For the third year in a row, we were invited to share in a pot luck Thanksgiving feast. Global nomads Gretchen and Peter ordered two large turkeys and had them baked to perfection in the industrial oven at their local trattoria while taking care of the mashed potatoes and gravy. The guests brought the rest: a sweet potato casserole, an extra pan of stuffing, a spinach and raisin dish, my Brussels sprouts gratin and sweet and sour onions, various salads and more vegetables, homemade rye bread and cranberry sauce.
All 30 or more of us dug in, filling plates to the brim, not worrying at all about the various items touching each other and mixing their distinct flavors. An evening of freedom from food rules was a bit inebriating (in addition to the flowing wine).
Pot luck makes sense in a food culture that doesn't place much attention on food rules or organize meals around an endless flow of carefully orchestrated courses. Pot luck is democratic -- each dish has the right to a place of equal visibility and value on the table. It's competitive -- the best dishes go the fastest, for everyone to see and judge. It's egalitarian -- even a simple dish can shine in humble splendor next to an elaborate one. Every dish is an individual, with its own story and history. What the table lacks in elegance and orchestrated food order perfection, it gains in wholesome, friendly charm and great food, especially when it is all mixed up together under a cloak of gravy.
Then came the pies, and yet another grand American pot luck Thanksgiving feast had been enjoyed by all.
Now it is the day after -- minestra, then prosciutto and mozzarella, one after the other, never at the same time. Until the second to last Thursday of November comes round again.