Ever been to a potluck where there are only salads and no main dishes? Or worse, hosted a potluck where there is only dessert and no “real food?” I know, for those of us with a sweet tooth, having access to a smorgasbord of desserts is not really something to consider a problem. That said, hosting a party with inadequate variety is definitely a faux pas. We wouldn’t want to do that.
“The Luck of the Pot”
Potluck meals are events where the attendees bring a dish to share with the group. The term potluck originally comes from the Middle Ages in Europe, where taverns and inns would honor the traditional practice of never throwing anything away and keeping it warm in a pot. This food could be ready to feed unexpected guests who would essentially get whatever came from the “luck of the pot.” As time has passed, this tradition has morphed into a convenient way to host gatherings where the group shares the cost.
Potlucks today are great for fostering community, whether they’re intended to bring new, unconnected people together or to enable friends to remain connected. While potlucks are inherently meals without a menu, there are definitely some actions that can help you avoid having your potluck turn into a pot-mess.
Planning and Goal-setting
Take time to identify your goals for the event. Yes, your event should have a goal. Writing it down with pen and paper will make the event much easier to plan and communicate once you know its purpose.
For example: Is this get-together intended to introduce new people to each other? If so, you will want to review some tips on how to be a charming hostess. Are you a person whose schedule does not allow much time for getting together? You can address that challenge with a recurring potluck party. Or do you simply wish to celebrate food? Pick a theme of what you want to explore, and let your potluck friends go to town.
Once you know what you want to do and how you would like to organize it, you need to encapsulate that clearly but briefly in your invitation. Be specific and clear on who, what, when, where, why, and how.
For example: Who: You’re invited by (Name) on When/Where:(day, date, and time at location) to What:(Name class potluck). Why: We are hosting this get together to help the second grade parents get to know each other. How: Please bring something to share with 8-10 people according to your last name (A-H Appetizer or Salad) (I-P Main Dish) or (Q-Z Dessert or Drink). Please RSVP by calling, emailing, or completing the online invitation by the date specified.
Make it easy to invite people, allow them to RSVP, and to communicate what they will be bringing. There are even tools out there specifically geared toward potlucks that may help you manage your potluck. Some good ones to try are SignUpGenius.com/potluck, and PerfectPotluck.com.
Amp up the Style on Your Table
While the food of the party may be varied and have no specific menu, you can still create a special experience just by how you dress up the party space.
There is an element of the “luck of the pot” in these types of events. If you know that you will not be content if there is anything less than a perfect ensemble of food, then you will need to either put in more resources in the event management — i.e., communicate with your attendees with gentle reminders — or look at where there are potential deficiencies in the menu and get some backup items to fill in.
Relax and Enjoy
Ultimately a potluck is not about culinary perfection; it is about a communal experience of sharing food and friendship. People breaking bread together should be the goal, so focus on the fun and enjoy the event.
Photo credits: kthread, auttiedot, clarita, and theswedish.