With every passing year at the University of Maine, we slowly build a looming pile of debt that will haunt us all for years to come. We don’t think about it at the time, but tuition is not the only factor adding to this pile. Those extra expenses, like gas, rent, food and the occasional beer or five, add up quickly. Before you know it, you’ve graduated; you’ve moved on to what you hoped was a decent job, and you’re still eating Ramen noodles. Something that could save you a bit of money and help you meet new friends is the evermore popular potluck dinner.
Growing up, I always had Easter dinner with my family at my grandmother’s house in western Ohio. There would always be incredible amounts of food, and I could imagine my grandmother cooking for days prior, slaving away for all of us. I couldn’t have been more wrong. She made her signature dishes of course, but every part of the family would bring a dish as well. When I found this out, I thought it was the coolest thing ever invented.
To me, potlucks have been something that have brought people together and closer in so many ways. This is the once-a-week occasion when we join each other as a community to eat, socialize and enjoy the company of friends old and new. Eating the food is secondary to the enjoyment of being around the people you care for. I have kept these same beliefs to this day and continue to believe that food can create a strong bond among people.
When I moved to Europe I did not know anyone on the entire continent. I was 20 years old and grew homesick quickly. It was difficult being a new person in a new place. I struggled with learning the language and the customs, but I got through it. I made friends after time and shared the tradition of potlucks with them. It caught on very quickly.
We would share recipes and teach each other new styles of cooking. The table would be set for four people and then six and then eight. Soon we had to find more chairs and table space. People would bring folding chairs over just so they could get a plate of whatever we all had prepared that evening. Never before have I been so close to a group of people. We grew from a group of friends into a family.
The rules are simple for starting your very own potluck. Plan a night that is convenient for everyone, choose a venue and bring something to add to the feast. My friends and I like to cook while everyone is together so that we learn new things and get a bit more time to catch up on the week’s news.
Cooking together can help newcomers to get comfortable in the kitchen. This is great because everyone works together and nobody feels left out when they don’t have the confidence to try cooking at home. We all have friends like that, the ones who have never worked an oven before except to cook pizza pockets. Don’t worry about these folks, they can bring the drinks if they are a fire hazard. No second degree burns necessary.
Like I said before, potlucks bring people together. You and the people you gather with will save money by eating together and gain closer bonds that can last forever. I believe that our community could be impacted very positively in simple ways such as this. Building relationships with neighbors and schoolmates can make our community in Orono close-knit and peaceful. So, get your friends together, fire up the oven and start cooking.
Antonio Addessi is a third-year psychology student