Dinner with friends - potluck or theme?

My favorite way to see my friends is to get together for dinner.  I love going to other people's beautiful, clean houses and bringing dessert or drinks or sides.  I love having people to our messy, chaotic house and plying them with good things to eat and drink.  And I love summer, because that's when we have time to do a bit of both.

Some of my friends are planners.  They'll make a big amazing protein like a corned beef or something that's been smoked for hours and then put out requests for the perfect sides to go with it. Usually everybody's happy to comply, whether it means trying a new recipe or just picking something up at the store.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have another friend who has a yearly potluck - she invites the whole community and whatever happens, happens.  Sometimes there are multiple pasta salads or carbs or a whole lot of beer - you never know, but everyone has a great time anyway.

When people come to my house, it's somewhere in between.  My dinners are usually somewhat thematic because I'm probably testing something from that week's cookbook, so I might be making all-Southern or all-slow cooker or all-vegetarian.  But my dinners are also potluck-y, because you never know what will happen.  I've rarely tried the recipes before, so things could be great...or I could be in for an eleventh-hour salvage operation, or we might have to order pizza.  (That - the pizza - hasn't happened yet, but I always warn people that it could.) I'm lucky enough to have friends who are adventurous enough to go with that, and good enough cooks that they come with something great (and more reliable than whatever I'm serving) in hand.

What's your preference, planned or spontaneous?  And do you have a tried-and-true potluck dish?

1 Comment

  • hillsboroks  on  7/23/2014 at 12:33 AM

    After attending too many picnics and parties where I found myself looking at a table full of mostly chips, purchased dips and cookies from Costco and wondering how I would find something to feed my kids that was semi-healthy I decided to start assigning dishes to guests at these type of parties at our house. To my delight most people did not mind being asked to bring a type of salad or a casserole. Later a couple of enthusiastic cooks moved into the neighborhood and we moved on to doing theme dinners and picnics where we planned the menu in detail and then passed out recipes to other friends to make. We always kept the difficult dishes for us and were careful to match the others with recipes suited to their skills, interests and time available. It became great fun and everyone who participated enjoyed showing off the dish they brought. The kids loved these parties and picnics and many were introduced to new exotic foods there for the first time. One of the most unusual parties I hosted was a birthday party for my husband who loves to hunt and fish. I asked all of his hunting and fishing buddies and their spouses over and asked them to bring photos they wanted to share and brag about and something made from whatever they had caught or shot. Along with all kinds of smoked fish and game we had some really fun dishes like Canada goose liver pate. The best story of the evening was the gal who broke her arm just before deer hunting season. She was determined to go and hunt so she took her rifle to the doctors office and had them redo the cast on her arm so that the rifle fit just right to shoot. She sat on a rock and shot the biggest deer in their hunting party. People are still talking about that party and her story to this day. Theme parties don't need to be dull or stuffy!

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