My views on potluck are well-known. The potluck has its time and place, but I think its getting overused. If a group of people are getting together at one person’s house, without that one person being the host, then fine, everyone bring something to eat and drink. The person offering their living room shouldn’t get stuck with all the cooking and expenses.

But now I find everything has become a potluck – birthday parties, showers, BBQs – and the thrill of being invited somewhere gets obliterated by “Crap, what am I going to make?” and not infrequently, some resentment towards the party giver. When someone says “Hey come over for a BBQ!” I say, “Cool!” Then they say “Yes, and I’m asking everyone to bring a salad (or dessert), their meat, and something to drink!” I say, “Fine.”

My horoscope says I have “a tendency to grumble, which does not make you popular with others.” I suppose I do sound a bit grumbly here, and maybe you are thinking “But potlucks are a way to have my friends over when I don’t have any money.” True enough, potlucks are a way to entertain on the cheap. But having people in your home without requiring them to do anything or bring anything is the best way to show them you care about them, and really, it doesn’t cost that much.

In addition, you don’t get stuck with all kinds of extra food that you are trying to press people to take home at the end of the party, and you don’t have to remember who brought which dish. My grandmother who lives in farm country and goes to a lot of community meeting-type potlucks, scotch tapes her name to her serving dishes pretty much permanently.

If you want to throw a biggish party, aren’t much a cook, and are living in abject poverty, don’t bother. No, really. Seriously, bakeries, delis and grocery stores exist for a reason. A reasonable spread can be put on with a few bags of chips (include some good-quality salsa and tortillas, I recommend splurging for the Que Pasa brand), some peanuts, a tray of cut up veggies and dip, and some sweets. I personally hate fussing over tiny appetizers, but for a winter bash, go to M+M or Costco and pick up a big box of something like spring rolls, samosas or gyozas and toss them in the oven for instant warm food.

Many people will bring their own preferred drinks, but it never killed anyone to have a some decent plonk on hand (both colours), and maybe even some extra beer. If you’re really feeling like something special, whip up a cocktail in a pitcher (or a pail). Here’s a good girly one to try:

Cranny Cosmo: Mix 8 parts Cranberry Juice, 3 parts Vodka, 2 parts Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec), and 1 part Lemon Juice in a shaker or pitcher with ice. Stir well and strain into glasses. Garnish with a maraschino cherry on a paper brolly if you are so inclined.

I may happily go to many potlucks in my life and go to parties where the host is furtively trying to get rid of their extra chocolate from last Christmas. I don’t exactly travel the lavish benefit party circuit, either. But hospitality isn’t just about having extra people in the house or trying to show off to them. Its giving people the best that I can afford. So, if that means pretzels and passing around a gin bottle in a paper bag, so be it.

Any guest you’d likely invite back won’t show up empty handed, either. I get all kinds of wine and extra chips and chocolate when throwing a party. Not to mention the motherlode of empties that people leave behind. Returning those bottles and cans practically pays for the shindig!

So, ditch those potluck crutches! Throw a party! People will come. Oh People will most definitely come.

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