Ever since the first hunter invited his neighboring cave dwellers over for some roasted mastodon, there have been dinner parties. Back then, after the meal was complete, everyone would gather around a cave wall to read some paintings. Good times. Jump ahead to the 1950s and 1960s and the art of the dinner party had been perfected. Because of the Great Depression and WWII, entertaining was not a priority. However, once things settled down and folks got back to their routines, the concept dinner parties gained in popularity. While it might be tradition for a single host to plan and execute the dinner party from soup to nuts, the potluck and progressive dinner parties also caught on during this time. Bottom line: we like to share our food with family and friends. Here’s how they did it back in the day:
The Pot Luck Dinner
The first mention of a potluck dinner cropped up in England around the 1500s. Then it was used to describe a meal you might make when an unexpected guest might pop in. That guest would be subjected to “the luck of the pot.” The 50s version of a potluck dinner had guests bringing over different dishes to fill up the table. Potluck dinners at churches were all the rage and you can count on some good eating from the congregation.
As the host of a potluck dinner, you would need to coordinate your menu and who is bring what. You don’t want to end up with nothing but deviled eggs and cheese balls (two popular 50s appetizers). The potluck dinner was also a great way to swap recipes and get your friends to play to their strengths. Best of all, at the end of the dinner, everyone would take their pots back with them, which left minimum clean up.
The Progressive Dinner
In the 60s, the progressive dinner party gained in popularity. This was also referred to as a safari supper and required a lot of coordination. A progressive dinner has a single course prepared and served at a neighbor’s house. Then everyone would pick up and move down the block for the next course. Not only did you get to sample your neighbor’s culinary skills but you also got to snoop through their home. Obviously, this “open door” policy would only work in a few select neighborhoods where everyone knows each other. How many of your neighbors could you invite to a safari supper?
What’s For Dinner
You could sum up the popular dishes served up at a 50s potluck dinner in one word: casserole. Beef and corn and tuna-potato chip were always crowd pleasers. Pretty much anything you can throw together in a Pyrex cooking dish would be good to go. After all, it is potluck. There was also a lot of Swedish meatball main courses and fondue everything. What would you bring to a potluck dinner?