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Potluck – Pea’s and Carrots

Published September 1st, 2014 in Blog

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

Over the fourth of July, I attended a potluck at a friend’s house. This got me to thinking about the foods we look forward to and not so forward to at summer gatherings. As I mulled this over, a very nice elderly couple came in with their offering of Peas in yogurt sauce and deviled eggs, in addition to these someone else had brought a vegie plate full of carrots and celery. All pretty common potluck fair from my childhood minus the yogurt.

pot•luck is a noun in the dictionary with the following definitions dating back in origin to 1585 to 1595. Who would have thought the potluck was that old – it could however explain some of the mystery casserole’s that are always present…..
1. Food or a meal that happens to be available without special preparation or purchase: to take potluck with a friend.
2. Also called potluck supper, potluck dinner, potluck lunch. a meal, especially for a large group, to which participants bring various foods to be shared.

The word potluck appears in 16th century England, in the work of Thomas Nashe, and used to mean “food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest, the luck of the pot’. The sense “communal meal, where guests bring their own food”, appears to have originated in the late 19th century or early 20th century, particularly in Western North America, either by influence from potlatch or possibly by extension of traditional sense of “luck of the pot”, brought west by Irish immigrants and the wagon trains.

To the Irish, a potluck was a meal with no particular menu. Everyone participating brought a dish for all to share. The term comes from a time when groups of Irish women would gather and cook dinner. They only had one pot so they cooked the meal with whatever ingredients they happened to have that day. This also would have been a way of necessity traveling across America in a wagon train.

This last paragraph clearly explains the way ranch wives in Eastern Oregon came together at branding, haying and fair time to lay out a spread of food that could feed an army. I have equally experienced this in logging communities; and church functions are never shy on food.

Raw vegetables in various forms appear in appetizer sections of American cookbooks of the 19th century. These were often stuffed -celery with cream cheese or presented as garnish -radish florets. Historical cookbooks, reveal raw vegetable platters with dip began showing up in the 1940s. At that time they were not called crudité’s which does not appear in print until the 1960s. These vegetable platters were promoted by women’s magazines, gourmet journals, restaurants, and health professionals.

The introduction of cold raw vegetable platers came on the seen in the 1950’s when Lipton tea and soup company introduced their dry soup mix and sour cream dip recipes. Crudités are traditional French appetizers consisting of sliced or whole raw vegetables, which are sometimes dipped in a vinaigrette or other dipping sauce. Crudités often include celery sticks, carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, and asparagus spears; sometimes olives, depending on local custom.

The Deviled Egg….
The deviled egg can be seen in recipes as far back as ancient Rome, where they were traditionally served at a first course. It is still popular across the continent of Europe. Deviled eggs are so popular in the United States that special carrying trays are available. Prepared and packaged deviled eggs, as well as hard boiled eggs are now available in U.S. supermarkets. Uhmmm I’m confused, how hard is it to boil an egg?

The term “deviled”, in reference to food, was in use in the 18th century, with the first known print reference appearing in 1786. In the 19th century, it came to be used most often with spicy or zesty food, including eggs prepared with mustard, pepper or other ingredients stuffed in the yolk cavity.

In parts of the United States, the terms “stuffed eggs”, “salad eggs”, “dressed eggs”, or “angel eggs” are used, particularly in the Bible belt. The term “angel eggs” is also used in association with deviled eggs stuffed with “healthier” alternatives. Ok I have to stop here – I’m busy laughing over the image of little angle eggs flying around! Have a great time at your summer potlucks.

To Your Good Health, and Freely Shared Foods with Friends.

To read more on how food has changed in America over the last 75 years check out Tammera’s new book “Our Journey with Food” available on this website Fall of 2014

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