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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term potluck goes back as far as the sixteenth century and refers to the idea of showing up at somebody’s home, sometimes even unannounced, and trying one’s “luck” with a serving of whatever might be in the host’s pot for dinner that night. Over the centuries, the concept has grown to include the “surprise” element of inviting guests to show up with a dish to pass or share, again hitting on the point of trying your luck at mealtime. Out west, the potluck was a popular concept among traveling cowboys, who contributed to the communal pot when visiting a campsite or ranch. Though the potluck ebbs and flows in popularity from decade to decade, it’s remained a mainstay of American social life, from family reunions to church events to political gatherings. At my house, it’s a neighborhood bonding experience that helps us feel connected and reinforces the strong sense of community that we share here in Mill Valley.

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