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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

That Time I Ruined the Potluck

Two of my oldest friends, Ali and Chelsea, and I don't see each other as much as we'd like to, despite living within a half hour of each other. We decided to do a monthly potluck, rotating the host, based on a theme. A supper club, we're calling it, where the three of us and our partners share a home-cooked meal every month.

My husband Dylan and I used to host weekly themed potlucks when we lived in Burlington, VT ("the big city"). Upwards of twenty people would gather in our one-bedroom apartment, sitting in every possible seat, including cushions on the floor. We had a group of regulars, who often brought friends. We were frequently introduced around town as "those potluck people I told you about." We did it Tuesday nights, before a DJ we liked played a "Bass Culture" set across the street, even though, more often than not, everyone was too full or drunk or stoned to make it to the set. We called it Potluck Culture and even kept a blog where we shared our recipes. People got pretty sophisticated with their dishes and we usually ended up with enough leftovers to last us until the next week. We chose themes from around the world - Thai Culture, Vietnamese Culture, African Culture. One time, Dylan and our friend Dan drove an hour to a farm where they bought pig's liver. Once, they cooked camel. Like I said, we got into it. Once we'd gone through every global culture we could think of - including New Orleans Culture, Southern Culture, Eastern European - we got creative. Apple Culture, Beer Culture, Gross Out Culture (for Halloween), where dishes had to look gross but taste delicious (Dylan made beef and beet tartares, I made mud pie). It was a lot to do every week, but we did it consistently for over a year. Then, we moved away from Burlington, away from a lot of our friends, and we no longer really listened to that kind of music, anyway.

Years later, we're bringing the potluck back, this time more intimate, more grown-up, six of us around a table (not on floors), the chance to catch up every month. Ali and Chels and I have been friends since kindergarten. They, along with our friend Kelsey (who lives on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands, so can't make our potlucks. Legitimate excuse, I guess.), were my best friends growing up, at times my only real friends. They sent me a care package with lotions and candles when I was in the teen psychiatric ward when I was thirteen. They were the only ones, beside family, on my call list while I was hospitalized, the only ones I could talk to. Now, we've been in and at each other's weddings. Kels comes home and we all get together usually once a year, but the three of us live relatively close to each other, and want to make an effort to see each other more often.

And so we had our first supper club this week, at Ali and her boyfriend's apartment. The theme was Friendsgiving. I was in charge of appetizers, so I made baked gouda and veggie egg rolls (admittedly not very Thanksgiving-y). We were the first to arrive, while Ali was putting the finishing touches on the turkey tenderloins she was stuffing with a beautiful pomegranate mix, readying them to go in the oven. I wanted to heat up my appetizers, as they'd cooled on the half-hour drive, so went to open the oven, but it wouldn't budge. Thinking it must be locked, I flipped the little lever, accidentally locking the oven. Apparently it was broken and needed a little finagling to open. By locking it, the mechanism appeared to have broken. Luckily, we didn't have any food in the oven yet, and were able to turn it off. Chels and her wife Mattie arrived, garlic mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts in hand, and we all spent an hour jiggling the lock with a butter knife. Though we eventually got the oven open, it was kind of late to start the turkey at this point, so we decided to go out instead.

"I know nothing I say is going to make you feel less guilty," Ali said, while rebuking my thousandth apology (how well she knows me). "That's the last time we invite Erika to dinner!" I joked. But I did feel bad. Everyone had made delicious-looking food and I'd ruined our first potluck. But the point wasn't really to eat homemade food; it was to spend time together while enjoying a meal, and we did just that. I'm so grateful for these friendships, and that they're willing to forgive me when I screw up (which I seem to do a lot).

Next month is at my house, Italian-themed. Hopefully we actually get to eat it.

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