Potlucks for better or worse
by Moira Silva
On the Vineyard, it’s all potluck.
Weddings, holidays, Tuesdays; you name a reason for gathering and you better preheat the oven. A potluck allows for the elements of spontaneity and surprise. They also unite the Island’s resources—fishermen, artist and ex-caterer friends alike bring their best food and selves to the table. Since we moved here six years ago, my potluck experiences have ranged from hilarious to sentimental.
On a February night, my husband, Reid, and I hosted a fondue party. As our friends knocked the snow from their boots, they presented a tray piled high with slices of pound cake, fruit, and marshmallows, accompanied by the requisite chocolate dip. While I warmed the broths and oils for our meat course, we commiserated about the amount of work that fondue entailed. When the next guest arrived, she was quite flustered over her rendition of Julia Child’s cheesiest cheesy fondue, which had congealed en route into a cheese log. We peered into the fondue pot suspiciously and then each took a turn trying to save the curious lump—by reheating, stirring and slicing it. Unfortunately, nothing could save the (un)appetizer, so we tossed it. When our garbage was ravaged by skunks, they, too, avoided that frozen pizza roll.
Once on a whim, I rode along on what was planned as a guys’ night out. Reid and our friend Derek were headed to the autumnal Barnraisers’ Ball. Traditionally, it’s a dessert potluck, and if I had been invited earlier, we’d have been bringing a homemade Chilmark apple pie. Alas, on the way to the Ag Hall, I just listened as the men argued vehemently and quite humorously over whether to pick up a prepared dessert or arrive empty-handed. Derek won. As Johnny Hoy’s last song cued folks to collect their dishes and jackets, we peered at the dessert table, and there, amidst the leftover organic lemon tarts and fresh-from-my-pumpkin-patch pies, a single empty tray sat as proof that his Stop & Shop éclairs were appreciated.
For our baby shower last summer, friends hosted a kebob potluck. While the grill seared steak, shrimp, and swordfish, we filled our bellies with stuffed clams and basked in our friends’ eager babysitting promises. A homemade lemon sponge cake topped with whipped cream and Whippoorwill Farm raspberries signaled the end of the special evening that left my pregnant belly as full as our new baby’s bedroom. It was a humbling, delightful feeling to wrap my hands around my growing baby and be fed, gifted, and surrounded by our very best friends.
Whether it’s Thanksgiving or a summer wedding, each season of Island potlucks unites us in easy camaraderie and superb cuisine. And, if the next potluck catches you on a busy day, remember that store-bought éclairs can substitute for home-made lemon sponge cake any day.