In All Over but the Shoutin’, there is a colorful and appetizing passage about a church’s “dinner on the grounds,” a meal served outdoors, often near the graveyard. There are scores of food references throughout that book. The second time I read Shoutin’ I wrote down every dish or ingredient on a separate sheet of paper. Purple hull peas, cornbread, barbecue, Grapicola, biscuits. It makes me hungry just to read that list.
We concluded this season of Reading Together with a community potluck on April 16. There in the dining room at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, we feasted on such tasty offerings as bean soup, lentil salad, black bean salad, cheesy potatoes, tater tot casserole, cornbread, whole wheat rolls, pineapple pie, cookies, fruit, chocolate cake.
It was a feast of home-cooked dishes and good conversation. We talked about Rick Bragg’s books, and how much we enjoyed his presentation on April 14. We talked about the food itself, sharing recipes and techniques, confiding our kitchen weaknesses and disasters.
Bringing a dish to pass says, “I am offering who I am. This food represents me, but it also represents my family and my family’s family, our values, our traditions, where we are in life right now and where we’ve been.” And so a potluck becomes an exchange of food, history and thought — storytelling. The conversation of food and stories turns strangers into friends. It builds a community.