When we first came back to the farm as part-time residents, we celebrated with a pot luck dinner on the lawn. I didn't think it was anything unusual, for when I was a child such occasions were frequent. Of course, air conditioning was not common in every household, so summer evenings on the lawn were more pleasant than being indoors after a hot afternoon had baked the interior, which wasn't likely to cool off until bedtime or later. Watermelons cooled in the tank or homemade ice cream the women made inside and brought out for the men to crank were frequent deserts.
For our return-to-the-farm dinner on the lawn, we had guests from distant cities and guest from farms not far away. We provided the meat and something else that I no longer remember, and our guests brought vegetable dishes and deserts, as I recall. It was not until the guests from the neighborhood began talking about what fun it was to dine on the lawn--something they hadn't done in years--that I realized that the scene I had recreated from my childhood was no longer common practice.
Isaac mentioned pot luck suppers several places in his journal. He was the chairman for a Christmas supper at the school house for neighbors that belonged to the Farmer's Alliance. The People's Party held a pot luck lunch in St. John for a political rally, although they would have called the noon meal dinner.
Pot luck meals have not disappeared--they are just held indoors in air conditioned comfort today. Sometimes they are family events, like the Memorial Day noon meal where the photographs in the blog were taken. Sometimes they are school events, like the annual pot luck supper on awards night at the local high school. When Mother was living in the nursing home, families were occasionally invited to a pot luck supper so that residents could introduce that families.
The food is as good as the cooks who bring it, and that is often very good! With so many women working, many things on the long tables may come from the grocery store rather than their kitchens, which would not have been the case a generation or two ago.
My favorite pot luck supper story involved the monthly Sunday evening pot luck suppers at our church. One lady brought a baked ham that was so outstandingly good that all the other ladies asked for her recipe. She stalled with one excuse after another, until the other ladies finally assumed she was unwilling to share her special recipe and allow every other cook in the community to bake a ham as delicious as hers.
As it turned out, she wasn't being selfish about sharing her recipe. It was just that her ham had a special ingredient that she knew most of the women asking for her recipe would not approve. That wonderful flavor they all admired came from her having baked the ham in beer!