International student finds new tradition in potluck custom
Muhammad Anta Kusuma, Clarion staff
April 10, 2012
Filed under Opinions
In Indonesia, we don’t have a potluck tradition where guests bring their own food and share. We usually invite people when there is a special event like a birthday or when you have a newborn baby. The host makes plenty of food and lets the guest eat as much as they want. It is a social event where people talk with each other. However men are grouped with other men and women are grouped with other women.
Two weeks after spring break, an American family invited other international students and me to a potluck. Two hours before the potluck, I decided to make beer bread, basically bread baked with beer. I didn’t have a recipe. I just went off of an experience in New York City when I saw a person making it. I asked for flour, sugar and baking soda from my Indian friend who was making vegetarian food. I already had three bottles of beer and salt. I mixed it with my hand, and put it in the oven.
When I came to the party, I saw Annette, the potluck host, preparing her baked chicken. In the kitchen, there was cheese, chips, biscuits and some light foods as appetizers. When the dinnertime came, I could see fried fermented soybeans from Indonesia, salad and cake from the U.S., chicken rice from Pakistan, hot spinach from India and a beef burger from Egypt.
In the backyard, the bonfire was ready. Before dark, we did trivia with Easter eggs as prizes. Everybody had the chance to answer a question. There were chocolate eggs. I didn’t know anything about Easter, but someone whispered an answer to me. It was fun.
In addition to trivia, we roasted marshmallows. We even made s’mores. They were good. That was the first time I’ve ever had those.
When the party in the backyard was over, Annette’s husband showed us his hunting collection room. There were deer heads, fish, birds and a black bear on the wall. He said that he shot the bear from a close distance. Inside the cupboard, there were some knives and bear skulls. The room was like a museum. Because of its uniqueness, guests tried to wear some hunting clothing.
In the basement, some people played pool. Younger people played video games and Annette spent her time in her antique decorated kitchen.
There were still plenty of leftovers, so some students brought them back home. I even brought back some of my beer bread. This was strange for me. In Indonesia, I’m not sure why, but you are not supposed to take food back. It is considered impolite.
The experience of my first potluck has given me a special feeling of togetherness. It taught me how to share happiness. I’m thinking about having potlucks when I go back to Indonesia.
Muhammad Anta Kusuma is an international student from Indonesia who is attending classes at Madison College. He writes this column about his experiences in the United States.