Don’t Fear the Potluck

Today I am going to a Father’s Day get-together that happens to be a potluck. I used to find the whole notion of a potluck intimidating and disturbing on so many levels.

For one thing, I wasn’t always a good cook, or more honestly, I didn’t cook at all.

Then there was the double standard with these events. Females were expected to prepare and bring a dish. Males got a free pass. That just put me off altogether.

Basically, the word “potluck” implied all sorts of things to me that it really doesn’t have to mean. I suspect I’m not alone in this. Somehow the movie Parents comes to mind as I try to describe my feelings here, “leftovers to be,” but I digress…

Once I warmed up to the idea of participating, the next hurdle was figuring out what I should take and how much of it. Who wants to take food to a party just to discover that 10 other people brought the same thing or something very similar? Does everybody need a serving of my contribution or what?

Then there’s the question of transporting the food. Will my dish be lost forever? Do I take it in something disposable or in the most appropriate container?

I’m no master of etiquette, but experience has taught me a few things.

Hosting a lot of people can be very expensive and way too much work if you try to do everything yourself. A potluck isn’t a scary thing like a Tupperware party, it’s more like BYOB, only the last “B” should usually be food. OK, I can’t stress this point enough. In a nutshell, a potluck is the adult version of BYOB. So, here’s the gist of it – potluck = BYOF. That’s it. It’s really that simple.

If you need a further breakdown this might help:

The host usually provides the “main course” or core food. In any case, it doesn’t matter much what type of food you take.

You don’t have to take enough for everyone to get some of your dish – if everyone did that and there were 25 people attending, everyone would have to eat 25 servings of food.

You don’t really have to cook the food yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable preparing a dish for other people, it’s OK to buy something and bring it. If you feel funny about that, transfer it to your own container. If it’s really good and people start asking for your recipe, well, I leave it up to you to handle that dilemma, but I recommend telling the truth. The asker will appreciate the tip just as much as if you gave them a personal recipe!

On the other hand, if you don’t cook, you can always ask beforehand about bringing other items such as beverages or even paper plates and cups. Remember, the purpose of a potluck is to make the event possible by lightening the load on the host. You can still contribute, even if cooking isn’t your forte. Just ask how.

At the end of the day, you can get your container back. When you’re ready to go home, just ask for it. Any remaining food can be transferred to another container or you can take it with you. It is not uncommon for the leftovers to be dolled out to guests as they leave.

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