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  • Writer's pictureLisa Plancich

Don't Bring Pickles to a Potluck

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

potluck etiquette
It's a bbq and you are tasked with brining a side dish. What will you bring?

Summer bbq's, family reunions, neighborhood night outs: we are reveling in a season of gathering together. Quite often our congregating centers around the classic potluck: one where the invitation reads, "Bring a side dish and something to drink."

Some refer to these types of gatherings as a Covered Dish. No matter the title, the rules are consistent. Your host is grilling something big - be it a pig, ribs or a mountain of burgers. You, as a guest, are asked to arrive with some tasty supplements for this exciting occasion.

side dish etiquette
Bringing a side dish doesn't mean a lot of work. Just make sure it's placed in an actual dish.

While many will whip up a pasta or potato salad, others will opt for a signature dessert or famous hot wings. Time-crunched individuals will swing by a local deli to grab a couple pounds of Three Bean Salad or a shrimp tray. Then there's the sip of choice, be it a bottle of wine or liter or two of soda.

All of the above are lovely additions for the perfect pot luck. The host wants everyone to gather, but can't front the cash for an entire full meal. The guests wish to hang out as well. Cognizant of the cost to feed an army, and supply them with drink, plus shopping, cleaning, preparation, tables, etc, a guest to the potluck is more than happy to compliment with a side dish and sip of choice. It's a win-win.

potluck etiquette, side dish for a potluck, covered dish
Potluck Perfect? Not if the host has to do extra work for you.

Yes, everyone benefits right up until a clueless guest shows up with what is an inconsiderate supplement for a fun gathering. Here are a few items you NEVER bring to a potluck.

1. A bag of salad or a whole watermelon

While some may say, "What? I do this all the time," others are nodding in agreement. Clearly the effort necessary to make the salad or slice the watermelon wasn't taken. What is the host to do this bag of lettuce or uncut melon? Make a salad? Slice it up? Do you believe your host isn't already saddled with enough to do? Toss and mix the salad in what? With what? And when? How about the dressing? And the tongs? And the...well, whatever else goes into a salad, which the guest failed to bring along? The guest may say, "well at least I brought something." But did you bring what was requested of you? The invitation stated, "please bring a side dish and something to drink." In order for your side dish to properly qualify it needs to arrive assembled in a actual dish (with serving utensils).

2. Raw ears of corn

No kidding. We've had a guest arrive early to a party so they could drop off a bushel of fresh corn. Are you understanding this? The corn is unshucked, uncooked, in a box. The hosts are in full blown set-up-for-party-mode. Did the guest offer to shuck and cook the corn? No. This guest had more errands to run, but couldn't wait to taste that fresh corn later at the party.

3. Jars of pickles

Again, this comes from actual experience. We were roasting a lamb on a spit. A neighbor arrived with a jar of pickles and a can of Diet Pepsi. Setting the pickles on the table among all the bowls and platters of food, they didn't even open the jar. Instead, the Pepsi drinker proceeded to fill his plate with everyone else's concoctions and lots of the lamb. The jar was still on the table - still unopened - at the end of the night.

4. Cans of tuna fish

Much like the pickles, these were not opened, or used. They were, however, taken home by the guest who brought them (because they "didn't want them to go to waste").

5. Whole fruit and a carton of ice cream

Not to be exhaustive, but this is another actual witnessed side dish. The fruit (peaches to be exact), though freshly picked was not washed, pealed or cut up. The ice cream was opened and displayed outdoors on a 90 degree day. Not exactly a side dish that is going to be usable at a potluck.

This list can go on, but you should see the point. If it's not edible and servable when you arrive, it doesn't qualify as a side dish. If you are going to eat a main course, slurp down copious amounts of drink, and consume lots of other side dishes at a potluck, you need to contribute properly, utilizing more than a little consideration regarding your host and fellow guests. Otherwise you are just a freeloader, and will most likely never be invited to this soiree again.

Bon Appetite

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