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To Wait Or Not To Wait…That Is The Pot Luck

I’ll keep this short and sweet:

You’re invited to a pot luck lunch with a group of people at noon, and then cards at 1:00. Everyone brings their dish and places it on the countertop. But, at 12:10 the hostess has not even put her dish in the oven yet. What do you do if you are the hostess?

1. Tell your guests to eat the food that is out (some items are hot) and have yours when it is finished.
2. Tell your guests to wait to eat anything until the item in the oven is finished.
3. Put your dish away and eat with everyone. 1107-18

Option 1

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Cerys November 8, 2018, 3:48 am

    4 – explain your dilemma to your guests and ask them what they think.

    • Essess November 8, 2018, 9:43 am

      I don’t agree with this simply because there are people that don’t want to make waves and will not speak up for themselves if their opinion is in the minority. Someone might be extremely hungry at that point, or need to eat on a schedule (for medication or health reasons) but if others speak up first and say to wait then they will feel pressured to keep silent. It is better to stick with the pre-arranged schedule to be fair to all of your guests so that they aren’t forced into a situation where they are made to be uncomfortable in order to be “polite”.

      • Tracy W November 13, 2018, 2:49 am

        I think that if you are eating out socially you should take some responsibility for your own needs, and be either prepared to speak up about your needs or take your own supplies and quietly resort to them. After all, random things happen in life that can delay meals, such as the host burning their food or the chef calling in drunk.

        I agree with you that the sort of person you describe is being “polite” rather than polite, particularly will all that “forced” and “made” carry-on, hosting a party is hard work, the least a guest can do in return is to be cheerful and upbeat, not self-pitying.

  • bopper November 8, 2018, 9:38 am

    5) Be prepared for the people you have invited over

    But really I would choose 1

  • JD November 8, 2018, 9:48 am

    I’d say the hostess should tell the guests to go ahead and eat what’s out. People who went to the trouble of bringing a hot dish would probably not be happy to see it sit and get cold while the hostess cooks her own dish.
    And why on earth did the hostess not have her own dish ready in time?

    • lkb November 8, 2018, 10:35 am

      Maybe the hostess thought that simply providing the setting was enough of a contribution? Or, maybe she got behind in preparing the site that she neglected to think about her dish? Or, maybe she wanted to see what other people brought to determine whether there was already enough food or too many from the category she was bringing (salads, desserts etc.)

      • lakey November 8, 2018, 12:28 pm

        If this is a one time incident with her, you are right. Everyone makes a mistake once in awhile. Then there are people who frequently show up an hour late, or who are almost never reasonably prepared. If it is a one time thing, I let it slide. If it is consistent, I consider whether I want to keep making plans with the person.
        In this case, I think number one is the best option.

  • Lerah99 November 8, 2018, 9:58 am

    It’s a pot luck not a dinner party.
    Tell people to dig in and the hostess will put her dish out when it’s ready.

    Hosting can be stressful and unexpected things can pop up. So she didn’t get her dish in the oven. No big deal.
    There’s no reason to keep a bunch of hungry people milling around a ton of food but not allowed to eat so they can wait for her.

    Even if all the other dishes are side dishes and hostess dish is the main course (like a spiral cut ham that needs to be heated through or whatever). People can start in on the salads and sides and then help themselves to the ham when it’s ready.

    • DGS November 8, 2018, 12:07 pm


  • shoegal November 8, 2018, 1:33 pm

    Hostess should always be prepared. I can forgive this – even a couple times but if this is the hostess’s MO then sorry I’d get tired of this pretty quickly. Hosting a pot luck is a lot less stress than a dinner party – you need to cook one thing and put out the necessary items to eat dinner but that’s it. In my book – there should be no real good reason for not preparing your dish on time.

  • Lacey November 8, 2018, 3:17 pm

    Option 1

  • kingsrings November 8, 2018, 3:30 pm

    A lack of planning on your part does not constitute everyone else being punished for it. I can’t stand this etiquette mindset that nobody can eat until everyone is there, or all the dishes are out, or everyone is served, etc. Why should others have to suffer in their hunger? Especially those that have medical issues if they don’t eat when they should.
    A good hostess is always prepared. Doesn’t make their guests wait on their account. And if crap happens and they don’t have everything together in time for the potluck, then they have everyone eat what’s already ready and then serve their dish when it’s ready.

  • Anonymous November 8, 2018, 4:36 pm

    I think this is one of those trick questions like, “If a rooster sits on a roof with a 45 degree angle and lays an egg, which way does the egg roll?”; with the answer being, “Roosters don’t lay eggs; they’re boys.” In a similar vein, there’s no such thing as a “host” or a “hostess” for a potluck, because ORGANIZING a potluck isn’t really “hosting,” because to “host” means to provide all of the important aspects of the gathering, including food. Also, I’m not the type to only start cooking for a gathering AFTER my guests have arrived, but if something had gone wrong, and the main dish was unavoidably delayed, I’d tell everyone to get started on some appetizers (like, potato chips, pretzels, raw vegetables, crackers and hummus, or something) until the main dish was ready. In this case, there’s another activity planned for the gathering–in this story, it’s a card game. So, I might also flip the order of events and do the game first (with appetizers), and the meal second. It’d make the waiting time for the main part of the meal go faster, if people had something to do while waiting, and also, the card game wouldn’t be rushed or cut short at the end, with people having to leave shortly after eating because the meal was delayed.

    • NicoleK November 10, 2018, 3:23 pm

      The host is the person whose house it is at.

  • staceyizme November 9, 2018, 6:54 am

    How do you even get into this predicament? There’s no reason for this to occur, short of a broken oven, a police raid or a medical episode. You do have some duty to care for your guests.

  • Rinme November 9, 2018, 10:11 am

    Well, #2 is unacceptable, but either 1 or 3 could work, depending on the circumstances.

    #1 is obvious. But. If there’s plenty of food and the unprepared dish will not really be missed, #3 is better.

  • Ross November 13, 2018, 12:47 am

    I had to double check to see if this was about me! We hosted potluck this Sunday but my mom called Sunday morning and asked me to come help her with some things around the house. I left my spouse with it. Some things weren’t ready like I’d do it, but I came in late, had a drink and enjoyed a good meal with our friends. Sometimes you just have to fall back to plan B and let everyone enjoy themselves.

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