Enjoy a Shared Dinner (aka Potluck)

2012-07-06

Help build community ~
Hold a potluck! 
A potluck is a gathering where everyone contributes a dish of food to be shared among the group. Holding a potluck is an excellent way to reach out to new people and help build community. Potlucks can be any number of people really, but are commonly around 6 to 18 participants. They are most often hosted in someone’s home. A community center, church basement, or the park, are all great locations too. You may want to plan a potluck around another event like watching an inspiring video, workshop, garden tour, or a short hike. Organize a one-time potluck or an ongoing event. Generally the host (you!) will provide the beverages and a large main entrée.

Potluck Details ~ Send out invitations a week or two in advance. Whatever your number of guests will be, ask participants to bring a dish with half that number of servings (ie: expecting 20 guests? Ask for dishes with at least 10 servings because every one will sample smaller portions to enjoy all the dishes). Inform them of any guests with food allergies. Best results usually come from providing a checklist including items such as green salads, bean or grain salads (like quinoa), vegetarian dishes, pastas, meat entrées, gluten-free dishes, buns, desserts, or whatever you and your group would fancy. This way the menu has fewer duplicates and more variety.

Asking all participants to bring a copy of their recipe is a really nice touch. You can provide pen and paper if someone wants to copy it out (or they might just take a picture of it with their phone!).

On the day of the potluck, ensure the space is very clean. Have the stove and oven available if someone needs to heat something up last minute. Be sure there are clean towels in the bathroom, and kitchen counters cleared off for extra space. Also bring out platters, bowls, and serving utensils ahead of time and have them in the staging area (dining room table, picnic table, kitchen counter, etc).

Starting The Conversation ~ Welcome everyone to your home and inform them of the ‘staging area’ for their lovely dish. Nametags are helpful with building community as we learn names of new people so offer guests one as they arrive. In the beginning people will mill around, eating and chatting. Once everyone is settled and eating you can get the discussion started by speaking on the topic of the day, perhaps buying local, gardening environmentally, using transit… whatever is the common interest of the group. Perhaps introduce an informational video (preferably 30 minutes or less) or have your designated workshop presenter offer their tips on gardening, crafting, again ~ whatever is the interest of the group ~ as this is entertaining for diners and opens dialogue. An idea: when plates are emptied and diners are satiated, encourage movement by letting everyone know the plates/glasses go ‘over here’ and now we will ‘come outside to the garden’ or ‘come over to the book table’. When inclement weather prevents going outside comfortably, encouraging people over to a new area helps keep the energy going after a meal and helps start conversation. Also, a bit of coffee and green tea offered helps fit the bill nicely.

A final word to the wise… Lastly but perhaps most importantly, remember to smile. Relax. Engage. Enjoy yourself and your guests. You are making a difference. You are helping build community! Good on you.

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(Originally shared on this blog as a Page, nested under Community)

4 responses to Enjoy a Shared Dinner (aka Potluck)

  1. 

    WE love potlucks! We’ve been doing them since we were poor and in grad school. It has always always been a time of people coming together and sharing from their kitchen and their hearts. We totally use potlucks as a community builder! We have several a year! When Brian and I were new to our neighborhood and it didn’t seem like folks really hung out, we organized community potlucks. We invited everyone. It’s been delightful! So glad you put this out there for folks to think about and to encourage it. Love to you, Lisa

  2. 

    Excellent post! Sounds like you have plenty of experience with this! You may find this post interesting/relevant http://communitiesfirstassociation.org/2012/07/11/the-neighbor-challenge-week-3/

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