Potlucks: Keep or Trash?

With Holiday season coming to a close, there have been almost too many potluck holiday parties I have been invited to. This is a good thing for my social calendar, but is a bad thing for my GI tract. The following post is my interpretation of potlucks and what are some good items to bring to a potluck, and what you should try to stay away from.

First, I’m just going to be up front in saying: potlucks need to be organized. Translation: they need to be set-up properly. The desserts need to be all together, the appetizers need to be right next to the utensils then the actual food. If this is not the case, people cut in line to get to the dishes they want to, or they fill their plate with an assortment of food which negates the whole idea of the potluck being a meal. Also, when it comes to organization, there needs to be food labels as to what everything is. Do NOT put items on your plate and you find out what it is upon the food entering your mouth. For a person who has one of the most temperamental stomachs on the planet, if I don’t know what it is, I don’t eat it. Also, people with food allergies, like gluten, where you can’t necessarily see everything that has gluten in it, potlucks are a dangerous playground.

Now, what to bring. I am a big fan of cooking, but potlucks are a time to bring store-bought items. They’re cooked well, most likely they come pre-labeled with all of the ingredients, and tend to be packaged nicely. But, if you’re set to cook an item, keep a few things in mind. Don’t bring something you have never cooked before, except if you have tried said item before bringing it to the potluck. One of my colleagues brought a casserole, and had no idea if it was good or not for she never made it before. Note: DON’T use your colleagues as guinea pigs to try new recipes. Bring items that you are confident in and you enjoy.

Second, bring items that don’t sound gross. Ok, this may be up for interpretation, but I think this is pretty self-explanatory. If it sounds gross (i.e. Buffalo Chicken Dip), it will most likely look gross, so don’t bring it. If there are no labels on the table for what each item is, and something looks like vomit, people will either eat it because it’s in front of them (note: DO NOT do this) or skip it because it’s ugly. On this subject, make items that are individually packaged, like cookies or cheese and crackers where you can take a few crackers and a few cheeses and that’s it. I hate the idea of bringing vats of dips and everyone touches the same spoon and puts their hands in the same bag of crackers for dipping. Christmastime is flu season people! Goodness know if people use their own utensils in these items too, which just give me shivers.

Lastly, the discussion of hot versus cold food. If your business or workplace has a full kitchen (with oven) bring whatever you want and heat it properly beforehand. Don’t bring things that need to be served quite hot and serve them warm. Again, that’s gross. I’m a huge fan of room temperature food, like cookies or pastries. Or I do enjoy chilled items like cold hummus dips (store-bought) or vegetable trays. Those can stay unopened in the fridge for a while and be safe to put out for a potluck.

So, this post was just about a few thoughts I had over the course of some of the holiday seasons I’ve been a part of and learned some lessons from. If you have other thoughts please comment below. I would love to hear horror stories or other good takes on what to bring or not to bring to functions such as these. Happy Holidays!

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