Keeping the Peril out of Potlucks

The timeless and inelegant potluck dinner does not come naturally to everybody. Sophisticated urbanites might frown at the sight of 3 competing bean salads on the same table; Persons of sensitive palate might shudder at the thought of hummus served alongside lasagna; Germ-phobes might clutch their sides imagining the potential viral load of so many co-mingling dishes. Yes, a modern mother can be forgiven for imagining that the potluck supper falls firmly in the territory of graduate students, subscribers of Good Housekeeping, and anyone who likes to make casseroles requiring Campbell’s condensed soup. And yet, the potluck remains a surprisingly enjoyable staple of many parenting circles, so we would like to offer a few thoughts on “best practices” for this most unusual of parties.
(1) Aside from the obvious admonition to R.S.V.P. and give the hostess a vague idea of what you would like to contribute (appetizer, side dish, etc.), it just doesn’t matter what you bring. If you say you’ll bring dessert, make some brownies, buy a cake, whatever. Even if you take the time to bake your grandmother’s famous cherry pie, chances are, it may end up with the serving utensil from the orzo salad stuck into it, so don't knock yourself out. Its about the company, not the food.
(2) Bring your contribution in a dish ready to serve, with the appropriate utensil to serve it. You don’t want to spend the party searching for the hostess to ask for a utensil, or worse searching her kitchen yourself – she might be busy searching for the punch bowl she never uses, or even swilling a glass of Prosecco and enjoying herself.
(3) When the party is done, pack your dish and utensil and take them home, as is. An old tote bag, a plastic grocery sack, whatever you brought your dish in, should suffice. If you feel the hostess might like the left-overs, gently inquire about her preference, "I would love to wrap these up for your fridge, or would it be easier if I just took them home?" Our guess is that sparing the hostess of washing the dish and tracking you down to return it might just be the best hostess gift you could offer her.
In no time at all, the modern mother will be navigating the potluck with ease, and probably even enjoy herself. She is under no obligation, however, to follow up by donning a hair net and apron, taking up crochet, or joining a quilter's circle. Even ironically.



I recommend that you bring food ready-to-serve (already cut, completely heated, etc.) in a disposable serving dish. Someone inevitably leaves a dish behind and it's truly a pain to figure out who it belongs to and get it back to them. Save everyone the hassle, even though it's not "green" and use something disposable (or cheap - leave a label on the bottom "Please Don't Return").

Anonymous said...

I have been to a number of these and the most organized moms even have a label (masking tape and marker will suffice or trick out your serving dish with your label maker)on the bottom of the dish. I do always bring serving utensils and have been known to bring extra (of the plastic variety).
Hair nets should be mandatory! Such a good look for one and all!

Anonymous said...

Disposable, labelled, whatever! Just take the stuff home with you! That's my philosophy!

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