5 Ways to Ensure a Successful Potluck So You’ll Never Hear ‘Nobody Ate My Dish’

With potlucks for parties, family gatherings, picnics and all other forms of well-attended entertainment widespread during these hot summer days, is it possible that one can bring a dish to a potluck and no one touch it?

It hardly seems likely, yet I’ve seen it happen. So, the short answer is, yes.

Over umpteen years of attending potlucks and also organizing them, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are certain formulas that make or break a successful potluck.

By my observation, there are five killers on the potluck table that will quickly bring a potluck-sharer to the realization that “nobody ate my dish.”

In no particular order, the five appetite killers are:

  1. Dirty or unkempt serving dishes
  2. Careless or unappetizing displays
  3. Unidentifiable food combinations
  4. No way to scoop or serve the food (Check out our glorious wood spoons and wood spatulas!)
  5. Too many similar dishes on the table

Just as there are five ways to kill appetites at the potluck table, there are five easy solutions for how to have a successful potluck.  In no particular order, the five easy solutions are:

  1. Pretty platter or casserole dish (clean and unchipped goes without saying)
  2. Appetizing garnishes
  3. Small sign on a toothpick or taped to the dish with the recipe name, ingredients, and who made it
  4. A serving utensil (sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how many potluck-sharers forget to bring appropriate serving tools)
  5. Some imagination and originality (oh no, another cold pasta salad, pleeeezzz….)

All these obvious words of wisdom seem a bit silly to write a blog column around, yet just the other day, I was attending a lovely little potluck and three people brought green salad with dressing.

Granted, green salad with dressing is always a welcome dish when only one rendition appears, but having too much of a good thing can lead to “nobody ate my dish” blues. (When I see multiple copies of the same dish, I can’t help but wonder what was on sale at the supermarket that day.)

Anyway, guests should do more than open a bag of salad greens and dump them into a salad bowl with bottled dressing on the side. (That is an easy dish the host or hostess should be allowed to serve, given all the extra preparation he or she had to complete before guests arrive.)

One other simple solution to overbooking the potluck table with the same dish is for the hostess or host to assign or suggest dishes. A simple way is to have those whose last names fall within an alphabetical range to bring a choice of items in their category:

A to I – Bring salads, appetizers and bread
J to S = Bring entrees, sides, or and vegetables
T to Z – Bring desserts and beverages

The main point of a potluck is to make a struggle-free, safe, and enjoyable time for everyone. With some simple preparation, “nobody ate my dish” lament will never come up at a potluck again.

Happy Cookbooking,


About Erin Miller

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Posted in Odds and Ends.

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