Sunday, April 3, 2011


After feasting on a lovely "date night' with my husband I found myself thinking about the way food nourishes in more than one way. All my life that's been a visceral experience.

Potluck was the idea I had while drifting off to sleep that night of our feasting--a potluck for Isabella's first birthday. I wondered--is it appropriate to ask others to contribute? That's what my family did for well over a decade of birthdays--maybe fifteen-odd years of birthdays, first Communions, an anniversary or two, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

I recall always summer parties--though we had them all year long. Our table, brimming over with platter after casserole dish of Portuguese favorites and the occasional "American" cuisine: tripa (cow stomach), bacalau (salt cod), caçoila (beef and liver stew), favas com linguiça (a garlicky, spicy sausage), povo (octopus, now and then), meatballs or lasagna, or linguiça and peppers (always from my Godmother). Desserts of all sorts: a cake I would decorate, flan, bolo de ouiro and prata (gold and silver cake, made each with yolks and whites of 8 eggs, respectively), chocolate pudding pie, "million dollar" pie, various puddings (three color was decadently sweet with its homemade vanilla custard, chocolate pudding, and meringue layer, and ice cream cut into slices from a box for the cake accompaniment. Sometimes coffee. Always wine and beer.

A regular restaurant operation for about 25 people, sometimes more, every time. One major family photo around the blowing of candles, huddled around the mass of food carpeting the tablecloth. Really. The whole nine yards.

I wonder at it--so long ago, but so much an inherent part of my upbringing. I don't experience this much now, but potluck still happens amongst the friends I feel are like family here, 2000 miles from my mother and father, sister and brother, aunts, uncles, cousins. All my milestones have been marked by food and friends here in my years of adulthood--my graduation, birthdays, my bachelorette party, our baby shower, various Easters and Thanksgivings. Everyone brings a piece of themselves to the table--unique, filled with love in the form of generosity. The same sort of thing happens when people bring themselves to a discussion--our spiritual gatherings at church, or literary considerations in my classroom, or general camaraderie of a book club. We share a potluck of ideas, sometimes a bit slow-going, everyone catching up to the main idea, nourishing themselves from the sharing of self.

It's all gift, really, almost magical. We are given the best from our Creator, who carries to us, like my aunts, mother, and cousins did in my childhood years, platters of love and bowls of joy--to share, marvel at, relish.

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