by Nancy Vienneau
Thomas Nelson, 2014
Review by Paulette Licitra
Have you ever been to a potluck? Sure you have. Anyone who is interested in food (not just to eat, but to get in a little deeper) is VERY curious about potlucks. Especially the kind where you don’t know what’s coming. You can watch the serving table as it fills up with dishes and each dish is a big surprise. The fun of seeing the menu fill in and then tasting everyone’s creations is hard to beat.
The personalities of cooks vary as much as fingerprints do. That’s the thrill for me. Personality comes out in the food. A cooked dish is so sincerely, authentically the mark of the person who cooked it.
So imagine having this fun every third Thursday of every month. In Nashville, TN, five years ago, Nancy Vienneau and Gigi Gaskins teamed up to host a third Thursday potluck and invited friends and community to join in. And it’s still going strong. The Third Thursday Potluck is a much-anticipated event every month at either Nancy or Gigi’s house. I’m lucky enough to be a participant and enjoy deciding what to cook and bring. And then joining in the fun, the buzz, and chatter of all the potluckers. The ooh’s and aah’s over every dish reveal. The moment when we’re summoned to line up and dig in.
Now we have a cookbook to match! Nancy—who is the Tennessean’s restaurant reviewer, a former caterer, and stellar writer with many other credits —has pulled together recipes of five years of Third Thursday potlucking. Teresa Blackburn, a Third Thursday potlucker and killer food stylist, worked on the book, too. With jump-out photography by Mark Boughton.
The recipes span many types of cuisines, many personalities and showcase each cook’s personal inventiveness. In a way it’s a cookbook of many cooks: Gigi’s Italian-American Fortune Cookies, Jessi’s German Pretzels with Spicy Old-World Mustard, Cathey’s Euphoric Raspberry Mojitos, Joy’s Slow-Roasted Romas, Brian’s Purple Hull Peas with Pork Belly. Often recipes settle into the South easily since that is where all the ingredients (and many of the folks) come from: Mark’s Sticky Onion Oven-Barbequed Chicken, Maggie’s Best Skillet Buttermilk Cornbread, Crab Macaroni and Cheese, The Local Burger. Potluck dishes emphasize the local bounty of the area and also spotlight organic and sustainable produce: Mustard Greens Salad, Kale Caesar, Butternut Squash & Leek Lasagna, Let’s Get Figgy Cocktail.
The recipes shine beautifully (you literally want to make each one), but so does Nancy’s writing. The intro to each chapter sets the scene, makes you feel a part of this potluck, and invites you to do the same kind of sharing and fun in your town.
“The connection is a love of cooking and sharing good food—emphasis on sharing. At the potluck you could meet a food stylist, community gardener, writer, caterer, or food journal publisher, but also a nurse, real estate broker, architect, musician, philosophy student and organic soap maker. It’s always different, just like the food!”
Get the cookbook. Immerse in the experience. Start your own potluck.