Author Topic: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"  (Read 2924 times)

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jpcher

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Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« on: May 19, 2012, 03:28:27 PM »
From that thread, it seems that takeheart's sister was trying to organize a pot luck. It doesn't sound like things are going so well. I didn't want to derail that thread and it seems that it's already too late to fix things at this point . . . but for next time:

I was just wondering what people do/how they organize a pot luck meal?

If you organize a pot luck do you think of yourself as the host? Is this an actual hosted event?

How do you politely word the invitation so that people don't think that they could come empty-handed at still enjoy a meal?

Do you have one contact point where people let you know exactly what (dish/serving amount) that they're bringing.

Do you have a public sign-up list so that everybody knows what has been taken?

Do you plan a menu and ask for specific things?



I've never done a pot luck, so I'd probably be in the same situation as takeheart's sister . . .

Any tips and pointers as to how to properly invite/organize a pot luck?





edited to change trueheart to takeheart . . . takeheart, I think your heart is true for wanting to help your sister. Hope this thread will help her for the next time. I'm curious, too.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2012, 03:32:18 PM by jpcher »

O'Dell

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2012, 04:01:38 PM »
To some extent I consider myself the host of a potluck. If it's at my home, I provide dishes/utensils and usually 2-3 dishes that would be decent meal on their own. Say hummus and pitas and a soup/casserole.  That way if everyone brings dessert or nibbles, the meal will still be fairly well rounded. Oh and I keep a dessert on hand, but I only serve it if no one brings one. I just tell people to bring a dish to pass and themselves. I've never had someone show up empty handed, and if they did I wouldn't mind unless they made a habit of it. And quite often, a variety of dishes and courses show up. It oddly seems to work out even though there is minimal communication between attendees talking about what they will bring.

I admit I'm at the extreme laid-backed end of the spectrum when it comes to potlucks.
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cicero

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2012, 04:04:34 PM »
i've never organized a "personal" one - only at my fomer work place. we were a dept of ~25-30 people and had a dept party every now and then (when someone retired/left, etc) and it fell on me and another person to organize the list - we had a list of what we needed (items and quantities) and we went around to people asking what they were willing to bring. there was never any pressure; those who could afford to would offer to bring the pricier items, and others would bring a smaller item (or split an item between two people).

I've also participated in about a dozen foodie forum dinners - there are about 30 or more people who show up, everyone brings one dish. there are 1 or 2 organizers, and people inform them what they are bringing - the organizers will re-direct if neccessary (e.g., if there are two many desserts and not enough food). over the years, we've realized that people eat less of the carbs/bread. we always make sure that there are a few vegetarian options for theose who are vegetarian.

I think that it really depends on the situation. If someones is *initiating* a get together of friends/family for a picnic/BBQ-centric holiday, such as 4th of july, and this is something that the group does every year, then they might not feel as if they were the "host", rather the organizer. And i think it's fine to assign foods or at least categories to people.

personally - i never do pot lucks at home. it's just not done in my circle. there may be an offer to "bring something" but it's generally the hosts who provide everything.

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Outdoor Girl

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2012, 04:08:58 PM »
My group of friends often does potlucks and I've organized/helped organize some for social events with coworkers.

In my group of friends, it isn't unusual for someone to just specifically ask you to bring your 'famous' dish.  Usually, the host of the event provides the venue, the needed utensils and dishes and the main entree dish, usually meat.  Then everyone else brings sides, salads and desserts.

For the work groups, often what happens is that the people who want to sign up for something specific do so early on.  Then the stragglers usually ask, 'What can I bring?'  So I'll look at the list and tell them that we have lots of side dishes but are shy on salads and desserts.  How about a fruit tray or veggie tray or bag O' salad?  And then the next person who asks what to bring gets one less choice, based on what the first person said they'd bring.
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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2012, 04:17:51 PM »
I consider myself to be somewhat hosting if it's at my home, mostly because I clean and organize like I would for any other party. When I have a potluck I like to prepare a main dish and ask everyone to bring sides or desserts. I provide drinks, napkins, plates, utensils, etc. It's always worked out to be a good mix of desserts and side dishes. Non-cooks can bring rolls, veggies and dip, or a purchased dessert. I do make sure to let everyone know it's a potluck when invited, and will tell them what I'm making as the main dish, in case that affects their decision about what to bring.

Sometimes I do a "theme" potluck. For example, one Christmas I made a turkey and asked everyone to bring a side that was a traditional must-have at their family's holiday table.

Other than that, I don't worry too much. I love potlucks and trying everyone's dishes, and if it's not a perfectly balanced meal, so what? I'm perfectly happy trying 3 kinds of potato salad!

takeheart

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2012, 05:00:53 PM »
We host a Day-Before-Thanksgiving potluck at our house for the last four years. The invitation is usually a private Facebook event. It's at our house. We provide plates, bowls, utensils, and cups. I always make a main entree. This past year was slow-cooked pulled pork sliders with baked beans and coleslaw. Most people will post what they're bringing or ask others for suggestions. Some will call us the day before asking if there's anything they can bring. We usually say ice, drinks, chips, or something equally simple that can be picked up at the store before our house. If there are still items that are needed but no one has offered or asked then we buy it the day of. Alcohol is BYOB. Although some years we have had beer available. The turn out is always great! We have had everything from balsamic asparagus to spaghetti to beef wellington. Usually everyone brings something. I think there was only one time where a friend called and said he wasn't sure if he would be joining because he recently lost his job and couldn't afford to bring anything. We told him to come anyway!

Quote
If you organize a pot luck do you think of yourself as the host? Is this an actual hosted event?

I still consider a potluck a hosted event because someone has to invite people and organize it. As a host, one should ensure that all the basics are at least covered (location, main entree, drink, plates, napkins, and utensils).

In the case of Sister, she didn't discuss it with our group of friends who all agreed that it would be fun. Sister and BIL decided they wanted to get everyone together to play kickball and cook out. A lot of the guests don't know each other well enough. In fact, some have never met before. With that in mind, I feel that they are hosts.

ETA: I just realized this isn't the same thread I started, so regarding Sister can be found here: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=116097.0
« Last Edit: May 19, 2012, 06:19:55 PM by takeheart »

MrsJWine

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2012, 06:13:22 PM »
Every time a friend has organized a potluck, they've sent out an email something like this:

"Hey, guys. The weather's getting nice, and we want to have a cookout! If any of you would like to join us, bring a drink or a dish to share. Here are some ideas for food:

hot dogs
hamburgers
salad
fruit
chips
anything else you can think of

Please let me know if you're coming and what you're bringing so we don't have 48 hot dogs and no buns. Thanks!"

With a really large potluck (like what we have after church sometimes), they don't even both with signing up for different foods. There are enough people that there's always a wide variety of food. So it's as simple as an announcement saying, "Potluck Sunday, bring a side."

Sometimes I've been to semi-potlucks, where the host will provide sides or drinks or the meat, and everyone else brings the other stuff.


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blarg314

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2012, 09:56:30 PM »

I think the first rule is to only do potlucks in social groups where this is in some way accepted and familiar. If no-one does potlucks, then springing one on people may not work out well. The second rule is to be crystal clear in the invitation that this is a potluck, and what the expectations are.


There are two main types of potluck. There's the case where you are providing the venue for a group event (say, a family reunion, or the choir summer social event). In that case, you can parcel out the providing of food among the members of the group, including things like cutlery. Here, you're not a host at all, really - you're participating in a shared event, and what you are providing is the venue.  Depending on the size and nature of the event it can be a true potluck (people bring a dish of some sort, no organization) or the foods can be divided up more systematically, by dish or dish type (dessert, salad, etc).

A shared holiday meal can fit in this category, say where family or a group of friends are getting together, and the hosts provide the turkey, while others bring an assigned side.

Then there's the 'hosted' potluck, where you are organizing something on your own. That one, you have to provide a higher level of hospitality - cutlery, dishes, cups and napkins, plus things like ice, condiments and non alcoholic beverages, at a minimum, plus clean up and set up. You should provide some substantial part of the food, rather than waiting for your 'guests' to bring everything to you.

And you have to be careful to not be too demanding. "Bring a side dish" is one thing.  Sending a detailed list of the exact dish and quantities you want each person to bring is too controlling. If you want that much control over the food, you should make it yourself.

The two main situations I see for potlucks are parties - the hosts provide some food and drinks, and the other people bring snacks and alcohol -  and BBQs, where people bring meat and a side. In both cases, these are situations where one person is able to host the event and their friends aren't. So the people with the house or apartment with rec-room host parties, and their friends bring food and drink because they can't reciprocate with this sort of event. Or the couple who has the back-yard and grill or roof-top garden holds BBQs, but providing the food is shared out among the group of friends.  It keeps the financial burden of hosting from always falling on the same people.

MommyPenguin

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2012, 11:02:47 PM »
A parenting group I'm a part of likes to do potlucks by the first letter of your last name:

A-H:  Bring a main dish.
I-L: Bring a side or starch.
M-R: Bring a salad.
R-X: Bring a dessert.
Y-Z:  Bring paper or plastic goods.

(Obviously these are grossly imbalanced, but just giving you an idea.)

It works out fairly well, except for the one time that I was RSVPing online, and it said, "Bring a food item based on your last name, see this month's newsletter for what to bring," and I didn't have the newsletter.  :)  I think that's mostly useful in very large groups (50+) where it's impractical to have people sign up for specific items.

My Sunday school class likes to do potluck breakfasts and such once in a while.  When they do, they generally have a list of things that need to be brought, and they'll have numbered lines underneath.  So, for "breakfast casserole," they might have signup slots #1 and #2.  For "juice or milk," they might have #1, #2, and #3.  Etc.  When I worked as a librarian, work potlucks were similar, in that there would be a signup sheet for classes of foods, with the right amount of blanks depending on how many were needed.

The only potlucks I've ever seen have either been ones like this, not hosted, just an official group get-together for which everybody in the group is expected to participate if they come, so there's never really a question of who is hosting.  There's no *person* host... I guess you could say the host is "The Group" or something.

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2012, 11:21:33 PM »
The only planned potlucks I've ever participated in were at work.  After one that had too many egg-based dishes (and my quiche became my boss's take-home dinner) I suggested to HR that they organize it so that this doesn't happen again.  Participants were asked to declare their contribution in advance so the menu would be better-balanced.

On a personal level I'd try to think of what each guest does well and ask "Could you bring your famous bean salad?" or whatever.

Mikayla

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2012, 12:21:40 PM »
This isn't my preferred style of entertaining, but I've done a couple and I love them as a guest.  And in all cases, there's been an organizer, even if the word hostess isn't specifically used.   

From the OP:  How do you politely word the invitation so that people don't think that they could come empty-handed at still enjoy a meal?

If it's a full blown potluck, I've seen people break it out to Food (with broad categories listed) and then Misc.  Under this, there's napkins/glasses, plasticware, ice, rolls, etc.  Then the organizer tells people to check off what they're bringing and please respond by ____date. 

The potlucks I've been to aren't free-for-alls.  They're much more orchestrated (unless it's a work party, where anything goes).

TootsNYC

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2012, 08:15:42 AM »
i've never organized a "personal" one - only at my fomer work place. we were a dept of ~25-30 people and had a dept party every now and then (when someone retired/left, etc) and it fell on me and another person to organize the list - we had a list of what we needed (items and quantities) and we went around to people asking what they were willing to bring. there was never any pressure; those who could afford to would offer to bring the pricier items, and others would bring a smaller item (or split an item between two people).


This is my experience, that the people who can afford pricier stuff KNOW that they're the ones in the group w/ more money, and so they step up all on their own.

lowspark

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2012, 11:59:11 AM »
I've hosted and been to zillions of pot lucks.

I agree that if it's at my house, I'm the host. Any time I receive people in my home, I'm the host, regardless of whether I provide a glass of water or a full meal or whatever in between.

Most of the potlucks I've hosted & been to are within an organized group that gets together regularly, where the norm within that group is to have a potluck whenever the get together is hosted at someone's house. In that case, the hosts provide the main dish and they let everyone else know what that dish will be in advance so that the rest can plan their dish around that. We do group emails so that as people chime in, everyone else knows that dessert is already being taken care of, for example, and this keeps duplications to a minimum.

Back when my kids were in cub scouts, we used to have an end of year pot luck pool party at a neighborhood pool. In that case, no one was the host and no one really worried about keeping track of what foods were being brought. There were maybe ~30 families and there always just naturally ended up being a good mix of main dishes, side & desserts.

The main difference here being the number of people bringing a dish. If you have a get together with eight couples, you're going to need to organize it so as to avoid too many of the same dish. If you have 30 dishes coming, the distribution will most likely be ok without intervention.

I also have a girls only party once a year that is a pot luck. I've been doing this party for years so most people know the routine but it seems like I'm always inviting someone new who has never been before. My invitation says something like, "Please bring a dish. Let me know what dish you are bringing in advance so that we can avoid duplications. If you don't let me know what dish you are bringing, please don't bring dessert."

Now, I usually have about 18-22 attending this party and almost never have duplications anyway, but back when the party was in its infancy there was one year where I had about 10 girls, and five brought dessert. We did have enough regular food to go around so it wasn't that big of a deal, but all those desserts, well, it was kind of gross. Lesson learned.

As far as how to word the invitation politely, if you call the party a "pot luck" that should be enough to indicate that everyone needs to bring something. Then just say, "Please bring a dish...." along with whatever requirements you have, such as letting you know what they are bringing, or which categories you need, etc. I usually let my girls-party guests know about a week before the party how many are attending but I always remind them that they need not bring enough to feed a full serving for everyone since, with all those dishes, everyone will just be taking a small amount of each.

As a side note, there definitely have been occasions where someone couldn't bring something for various valid reasons. One of the great things I've found about a pot luck is that there is always an overabundance of food so one or two people coming empty handed is not usually a big deal. And as others have noted, as host, I almost never only provide one dish. You just never know who is going to cancel at the last minute or who might bring a tiny amount of food (it happens), etc.

I really love pot lucks. They are a great way to host a group of friends in a casual setting without going to a huge amount of effort. I also have regular dinner parties where I do provide everything but it's nice not to have to and still be able to have friends over. And I love attending them at others' homes as it gives me a chance to make a fun dessert or appetizer that takes a little bit of effort or expense since I'll only be making the one dish.

lowspark

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2012, 12:03:51 PM »
I meant to say something about the "we'll bring the grill, you bring the meat" kind of parties.

I don't really consider that a pot luck per se, as everyone is essentially bringing their own main dish. I've never been to one of those kinds of parties. I've heard of them but never known anyone who had one. The idea of it strikes me as problematic. Firstly, I don't want to go to a party then stand over a grill cooking. I want to eat already prepared food and socialize. Secondly, you're sharing the grill -- so do two or three people stand at the grill at the same time? Do you end up watching other peoples' food if they walk away? Do you have to wait your turn to cook so some are eating while others are standing around with their raw meat languishing? I dunno, the concept just doesn't work for me.

TootsNYC

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Re: Organizing a Pot Luck . . . S/O "We'll bring the grill"
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2012, 02:43:55 PM »
I meant to say something about the "we'll bring the grill, you bring the meat" kind of parties.

I don't really consider that a pot luck per se, as everyone is essentially bringing their own main dish. I've never been to one of those kinds of parties. I've heard of them but never known anyone who had one. The idea of it strikes me as problematic. Firstly, I don't want to go to a party then stand over a grill cooking. I want to eat already prepared food and socialize. Secondly, you're sharing the grill -- so do two or three people stand at the grill at the same time? Do you end up watching other peoples' food if they walk away? Do you have to wait your turn to cook so some are eating while others are standing around with their raw meat languishing? I dunno, the concept just doesn't work for me.

Usually the host (or someone he/she appointed) cooks all the meat--that's actually part of "providing the gril" or "hosting" is. If you've decided you want to be sure your steak isn't getting overcooked, you assist when it's your meat's turn on the grill.