Potluck zine is the brainchild of Founder and Editor Rhia Cook. Described as a, “passionate home cook and textile design graduate,” Rhia published Potluck’s first issue back in May 2020, completely on a “whim,” the website adds. Potluck is both a digital and print magazine, focused on cooking, eating and sharing food – but that’s not all. From reading the latest issue (6), it’s clear that it’s not just about food, but about the connection between food and memories, celebrating family recipes and a base for a diverse community of food lovers to come together to talk about their experiences.
Issue 6’s theme is around ‘authenticity,’ which is placed in a bold slab-serif font on the front cover. The illustration it’s placed upon is by Heedayah Lockman, featuring a piece of line art which is driven by an undertone of neutral colours to highlight a standard kitchen, with a meal being prepared on a tabletop. This opens up the world of home cooking to us, inviting you into the process and the sometimes intimacy of cooking. In the opening Editor’s note, Rhia references the definition of ‘authentic’ in its relation to, “made or done the same way as an original, note a false imitation, It’s a synonym we use for quality, a word that instills trust and gives us a frame of reference for something true.” But it also refers to a single original version, but is ultimately shaped by, “our own experiences and our own biases.”
This is where Potluck thrives in its experiences; its huge range of contributors have a passion for food and write about the possibility that authenticity can be questioned, but also progressed. Progression can come from a variety of ideas and beliefs when cooking; each family member can add their own take on each meal. For example in ‘Bog Up’ by Louisa Smith, each member makes a slight variation on a core dish, in this case a Carbonara, and pushes it to its limits. She notes that she is too, “overzealous with the pasta,” her brother is “heavy on the meat, virtually no veg,” and her mother has, “mastered the marriage of the best parts of [the] dish.” Ultimately the dish can manifest itself in multiple ways and results in a, “bowlful of happiness,” but the recipe that proceeds looks to drive forward the notion of anything goes if you’re hungry.
This idea of perceived authenticity can be completely different from someone else’s, and this is how Potluck’s latest issue offers a huge variety of viewpoints. Each with their own personality, the various contributors discuss their personal experience with authenticity, but also offer up unique talking points that progress the argument of, ‘what is authentic?’ Creating that affiliation with the authentic is intrinsically linked with tradition and family, as is evident within the articles, poems and essays featured. An identity is established or maintained through food, as is tradition for some people. ‘A Jewish Lasagna’ by Miriam Sallon is a poignant insight into the home of her mum, and her cooking. “You don’t leave Susan Sallon’s house hungry,” she notes. “You don’t even leave it with your trouser button done up. And, if you’re one of her children, you don’t leave empty-handed either – massive Tupperware full of the afternoon’s delights, and whatever else you find in the still-heaving fridge keeping you company on the journey home.”
This warm account seemingly forges a bond between meals in Miriam’s household; a “you won’t go hungry” attitude. “Perhaps my mum’s cooking is missing some of the more obvious ingredients in a Jewish portfolio; perhaps her matzo ball soup is perfectly nice but tastes absolutely nothing like chicken soup. But in every dish she makes, she has the one vital ingredient that can be forged, that makes hers the very essence of authentic Jewish cookery, and that is guilt.” Miriam notes it as a joke, but continues. “It’s a whole lot of things: love, huge portions, generosity, an ability to whip up a feast with no notice, and a good dose of guilt too of course.” This mother’s love is a theme throughout the pieces in Potluck issue 6; the zine is full of love. Lovingly crafted illustrations punctuate the message with some of the writing, adding a tangible reference for the reader to grab ahold of and take with them as they progress through the zine.
Similarly, Sian Brett’s piece ‘I am not Nigella,’ the recipe readings are recalled as a vivid, tangible experience. “Not only do I imagine eating the end products of these recipes, I think about the kind of person I will be when I cook them,” Sian notes. “I consider myself a maverick, a renegade in the kitchen. I imagine myself like Nigella,” they add. Sian cooks on a “feeling” she says – doing what feels right at the time. This notion of cooking on a whim is a great way to fail and learn, the piece mentions, but it puts the pressure on as Sian felt it was a, “reflection on me and my qualities as a human.” This is an example of a tough love situation which is also reflectant of the passion and internal pressure that cooks have for their food. There are deeply personal accounts in the issue, with that driving force of self-pressure and creativity which stray away from the authentic but forge new paths, be it memories or new loves.
“Languages are tied up inextricably with food and culture, Aditi Jehangir notes in their piece ‘Hands off my biryani’. “There has never been an easier time in history to find out about other cultures and traditions online,” Aditi further adds. This couldn’t be more true in order to stay authentic to a specific culture through food. The power of TikTok, as they also note, YouTube videos and an abundance of Instagram Reels visually places cultural identities with cooking and at the heart of it is learning. Potluck cultivates a journey across continents which brings memory and tradition to the forefront. With the discussion focused around the authentic, Potluck is ultimately a directly authentic, collective set of writing that sees us challenging our perspectives on food culture as a whole. “Sometimes it’s just funny to watch Italians rage over pizza,” Agustin Federico Masondo writes. This statement drives a curiosity for the creativity behind food, and how being authentic in the digital age is increasingly harder to judge. By reading Potluck you can be the judge and jury but ultimately discover what drives your own authentic experience of food, memory and culture.