as potlucks are used as a means to overcome social and domestic divisions.


Friday Night Meatballs began 4 years ago when Grey, then a new mother, found success starting her freelance-editing business, but the hurdles of operative from home while lifting a 2-year old daughter began to make her feel isolated.

“I didn’t have people around who had been by it before who could say, ‘This is normal. Every primogenitor goes by this, and this is what to do when your child’s throwing a tantrum,’” she says. “It’s lonely, and it’s exhausting. It’s formidable when you don’t have that support.” 

On her 33rd birthday, Grey posted a Facebook status: the first invitation to Friday Night Meatballs. She was vacant at the series of people who responded.

“It went viral,” she says.

After the first dinner, the guest list had grown to embody new and old friends from all sorts of food cultures—everyone adding a singular season to the potluck.

On the Serious Eats blog, Grey wrote about the elementary thought of entertainment for dinner, and she says she’s bewildered at the series of people from around the universe who have reached out to her and who also find themselves feeling isolated. 

“It hit this honeyed mark given so many people used to have that [community and mutual aid] in their lives before,” Grey says. “Now they don’t, and they skip it.”

Grey says the purpose of her weekly potlucks has developed somewhat given they first began. With flourishing inhabitant divisions, she sees Friday Night Meatballs as a apparatus for breaking down domestic barriers and building multicultural community.

These days, the first and many essential thing Grey says guest must bring to her potluck is “an open mind.” After that, a side plate or dessert will suffice.

“You don’t know who you’re going to meet and not even indispensably what you’re going to eat,” she says. “And when the moment comes to protest, or to mount up and contend we’re not going put up this anymore, that’s when [these] ties assist all of us. The closer weave we are, the some-more likely we are to sojourn station and keep the arms related and attain in changing things.”

Recent investigate out of the U.K.—where the success of last year’s Brexit opinion has been compared to the arise of Trump and White nationalism in the U.S.—shows how social networks can impact domestic beliefs. A report by U.K. consider tank Demos shows that people who don’t have a social network that is culturally opposite were some-more likely to support isolationist policies such as leaving the European Union.

That’s the implausible energy in food, “especially good food,” says Julia Turshen, a home-cook and author of Feed the Resistance: Recipes and Ideas for Getting Involved. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Turshen writes about how the review that happens when we share food around a list is much opposite from the kind of review that happens everywhere else. 

One instance she highlights is of Derek Black, who was born into a White jingoist family and has since renounced White nationalism. He now actively works to drive others divided from the movement. 

Black befriended a college classmate who invited him to a Jewish informative dinner, and he credited the loyalty and the Shabbat cooking for assisting him determine his views, what they meant, and how he could change them. 

“I consider it’s an unimaginable example, but it speaks to the energy of the cooking list and what can occur around it,” Turshen says. 

It’s the face-to-face review that happens while pity a plate that Grey believes gives potlucks their impact.

“Some of the regressive folks who are positively smashing and kind in person competence be sum trolls online,” Grey says, “but there’s something about looking somebody in the eye and articulate to them face-to-face that tends to bring out the best rather than misfortune in many people.”

The top recommendation Grey has for anyone scheming to horde a potluck at home is trying not to spend some-more than 30 mins cleaning up before the guest arrive. 

“Once people come over and they see that it’s not perfect, it becomes a some-more loose atmosphere. People don’t feel like they have to dress up. Nothing is grave or fancy. … They can let their hair down.”

Kristin Donnelly, a food writer and the author of Modern Potluck, began documenting the widespread of potlucks around the country that applaud multiculturalism. On her blog, Donnelly wrote about the Global Table, the Syria Supper Club and Unity Tables hosted by an Indianapolis cook whose cooking menu includes award-winning shrimp and forage followed by severe conversations about race. 

“In these cases, people don’t have cooking or food backgrounds, or even event-planning backgrounds,” Donnelly says. “They just had a enterprise to accumulate people together around a common cause.”

In further to providing resources on her site for people who wish to start a village potluck, including a checklist for cooking organizers, Donnelly has hosted potlucks where she lives in Bucks County, a pitch county in Pennsylvania. She says her potlucks are meant to inspire, create human bonds, inspire people to attend in activism, and learn the common belligerent among people who hold opposite domestic beliefs.

“The radical thought is to use potlucks to create review among people who differently would never lay down together,” Donnelly says. And in the process, these potlucks are building community.

This essay was saved in partial by a extend from the Surdna Foundation.

Kevon Paynter is the Surdna stating associate for YES! Follow him on Twitter @KevonPaynter.

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