Tips for Hosting the Ultimate Potluck

July 29, 2021

Gathering with friends and family is good for the spirit and soul. Nothing brings a group together like a potluck party, complete with delicious food, generational recipes, and a comfortable atmosphere. Now that it’s safe for in-person, group get togethers, how about hosting a potluck that fosters community and connection? Here are some tips for hosting the ultimate potluck.

Where Does the Potluck Tradition Come From?

Two theories exist that explain the origin of this community meal. The first theory references a North American indigenous communal gathering called “potlatch”. The second theory cites the word’s appearance in a 16th century English work in which it was used to describe food provided for unexpected guests. These travelers would benefit from “the luck of the pot”.

Still others speculate that potluck gatherings in America gained popularity during the Great Depression. Community members would make a dish with ingredients they had on hand or crops they were able to harvest and share with neighbors. This group collaboration allowed for nutritious and balanced meals at a time when money and food were tight for many.  

Rinse Expectations Down the Drain

A potluck is very different than a dinner party. The latter can be organized to coordinate courses, encompass a theme, and have complementary flavors, drinks, and desserts. However, a potluck invites members to bring their favorite dish, be it a main, a side, a dessert, or drink. In order to have a fun, laid-back potluck, release control and shift your focus from food to friends. Don’t try to ensure that each course gets covered or that everyone brings something different. Part of the fun is sampling a broccoli casserole recipe that was passed between Kansas farming families and sampling one that uses vegan cream of mushroom soup.

Provide the Main Dish

To ensure nobody leaves hungry, take responsibility for cooking the main dish, be it a meat, fish, or vegetarian option. Tell guests what the main course will be and encourage them to bring whatever they want to accompany it. If time permits, prepare the main dish ahead of time so that on the day of the potluck, you can set up, destress, and relax before guests arrive.

Create a Communal Space

In the summer months, hosting an outdoor potluck around large picnic tables is one of the best ways to bring people together and enjoy the great outdoors. String up twinkling lights and create wildflower centerpieces for a gorgeous aesthetic. Set up a table nearby where guests can place their dishes and offer a few warming plate options for hot dishes.

If hosting indoors and space is limited, set up multiple round tables and encourage a musical chairs dining experience. As guests arrive, pass out nametags with numbers or other identifying factors on them. During each course or at various points in the evening, encourage guests to find a new table based upon their alphabetical or numerical identifier. This way, everyone gets to chat and people have the chance to make new friends.

Provide To-Go Dishes and Recipe Cards

Buy a stack of compostable clamshell dishes so guests can pack a to-go plate. There is always leftover food at a potluck and your partygoers will certainly appreciate getting to take home portions of dishes they didn’t get to sample or recipes they loved.

Leave recipe cards on the table and encourage friends to write down the recipe for the dish they brought. At the end of the night, host a random swap in which they can trade amongst themselves, or pass each card to the left.

Hosting a potluck is a great, low-stress way to have a dinner party that is fun for the host and guests. Sharing meals together around the table is part of the human experience we long took for granted but appreciate again in an entirely new way. Independence Neighborhood offers ample gathering space for residents to host potlucks and social gatherings. Contact us today to learn more about our artfully planned neighborhood.

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