Q: Karen, I am having some friends over for a casual get together and wonder if it is OK to ask them to bring something? I don't want to offend anyone, but it is always nice to have a little help.
A: Potluck gatherings can be a lot of fun and do take some of the burden off the host, but there are some guidelines to follow for the host and the guests, alike. Here are some tips:
•If you are inviting people for the first time to your home, I would wait for people to ask if they can bring something before assigning them a dish. If they offer, then ask them what they'd like to bring.
Be sure to tell them what you have in mind for your menu and what other people are bringing.
•For those who are frequent guests in your home and usually contribute to the meal, it's OK for you to ask for something specific from them or something that is one of their specialties.
However, if you are the type of host who wants everything a certain way or wants to micro manage what people bring, I would suggest you do it yourself.
You'll probably be a lot happier and your guests won't feel like they've let you down.
•For those people who come to all the family gatherings and are not dependable, stop asking them to bring something. You'll be relieved of the stress of wondering if they are going to come through, and you won't have a hole in your menu.
Doing the meal yourself does assure what you will be serving.
•As a guest, bring what you say you are going to bring.
If you said you'd bring an appetizer, that's what you should bring.
•Prep your food at home. Don't even consider stopping at the store on the way and then cleaning your veggies when you get to the party.
•Make sure you have the serving pieces required with you to put your food on.
However, there are times it is easier for the hostess and you to use her salad bowl instead of lugging a huge bowl with you. If that is the case, have your salad fixings in bags ready to dump into the bowl and bring the salad dressing. When in doubt, ask the hostess what she prefers.
•If you don't cook and have been asked to contribute a dish, let your hostess know you don't cook. There are other things that you can bring, like wine or something from a special deli or restaurant.
Most of all, enjoy your friends!