“If you’re at a potluck and you’re worried about COVID, it’s not likely to be coming from the utensils,” said Donald Schaffner, a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University.

Schaffner added that there are other risks with sharing food, like norovirus and allergens. He said that if people preparing the food are practicing safe kitchen etiquette and not coming to potlucks while sick, risk will be limited.

“It ultimately comes to you trusting the person preparing the food,” Schaffner said.

But the thing people say they’re looking forward to even more than potato salad and fresh watermelon is seeing the friends they haven’t seen in more than a year.

Takoma Horticultural Club President Katherine Lambert said the club’s potluck this year has attracted a lot of excitement from members who were looking forward to seeing old friends and catching up after more than a year apart.

“It’s a really, really special time and people are reconnecting,” Lambert said. “There’s a warmth and gratitude about it. People are more enthusiastic.”

Members of St. Margaret of Scotland in Capitol Heights, Maryland, are feeling the same way about resuming their potluck gatherings, along with in-person services, said Pastor Michael Moran.

The church resumed its first Friday breakfast gathering this month and has a potluck planned for later this month for church members to meet the new pastoral team. Moran said people were thrilled to reconnect with old friends, joking darkly about having survived the pandemic so far.

“Some of them almost want to get up and dance,” Moran said. “They are just so happy to see one another.”

Moran said the church hopes to hold a potluck-style gathering at least once a month. He added that while some people are still hesitant to return to the church, most people were ready to reconnect.

Matthews Living History Farm Museum in Galax, Virginia, resumed its weekly potluck and music jam sessions at the end of May after reopening in April.

The museum’s executive director, Arwen Cayton, said the Tuesday night events had some minor changes to ensure safety. Disposable plates and utensils replaced the potluck’s usual reusable ones. Bottled beverages replaced pitchers, and volunteers are serving food rather than guests serving themselves.

“This is what has made everyone comfortable,” Cayton said. “The mood has not changed, it was just the way that we had to present things.”

About 30 to 40 people attend each week to connect with others in the community and hear the bluegrass musicians, Cayton said. But, at the first potluck in May, barely any music played.

The musicians were too busy catching up from the year they had missed.


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