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What I’ve Learned about Community through Potlucks

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

My favorite form of love language is through food. I am in love with the process of making food, eating food, and serving food. The crisp feeling of fresh tomatoes being sliced or the sizzle of raw tofu hitting a hot oiled pan; I live for these moments. They exist in between the chaos of life and allow me to fully immerse myself into the creation of bringing a meal together. 

Recently I’ve been lucky enough to attend and host a potluck. These gatherings have embedded themselves into fond memories that I can look back on and feel immense gratitude for. 

Although I have a healthy reputation for being a naturally good cook, I credit my wonderful father for imparting some of his cooking knowledge onto me. I hesitate to cook for others. I have insecurities over the ratio, type of, and maybe lack of spices and ingredients present in a dish. I have a hovering fear of cooking something traditionally Vietnamese and how this will be perceived in alignment with my identity. I feel sensitive to the opinions of acquired tastes from different cultures and their reaction to my cooking. Nevertheless, I am used to juggling my anxiety alongside the inner knowing that I would rather participate and prove my insecurities wrong or challenge myself to learn more about them than not try at all. 

At my first potluck, I began cooking as soon-to-be friends trickled into the cramped college apartment kitchen. Each person walking in served as a reminder of how many opinions I would receive. My anxiety began to crescendo, as the circus of a cooking show that I was conducting, seemed to feel insurmountable. The what-ifs rolled through my mind. What if I made all of this food and nobody would end up liking it except for me? What if I added too much oyster sauce? What if this is too bland? Finally, the show came to an end when I finished cooking and presented the food. 

To my fortunate surprise, I received good feedback from these friends. I learned from this experience that appreciation for someone else’s food is a recognition of their experience in this world. It’s a form of validation for someone’s existence as if to say, “I acknowledge the way that you care for your own body and through this meal, I understand you just a little bit more”. To momentarily be given a glimpse of what makes us feel nourished and loved. Maybe the food triggers a special memory or a story. Through this it transcends into a story from childhood, a piece of poetry, to speak slowly with another on the balcony, or to fall asleep on the couch on a full stomach.

Phuong Anh Pham is a new member of the Her Campus TAMU chapter. She is excited to be part of a platform that seeks to inspire, motivate, and expand the minds of other young women. She looks forward to finding her writing style and honing her communication skills. She is currently a member of the Public Relations committee, where she will help in the creation of t-shirt designs and facilitate brand events. She is currently in her third year of the Landscape Architecture program at Texas A&M University. She has previously held internships at firms within the field of Landscape Architecture which has allowed her to explore other cities in Texas in depth of their culture, beauty, and history. She’s worked for firms in San Antonio and Austin where she has felt the most connected to her artistic and musical freedom. She has also worked for the Office of Sustainability that is part of the University. She is deeply invested in the practice of design with intention and care for the preservation of existing ecologies and helping cities become vibrant and living hubs for both humanity and organisms to coexist. When you can’t find Phuong Anh hunched over her desk in the Architecture building, then you probably won’t be able to find her at all because she enjoys unpredictable and spontaneous adventures whenever they arrive. She enjoys traveling to new places that allow her to expand and explore her understanding of the world, as well as learning about herself through this way. Some of her favorite simple activities that could make any day meaningful to her are: long walks with access to nature and people, visits to art museums, sipping a warm latte with oat milk on a sunny morning, being in the presence of family and friends, jumping on her trampoline, and playing with her little dog. She loves learning about how the world is interconnected through art, music, coffee, food, and language.