The first potluck

Potlucks may be making a comeback, though these days they go by other names—”Friendsgivings” and “cook-offs,” to name a few.

A March 25 article on The Huffington Post explores what’s new with the tradition of sharing dishes, as well as what’s old, talking to Wheaton Professor of Religion Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus about the history of the potluck.

Brumberg-Kraus tells Huffington Post reporter Joseph Erbentraut that the concept of the potluck dates back to biblical times. He points to the Bible’s New Testament, where poor and well-off members of the community share dishes and unite through a symbolic offering of bread and wine.

“They don’t call it a potluck, but that appears to be what’s happening,” Brumberg-Kraus says.

Though the tradition has changed in many ways through the ages, today’s potluck still encourages people to be “much more inclusive and aware” of the needs of their brethren, whether it means bringing a dish that will have broad appeal or respecting the dietary restrictions of fellow diners, according to the article.

“You want everyone at the meal to feel a part of it and have something to eat,” Brumberg-Kraus says.

The Wheaton professor’s research focuses on religion and food, particularly food traditions and rituals, and he often writes on the subject. He also teaches a First-Year Seminar on “The Rituals of Dinner.”