Potluck Etiquette Dos and Donts

Aaaahhhhh, summertime. Pool parties, barbecues and the ever popular potluck. You know, where people you may or may not know, form a line and eat from the same food supply. Kinda like Golden Corral except the food is actually made by these same people you may or may not know. Are they sick? Are they closet cat hoarders? Did they wash their hands today…or ever? It’s a super fun gamble of sanitary roulette all while being forced to observe the habits and behaviors of a hungry group of people. 

Don’t get me wrong. I attend potlucks and I host potlucks. It’s really the most convenient cost effective way to get a large group of people together for a meal and more often than not, I come away with someone’s recipe for their amazing dish that I might never have gotten the opportunity to try before. So they have their advantages. But they have their disadvantages. Like 'em or not, potlucks are here to stay and after attending one recently and witnessing first hand some serious lack of judgment, I was inspired to write a list of good ole common sense suggestions on the topic. Come on, people. Let’s clean up this potluck scene.


WASH YOUR HANDS. Before you cook something, before you get in the food line, after you use the bathroom, cough, sneeze…oh, let’s just make a blanket statement that bodily fluids on your hands is a no no. Potlucks aside, this is a good rule for life, capiche?

Do not show up empty handed. You’ve been invited to attend, you should want to contribute something. Can’t cook? Running short on time or cash? Guess what, Walmart has bags of chips for people just like you. Problem solved.

Have a delicious family recipe you love that feeds 4? That would be perfect - after you double or even triple that bad boy. It's just possible other people have also been invited to this little shindig.

If you’re bringing an expensive time consuming dish, expect to take it back home with ya. Sorry, but nobody wants your gouda fondue. They want crushed up Oreos served in a giant pile of whipped cream. Those bowls are licked clean. The people have spoken.

Husbands, listen up. If you’re in line before your wife and children, consider your Man Card instantly revoked.

Don’t pretend to start up a conversation with me so you can cut in line. I don’t play that.

One plate at a time, please, and it shouldn’t look like The Leaning Tower of Pisa when you’re done. Take it easy. This ain’t your last meal.

Go ahead and assume that everything has gluten and plan accordingly. Nobody wants to list all their ingredients to you or hear of your possible side effects. If the threat of explosive diarrhea is that real, get outta line. 

Speaking of the line, keep it movin. It’s potato salad, not rocket science. You either want some or you don’t.

If you passed something up, forget about it. This line ain’t movin backward because you had a sudden change of heart over mac n cheese.

On the flip side, once something is on your plate, consider yourself committed. Return it to the serving dish and I can’t be held responsible for your personal safety.

Utensils. Use them. Your fingers should never touch anything that someone behind you might want to eat.

Let’s discuss condiments, shall we? The mayonnaise knife should not come into contact with the Ketchup, mustard or relish. Cross contamination is nothing to mess around with.

Dips. USE A SPOON TO PUT SOME ON YOUR PLATE. If the thought occurs to you to dip some chips directly into the bowl and snack in line, reevaluate your life.

(((ATTENTION PARENTS OF CHILDREN))) Kids who can’t see over the table should not be making their own plate, do not waste everybody’s time pausing over each dish and asking them if they want some, stop giving them adult portions that you know will go wasted when they choose playing on the playground over eating…and when you see your kid’s hand, wrist deep in the bowl of cheese cubes, don’t suddenly advise her to use the prongs after you notice me giving you the death glare. Too little, too late sir. I’ve already killed you in my thoughts.

I think it boils down to simple manners here, folks. We each hold the key to making potlucks enjoyable for everyone. It’s a big responsibility, but I know we can do it. So let’s go out there and be the people Mr. Rogers knew we could be.