Above all else, dinner parties are my absolute favourite occasion to get together with good friends and meet new people.
Nothing (perhaps apart from a campfire) will draw people together so naturally than the anticipation of a well-cooked meal.
And the warm, convivial, relaxed vibe of potluck dinners, trump even the most well-organised, brilliantly conjured three-course masterpiece.
With minimal organisation and responsibility required of the hosts and the guests, pot lucks are a win-win.
The host’s responsibilities are reduced to providing a few pre-dinner snacks, space in the oven for warming up dishes and ensuring there are enough glasses, plates and cutlery to go around.
There’s no agonising over a suitable menu or catering for everyone’s finicky dietary requirements. No trying to appear effortlessly organised while juggling cooking with meeting and greeting guests and pouring drinks.
While the host will certainly still be in the kitchen finding space to put everything and directing people to the utensils draw, everyone else naturally pitches in as well, removing that sometimes awkward divide as the harried cook tries to focus on a dozen tasks, and guests mill about uncertainly, feeling powerless to help.
You don’t even have to be a good cook, because everyone has a signature dish they can whip up. I was at a pot luck a couple of years ago, where someone rocked up with pre-cut vegemite sandwiches, and in a coup de grace pulled out a bag of crunchy potato chips! Reminiscent of shared lunches at primary school or what?
Instead of the host pulling out all the stops and spending a fortune putting on a mean spread, the cost and the labour is shared by all. And there are never any awkward silences at a pot luck dinner because everyone gets to take turns demonstrating their culinary prowess and explaining where they sourced the organic blueberries for their blueberry pie with the handmade pastry.
Only to be outdone at the last minute by the late arrival bearing vegemite and chip sarnies.
And once you’re all wined up, and the last guest has finally arrived, everyone eats. Standing up, sitting down – anything goes – except for the shuffle around the table trying to find your place, only to find yourself wedged between the two biggest bores for the entire evening.
I hope I’ve made my case for pot luck dinners convincingly enough and in time for a dinner party renaissance this winter. The first for the season is on Saturday. I can’t wait for the rest of the invites to come pouring in.