I’ve been tardy writing this because I felt like I wouldn’t do the whole justice. Or I’d come across as overly gushy (I’m not afraid of that part anymore, but consider yourself warned) or not gushy enough. Our Sunday dinner this past weekend was truly one of the best of my life. I could tell by the fact that I spent much of it focused on not bursting into tears. (See? I’m doing it already.)
Remember last week, when I rambled on a bit about the concept of a potluck, and offered up $25 gift cards to anyone who wanted to do something swell with one of them? Just to spread some happiness around at a time when the world seems to sorely need it? (I still have more, by the way, if you have an idea. Let me know in the comments and I’ll email you.) I got an email from Adrienne, who lives out here in Tofino, who was inspired to organize a potluck with her daughters to not only bring people in the community together to share a meal, but to raise funds for the Canadian Red Cross in support of Japan. They reserved the hall, planted the seed (mostly via email and social media), enlisted the help of a graphic artist friend to make up posters and others to contribute things like hand-made origami flowers that required 12 pieces of paper apiece to create. I’m so grateful that she was able to pull it together so quickly – in under a week – so that I could be a part of it.
People arrived in the late afternoon to decorate – mismatched linens from various homes to cover the tables, with glass jars, bottles and vases holding greens, flowers and handmade Japanese flags.
They put origami paper and instructions on each table to give people something to do as they waited for their turn at the buffet. Adrienne fretted that people wouldn’t come – or perhaps too many would. Of course they did – a trickle at first, and then waves of neighbours bringing pots, bowls and trays of homemade food. Soon everyone was jockeying for space on the table.
This is my idea of a potluck. If you plan it, they will come.
In true West coast fashion, the tables were divided into “meat-free” and “wheat-free”, the gluten-free baking outnumbering the wheat-based kind. There was much vegan, and those that weren’t were labeled, almost as an anomaly.
Everyone happily unpacked their own plates and forks once they settled at a table, many choosing Japanese-style ceramic bowls to eat out of.
The four folding tables barely accommodated the food that was brought – samosas, pasta dishes, buckwheat noodles, scalloped potatoes, fried rice, sushi, lentils with apples, nut loaf with nut butter gravy, shrimp and scallops and salmon, cheesy polenta…
dips and spreads and breads and hard boiled eggs in a spicy tomato sauce – there were no duplicates, and everything was totally unique and completely fabulous. (In fact, the menu was varied enough to make a great cookbook, I think. But I’m afraid to ask Adrienne to hunt everyone down and ask them for their recipes.)
The food of course was a personal extension of everyone there. We were all feeding each other, nourishing that appetite for good company around the table. Everyone talked about what they were eating, asking about those dishes they were interested in – who made it? how? what’s in it? – a great reminder of how skilled and creative home cooks are.
Before we ate, Adrienne reminded us all of what’s happening in Japan, and asked for a moment of silence. She read a bit from one of her favourite children’s books, Imagine a Day by Sarah Thomson:
imagine a day…
when the peace of a forest
and the strength of a mountain
become a cathedral
for your heart.
imagine a day…
when we build a moat
not to keep strangers out,
but to welcome them in.
(A part she didn’t read:
imagine a day…
when your sand castle
even the highest waves.)
And then we dug in. Rarely have I felt such a strong sense of community. (And yet we were outsiders, geographically speaking.) The age range was under a year old to over ninety, and everyone laughed and chatted as if it were a huge Christmas dinner with family they hadn’t seen in years.
Over the course of the evening the conversations frequently turned to “doing this more often” – as much as anything, it was a powerful reminder of the importance of sharing a homemade meal with those people you share your community with, and how easy it is to ask everyone to bring something, and what an amazing spread you wind up with when you do it that way.
There was even dessert.
In the end, about 140 people showed up and $2105 was raised for Japan. Including the contents of Toby’s piggy bank. And the evening has inspired me to go home and plan a great many more potlucks. I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks to everyone who helped out and attended the dinner on Sunday. I do hope you have more.