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Dear Heidi: What’s the best way to organize a potluck, and how do I decide who is bringing what?

The weather is nicer, and I’d like to host a dinner party potluck! What do I change from a formal dinner party to make this more casual?

I think we all cannot wait to have an in-person party potluck or a backyard BBQ! But, in these times of social distancing, we can still “host” a party and connect with our family and friends, it’s just virtual. My friends and I “meet” every Friday afternoon for what we call, “S&D’s.” This was my mother and sister’s term for “Snacks and Drinks.” It’s Happy Hour, basically. This week, we sent around a very simple menu for the “snacks.” The snack recipes used mostly pantry items, so hopefully we all would have the ingredients at home already. So, we all made the snacks, opened our favorite drinks, and met online, via Zoom to chat while we enjoyed the same menu. It’s almost like being there, and in some ways it’s better because no one is driving, and we get to see everyone in their home environment. Our friend in Milwaukee gave us a “tour” of her condo last night; it’s lovely by the way. When we get back to our more normal days, the best way to host a successful potluck is to create a menu that lists everything you want to serve. When planning the menu, be sensitive to food allergies and dietary choices to make all of your guests feel welcome and comfortable. When inviting guests, ask for their preferences, then plan your menu. Next, put the full menu with items out to the attendees, and be sure to include a column for any prep needs, such as oven, fridge, serving utensils. This makes it easy and avoids duplicates because each guest can choose the best item for them to bring. There are also websites that make this easy to do online, so you do not end up with all breads and no salads, such as Google Sheets and Meal Train. Potlucks, by nature, are not formal. So, keep it casual and fun, and be appreciative of your friend’s contributions. Why not take a break from it all, and dream up your next dinner party/potluck? Read through your cookbooks and come up with a great menu. This #stayhome situation won’t last forever. It’s always fun to create a themed party. So, get creative! Meanwhile, stay connected, and host some parties online.


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