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Food Police (Or How To Be A Quick Thinking Host)

The recent post about “food police” at a barbecue reminds me of an event I attended.  A couple, “Ann” and “Brad” who grew up with my boyfriend, invited us to a pot luck dinner party. I’m usually fine with potlucks as I have a few crowd-pleasing recipes.  Ann and Brad, however, sent all of the attendees an exact recipe that they should bring and told everyone that they should “adjust the serving size to 10-12” since that’s how many people would be attending (this is important for later).

I wasn’t crazy about the recipe I received, but a few other friends were attending so we clicked “Yes!” to attend (this was done on social media a few weeks prior to the dinner).

The night of the dinner arrives and so do my boyfriend and I, sharing dish in hand.  We have appetizers (someone else’s assigned dish) and mingle for a bit before being called into the kitchen to serve ourselves.  The hosting couple Ann and Brad provided two dishes themselves and they were not main courses but sides.  Someone else had done the main course.  As people are lining up to help themselves, Ann approaches each person and says, “We didn’t know how many people would actually show up, so the rule is each person can take one scoop of X and one of Y (the two dishes they made) so we don’t run out.”  I was dumbstruck but managed to nod politely.

Here’s the thing: everyone who said they were attending showed up and there weren’t any surprise guests.  There were exactly 12, which is what we were supposed to adjust our own recipes to.  So after going out of their way to make sure everyone else cooked enough, they couldn’t even feed their own guests!  And we are all adults in our late twenties; I don’t think any of us would have taken heaping portions of X and Y after seeing that there was not a lot to go around.

So, besides venting, I guess the reason I’m writing is to ask: is it ever okay to be the “food police” at an adults dinner?  At the time it seemed like the epitome of rudeness.   0529-14

I had to reread it to “get it” but here’s the gist. The hosts assigned all the guests a recipe with specific instructions to adapt it to serve 10-12 people yet they themselves apparently did not follow their own standards and did not prepare enough of their dishes to ensure that all guests got enough.

Yes, treating adults like little children who must be told how much to help themselves is quite rude.   To be that rude requires a large number of assumptions about one’s guests, none of them positive.   If you host a dinner, particularly a pot luck, it’s good sense and planning to have a few back-up food items that can be quickly added to the meal to bulk it up.    Frozen or canned vegetables are always a great stand-by. Ditto for cheese and crackers, applesauce, cranberry relish, carrots sticks and Ranch dressing,  bread sticks.

{ 132 comments… add one }
  • NostalgicGal June 2, 2014, 2:26 am

    I think next time Brad and Anne want to do a potluck; I’ll have something else to do. If something didn’t turn out or last moment didn’t have enough ingredients; then B&A should have added something to make it enough for their offering.

  • Tracy W June 2, 2014, 3:03 am

    Well it’s hardly left their guests with an idea of generous hospitality!

    Though perhaps the “hosts” had been burnt by a very greedy past guest. But, well, if you’re worried about the food running out the polite option is to serve people the food yourself (saying “feel free to help yourself to seconds!” if you want.

    • Cat June 2, 2014, 7:28 am

      Or not to take any yourselves so as to leave it for your guests to enjoy.

      • The Elf June 3, 2014, 10:27 am

        Exactly. I have underestimated before on a dish – soup in my case. It was my first time with that recipe and I didn’t realize until just before serving that it wasn’t going to be enough for seven hungry men and myself. I was hoping one wouldn’t want any, but my soups are frequently praised by this group and it was a cold and nasty day. So I doled out seven bowls, passing it to the guests as they fixed the rest of their plates, shorted my husband a bit in his bowl, and scraped myself a half-bowl at the end. It’s just what you do when you’re hosting.

  • Brit June 2, 2014, 3:26 am

    Cheap and nasty of Ann and Brad. Cheaper yet to food police because they were too cheap to cook enough…of their SIDE dish? Excuse me, when you organise this, telling everyone what to bring, it’s your event – YOU cook the main, pot luck or not.

    Communal dinners like this can be great fun, there’s nothing wrong with them – I used to do a Christmas one for 12 every year when we were all young and poor, and we all chipped in. But if you decide to throw it and control it, the onus is on you to cover the main part. In my case, that meant I bought the turkey. The idea of me ‘hosting’ an event like this where I just bought some carrots, then acted all ‘it’s my party’ is just ridiculous.

    Cheap, cheap, cheap.

    • Wild Irish Rose June 2, 2014, 9:05 am

      I’m of the same opinion. If you’re “hosting” a potluck, you provide the main dish(es) and your guests bring the sides. Wow.

      • Asharah June 2, 2014, 1:59 pm

        Look at it this way, at least it wasn’t the main dish they didn’t have enough of.

  • MichelleP June 2, 2014, 5:31 am

    I can’t imagine doing this to a guest! I would have crawled under a table in embarrassment if I was a guest and this happened!

  • Kimberly June 2, 2014, 5:32 am

    I think that once the hosts “told” guests what to bring, it is no longer a pot luck event in my opinion.

    In our area, we have numerous pot luck events. With the economy the way it is, not many people can afford to completely host an event in their home. We all love to get together and we all love to contribute. We usually provide our own drinks also, since everyone drinks something different. The main hosts will usually provide the main course, some snacks, etc. In essence, our circle has no issue with pot luck dinners.

    When the hosts told you what to bring, in effect, they are having their guests do the work for them.

    I think their whole event in this case was rude and yes they were rude for policing their own contribution. As a host, I would have made sure that my contribution would have more than accomodated any guests I had invited.

    • The Elf June 3, 2014, 10:19 am

      I agree. It’s one thing to coordinate a pot luck so that there aren’t three dishes of potato salad, but outright providing recipes is going way too far! It’s pot *luck*! Having a total mix is the beauty of it! (Some people don’t like the risk of flavors clashing, but I personally love to mix cuisines and spice palattes.) When I’ve hosted, I usually provide a main (someone else is welcome to also provide a main if they so desire), a single side, and a dessert. That way plates aren’t oddly bare if even if we aren’t lucky in our pot luck. Like Admin, I’ll usually stock a freezer or pantry with an emergency item (or be prepared to order pizza). Poor planning on the part of Ann and Bob, but at least their intentions were good. Hopefully they’ll learn for next time.

  • Rosie B. June 2, 2014, 5:38 am

    Honestly, all the couple had to do was say something like, “We underestimated how much of X and Y we needed to make, so sorry if there’s not much to go around!” and people would have gotten the message. It wouldn’t have fixed the situation, but it would at least put the blame on them and wouldn’t draw attention to the fact that they apparently think their friends are greedy and unreliable.

    What struck me as the most rude was the fact that they assigned each guest a dish to bring. Their guests are supposed to be their friends, not their caterers! I don’t think it would have been out of line to say, “We’re aiming for around X number of appetizers, Y number of sides, and Z number of desserts,” but it should be a suggestion, not a rule and they shouldn’t specify what recipes to use. A phrase that comes to mind here is “If you want it done right, do it yourself!”

    These people are clearly not happy with their group of friends. In the span of one dinner party they’ve implied that they don’t like their friends’ cooking, their friends are unreliable and don’t come through when they say they will, and they’re all greedy pigs who take more than their fair share. If I were the OP I’d start spending time with people who don’t make those kinds of assumptions about me, especially since they don’t even seem to be true.

    • Charliesmum June 2, 2014, 7:57 am

      ‘These people are clearly not happy with their group of friends. In the span of one dinner party they’ve implied that they don’t like their friends’ cooking, their friends are unreliable and don’t come through when they say they will, and they’re all greedy pigs who take more than their fair share.’

      That’s a really good point. They don’t seem to trust their friends very much, do they?

  • Lo June 2, 2014, 6:04 am

    This doesn’t sound like much of a potluck; sounds more like you were hired help for their insufficient dinner.

    Controlling the exact recipe that’s brought? Oh man, that’s not cool at all. You can designate the type of course within reason so everyone doesn’t bring the same kind of thing but I can’t imagine having to follow a recipe. Where’s the fun in that? And talk about poor planning. Who doesn’t plan for at least half-again the number of people coming? I wouldn’t attend any further meal-related events with this couple.

  • Jennifer June 2, 2014, 6:48 am

    I am confused, did they only want you to eat the food you brought and nothing else?

    • Rayner June 2, 2014, 11:30 am

      No, the hosts only made enough of the side dishes X and Y so everybody had to have an EXACT amount and no more or there wouldn’t be enough.

  • Jelaza June 2, 2014, 6:49 am

    This wasn’t a potluck. At a potluck, the participants decide what to bring. At most, the organizers suggest that you bring a certain category.

  • saucygirl June 2, 2014, 7:06 am

    These people give potlucks a bad name.

    But this is not where I thought story was going. I thought OP was going to say that the “hosts” had everyone prepare to much food on purpose, so that they could keep the leftovers to reuse at another party they were going to “host”.

  • Cat June 2, 2014, 7:26 am

    I can see asking people to sign up for meat, vegetables, drinks, desserts, and so forth to avoid having twelve dishes of desserts and no food, but assigning recipes is a bit much. If you want that particular dish, you cook it yourself. I am not your personal chef.

    If I were told to take only one spoonful, I would do the charitable thing and take none at all in order to leave more for those who want it. “Oh, no, I would not think of it if you didn’t make enough for all twelve of us! I don’t mind. Let someone else enjoy it!”

  • Joni June 2, 2014, 7:30 am

    I think they don’t understand the ‘luck’ part of ‘pot luck.’ The whole idea is that you don’t know what everyone else is bringing (and certainly don’t dictate it in advance). If all 12 people show up with a dish of funeral potatoes, you have a good laugh and fix yourself a plate of funeral potatoes.

    • Charliesmum June 2, 2014, 7:57 am

      I have to know…what are funeral potatoes? Do you have a recipe?

      And I agree. That’s where the ‘luck’ part of ‘potluck’ came from, isn’t it? Everyone brings something and hopefully it isn’t all the same thing.

      Also if you honestly don’t know how many people are showing up, why not make too much, rather than too little? You can always put the leftovers in the ‘fridge, or send it home with your guests.

      • o_gal June 2, 2014, 8:56 am

        “Funeral Potatoes” is a dish that seems to be ubiquitous in the US. Basically, it’s a combination of shredded potatoes, cheese, mayonnaise, and butter, sometime topped with cornflakes or other type of crumb, sometimes not. They got the name because they are an easy dish to assemble, bake, and bring to a lunch or dinner following a funeral.

        We do an annual Christmas time night orienteering event followed by a potluck dinner. The club provides the main dish (chili) and we ask that people bring a side dish or dessert to share. One year we had 6 different chili recipes and a slew of desserts. It was glorious!

        • Lynne June 2, 2014, 5:51 pm

          I was born and bred in Atlanta, and spent a good bit of time in Northern California, but I have never heard the term “funeral potatoes” nor seen any dish that resembled its description.
          Is this a Midwest casserole thing, or have I just managed to somehow evade it for the past 30 years?

      • Joni June 2, 2014, 9:35 am

        Funeral potatoes (aka potato casserole):

        I don’t know if they are called that because they are usually served at funeras, or if it’s because they contain butter AND sour cream AND cream of celery soup AND cheese. Best served with a side of Lipitor 🙂

      • Matt June 2, 2014, 10:28 am

        We call them Lutheran potatoes, but I like the funeral potatoes moniker. If you’ve ever been to an event in the basement of a Lutheran church, you’ve undoubtedly experienced them.

        Saute a cup of chopped onions, add a small tub of sour cream, a can of cream of something soup, a bag of shredded cheddar cheese and a bag of hash browns (or sliced potatoes if you’re Presbyterian). Bake at 350 until the cheese is bubbly and the potatoes brown on top.

      • Scuslidge June 2, 2014, 10:56 am

        I have a recipe for funeral potatoes (which I happened to get from someone who brought them to a gathering after my father’s funeral):

        2 (24 oz) packages frozen hash browns
        1/2 cup melted butter
        1 pint sour cream
        1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
        1 can cream of chicken soup
        1/3 cup chopped green onions
        Salt and pepper to taste

        Place potatoes in casserole dish. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Top with corn flakes and 1/4 cup melted butter and bake 20 minutes more.

        • Teapot June 2, 2014, 3:41 pm

          This is my SIL’s go-to recipe! She makes them for every holiday– Easter, Christmas, birthdays. She found it in one of those recipe books where everyone in an organization (office, church, etc.) contributes some recipes and they’re sent to a company that prints them up and binds them, then the organization sells them as a fundraiser. I think the book just calls them Cheesy Potatoes. She’s going to DIE when I tell her these are called Funeral Potatoes! (Yes, pun intended.)

          As for the potluck gathering… sounds like our dear hosts are really picky eaters. Not only do they tell their guests what to make, but provide their own recipe to make sure it’s made just the way they want it.

    • EchoGirl June 3, 2014, 12:24 am

      I think some planning can be a good idea, especially when the group is a lot more than 12. When I was little, my synagogue did potlucks and they divvied it up by family name (so A-H would be main dishes, I-P would be salads, and R-Z would be desserts or something, and then they’d switch up which group got what each time) to make sure it wasn’t all one thing. More recently, my department at my university used an online sign-up for their end-of-year potluck (limiting how many people could sign up for main dishes, sides, drinks, etc., but also we could see what was already on the menu so we could avoid too much similarity). I think when it’s a huge event, a little planning to ensure some variety and all bases covered is a good thing, but there’s a difference between both of these examples and the original story.

  • DGS June 2, 2014, 7:43 am

    As I’ve stated before, I’m not a fan of potlucks, although I can understand how useful they can be in certain settings, at certain times, etc. (e.g. in this economic climate, where many families are struggling, and a family may not be able to afford to host an entire party). However, a potluck would be a great idea if as one of the PP’s had said, the hosts a) assumed the responsibility of providing the main course; b) assigned a particular type of dish (appetizer, side dish, dessert) but refrained from otherwise, assigning recipes, adjusting servings or otherwise, policing their guests’ plates. I would find something else to do the night that Brad and Ann invited me for another such potluck.

    The only exception I would make is when invited to a gathering at someone’s house who has a particular religious or health-based preference (kosher, halal, vegetarian, allergic, etc.), because if the dish violates a particular tenet, the host would not be able to serve the dish. My family keeps kosher, and one time, we had invited a bunch of co-workers who were not Jewish to join our family and friends for Passover Seder (it happened to fall on a Friday night, and these co-workers were young and new in town, so we took it as an opportunity to welcome them, socialize, etc.) We were providing and serving everything (there is a particular way that a house has to cleaned and certain foods that cannot be in the house for Passover), so we asked our guests not to bring anything but themselves. However, one woman said, “I simply can’t come without bringing anything; I know, I’ll make my special cornbread and sweet potato pudding!” Now, corn is not kosher for Passover, and I would not be able to serve that dish. I had to explain to her why we would not be able to serve it, but since she really wanted to bring something, I suggested a bottle of kosher wine (she’s a sweet woman who is rather eager to please, so she brought 6 different bottles…We uncorked and served 3 of them. I believe, 3 are still sitting in our wine rack and wine fridge a few years later – we are not big drinkers).

  • Huh June 2, 2014, 7:53 am

    Did they ask you to bring your recipe in a standard-sized casserole dish with a lid? That’s a joke in reference to a post on Awkward Family Photos, about a Thanksgiving letter in which the host told each family member what dish to bring, what recipe to use, and what kind of dish to serve it in.

    I can understand organizing it by asking someone to bring an appetizer, side dish or dessert, that makes sense, even telling them 12 people are invited makes sense so they know about how many to prepare for. It’s the telling the specifically what recipe to make is where this whole thing breaks down for me, and then it sounds like the hosts didn’t even follow their own instructions!

    • Joni June 2, 2014, 11:38 am

      Ooh, I haven’t thought of the Marney letter in years. Now I want to read it again!

      • Huh June 2, 2014, 12:30 pm

        They did a follow up video interview with Marney! It’s a must see!

        I forgot, it was “regulation-sized” casserole with lid. 🙂

    • RC June 2, 2014, 3:47 pm

      Your post made me google that letter and OH. MY. WORD. How have I missed that all these years?? That letter! Is amazing! I’m gasping with laughter, my colleagues are giving me strange looks. And the video, “Marney Speaks Out”…. excuse me, I need to go find a box of tissues

    • The Elf June 3, 2014, 10:36 am

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing me in the direction of that letter. I just about fell over laughing in my cube.

      It also reminds me how much I love my family. When we get together for Thanksgiving, it’s a small group. And we have one simple rule: There are none. Usually no turkey, either.

  • Lkb June 2, 2014, 8:26 am

    Off topic, I suppose, and I’m sorry, but did anyone else get reminded of the early Mary Tyler Moore Show episode in which she has one of her infamous dinner parties? In the episode she only cooked single servings of a particularly elaborate dish and Mr. Grant at first serves himself half of them? After Mary takes him aside and tells him, he makes a big show of suddenly not being so hungry and putting them back. Gads, I loved that show!

    • Nicole June 2, 2014, 9:26 am

      Veal Prince Orloff! I loved that show – Mary’s parties always bombed somehow!

    • Shalamar June 2, 2014, 9:41 am

      Lkb, that’s what I was going to say! Mary had made pork chops, and she’d made exactly one chop per guest – then Mr. Grant took three, saying “Boy, am I hungry!”.

      I remember reading an advice column many years ago in which the letter writer patted herself on the back for her quick thinking when her husband brought an unexpected guest home for dinner. She’d made breaded pork chops, and rather than admit that she didn’t have enough, she cut a piece of bread in the shape of a chop, covered it in bread crumbs, and served it to herself. A lot of people (my mother included) said “I would have served it to the HUSBAND! Maybe then he’d get the message that bringing home a guest with no warning is not okay.”

    • babs June 2, 2014, 10:56 am

      Me too, and I remember that funny episode. I think we’ve all known people like that. My mother always had a large spread at holiday dinners but when my sister was newly married, we found that her husband, growing up in a family with numerous siblings, would tend to jump in the serving line first and pile his plate high. I remember my mother almost gasping out loud when a couple of his family members were in town and joined us for dinner. They tore through the line like Tasmanian devils, totally oblivious to anybody behind them. They were young and apparently never taught anything different – it was every man (and woman) for themselves at their dinner table growing up. Unfortunately, they weren’t taught that you don’t act like this when you are a guest in someone else’s home. Which also shows how important it is that manners begin at home. If they weren’t allowed to act like this at their own dinner table, they wouldn’t do it when they are eating out.

      • PM June 2, 2014, 12:34 pm

        When I was in high school, I was the dinner guest for my friend, M. M had three brothers, who were all older than us. M’s mother made a huge platter of chicken and if each person had taken 1-2 pieces, there would have been enough. (Pretty healthy sized pieces, btw)

        In my home, the guest was always served first. Imagine my surprise when I wasn’t first or second or third, or even fourth! M’s dad served himself first, then the sons by birth order. And they each piled their plates high, not only taking ALL of the chicken, but most of the mashed potatoes, corn, and baked beans! Seriously, the father and the oldest boy put four pieces of chicken on their plates. There was hardly room left for the sides on their plates, but somehow they managed. (eye roll)

        When the dust settled and I realized there was practically no food left on the table besides a big green salad and a few spoonfuls of corn and potatoes, I looked to my friend in alarm, completely unsure of what to do in this situation. M rolled her eyes, like she was used to it, and dug into the salad. The mom was just sort of resigned and vaguely embarrassed as she said, “I can fix you a peanut butter sandwich, if you’d like.” I shook my head and said salad was fine, thanks.

        It turned out that M’s dad was from one of those big “farming” families where the menfolk were given food priority because they “did all the hard work.” (I strongly disagree, since cleaning and laundry and caring for kids can be pretty hard physical labor, too.) And since the sons were “growing boys” and had sports practices and such, they needed the food far more than the Mom or M, in dad’s eyes. The ladies were always served last and rarely got the meat served, no matter how much her mom prepared. (I suspected the dad and sons enjoyed the power trip and taking extra and leaving them nothing.) The mom tried to bolster their protein intake with peanut butter, yogurt and eggs, and made sure M had enough money to buy extra at school lunches. It did explain M’s fascination with bacon cheeseburgers (with extra bacon.)

        (Also, seeing how M’s middle brother helped himself to three pieces of chicken while his mother and sister got nothing, permanently cured me of the crush I was developing on him. Jerk.)

        I tried to invite M over as often as possible and after I explained the situation to my mom, friend always got “meat seconds.” M did grow up with some food/body image issues, thanks to dad’s “girls shouldn’t eat as much as boys” attitude, but she’s worked through most of them. She is however VERY defensive of her plate and god help the person who tries to tell her what to order in a restaurant. There are always leftovers from her table, because she cannot stand the idea of any of her kids not getting enough to eat. She talks to her mom frequently but has very little contact with her father, and when he told her that in “traditional” families like theirs, the daughter was expected to take on all of the elder care, she laughed in his face.

        • NostalgicGal June 3, 2014, 12:27 am

          I grew up on the farm… men didn’t get first and the right to take it all… us women worked in the field too. The only real designation was between ‘1/2’ and ‘1’ … the latter meant you were able to work hard enough and was strong enough to be considered an adult when they were counting noses to get something done.

          My grandma would have straightened all those strapping MENFOLK out right now. They took it all, they’d be getting a can of beans and the canopener for the next meal. If I was M’s mom I would have sorted food and kept some back, honestly.

          • PM June 3, 2014, 10:16 am

            Yeah, I got the impression Dad was twisting his upbringing to push the women in his family around. M was given the short end on a lot of stuff because she was “only a girl.” And if she tried to point out the uneven treatment with food or allowance or chores (she was expected to do a LOT of housework while the boys did none), Dad would argue how she was better treated than the boys, just look at the new clothes she got every school year! Well, she was the only girl in the family, what was she supposed to do, wear the boys’ old clothes?

          • wren June 3, 2014, 2:53 pm

            My grandma grew up on the farm, too. She often would talk about her dad coming in from the field and how he sat down first and took all he wanted. Then the sons dug in. Then the girls and mom got whatever food was left. Though Grandma didn’t practice this mealtime misogyny as an adult in her own home, my mother said her brothers were clearly favored in the household when it came to attention in various forms. I think the women felt powerless in this particular culture. For example, my grandmother, as a young girl, was expected either to marry or else go to work as a housekeeper-maid type person in the home of someone wealthier. This was how it was “done” in the poorer families from that certain culture. Thank goodness by the time I was coming of age, the first wave of 1970s feminism was in full flood!

          • NostalgicGal June 3, 2014, 11:18 pm

            yeah, PM and Wren; there was a big thread of that. However, menfolk in our family that got ‘too pushy’ over the calories, could have it backfire. Grandma told about the haying gang not bothering with how many head were there; and not coming in one day when it was about 110f and she was tending that wood stove and trying to put food up and feed them too; so they got a less than stellar meal when they finally did get there. She got h*ll, next day she decided she had some IMPORTANT BUSINESS in town, she rarely drove, but she got out the good ’48 pickup and drove to town about 9 am, took her sweet time, and left a can of beans and a canopener out and left the note about she had some important stuff IN TOWN. She arrived back about 3; nobody said BOO at supper; and the next day about snack break (10 am) someone showed up with hat in hand to inform her of how many and when would the food be on the table please.

            I became family cook at age 12; and I had to have meal on table on time. My dad hated hotdishes but they were part of the menu to make the budget happen. He could ground me, but I could get even… I could make a different hotdish every night of the week for his supper, have it on table on time. He figured it out after awhile; I couldn’t be punished because mom would have given him silent treatment (which he HATED) until he apologized to ME (which he’d rather jump in traffic first) and her cook started cooking again.

            One uncle decided he could do this, and started to teach the boys that; and got similar… the womenfolk cooked, and managed to SAMPLE the food while cooking to the point of they ate before it went on the table. Make lots of mashed potatoes and salad, and it took a long time for him to catch on about why there wasn’t enough chicken for him to take five pieces and the boys would have to settle for one, or just the eldest got the rest… and the other three got nothing… make more food? Seemed to always end up that way.

          • Yet Another Laura June 4, 2014, 12:24 pm

            I absolutely loathe the attitude of “If there’s a lot, take a lot. If there’s a little, take it all.”

        • Yet Another Laura June 3, 2014, 10:41 am

          That’s terrible! It sounds as if M’s father tacitly encouraged the boys to be greedy pigs. Seems to me they needed to be on the receiving end of “last person gets nothing” once or twice.

          In my huge extended family, every wedding had a buffet. My parents made us wait until every single other family went through the line before allowing us to get up. I had a morbid fear of getting to the buffet and finding nothing left.

          Fortunately, that didn’t happen until many years later as an adult. My friend had an exact count of guests. Stated number was warm body number. The caterers set up the buffet. First the newlyweds went up, then the bridal party, then the first third of guests, then the second third of guests. I was in the front of this second group and was wondering why the line moved so slowly. It was because things were running out and the people ahead of me (tail end of the first group) were waiting in case the caterers brought out more food. They didn’t.

          I finally got to the food to find it almost all gone. The meat carvers were placing a sliver on each plate. Nothing was replenished. The caterers didn’t supply enough food. Bride and groom to the rescue. They had a popcorn machine brought up and had the venue kitchen whip up what they could on short notice.

        • Asharah June 3, 2014, 1:13 pm

          I wonder what became of M’s brothers. I can see three possibilities for their future:
          A) Perpetual bachelorhood since what woman would put up with them.
          B) Finding a woman just like Mom who continues to let them get away with it.
          C) Finding a woman who teaches them some manners, even if it means beating them with a serving implement when they try to pull this crap on them.

          • PM June 3, 2014, 8:02 pm

            I know the oldest is married and has an attitude much like his dad, but I’m not sure about the other two

        • Asharah June 4, 2014, 2:40 pm

          Somebody should have told Dad that young girls need to be fed well since they have the burden of bearing and nursing the next generation. Seriously, I watched a documentary once about an area of Africa where teenaged girls undergo a “fertility ritual” which mainly consists of being in seclusion and being fed huge amounts of rich foods because it’s believed that a well-nourished young woman will bear strong, healthy children. Afterwards, they dance in the village square wearing body paint and loincloths to show off their beautiful voluptuous bodies. (Apparently the standard of beauty for women over there is way different.)

      • wren June 2, 2014, 2:58 pm

        We must have married siblings. When I first met my husband, I was amazed at how much food he took and how fast he ate it. He said that his mom didn’t cook enough food for him and his eight brothers and sisters to really feel satisfied and dinner was a free-for-all. As a teenager, he was constantly hungry. As an adult, he ate like food was going to be declared illegal any second–huge bites, holding his silverware like weapons, reaching right across my plate to get something (I wanted to stab him with my fork!). When I hosted his extended family at our home, it was stressful. They would bring unexpected guests, show up hours late (yes, hours!) demand leftovers to take home, and a few times some of the sisters brought their own food because they didn’t like what I was going to make (I guess they were mind-readers because I didn’t post a menu anywhere). Thankfully, he saw good behavior modeled by our friends, their families and by my family and he eats normally now, but still holds his silverware weirdly. He readily acknowledges that good manners were something his parents did not teach.

        • babs June 2, 2014, 5:34 pm

          So funny! I hope in our case, 40 years later, they’ve all grown up, or the spouses have had an influence on them! I just remembered that my sis and brother-in-law ate with us at my mother-in-law’s (GASP) and she took an instant dislike to him. My mother was more laid back and used to the chaos of large family get-togethers, but MIL was very proper, and I’m sure some of my BIL’s table manners were the reason she was put off, and stayed that way forever!

        • Tracy W June 3, 2014, 3:08 am

          Going by how much my brothers ate when they were teenagers, I have some sympathy for his mother with 8 of them.

          • wren June 4, 2014, 2:08 pm

            I agree. When my three were teenagers, I could hardly keep up with their appetites. How my in-laws were able to purchase, let alone cook, food for nine children, is mind-boggling. The nine of them didn’t all live at home for more than a couple years, then the older ones started leaving for college, but I don’t know how my in-laws could keep up. The clean-up work (my most unfavorite) must have been staggering.

        • Lexi June 9, 2014, 2:21 am

          My husband is one of five boys in his family (MIL and FIL kept trying for a girl). He eats FAST. No poor manners or anything, just man, he eats like it’s a race. When I asked him about it he said that it was because in his house, you had to eat fast if you wanted seconds of the “good stuff.” In our first year of our marriage, sometimes I’d still be serving myself and he’d be done. I told him I felt that this was rude and made me feel bad, being the only one eating while he was staring at me and it stopped. Took several years but it’s much better now. Now he waits for our daughter and I to get ready to eat first and makes sure to talk a lot so he can’t eat like a hurricane.

          • NostalgicGal June 16, 2014, 12:25 am

            My DH would take huge bites and not close his mouth and … I FINALLY got him over, the food on his plate will wait for him and if I have to listen to him chew with mouth open I was going to toss my meal in his face so he would get enough in his mouth at once. I launched ONE just once. He fed himself for three days as I refused to cook for him or eat with him. That fixed it. He may be starving but whatever is on his plate is his, and I cook enough for him not to blow away. The first month of our marriage was a doozy…. As for eating speed, just because he finished, I was not obligated to keep up with him. I can aspirate stuff easily and though I don’t dawdle, I do NOT hurry. I tossed cookies once from coughing and choking (again in that first month) and that has also never been an issue again.

      • kingsrings June 2, 2014, 3:01 pm

        I remember this being an issue when I worked at places that hosted food events. We ordered a specific number of food items for the spread, but there seemed to always be someone or multiple someones who would hog all the food by piling their plates high, oblivious to the fact that others were going to partake, too. Invariably, food would run out and others would get gipped. It would be especially bad if said food spread was served around a meal time! People still need to use discretion and plan to eat more on their own time after the event is over. Sad that some people don’t have basic food manners.

      • Vix June 2, 2014, 6:27 pm

        My grandmother has talked about going to church and family pot-lucks when my uncle was a growing boy. She said she always fed him before they left (usually a plate with multiple large sandwiches) because she didn’t want him to embarrass himself by taking too much food. She would use the excuse that she “Didn’t know what time they would eat and he didn’t want to get hungry waiting.” He would eat the all of the sandwiches and then go eat a normal person sized meal an hour later. (and by normal sized I mean working-on-a-farm-man-sized)

    • ohboy June 2, 2014, 11:03 am

      I ALWAYS think of this show when we talk about potlucks/dinners! I recently hosted some friends and served 1 portion of chicken breast per person (well, I think there were a few extras) These were mammoth size breasts to the point where it took up about 3/4 of the paper plates I had purchased (should have bought the bigger size, but oh well) My husband says, “don’t you think people will do a “Mr Grant” and take more than just 1 piece?” but they didn’t! In fact, many of them cut the breasts in half and only took 1/2 piece, so I actually was left with quite a bit. 🙂

      • Shalamar June 3, 2014, 8:59 am

        When my in-laws had their 25th anniversary, they had a come-and-go event in their house and served hot dogs, hamburgers, and desserts. There were, if I recall, five different kinds of dessert – pies, cakes, and brownies. We had a lot of people coming, and I was apprehensive about whether or not there’d be enough of the sweet stuff. My sister-in-law scoffed, saying “We’ll have plenty. There’s enough for everyone to have one piece, maybe even two.” Well, she hadn’t taken human nature into account. Either the guests were greedy (or, more likely, they assumed we had more desserts hidden in the kitchen to be brought out as needed), but every guest took some of all five. We ran out almost immediately.

    • Sarah June 2, 2014, 11:11 am

      That was exactly the scene that was going through my head! I could not find the episode but I think she cooked a main course (was it meatloaf?) for 6 – more people turned up and then Mr Grant took for 3. I probably have not seen that since the original transmission in the 1970s when I was a child – but I still remember all those details!

    • michelle June 2, 2014, 1:48 pm

      I loved that series, and that particular episode was one of the best! I remember it was Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who actually did the cooking, and she had everything timed down to the minute and kept pushing Mary to serve dinner even before the guests arrived.

      Thanks for the memory, Lkb!

    • Asharah June 2, 2014, 2:03 pm

      Actually, I think SueAnn did the cooking for her.

      • Lkb June 2, 2014, 5:19 pm

        Thanks for the clarification. How could I forget Sue Ann? Such a fun example of PA! Sorry for the thread jack.

    • NostalgicGal June 2, 2014, 6:44 pm

      Sue Ann Nivens had cooked this fancy food with this meaty loaf, and Mr. Grant took three… then Mary finally had to take him aside and tell him that is all there WAS so he said he wasn’t as hungry as he thought and put two back. Mary had looked at that tiny loaf that Sue Ann had decanted, and said pretty much ‘that’s IT???’ and Sue Ann had berated Mary about being apprehensive about the amount.

      If the main was so sparse, then the food should have been professional style plated and presented; which ends that issue…

  • babs June 2, 2014, 8:52 am

    I echo what Cat said. When you’re hosting a party and you’re nervous that there isn’t enough food, you hang back and let your guests serve themselves first (that would eliminate 2 people right there). Then you take what’s left over, or make yourself a baloney sandwich! I’m sure the hostess could have good-naturedly laughed and said something like “Oh my… I hope we have enough food for everyone!” and people would have gotten the message to go light the first time around – without dictating to adults what and how much they can take.

  • The Sojourner June 2, 2014, 8:53 am

    It does rather take the luck part out of potluck, doesn’t it?

    My mother’s side of the family frequently has potluck reunions, in which we have a “food table” and a “dessert table.” One year a cousin suggested assigning dishes so that we wouldn’t end up with more dessert than actual food, and we shut him down quick. The whole point of an M__ family reunion is the dessert. 🙂

    Also, the hosts were unquestionably rude, but I’m amazed at how many people don’t know “take a small portion and come back for seconds if there’s any left.” (And the closely allied “Host family serves themselves last and if there isn’t any left for them, too bad.”) This was drilled firmly into my head when I was a child, but my husband is terrible at it. Of course, he grew up with 5 brothers, so his idea of “small portions” might be a little skewed, and I had to explain the concept of leftovers to him after we were married–you can’t just “finish off” that big pot of chili, that’s for lunch tomorrow!

  • NostalgicGal June 2, 2014, 8:55 am

    Adding, way back in past as part of a themed reenactment group, we WOULD toss feeds where everyone in the group had to help cook, and often also had to help pony up for food cost…. and we would have guests that would RSVP and have to pay just for food cost. In that case, yes, recipes and food assignments were handed out to the group…. we would eat well actually, keep it not too unreasonable, and (me being the one with food service certification and training) would keep things healthy and sane. IN this case handing out recipes and how much to make is not rude; it was organizing things to get it to happen. We would break even with food costs; afterwards, paying off the grocery bills with the per-head. THIS IS NOT NORMAL ENTERTAINING AMONGST FRIENDS. Original post is tack-eee.

  • JWH June 2, 2014, 9:13 am

    This is one of the stranger potlucks I’ve read about. When I’ve gone to potlucks the host usually circles a signup sheet where each attendee lists what he or she is bringing (the guest’s choice, not the host’s) so you don’t end up with a dozen people bringing chicken cacciatore.

    I only see tight recipe control when a group of food enthusiasts have structured theme gatherings and everyone wants the dishes to complement each other. (“This month, the theme is ‘Mexican-Indian fusion.'”)

  • staceiam June 2, 2014, 9:20 am

    My Mom once attended a meeting with potluck dinner following. 11 people brought scalloped potatoes, and 1 brought jello salad. Worst potluck ever! But awesome story.

    • cathy June 2, 2014, 11:48 am

      Hahahaha!!! That is hilarious! Somebody didn’t do their coordinating job that time.

      • kingsrings June 2, 2014, 3:20 pm

        I once attended a Christmas potluck where there were 4-5 lasagnas! Not ideal, but we all laughed it off and made sure the next year to communicate better on who was bringing what. And lasagna is always good, plus they were different lasagna recipes.

        • Medowynd June 2, 2014, 11:17 pm

          I attended a potluck where 8 out of 12 dishes were meatballs in crockpots. Thank goodness the sides and desserts were large.

    • Kelly L. June 3, 2014, 8:26 am

      I went to a potluck where somehow everyone, coincidentally, brought some form of bread.

      • Susan T-O June 28, 2014, 8:46 am

        Considering my love of scalloped potatoes, lasagna, bread, and meatballs-in-crockpots, I have to say that those all sound like excellent potlucks to me. Yum!!!! 🙂

        On the topic of people hogging the food, a group that I was in at the Renaissance Faire does a potluck lunch for its members. The people in charge of the lunch finally had to make rules to ensure that everyone got to eat: only half the food was brought out at a time; children went through the line after all the adults (this was in response to several kids taking cuts in line, often in order to get a second helping of something); no seconds until everyone had firsts. It was baffling to me that they actually had to spell these things out, as they all seem like common sense/proper manners to me. (I also followed my own personal rule of not eating any of the vegan dishes until all the vegans had been through the line, since they’d go hungry if the animal-product-free dishes ran out whereas I could still have the meat, dairy, and egg dishes that were provided.)

  • acr June 2, 2014, 9:24 am

    Somewhat off topic, but I just can’t agree that the economic climate makes potlucks more acceptable some how. I don’t think they are unacceptable in general, but I just don’t agree that “many people can’t afford to serve a full meal in this current economic climate.” You host the party you can afford. Maybe you downgrade from steaks to hamburgers, or just make a big pot of chili and some corn bread.

    I would argue that an economic downturn would actually make potlucks LESS acceptable, because you are asking people to subsidize your entertainment budget and you have no idea what kinds of economic difficulties they may be facing.

    • Vix June 2, 2014, 6:29 pm

      For a group that trades off entertaining say once a month or week or however it makes sense to go pot luck as then no one person has to come up with a full meal budget all at once. The costs are more spreadout month to month.

  • Rod June 2, 2014, 9:53 am

    I’m a big fan of potlucks – when I trust the people involved.

    My wife and I like hosting, cooking, and eating. We normally make extra food (stuff happens). And when we are hosting, we usually invite a set of “reliable” guests that can be trusted to be a good fit for a meal, smart enough to bring something adequate (or at least asking the right questions), and have a good time.

    And normally we also “risk” inviting one or two new friends and families to expand our circle. Sometimes these are great additions. Sometimes they don’t get invited again. But that’s how you learn – and in general if you have a core you can buffer the bad guests to potlucks.

    We had one Japanese themed potluck where the rule was to make things yourselves. Some brought sushi (that’s a lot of dedication), some brought fried rice, others brought yakitori (chicken skewers), miso soup, etc. One guy brought chinese food, a small container bought in a supermarket. That guy did not get invited again to other potlucks (wasn’t a great guest for the rest of the party).

    If a potluck required me to follow a recipe I would laugh at them. I make my food to my liking. You don’t want that you can make it yourself. Because of dietary restrictions, often my wife and I can only eat what we bring, which is why we make lots of it.

  • e. June 2, 2014, 10:33 am

    I don’t know if I would call these people “food police” so much as “food dictators”!

  • Steve June 2, 2014, 10:49 am

    You cannot host a potluck. And it is extremely rude to pretend you can.

    You can be a coordinator. Or you can provide the venue. Or both. But you cannot act as the host–because all of the guests are the hosts.

    So you do not get to dictate what other people bring, much less provide them with recipes. You can either leave the menu to chance, or try to coordinate it. But if you do coordinate it, you have to give others input into the planning process first. Only after the group agrees to the menu do you get to unleash your inner nag for a bit.

    This story is just another case of people refusing to host the kind of party they can afford, and simply outsourcing their duties and financial obligations to their guests.

  • Calli Arcale June 2, 2014, 11:27 am

    Let’s play count the gaffes here:

    1) Assigning very specific dishes for a “potluck”. That’s not potluck — that’s getting free caterers.
    2) Hosts providing a side-dish only; host normally should provide the most critical items to ensure that an absent guest doesn’t ruin the meal, and that means the main course and at least basic beverages.
    3) Harping on quantities and then screwing up your own betrays a massive lack of foresight (though combined with #1, may have been intentional).
    4) Dictating quantities because of #3 betrays your low opinion of your guests, by suggesting you think they have no self-control or ability to judge how much is left in the container.

    Lovely party. Next time I think I’d have to wash my hair.

  • cathy June 2, 2014, 11:45 am

    Rule number one of entertaining: always make more food than you think you’ll need, and you’ll never be in the position of having to be the Food Police.????

  • Shyla June 2, 2014, 11:57 am

    Well, you can’t go back and change anything. Your friends are not very hospitable. Next time, just try no thank you we’re busy. If you want to see your other friends (who appear to be the reason you attended), host your own party and have a good time.

  • catwoman2965 June 2, 2014, 1:48 pm

    In my group of friends, as a carryover from when we were all just staring out, and young and poor, we always do a “potluck” Sometimes whoever has it at their house provides the main dish, and everyone brings something, sometimes, as in the case last Christmas, circumstances are such that guests bring the main course. My one friend wanted to get together but was almost 8 months pregnant, with a toddler. So while it was easier to hold it at her house, I made lasagna for all. And everyone else brought the rest of the stuff.

    But what we normally do, and are very informal, is just simply figure out what everyone is going to bring. Some of us like to cook, others not so much, so those who cook, bring something that can be cooked, and the others maybe salad, munchies, dessert, and so on. I did have one friend who doesn’t cook, and would bring frozen appetizers. Which was fine, but she’d always bring 3 small boxes of different ones, each containing 6-8 of each, and we sometimes had 10+ people. so it was awkward as she’d bring enough in total, but only a few of each. We always wondered why she didn’t simply buy 3 of the same kind.

    Even though we all now can afford to host everyone, we’re all busy, so its just easier to do things the way we’ve always done it. Other friends, however, I’m invited, and all is provided by the host, but I will bring wine, dessert etc.

  • Meegs June 2, 2014, 2:10 pm

    I would have bowed out when they sent the receipe of what they wanted me to make. No.

  • Tex Carol June 2, 2014, 2:27 pm

    My in-laws have a pot luck for Christmas. Attendance varies from 20 to 30 people. We take turns hosting. Host provides the venue, dinnerware, basic drinks like tea and coffee (we’re not big alcohol drinkers), and the main dish. We let the rest of the family know what that dish is so they can plan to bring appropriate side dishes. We have occasionally had a holiday get-together with three or four pots of beans, but generally, it all works out. Can’t imagine “hosting” a pot-luck and expecting someone else to provide the main dish! And if I had gotten a recipe that I didn’t care for, I probably would have just made something else and said I couldn’t find such and such ingredient!

    • essie June 3, 2014, 1:29 pm

      I like that.

      “Butter! I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find butter anywhere.”

  • Nicole June 2, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Back in the 70’s I remember relatives belonging what they called “supper club”. Several couples were members and each month, one couple hosted, set a theme (Italian, Hawaiian, etc.) and a menu. They provided the main dish and drinks and sent a recipe to each couple that they were to prepare and bring. I remember that it was a lot of fun, but it was also by agreement of all of the participants (and everyone knew how much they needed to bring to serve the whole group).

  • Ashley June 2, 2014, 2:37 pm

    This whole situation is weird to me

    While I don’t mind potlucks, the fact that they assigned dishes is odd. The most direction I have ever gotten for what to bring is “Oh, soandso already has dessert covered, but if you wanted to bring a side dish/appetizer instead, that would be great”. So I wasn’t told a specific item, just a genre which the item should fall under. While assigning certain dishes does ensure that you don’t end up with five bowls of potato salad, what happens if you wind up assigning a novice cook some recipe that they don’t have the skills/equipment for? I’m sure there are other reasons this is rude, but the reason I came up with is what came to my mind first because of my own fears over certain types of cooking.

    Second, since when does the host not provide the main dish?? At ANY pot luck situation I have been to with VERY few exceptions, the host provides the main dish. And even the exceptions are made with very good reason. For example, my immediate family lives in Wisconsin and my extended family lives in various parts of Illinois, all about two hours from where we live, and up to 45 minutes away from each other. A number of those relatives in Illinois live very close to excellent delis that we just do not have here in our part of Wisconsin. So occasionally a relative will VOLUNTEER to bring good Italian beef for sandwiches as the main dish, since they have access to the delis and we do not even though we are hosting. We still provide the bread for the sandwiches though, and then make whatever that relative would have made if they were not bringing the beef.

    Third, how do you go around demanding how much of something your guests bring but then manage to goof on your own dish? Did not everyone RSVP properly? And even if they hadn’t, why not exercise a little caution and make MORE than you think you need? Surely leftovers are better than not enough in the first place!

    Last, dictating how much people can have just sounds like prison almost. It’s not your guests fault you screwed up, if anything, YOU go without until all your guests have been served, and trust your guests to be adults and judge how much is left and how many people still need it.

  • Drjuliebug June 2, 2014, 2:49 pm

    You really need to be prepared and flexible to host a potluck, especially if you’re not sure of friends’ dietary restrictions, and if you’re attending a potluck while on a restricted diet of your own, it’s also a good idea to bring a large quantity of something that you know is safe for you.

    My husband and I both hosted and attended a lot of potlucks a few years back; we were living in a small city, and our entire circle of friends enjoyed potluck dinners. When we hosted, I usually made a big main dish and a dessert. On one occasion I baked a pie and made the fresh-fruit filling from scratch, but bought my favorite brand of prepared crust instead of making my own. As my guests arrived, something made me check the box the crust came in — and one of the ingredients listed was pork lard. Not a problem for me, but among our guests were two strict vegans and two Muslims.

    Fortunately, I had enough ripe fruit on hand to whip up a quick fruit salad, and others had brought desserts that contained no animal ingredients. I discreetly informed the vegan and Muslim guests about the piecrust ingredients, apologized briefly for not checking earlier, and steered them towards the desserts that they could eat.

    As I recall, my vegan friends always brought wonderful and creative dishes. My Muslim friends were South Asian and always brought amazing curries. Potlucks are a great way to sample a lot of ethnic and regional food, but a little forethought still goes a long way.

    • NostalgicGal June 3, 2014, 12:48 am

      I used to have clip/stab ID things you can put on a serving dish or at the edge of some food, to indicate if it’s vegetarian, vegan, kosher, etc. Wish I knew where I could find some of those these days, my set was lost a few moves ago. They were great as long as they are PROPERLY used, to flag special food.

      • Susan T-O June 28, 2014, 8:54 am

        Our group used different colored tablecloths to indicate the content of the dishes: white for vegan, green for vegetarian, and blue for dishes that contained meat or meat broth. Made for a very festive table and an easy way to identify the basic ingredients of a dish.

  • kingsrings June 2, 2014, 3:24 pm

    These two hosts sound like food dictators! I wouldn’t have an enjoyable time at all at an event with these unnecessary rules. You don’t get to dictate EXACTLY what a guest brings and how it’s to be made. What in the world do they do if a guest doesn’t follow these silly rules? Kick them out with dish in hand?
    And another hosting rule: Always make more than planned. That way you can be prepared if there are unexpected more guests coming, or someone eats more than their share. The worst that will happen is that you’ll have leftovers.

  • Lisa June 2, 2014, 3:24 pm

    So if all of the dishes (except for the hosts) were made for 10-12 people, and 12 people attended, in order to run out of food you would have to assume that each person would take a serving of 12 different dishes. That’s not possible even for the most piggish of guests. Silly.

    • NostalgicGal June 2, 2014, 7:04 pm

      My one roomie I’m trying to forget. You said one scoop, she’d manage to take the fastest swipe you ever seen and ladle ‘one scoop’ which would have been multiple servings onto her plate, then if you called her on it, her righteously indignant innocent protest ‘but it *IS* JUST ONE SCOOP’ and toddle off with her prize…

      As for servings, your mileage may vary widely. Club I belonged to had a potato bar catered; the woman quoted it for so many people. (15). 7 people went through and she was out of two thirds of the toppings and garnish; made to ‘per serving’. She had to whip up some more. I arrived a little late, #15, and I faced just about NOTHING left other than one wrapped baked potato. Fortunately all I wanted was some butter and sour cream and could find/scrape enough of that to be happy. The caterer lady wasn’t; but. What could she do when everyone took three scoops of something instead of one? Or four or five. And a lot of the group wasn’t happy there wasn’t enough toppings (aka have a side of potato with your toppings).

      I could see crowning a plate with 12 modest spoons of food and just filling the plate and having every dish empty. (and as Lakey says; some serving sizes specified are a lot less than most people will take!!!!!)

      • kingsrings June 3, 2014, 10:38 am

        The company I worked a long time for had one or more catered meal events every year as a thank you for all employees. They learned the hard way to have to have servers at each station giving out helpings to each employee. They also had to give each employee a meal ticket to turn in for their share. Both of these rules came about due to employees pigging out and taking more than their share or trying to score more than one meal. Sad that adults have to have such rules.

    • The Elf June 3, 2014, 2:28 pm

      “Serving” on a recipe is often fairly small, especially for an event. I don’t know about you, but I love to feast at events. Not stuff myself piggishly, but I will eat more than I would at a normal dinner at home. I love to try new foods, so I would in fact take a bit of each of the 12 dishes. Probably not a full serving, but a bit. I could easily see how a dish or two or three under the scenario would run out.

      When I cook for a group, my rule of thumb is to count 1 serving per person, then add half again to account for big eaters and second helpings. If the crowd has a lot of teenagers or is overwhelmingly male, I double it. Better to have leftovers than run out of food!

      • NostalgicGal June 3, 2014, 11:31 pm

        I’ve learned to count 2.5 ‘servings’ by food service standards per head. If there’s a lot of the teen persuasion to be attending, at least 3x on the number of EVERYONE attending.

        I don’t mind you take all you want and eat all you take, but any leftovers are NOT for claiming under those circumstances. I paid that much for the catering or the ingredients (and I made the stuff) and once things are over, do NOT ask for any of the extras (and I rarely do have any). That part is the most tacky and winning the tuffet in e-hell behavior… [and yes I’ve had people show up and either try to commandeer a plate full, pot full, or to go container full; on top of what crossed their plate. No hon, NO. You can be as indignant and affronted as you want, if I paid for it, and you already had a meal of it; anything left does not belong to you….]

        • kingsrings June 4, 2014, 10:46 am

          I know people who take plastic baggies and containers with them at these events so they can score the leftovers afterwards. Nope. You only wait until the host offers the leftovers to the guests before you start scooping them up for your own meals.

          • NostalgicGal June 4, 2014, 7:21 pm

            Exactly. One time at my turn to bring for the club meeting supper, I had had the BBQ place smoke me up a LOT as I wanted some for portioning and freezing for DH feeding afterwards. I put out quite a spread; and. One person who had been sick a lot, did show for the meeting, and asked if she could take a plate to go for herself and her sick DH (we knew about his illness too, both had had it rough lately) so to be nice I said yes. She took enough for 2-3 good meals EACH, piled those plates, and wrapped them, I only seen her trying to bag the plates with a plate over them to hold the stuff in (to-go container wouldn’t have been big enough) and decided about whether or not to make a scene, and held my tongue and let her leave. The others started to comment, and I calmly said with a layer of ‘topic is closed’ tones; I know. NEXT year I do it again, she’s there again, and this time I got the BBQ place to give me some to-go containers. Yep, only meeting she’s made in several months, asks to take home food instead of eating with us… I said sure, do you want the ribs, the chicken OR the sausage. She gets an uh oh look. She finally decided one ribs, one chicken. Fine, I have the containers and I start to fill them. She was handed two generous single meals in containers, that I served out. Last pass she didn’t show up for the ‘my feed’ meeting. ….

  • lakey June 2, 2014, 4:25 pm

    Usually when I make something for a potluck, make more than enough for the number of expected guests. For instance if the recipe was for 12 servings, and there were 12 people coming I would probably make 1 and a half of the recipe, maybe even double it. Some recipes consider a serving 1/2 cup, but many people take more than that.

    Also, I think it’s fine to specify a course, such as salad or dessert. But telling people what specific dish they must bring, and the recipe, would bother some people. Most people, when they cook for a potluck, are more comfortable with certain dishes and recipes that they already know turn out well, and that people enjoy. I would be very uncomfortable preparing something that I had never cooked before for a bunch of people.

  • Anna Wood June 2, 2014, 4:32 pm

    We ‘Host’ a lot of Potluck parties. We have a circle of friends that likes to come to our place and party, kids and all. Dh & I supply the meat (burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, turkey, whatever) and everyone else brings something to add to the table. One of our friends makes the world’s best potato salad and is always asked to bring that. Everyone asks the same question when the invitations go out, ” Is X bringing potato salad?” We all have a good time, there is more than enough food for everyone, even the teenagers, and everyone takes stuff home. We ‘Host’ these parties about ten times a year. I think that if my friends are happy to party this way and we all have fun, that we are doing OK. Potlucks are not the’ last resort of the poor’, but a nice way to get together with friends and I think that is what counts in the long run.

  • Anonymous June 2, 2014, 5:05 pm

    Everyone else has taken the words straight out of my head. A potluck is only a true potluck if people are allowed to choose what they bring. Sometimes, for larger groups, it’s necessary to have people sign up for categories, and sometimes even have limited numbers for each category, so you don’t, say, end up with an entire potluck of dessert and no real food, but assigning dishes with specific recipes is over-the-top controlling, which makes it rude. It’s also rude for the “hosts” to only provide a side dish (thereby forcing one of the “guests” to bring the main), and it’s egregiously rude of those hosts to deliberately make too little of the side dish they provided, and then police how much people can take. Yes, I know that they made enough for one serving each for twelve people, but when you’re feeding guests, making “just enough” isn’t really enough. You never know when something is going to get burned, or dropped on the floor, or snatched up by the dog, and also, different people have different interpretations of what constitutes a “serving,” not out of rudeness; just from different appetites, different backgrounds/upbringings/whatever. So, if the meal was, say, hamburgers, it’d be obvious that everyone gets one on the first pass, and nobody gets seconds until everyone gets firsts, but what about more “free-form” items, like, say, a pot of chili? Some people might not be able to magically intuit how big a scoop to take, and this might result in “exactly enough for twelve people” running out around person number nine, ten, or eleven, who will end up looking greedy for taking the last of the pot, even if they take the equivalent of one “serving” (by the hosts’ interpretation), or less. I had this problem when I was ten years old at summer camp, when I was placed in a cabin with two too many people. The camp director provided cots for the two extra people, but the kitchen staff didn’t bother to make us extra food to accommodate this. Often, the first few people at the table would take big servings, and by the time it got to me, there wouldn’t be much left, but I’d get chastised for taking any amount of food, just because there were people after me. Needless to say, mealtimes were rather nerve-wracking that summer, and in a cabin full of eight, nine, and ten-year-old girls, they caused a lot of fights and arguments.

    • Medowynd June 2, 2014, 11:28 pm

      I remember going to a women’s retreat and I was one of the last people in line. There were only a few bites left. I went to the person in charge and pointed out that there were at least ten people and not enough food. She started arguing and I just held my ground. They brought out more food

      Later the leader of the retrat made an announcement that there were problems with people sneaking into the retreat and taking food, according to the manager of the dining facilities. No, actually it turns out that this location was known for shorting the food and there were lots of complaints.

      I was not about to go hungry in a mountain retreat and live off of vending machines, with the nearest town a half hour drive away.

      The manager provided enough food for the rest of the retreat, but there was no more business for them from our group.

    • The Elf June 3, 2014, 2:32 pm

      You know, a potluck of all dessert would actually be pretty amazing. I mean, if you were expecting dinner it would suck, but organizing one purposefully would be awesome.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith June 2, 2014, 6:31 pm

    There is an aura of miserliness and entitlement about this dinner that is unpleasant and a bit macabre: the hosts, while obtaining their desired foodstuffs prepared for them in the manner they prefer and the quantity they desire simply abscond with the faux title of “hosts” and leave the “guests” to the real work of providing for one another. This isn’t a potluck- it’s unpaid catering extorted from those in their circle gullible enough to allow it. Potlucks are fun precisely because of the air of hilarity that can ensue if you have 6 dozen cookies and 2 roasted chickens show up- with not much else. A spirit of adventure and a little forbearance is called for. A potluck to which an element of coordination is added would be a collaborative dinner, but not (in my opinion) a potluck. As for those hosts who assign contributions and recipes without first obtaining consent from their targets- they are boorish and greedy.

  • MISSMINUTE June 2, 2014, 10:02 pm

    As an alternative theory, is it possible they wanted to make sure every guest tried their cooking?

    • Brit June 3, 2014, 3:32 am

      Why would that explain that they didn’t make enough?

      • Whodunit June 3, 2014, 2:10 pm

        I’m thinking for whatever reason more came than RSVPd. OP says she thinks that they were asked to make for 10-12, maybe RSVPs were at 8. So host makes for 8. Then 12 showed up. Happened to me once. I had RSVPs for 8 but then 18 showed up.

        • Brit June 4, 2014, 4:47 am

          The OP specifically states that everyone who RSVP’d showed up and there were ‘no surprise guests’. So no, they were just cheap.

          I don’t serve people who don’t RSVP and show up anyway. But then I email them before the day to say I’m sorry they can’t be there, so they know not to try it!

      • MISSMINUTE June 3, 2014, 11:04 pm

        I thought that would be obvious. It would explain why they were limiting portions – so that someone didn’t take more than one portion of what they had made, therefore leaving someone unable to try the dish.

        • Joshua June 15, 2014, 11:44 am

          Wanting everyone to be able to try the dish was a good thing. Making only enough for each person to have one scoop of it was not, especially given that they were the hosts.

  • danmar7 June 2, 2014, 11:10 pm

    “Free caterers” sums it up. I hope the “hosts” have a circle of friends 12 people smaller.

    After informing all the invitees what the main entree would be, the most I would do is make suggestions if a participant asked directly what to bring. Even then, I would limit it to a list of what no one has committed to bring yet. At most, “Well your grandma’s recipe for XYZ was a huge hit last time you made it and it would be lovely with entree. If that’s too much, a few bags of bakery rolls would be great! Or maybe a dessert?”

  • just4kicks June 3, 2014, 5:59 am

    Once when I was a little girl, six or seven maybe, our (then) New neighbors invited us over for snacks and drinks. I do remember it was after we had dinner at our house, and I also remember eating ALL of one particular kind of cheese that was on the platter for all to enjoy. I’d never had it before and it was delicious! My mom realizing I had eaten every last piece, pulling not so gently on the back of my shirt and quietly hissing in my ear “you just had dinner and that is for everyone, not just you!” Our neighbors laughed and didn’t seem bothered at all, they just said they were happy I was enjoying myself. My mother was mortified, and it was a VERY long walk back across the neighborhood, my mom telling me how rude it was to scarf down a whole serving of something put out for several people to enjoy. I have never forgotten that.

    • SilentClaw June 3, 2014, 10:02 am

      We used to have that problem at my grandparent’s house. They liked to throw (amazing) big formal dinners for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Everyone would dress up, then we’d all gather for appetizers at 6pm before dinner was served at 7-7:30.

      One of my uncles eventually pointed out to the grandparents that they shouldn’t be surprised appetizers vanished quickly. My cousins, siblings and I were being offered some of our favorite foods which we rarely got, like smoked salmon and fancy cheese, at our normal meal time (we usually ate between 5 and 6). Kids under 10 just don’t have that much self control!

      • just4kicks June 4, 2014, 5:54 am

        My mom makes a variety of cookies for the holidays, and my oldest son would eat every last one of her “snowball” cookies, despite me telling him to leave some for others. (See mom? I learned my lesson!) This year, she put the platter of cookies out and then handed a large plastic bag to my son and said “here, honey….all for you! You don’t have to share, this is your private snowball stash!” We all had a good laugh over that, and my son said a few days later, he needed to find a better hiding spot next year, because his siblings found his cookies and ate them all.

        • NostalgicGal June 4, 2014, 7:24 pm

          hehehehehehe how poetic!

          • just4kicks June 5, 2014, 6:52 am

            I should just tell my mom not to bother with the weeks of baking it takes her to make all her treats, just make snowball cookies this year! Although, I would dearly miss her nut and poppysead strudel. 🙂

  • Heather June 3, 2014, 6:59 am

    My friends and I often have potluck dinners. What’s also really good about it is if a member of the circle is having financial difficulties, there is usually so much food that it is not noticeable if they can’t bring a lot once or twice. Of course, no one says anything and we are all able to be together (including the person experiencing difficulties).

  • Angela June 3, 2014, 7:54 am

    When DH and I host dinner, we want to choose exactly what is served, and that’s why we cook everything ourselves. Sometimes we will combine forces with dear friends for something complicated; once a girlfriend and I separately made all the components for an elaborate chocolate cake from the Cake Bible, and then assembled them at my house for dessert after dinner. (I can’t say that it was worth all the work). I’m not a big fan of potlucks myself.

  • kingsrings June 3, 2014, 10:44 am

    Those who work in the film industry are familiar with craft services. When mealtime comes, there’s a certain order everyone gets served. Crew gets served first, then cast. This is because crew has been there longer and works harder. One one gig I had a couple of years ago, there was a piggy crew member who took 2 or 3 servings of everything, all the while exclaiming “mmmm……” and other food noises (no oinking or squealing, though, ha). Meanwhile, us cast members were waiting and waiting for our turn right in front of him. He knew that. I was in the first group of actors to be served, I don’t know if the last group got enough by the time their turn came because of this guy.

  • Tyler June 3, 2014, 10:58 am

    When I was in college, my friends and I often hosted get-togethers. We seldom called them potlucks, but encouraged (not required) people to bring a dish of their choice, and encouraged people to let everyone know what they were bringing so that others could plan accordingly. The host him/herself would usually make 2-3 dishes, if not more, just to ensure that everyone had enough. We *never* failed to have more than enough food, and there were always plenty of leftovers for the host or for others to take home with them. It somewhat amazes me that a bunch of young, inexperienced college kids can plan an event like this better than a group of fully-grown adults.

    • Anonymous June 3, 2014, 6:26 pm

      During my fourth year of university, and living in the on-campus apartment building (just like a regular apartment, but part of the university residence system), I had some friends across the hall, and sometimes, we’d make sort of “collaborative casseroles”–we’d raid our pantries, and throw together whatever vegetables we had, along with pasta, sauce, cheese (I wasn’t vegan then; just vegetarian), and then we’d cook and eat together, usually watching a movie or a TV series on DVD while we ate. So, not really a potluck, but more of a “get together and make something out of nothing” arrangement for poor students. The leftovers (if there were any) usually went to the person(s) whose apartment we were cooking at.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith June 3, 2014, 12:09 pm

    Off topic- I remember my father’s summary of a hosted dinner many years ago for a visitor from the US. It wasn’t complimentary. Portion control was anathema to my dad, and he loved to cook and to eat. A plated meal composed of lighter fare did not seem sporting to him. I hadn’t thought of that in awhile- and it made me smile. You won’t leave hungry in my extended family, either, unless you simply don’t care for what is being served. If you stand still around us, you will be fed, entertained, consoled or advised, as appropriate. But you won’t be insulted, excluded, bored or ignored.

  • Angel June 3, 2014, 3:22 pm

    These “hosts” were extremely rude. From assigning the specific dishes, to telling each guest how much to serve themselves–I don’t know how they could possibly get more rude. I think I would have probably declined the “invite” when they assigned me a dish to cook. I know some people might think that is helpful–but to me that’s pretty damn insulting. You are asking me to provide food for your party, but then you don’t think I can cook??? To me that’s BS.

    I can see assigning a category. An appetizer, a side, a main dish. A dessert. OK. But would it kill them to have two different potato salads? Two pasta salads? I mean no two people make them exactly the same. To me that’s the point of a pot luck. You might like a particular dish. You might not. Maybe you will come away with a new recipe.

    These hosts are damn near hostile towards their guests! As usual I am always surprised that people like this have friends. A friend does not treat other friends like this. And if I am hosting a pot luck at my home–I cannot see not providing at least one main dish and a couple sides myself. What is the point in hosting a party if you are making the guests provide most of the food?

  • MISSMINUTE June 3, 2014, 11:08 pm

    On a separate note, I’m disappointed with some of the snippy comments of late. Nothing dramatic, just a little ill will. I knew the rest of the internet is fuelled by negativity and aggression, but I’d like to think of this as a haven of good behaviour.

  • Lou June 4, 2014, 5:29 am

    Stinginess with food at any time, but particularly on the part of a host, is one of my biggest irritations. Nothing is guaranteed to make your guests feel embarrassed and like an imposition faster. I have no advice/feedback to add to what others have already posted, but will chip in with my own stingy anecdote.

    A close friend was turning 18 (many, many moons ago!) and her mother organised a big party at the bar where she (Mum) worked as a barmaid, including a DJ, decorations and a buffet supper. She invited the entire extended family and plenty of Friend’s group from college, but also casually extended the invite to the bar’s many regulars, most of whom didn’t know Friend from a hole in the ground.

    The morning of the party, Friend tells me, resignedly, that her mum had been taken aback by the cost of buffet catering and had decided to order only as much as she could afford. Which equated to enough to feed barely 50% of the invited guests. And as a consequence, she wanted Friend and I to inform the college crowd that it would be best if they didn’t eat too much, or preferably anything at all, that evening, so that she wasn’t embarrassed by running out of food in front of her family and customers. It made for quite the awkward ‘greet the guests’ scene, let me tell you – ‘Hi, thanks so much for coming! Is that for me? You shouldn’t have! By the way, please stay away from the buffet later!’. Strangely, Mum didn’t think this was in the least bit rude, because in her view, ‘kids’ should be grateful for whatever they get.

    As a result of this incident, when booking the buffet supper for my wedding, I asked the planner to order enough for an extra 25 guests over and above what we had invited, and she had to convince me that I was going slightly overboard!

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