Have you heard? Nashville loves food! Nashville has become a town of foodies, among other things. Long before national media named us the “IT CITY,”—a moniker that makes us both puff with pride and tremble a little about what we may become after everyone moves here, as they are doing….Long before that, Baptists, who are headquartered here, were hauling greasy buckets of chicken to church pot lucks. But like the upshot of all upscale movements, the humble potluck has been transformed in the land of this It City, this town of foodies.
Enter Nancy Vienneau, “recovered” caterer, noted food writer, and community food activist. Together with Nashville hat maker Gigi Gaskins, Vienneau founded The Third Thursday Community Potluck, now an eponymously named cookbook, ($24.99, June 2014, Thomas Nelson). At the behind-the-scenes potlucks, which inspired the cookbook, there are no rules: no assigned dishes, no RSVPs. Rather, a magical combination of devoted cooks and innovative dishes has made this a potluck like no other.
Even yours truly has a recipe in Vienneau’s cookbook, (“Witchy Brew.”) Within the pages of this truly beautiful hardcover, which bear delicious story and tantalizing photography, a fresh slant is cast upon potluck possibilities.
Structured by the month, the Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook contains menus, stories and 150 seasonal Southern recipes, along with tips and tools for a successful gathering. Nature provides the ideal seasonal menu; Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook organizes those naturally occurring culinary themes into easy-to-execute monthly menus: July is for tomatoes, August for figs, December for gifts from the kitchen, January for staying warm. With recipes like Smoked Gouda Risotto with Spring Peas, Cider-Braised Pork with Pears, Crab Mac-and-Cheese, or Brown Butter Honey Cake, stirred appetites will ignite for honest and imaginative dishes worthy of sharing with neighbors and friends.
Vienneau’s premise has always been simple: on the third Thursday of each month, bring a fresh seasonal dish for sharing. The results have been gloriously rich: new friends, engaging conversations, incredible food and camaraderie. Create your own culinary community and experience the joy and spirit of a good ol’ fashioned potluck…extraordinarily reinvented.
About Vienneau’s “*food activism”: the Nashville native began cooking professionally in 1980 as a caterer. These days she works in her community promoting local farmers, urban gardens, healthy affordable cooking, and food security. Most Fridays you’ll find her cooking at Second Harvest Food Bank. Her work appears in Alimentum: The Literature of Food, Relish Magazine, Yoga Journal, Nashville Arts Magazine, her weekly restaurant column in The Tennessean, and her blog, Good Food Matters.