Too Many Cooks Can Spoil The Broth – AND The Party

Posted by Dave

We celebrated our third annual surprise birthday party for my brother John last night.

(Okay – I’m pretty sure that the first one was a surprise. He doesn’t seem as shocked any more.)

It was a community effort, in that just about all the guests contributed something edible or potable (that’s food and drink, for you fans of plain English).

And therein lies both the strength and weakness of such a joint project. Usually, at “pot luck” gatherings, folks bring something they do well. This means each individual dish is excellent. It also lessens the work load on the hostess. All of these are good things.

Of course, it also means that – sometimes – you wind up with 2 very similar potato salads, but no desserts.

For our party, everybody coordinated their contributions with my wife Gina. In this way, there was no duplication. It turned out great.

Some hostesses, though, actually prefer the do-it-yourself style of party. An annual New Year’s Day event we attend is master-planned to the tiniest detail. It would be unthinkable (as well as most unappreciated) for us to bring a dish to such an event.

Communication is the key. “Can we bring anything?” is a great question to ask when phoning in your RSVP. If the hostess says “No,” that should pretty much end the discussion. But if she is open to a contribution, be specific. Your hostess should always know what’s coming in the door.

A few other hints:

If you have any picky eaters in your group (ie. toddlers or Uncle “Meat & Taters” Harry), volunteer to bring a dish they are guaranteed to enjoy – with the approval of your hostess.

If you have a special drink preference that might not be in everyone’s cabinet (from Diet Dr. Pepper to a specific brand of beer), offer to import it with you – if your hostess agrees.

See the common theme here? If the party is at someone else’s house, they get the final say-so. Oh – and never crowd a hostess in her own kitchen. In fact, saying “I’m available, if you’d like any help” is infinitely preferable to barging in and putting on an apron. No matter how well-intentioned you are, your “assistance” may not be appreciated, when you haven’t been asked to help.

For the good of the party (and for your continuing relationship with those putting it on), limit your inner control freak. Sometimes, your best contribution to a party is simply to be a gracious guest and enjoy yourself.


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