Why must everything be potluck and the Death of the Hostess Gift

I like to entertain. I know that sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, because I get stressed and I wonder constantly if people are having a good time and will the food come out hot/cold and will there be enough to drink and on and on and on. But I do like to see my friends, I love to cook and bake, and (strangely enough) I adore the planning process.

So why is it that when I invite people over, the first words out of their mouth is “What can I bring?” Why, oh why must every meal be a potluck? I put a lot of time and effort to try and come up with a well rounded meal, such as determining how big of an appetizer I want to serve (still want folks to be hungry for the main event!) to getting just the right dessert. Having some random dish delivered to my door … that unfortunately I often feel compelled to use … disturbs my food karma. I know that people mean well, I know that they wish to somehow join in on the fun, but if I wanted to have a potluck, I’d say “Hey, I’m having a potluck dinner … could you bring a (salad, leg of lamb, Cheezits)?” I’ve even told people “No, thank you, I’ve got the whole menu planned” and still I get desserts or three-bean salad shoved into my hands as they air kiss my cheek. Even worse is when you say “OK, bring XYZ for the appetizer” and the person shows up late and that appetizer turns into side dish #8 and doesn’t get touched.

I realize I sound incredibly ungrateful and like a really whiny wench, but where did real “entertaining” go? Is it that society’s “team spirit” must be demonstrated at any event? Yes, I could kindly say “thank you” and then never use the item, but I’m not good at that. I feel bad that I’m not using the dish they decided to bring. OK, that’s my own issue to deal with.

On the flip side, I know that I’ve done the same thing, that after a lovely invitation to dinner the first words out of MY mouth are “Can I bring anything?” I must stop that!

I’d rather someone say “Ooh, what are you serving? I’d love to bring a wine that will go with it.” That would be lovely, I think. And that’s my segue into my next rant: the death of the hostess (or host) gift. I remember when it was a custom to bring a small gift to the host/hostess when you were invited into their home. I like to bring flowers, personally. Flowers say you thought of them but they don’t have to display the item forever, because face it, flowers wilt. Perfect gift! What happened to that? Why don’t people thank the host/hostess with a small “something” rather than bringing a dish that doesn’t really fit (see my first rant ;-)).

OK, enough of that. I should be more grateful that we have friends who can come over for dinner, we have enough to share with others and are around to enjoy all of it.


2 thoughts on “Why must everything be potluck and the Death of the Hostess Gift

  1. Too bad we are not closer! I always bring a hostess gift and I actually still write thank you notes! Another lost tradition.

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