From Homemade Hero to Convenience Queen: Which Kind of Potlucker Are You?

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Image by Lizzy Acker

Seems like every get-together I receive an invitation to comes with the same catch: it's a potluck. While some people just can't wait to share food with their buddies, it launches me into a mild panic. I suck at potlucks. I listen to my friends exchange complicated recipe ideas like pros and pretend to understand. Meanwhile, I'm lucky if I can pull together something edible and wheat-free. The idea of bringing something to share just stresses me out, and I'm totally unclear on the rules.

Olive, cream cheese, carrot penguins. Photo by Erin Silva
Olive, cream cheese, carrot penguins. Photo by Erin Silva

It was always my understanding that you're supposed to bring something delicious to share with everyone. You give and you receive and everyone's full and happy. But it doesn't seem like everyone got that message, and it's just not that easy. Throw in some food allergies, dietary restrictions, picky eaters and lazy friends and the project gets a bit more tricky. But nevertheless, there should be some kind of guidelines as to what's acceptable to contribute to a potluck.

Recently I attended a rather stately potluck. Each guest seemed to really put extra TLC into their dishes: Homemade vegan cupcakes, fresh basil and heirloom salad, sangria, the works! But one friend arrived late presenting the hosts with a couple of opened and half eaten bags of dehydrated vegetable crisps as her contribution. We were dumbfounded but welcomed her just the same even though it was an absolute potluck faux pas. No one thought an opened bag of Snap Peas was on par with the kebabs, but that's just the way it is because the rules have never been written down and are open to interpretation.

After years of diligent research, I've noticed that potluck party-goers tend to fall in one (or more) of these six acceptable categories. They aren't official "rules" but they do help lay some groundwork for what to expect at your next party. Which type of potlucker are you?

Homemade Hero

Apple, pear, and ginger: oh my!
Apple, pear, and ginger: oh my!

The potluck party invitation sets your kitchen creativity into overdrive. Now is your time to shine; not just to show off your above average cooking ability and really wow fellow party goers, but to finally use those festive cupcake liners and that mandolin slicer. Spinach and artichoke dip from scratch ain't no thang, because you're also making individual mini quiches and seasonal fruit cobbler, duh.

Store-Bought Side Disher

"Is that potluck today?" you ask. No matter, Trader Joe's guacamole will step in to save the day. If not, surely any one of Safeway's number of prepared side dishes will do the trick. Anything prepackaged and delicious will suffice, just as long as there's no actual cooking involved. This counts as trying.

Captain Solo Cup

What you lack in cooking skills you make up for in practicality. Parties require supplies that go beyond food and that's where you're a viking. Paper plates, plastic cutlery and, of course, Solo cups are are your area of expertise.

Veggies a go-go
Veggies a go-go

Vegan Feast-Maker

As a vegan you gotta look out for your own because you know your edible options may be limited. Just to be safe, you always make a lot of food. Here's your opportunity to show to your fellow party goers just how appealing vegan food can really be. A perfectly prepared lentil loaf, tempeh wings, a side of roasted sweet potatoes and homemade kale chips will prove your point both beautifully and deliciously.

Health Nut

Thanks to you, this potluck will be ripe with fresh crudité, hummus and apple slices. Just because it's a party doesn't mean you have to throw your health consciousness out the window, right? You provide party-people with healthy snacks straight from the farmers market.

Homemade Bud Lite Lime
Homemade Bud Lite Lime

Six Packer

It's all about libations as far as you're concerned; cooking never crossed your mind. You arrive touting a six pack or two, confident in the knowledge that no one's ever mad at the dude that brought the booze. If you're a sassy six-packer you may opt for a seasonal or micro brew or even a nice bottle of wine. If you're thrifty, Budweiser will do.

Probably not a strong choice
Probably not a strong choice

Convenience Queen

You're halfway to the picnic before you remember it is, in fact, a potluck. Ever clever, you stop in to the nearest 7-11 and attempt to make magic in the chip aisle. Without a hint of embarrassment, you arrive at the party with generic Chex-Mix and Hint of Lime Tostitos, party pleasers for certain. Hope you can tell a good joke, too.