8 Things to Consider When Attending a Potluck
So, you’ve planned to attend a local ritual for the next sabbat, and you notice on the invite that following the ritual, a potluck feast is to take place. Your first instinct may be to pick up some chips and dip or store-made cookies, but part of you feels that you should actually makesomething. After all, it IS a holiday.
Are you going to participate?
Yes. Don’t come to a potluck empty handed, unless you absolutely have to. Chips or store-bought cookies are much better than nothing. If you absolutely can’t bring anything, ask the host if they need help setting up or cleaning up. And then actually do that.
When do we eat?
Will the feast take place before or after the ritual? Typically, the feast is held after the ritual, but sometimes it’s held beforehand- to make up for people who are running late. Knowing when the feast will actually take place is key, because it’s likely going to affect what you make.
What to make?
Different seasons mean different foods are ready for harvest. Eating seasonally is often seen as one way to align with the cycles of the earth. Seasonal food charts are one way to find out what is in season. Also, each sabbat tends to have foods that are associated with it, and from there, it’s easy to find recipes. For example, Imbolc tends to be associated with dairy, Lughnasadh with bread and Samhain with pork. If the ritual is honoring deities, with a little research you may be able to make a dish that would please those gods. If you are still unsure, ask the host what they think might be necessary. They may informally know what people are bringing. Ever been to a potluck where everyone brought a side dish? I have. There’s only so much pasta/potato salad and mac and cheese a person can eat.
Your host will likely have water on hand. If you want to bring alcohol, check with your host and be prepared to share what you bring. Also, on the other hand, if you don’t bring any wine, don’t drink other people’s, unless you ask. I’ve brought three bottles and only had one glass before it was all gone.
Is the venue going to have a refrigerator available for you to store your cold contribution? Even if it’s at a private home, don’t assume there will be fridge space for your food. You’ll want to be especially careful if your dish is mayonnaise based. There are small ice-chests and “cold bags” you can get to keep your food cold. Alternatively, if you are making a hot dish, gods bless you. There are always many more cold dishes than hot dishes at a potluck. You can keep your food hot in a crockpot, or buy an inexpensive steam table setup to keep your food hot. If you bring a crockpot and are dining outdoors, you may want to be prepared with an extension cord, as crockpot cords are notoriously short.
Bring your dish ready-to-go if possible. Don’t ask your host to use their oven, or their microwave, or toaster. If you HAVE to reheat something, make sure you ask (and gain permission) in advance. Don’t inconvenience your host. There’s usually about 5 minutes for setting up the potluck dishes- if your reheating takes longer than this, you run the risk of people already eating before you can put your dish on the feast table. Also, bring your own servingware. Your host shouldn’t have to lend you a serving spoon- don’t make more dishes for her. I’ve been to a potluck where a woman dropped off her crackers and a block of cheese and asked, “who is going to set this up?” Um. You are.
Time to eat!
When it’s time to eat, make sure you don’t take a whole lot of one dish. There are others that need to eat, too. Sometimes something looks especially delicious, but leave some for other people. Don’t load up your plate knowing that you have a Ziploc in your purse to take some home for dinner for your family. I’ve seen it happen. Not cool.
If you brought a bottle of wine or other beverage, and no one drank it, do not take it home. Leave it with the host. This is what is called a hostess gift. Long ago, when people would come to parties, they’d bring a little gift for the hostess, maybe a nice candle or a bottle of wine. The hostess busted her butt trying to give you a nice gathering place. The least you can do is leave the bottle of wine. You expected people to drink it anyway, right? Also, if the host really enjoyed your dish, offer to leave the leftovers with her. I try to use disposable dishes for this reason.
Most Pagan sabbat gatherings end –or sometimes begin- with a potluck feast. Be courteous, don’t inconvenience your host, and ask questions beforehand so you can plan appropriately.