BY SARAH BARTHELOW
ILLUSTRATION BY KATIE EBERTS
When I was a kid, my sister and I accompanied our mother to church on Sundays. We weren’t particularly religious; mostly we sat in the pews and flipped ahead to mark all the upcoming hymns and then sang our hearts out to “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” The doctrine never really stuck, but I came to appreciate the ritual: the lighting of candles, the taking of communion, and, of course, the snacks in the fellowship hall afterward, accompanied by the grumpy old man who called me “girlie” and chided me for eating too many Danish butter cookies.
As an adult, I’ve long since forgone my religious upbringing. But my Sundays have picked up another kind of ritual: the brunch potluck. Saturday night, the texts start flying around: “I’ve got some bacon in the freezer I can bring.” “The chickens have been laying like crazy this week — I’ll do eggs!” “Mimosas! On it!” followed by, “Well, sounds like you guys have it covered. I’ll just show up! Haha, JK. Coffee cake?”
A long-time group of friends and family gather at each other’s house, rotating through hosts as the seasons pass. In the summer, we head to the biggest deck to bask outside in the sun and devour piles of fresh fruit and Dutch babies. During winter, it’s to the living room with a fireplace for heavy, overnight, cinnamon-swirl baked French toast topped with yogurt and maple syrup. The great thing about a potluck is that the work is shared. We all chip in to feed each other, and when you’re only responsible for one dish, the food always turns out top-notch. A packet of shelf-stable muffins doesn’t fly at these gatherings.
One Sunday last fall, we had a jam potluck, where everyone brought jars of the homemade jams we’d canned over the summer. We lined them up on the counter for a grand tasting — more than a dozen in total. Honey apricot rosemary, yellow plum, “alley” blackberry, blueberry ginger, apricot thyme, vanilla peach, raspberry, and strawberry rhubarb.
Alena made fluffy drop biscuits, and her sister cooked up a frittata loaded with leeks and the last of the tomatoes pulled from her backyard garden. I fried up some Skagit River Ranch sausages while my friend Josh poured the mimosas. Kids ran around underfoot, snatching fresh peach slices off the counter and sampling jam straight out of the jar. When it was all ready, we ate.
We sat in the living room with candles lit, while Bob Marley played in the background, and we devoured plates of food prepared by our friends. My plate was filled with biscuits loaded up with the taste of summer, syrup running from the pancakes over the sausage and onto the edge of the frittata. No one yelled at me for taking seconds of the coffee cake.
While the setting has evolved, the sentiment hasn’t changed. Sundays for me have always been about community. We weren’t meant to spend our Sundays — or our meals — alone.
Sarah Barthelow is a freelance food writer and the voice behind the popular food podcast, And Eat it Too! She lives in Seattle where she looks forward to Sundays.