Have a Potluck Party!
Any time of year is the perfect time to start a regular potluck circle. Gather up a group of friends and family, set a schedule and start enjoying regular meals together. Whether you choose to host one for a holiday, or just because, a bit of planning will make your potlucks easy peasy. Even if you’re old hat at holding communal get-togethers, here are some tips to help you host a fabulous potluck.
Start with a Theme (or Not)
Choosing a theme helps limit the types of dishes guests will bring, which in turn can make all the flavors on the table work well together. Try Mediterranean or Korean or French for a little fun. Mixing it up with a more general theme can be enjoyable, too. Holidays naturally lend themselves to a mixture of foods. You can even ask your guests to work from a particular cookbook. But for larger gatherings, skip the theme to make it easier on guests.
Make the Invites
Postcards are still a great way to invite folks to a potluck. A simple phone call will often do, too. If you want to put technology to work, you can use email to send an invitation. There are also free online tools to send invites and coordinate your whole potluck party. Perfectpotluck.com is an easy-to-use website that allows you to send out invitations, set up a menu, share contact information, and post directions.
Plan the Menu
You can go the traditional route and let it be a free-for-all, but that often leads to too much mac & cheese with multiple bags of chips as appetizers and several pans of brownies for dessert. A different route that can help add variety without stifling your guests’ creativity is to ask certain people to bring a particular category of food. You’ll want to assign drinks, appetizers, sides, main dishes, and desserts to cover all the usual courses of a meal. Finally, you can always ask folks to bring specific dishes. Just make sure the recipes are not overly complicated or too expensive (that means no asking for lobster, even if you want it).
Prepare Your Space
Have a serving table ready to accept the potluck dishes as soon as your guests arrive. Everyone should have a place to set their plates and glasses, so if you’re having a casual gathering and not a sit-down affair, make sure there are ample small tables set around. If you won’t be eating right away, have your oven on its lowest setting to keep hot foods warm and make space in your refrigerate to keep cold foods cold. People love to congregate in the kitchen. If yours is small, make a small gathering area outside of it that has chairs for folks to sit.
Be the Best Guest
Follow your host’s requests to make it easier on both of you. If you have a change of plans and can’t attend, let the host know as soon possible. Bring everything you need to serve your dish, including a trivet and serving utensils. If you’re not much of a cook, go ahead and order some of your favorite take-out or a salad from the Co-op Deli to share. Think beyond heavy, meat- and sauce-laden dishes and go for something lighter like a chopped salad.
Be the Best Host
Keep your menu requests simple. Start by asking what dish people would like to bring, to see if they prefer to make something specific. Ask if your guests will need to use your kitchen for warming up their dish or final prep. And most importantly, get your home (and your attitude) ready for fun! There will probably be some hiccups here and there, but potlucks are all about welcoming friends and family into your home to share a feast that has been prepared by everyone. d