Spurred on by the devastating images and words of hate coming out of Charlottesville, Va. last week, Calgary food writer Julie Van Rosendaal turned to what she knew best: food and getting people together.
Earlier this week, she wondered on Facebook:
"Wouldn't it be great if we could combat all the images of angry torch-bearing racists with images of people carrying casseroles?" she wrote. "And curries and baklava and pie — to a backyard barbecue or picnic?"
"Let's do some things. I have some ideas. Would love to hear yours."
Her proposal was met with enthusiastic response from her friends and followers. A couple of days later, Van Rosendaal posted again, this time with a plan:
"This weekend, a week since the events in Charlottesville and the killing of Heather Heyer, let's gather in parks and living rooms and back yards and use those garden torches to illuminate conversation and make some real connections."
And Project Potluck was born.
"Food just brings people together," she told HuffPost Canada. "The idea was to push beyond your [Facebook] bubble."
Van Rosendaal's call-to-action invited Canadians to organize potluck gatherings across the country from Aug. 18 - 20 - big, small and everything in between, with the hope that people will reach out and invite friends, neighbours, newcomers and people who might be feeling scared or marginalized by recent events.
Hearing about potlucks organized in Vancouver, Medicine Hat, Colorado, Salt Lake City etc. In homes, offices, parking lots. #ProjectPotluck— Julie Van Rosendaal (@dinnerwithjulie) August 18, 2017
The project has quickly caught on. Her Facebook posts about Project Potluck have been viewed more than 75,000 times at time of this post's publish. Friends reached out to build a website and offer help. She's also been contacted by people in the U.S. and Canada about organizing their own potlucks.
In Calgary, Van Rosendaal will host a potluck picnic on Sunday afternoon at St. Patrick's Island. She says she'll be spending part of her weekend prepping for it.
"I think I have to make pie or sheet cake," she joked, making reference to Tina Fey's recent Saturday Night Live skit about the events in Charlottesville. But she'd prefer people to just show up, with food or sans.
"If they don't have the time or the means [to make something] I want them to come anyway," Van Rosendaal said.
Earlier on HuffPost Canada: