Potluck parties seem old-fashioned; just the name evokes an image of ladies wearing hats and gloves clustered in the kitchen, unwrapping their creations to the “oohs” and “aahs” of the others. They evolved from “covered-dish” dinners usually held by churches, back in the nineteenth century when just putting food on the table every day was a struggle. No one could afford to feed a crowd of people! Having each guest bring his or her most treasured recipe was an easy way to entertain even in the hardest times.
This type of party does take more organizing on the part of the host, but with lists and some attention to the details, you can have a great time at your own party. And you'll save money too.
There are two basic types of potluck parties: one where guests bring a completed or almost-completed dish, and one where guests bring individual ingredients and you cook together. Both are fun; choose the type that best fits your style of entertaining, temperament, and kitchen size.
And the party can be very free form; just ask guests to bring anything they want! You'll run the risk of having four desserts and two main dishes, but that's part of the fun. Or if you like to have more control, include the course or even the recipe you'd like the guest to bring along with the invitation.
A theme is important but not necessary for a potluck party. Some parties, especially those around the holidays, naturally evoke a theme. A Halloween party could revolve around pumpkin dishes and hearty meat stews, while a spring party could have a menu of cold salads, soups, and fruit muffins.
The most important part of a potluck party is making sure that the venue is clean and comfortable. Since you, as the host, don't have to focus as much on the food, put that energy into decorating the dining room and making sure that the kitchen is a cozy and welcoming place. You don't have to spend a fortune: a small lamp on the counter, some new dish towels and kitchen utensils, or a colorful rug on the floor add a warm and fresh feeling to any room.
Many of the recipes in this book are to be made ahead of the event, because that's the best type of food to transport any distance. You'll also find tips and hints for the best way to move food, and how to keep it safe. There are also last-minute recipes, just in case a guest's recipe doesn't turn out or if someone unexpectedly can't attend. You'll find ways to get organized, too, that will make the planning and execution of the party a breeze.
So join the crowd and make your next party a potluck. You're guaranteed a good time!