In Defense Of The Ol' Fashioned Potluck

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Julia Meslener for Scary Mommy and GraphicaArtis/Found Image Holdings Inc/Getty

When I was little, my father was deployed for half the year in the Navy. One of my fondest memories during that time was my mother taking me and my three sisters to church dinners. This was my idea of heaven.

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My mother would chat with all her church friends and I could go rogue with the sugar cookies, brownies, and bars. I usually stayed away from the mystery casseroles, but if I there was a meaty lasagna or layered dip, you better believe my plate was a-heaping.


We always had family-style get togethers, too. If you were coming over, you brought something. We’d sit around for hours and talk and eat and talk and eat some more. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet.

There were always certain dishes that had to be present or else: green bean casserole, brownies, and, of course, onion dip with bowls of potato chips.


When I joined the workforce as an adult, I lived for the holidays because it meant everyone brought in their favorite dish for the office party. We’d set up in the break room and find any excuse we could to have a chat over queso from the Crock Pot.

I realize not everyone shares my affinity for the ol’ fashion bring-your-own-dish potluck. People get grossed out not knowing where the food is coming from and only eat the food they brought or the dishes that were obviously purchased from the grocery store. They don’t want to wonder about whether the chef washed their hands or has several cats that regularly sit on their kitchen island.

If you don’t know how clean someone’s cooking area is, it can be a bit of a deterrent to stuff your pie hole with their offering regardless of how good it looks or smells. Scary Mommy surveyed some potluckers, and the consensus was somewhere in the middle — folks may attend a potluck dinner but only eat food from people they know are at the same hygiene level they are. On the other end end of the spectrum, however, are also those who throw up in their mouth at the mere mention of attending a buffet where everyone brings a dish and it sits out in the open for hours.

Then, at the other end, there are the hardcore potluckers (like me) who have no qualms. We fill up on everything and love every second of it.

Not only are potlucks fun for the guests, they make things a bit easier (and more affordable) for the host too. It’s so nice knowing you don’t have to provide a whole meal for your guests — and then do all those dishes at the end too. Folks can stuff their faces, and then take their bakeware home to wash their own damn selves.

I know there are those who are afraid of food poisoning, but may I remind you of all the recalls that happen from the foods you buy in the grocery stores and restaurants of the world? In fact, the Los Angeles Times reports, the Department of Health “gets far fewer reports of food poisoning from potlucks than it does from restaurants.” Remember that next time you get barfy staring at a sea of Pyrex.

While some people don’t love attending these fantastic food orgies because they don’t like to cook and feel pressure to do so (please just bring something from the store, I will eat it), others love to show off their culinary skills.

Unleashing your inner Martha Stewart and preparing a fantastic dish is a good way to try to outdo your mother-in-law at the next family party. A potluck is a great place to get on your soap box and show the participants you know your way around the kitchen. So sexy. Also, please pass the finger sandwiches.

You can be social over some macaroni salad and deviled eggs and get to know people through the dishes you are sharing with each other. Some of my favorite dishes from my childhood, and dishes I make for my family and bring to parties, are from potlucks I attended as a little girl.

Of course, we should look at the food and avoid anything that doesn’t settle well with us — I mean, that’s just common sense. If you are someone who prepares food for a potluck and you aren’t washing your hands or preparing food properly, then you should be banned for life. No potlucks for your nasty self.

My take on the potluck is basically this: I love them, and I will always love them. I am willing to risk diarrhea every time (though it’s not been an issue thus far). If you don’t, you don’t have to come. I’m not offended because it just means more food for me. So please pass the tuna casserole and cinnamon buns, baby.

If you’re not a fan of the potluck, I’d rather have you not come so I can stuff my mouth in peace than have you there in a corner all grossed out talking about all the things that are turning your belly.

As for me, I will host potlucks and attend them, out-eating everyone until I die. And I’m looking forward to it, dammit.

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