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Potluck hosts, please don't do this.

I was invited to a casual backyard potluck, 11-2 on Sunday. The host said he'd provide sandwich makings and was asking the guests to bring salads. I said I'd bring broccoli. (There's actually a thread here about the recipe: "NYT Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad?") When I arrived a little after 11, I found that the host had gone all brunchy on me, setting out bagels, cream cheese, red onion, capers, etc. Someone else had brought fruit salad and another had made lovely cheesy rolls. My garlicky broccoli was way too robust for the meal. It didn't fit in at all. Everyone was polite, of course. I just wish I'd been told of the change in plans. Or am I being overly sensitive?

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  1. Were you the only one that was caught off guard? It's the host's responsibility to inform everyone of the change of plans. You brought exactly what you promised, a salad. I would have asked when he decided to turn it into a brunch, though, because that sounds like someone complained so he caved to it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: The Ranger

      I agree - "sandwich makings" and bagels/cream cheese/onion/capers are not the same thing.

    2. No, you aren't overly sensitive. Sandwich fixings and brunch each suggest differing dishes. You should have been informed. I would touch base with this host the day before any future pot luck events!

      It could be this host just isn't a person who puts much energy into constructing menus with care. So he failed to see where the change might cause a guest to prepare a different dish from their original plan.

      1. Hmm. While "sandwich fixings" conjures up a slightly different food repertoire than bagels and fixins, if I had shown up to a potluck and saw more brunchy type stuff, I would've just thought, oh, I guess those are sandwich fixings, too.

        You did say casual, and it was during that nebulous brunch/lunch timeframe, so I wouldn't have thought it odd if this had happened to me.

        Also, I guess it depends on the circumstances, but if it was a casual affair, and the food was good (which it sounds like your salad was!), I wouldn't be too concerned about strict food/flavor pairings. Then again, based on things I've read here (e.g. bringing a dish when you are invited to a dinner being "rude"), I suspect that things tend to be much more casual among my friends.

        I think this is a perfectly plausible situation among my friends, and had you brought over the broccoli salad, none of us would've even noticed that the flavor didn't "match". Most of us probably would've gone for seconds.

        So it's possible that the other guests/host didn't even notice the things you pointed out.

        Did you get to casually mention something like, "Oh, I brought this salad, b/c I thought you were going to do sandwiches. I hope it goes with the bagels, too" (to prompt a response from the host like, "Oh, yeah, we were going to do x, but y happened, so we ended up doing z", etc.)

        1. glencora, your salad sounds goooood! did the guests all eat it. tell you how good it was, leave it and eat other food items, or what?

          1 Reply
          1. re: alkapal

            No, Glencora, you're not being overly sensitive at all.

            Did the host apologize?

          2. Perhaps the host made a last minute change because the sandwich fixins looked terrible at the store and didn't have time to notify the guests.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Miss Needle

              We had people over for dinner last weekend and ended up changing the entire menu the day of the dinner. I took into account everyone's preferences and likes/dislikes,but I hope they weren't disappointed when they arrived (they didn't seem to be).

              I admit that I give hosts a lot more leeway and grace than I do guests in general. They are the ones cleaning the house, paying for everything and doing the work. Of course, Dh and I are nearly always the hosts, so I see that POV moreso than the one of the guest who gets to show up and leave at the end of the night and not face the clean up, etc.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                Could be, Miss Needle.

                Glencora, did the host explain?

                Did the host apologize?

                Anything? Nothing?

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  And thinking about it some more, I think it could have been a potentially awkward situation if the host did make the change the night before and called everybody up saying that she's making something else, implying that everybody needs to change their dish to better suit hers.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    True too. In that situation, don't change. Keep to the original plan. Don't like the choices at one deli, go to another.

                    It's why I hate potlucks.

                2. Jfood thinks you are being a little too sensitive. Without being snarky let him give his reasons.

                  Firstly although the recipe sounds wonderful it is a little too robust for most sandwich fixin's as well. Jfood feels this garlic, red pepper, cumin dish fits more of a dinner menu then a sandwiches on a sunday 11-2 event.

                  Second, jfood is wondering if people ate the dish. what does "everyone was polite" mean? Did they take it and leave all of it on their plates and then come up and tell you how great it was? Did you watch if the dish moved and how much was left over? Be honest G, if you took inventory then you answered your own question on whether you were sensitive.

                  Lastly, jfood is trying to imagine the initial conversation. Here is where jfood thinks the train slipped a little sideways. Host tells you to bring a salad for sandwiches. You respond "I'll bring broccoli." If jfood is the host he first says "huh?" and then says, "Glen, we were hoping more for a tossed salad to go with the sandwiches." But hosts were maybe being extra polite and instead of saying that, thinks to themselves, "hey Glencora is a great cook, let her make what she wants and I'm sure it will be lovely."

                  But in the end as jfood has made his mantra, gatherings are for the people not the food. If everyone had a great time, that is the reason for the gathering not bagels, shmears, fruit and broccoli.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    From the invitation the way it was described, I would have assumed as Glencora did and would have made an effort to bring something different from tossed salad. The hosts said guests (plural) were being asked to bring salads, right? It doesn't say how many people were invited, but surely they weren't expecting half a dozen or more tossed salads.

                    1. re: bibi rose


                      and G offered up broccoli, so jfood agrees that the host was not expecting all tossed salads. But a little more discussion at the beginning may have avoided any confusion.

                      Once again it come down to not assuming but discussing items.

                      When jfood is asked to bring something, there is more of a discussion than "we're making sandwiches. OK i'll bring broccoli" and he hopes the host and G had more than that level of interaction as well.

                      Hopefully G will return with more data.

                      1. re: jfood

                        But then (it would seem) you're counting on the host being a foodie, on par with Glencora. The host doesn't sound like that, in the OP; more a food-is -fuel grunt. They provided the location and minimal planning for the potluck; caring about how the different dishes would compliment each other tends to go way beyond what a "regular" host(ess) would willingly subject him/herself to.

                        1. re: The Ranger

                          Jfood is not counting on the host being anything other than a host who has opened their home to guests to have a good time over a nice sunday meal. nothing more nothing less. And in this case capers seem to bring it above the minimalist approach. but that is neither here nor there.

                          FULL DISCLOSURE!!!!

                          The following is jfood opinion in general and has absolutely, positively NOTHING to do with Glencora or this post, but his philosophy in general. Full discosure finished.

                          When people host a party or a punch and cupcake gathering they are opening their doors to the guests. The idea that guests believe they "deserve" the food or menus that they believe they deserve is not right. If jfood is invited to a "food-is -fuel grunt" (this in and of itself is a degrading description) then he enjoys the company and the day with friends and either eats or Does not eat. He would never think "how dare they serve me that" and therefore bring a dish to upstage the host. Totally bad manners. And we as people who enjoy food need to take a step back and make sure we prioritize such that food does not trump people and friendships. Jfood would much prefer a lousy meal with great friends than great food with bad people.

                          It may just be jfood, but when guests start ranking their food against others at parties then it is very unfortunate.

                    2. re: jfood

                      perhaps my taste buds are out of wack, but I see nothing wrong with brocolli, cumin, garlic any time of day whether with sandwiches or with bagels and cream cheese :-)

                      seriously, I would have happily eaten it myself. Aside from that, I agree with the poster that I would have been much more annoyed to be called at the last minute to change my offering, than to find out the menu is different than what was originally planned.

                      For Glencora: What if you had already shopped and prepared the dish? Would you have really wanted to re-do it?

                      Well, perhaps the answer is yes for a Chowhound, but I'd suspect most of the crowd didn't care.

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        "What if you had already shopped and prepared the dish? Would you have really wanted to re-do it?

                        Well, perhaps the answer is yes for a Chowhound, but I'd suspect most of the crowd didn't care."

                        Totally agree with this. I would have been annoyed if I was you, Glencora, and showed up with a dish that didn't "go" with the rest of the meal. And even had I received an e-mail at midnight the night before informing me of a change in plans, I would have come up with an alternate dish and not brought the broccoli.

                        But that is just us Chowhounds. Most people don't give it so much thought.

                    3. I would have loved to have some of your broccoli salad - it sounds delicious. But, that being said, I think you might be a bit too sensitive. Of course, if you are someone who enjoys food and pleasing others with your cooking (which it sounds like you are), then what it really sounds like is that you are just disappointed. I don't think the host is to blame, or you for that matter.

                      Now I have to stop typing so that I can go search for that recipe.

                      1. I don't think it's a big deal. Sometimes changes happen last minute but I'm sure your broccoli salad was still welcomed. If possible the host should tell you, but sometimes it's too late.

                        1. I see where you are coming from, I too would be unhappy if I felt my dish didn't suit the new menu. But I don't think I would appreciate a call from the host either: "Hi, I changed my menu and I'm wondering if you want to bring something else?". The implication would be that my original choice was no longer welcome. And what if I'd already prepared it or bought the ingredients? I'd probably feel the host was being overly controlling. Even with my foodie friend, who I generally enjoy arranging & discussing these things with, it annoys me when she gets all "I'm now making cupcakes for the shower so maybe instead of cake you can make fruit salad" or whatever.

                          1. I am against pot lucks! If you want to hve people over be a proper host and provide for the comfort of your guests! Do not demand taht they bring something to eat to your house.

                            1. Thanks for all the feedback. (Even the sarcastic comments.) I think what happened was that I was the first guest invited and that other guests later pushed the host towards brunch. A call from the host, not the night before, but a day or two ahead would have been nice, but he's not a foodie and probably didn't think it would matter. He's the type to fix up the garden, set the table nicely, and not really think about the eating part. Oh, and he provided the champagne. So, no, he didn't apologize, because he didn't see the need. And I didn't say anything at the time. That's what Chowhound is for!

                              In retrospect maybe the broccoli was a mistake. It's really, really good, I think, but maybe not to everyone's taste. bibi rose was exactly right, I imagined there would be other tossed salads and wanted to do something different. Sometimes potluck food is boring because people play it safe. I'm still not sure about this, though.

                              It was a large bowl (three smallish heads) and people ate about two-thirds of it. The three year old loved it! Everyone ate a little, but it wasn't wildly popular. We still had a lovely time, nice conversation, so it wasn't a big deal. (Did I mention champagne?) When I left, the hostess (not the host) pressed the bowl on me to take home, saying, "If you leave this I'll have to eat it." But that's just the way she is. She's got a sharp tongue.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: Glencora

                                2/3's gone sounds like a success at a brunch! Don't feel awkward - the other guests probably have the same insights about the host's degree of food interest and didn't give the situation a thought.

                                I would still touch base with this host prior to future events just in case.

                                1. re: Glencora

                                  Glencora: I think you are a wonderful, sensitive foodie, with imaginative ideas and you can come to MY potluck anytime...however, you really should think twice about EVER bringing anything to a table where the hostess makes a snide remark like that. You cast your pearls before swine this time, Girl! Think twice about that amount of effort next time you get asked!!!

                                  1. re: LJS

                                    Yeah, after that crack, next time I would just go to the super market and get a pint or two of one of the standards, cole slaw, potato salad, or macaroni salad.

                                    1. re: yayadave

                                      hear, hear. they deserve nothing more than some 99ยข per pound salad in a milk container.

                                  2. re: Glencora

                                    I agree. I'd say two-thirds gone is a sign of dish being a success, regardless of what the hostess said.

                                    Don't worry about the hostess (though it sounds like you didn't take it personally). There's more for you!

                                    1. re: Glencora

                                      Um, maybe the hostess meant that if Glencora left it, it was so good she'd eat it all, which would be excessive? I always ask my guests to take leftovers because having too much delicious food in my house is a dangerous proposition. Very, very little self control.

                                      I'm not rationalizing, that really was my first reaction when I read it. I actually had to think about it to understand why others thought it was snarky.

                                      1. re: charmedgirl

                                        That's how I read it too, charmedgirl. And I see the dark in everything.

                                        Of course, the body language could have indicated otherwise, so I'll have to trust Glencora's take on it.

                                      2. re: Glencora

                                        Are you sure she meant that in a sharp or snide sort of a way? It actually sounds like something I might say, meaning "and I really don't need the extra calories; I've got plenty of leftovers already"...(though I probably would have said something like, "If you leave it I will have to eat it because it is soooo good, and there is so much food here!"). I think some people think it is polite to urge potluck contributors to take some of the leftovers.

                                        Oh well, all the uncertainty is another reason not to like potlucks. Though I have to say, my dive club does one every month with pretty darn good success. However, we have been doing it together long enough that I guess everyone has the parameters down...

                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                          "Oh well, all the uncertainty is another reason not to like potlucks. Though I have to say, my dive club does one every month with pretty darn good success. However, we have been doing it together long enough that I guess everyone has the parameters down..."

                                          You are lucky, Susancinsf, you have found a group that cares enough about food details that a potluck can work. It is always a good idea to surround yourself with people who like to eat well!

                                          Unfortunately, it is often too easy to have a potluck with people who don't care so much about food. That's when you get the meals consisting of 4 varieties of chips, salad with ice berg lettuce, nachos and guacamole for the main and packaged cookies for dessert. If you're lucky, at least they bring enough booze!

                                        2. re: Glencora

                                          On saturday night the same words were said to Jfood, but it was for half a chocolate birthday cake.

                                          Host - Please take this cake. If you leave this i'll have to eat it
                                          Jfood - If I take it I will eat it.

                                          Jfood was not there to hear the intonations, but could it have been a positive statement as well? Maybe the glass was half full in all these cases.

                                          1. re: Glencora

                                            If I say "if you leave this, I'll have to eat it" I mean that it's too much food for me to deal with. It's not an insult; it just means that I don't want the food to go to waste.

                                            1. re: Glencora

                                              1) There's nothing wrong with your salad for this brunch.
                                              2) Even if it were sandwiches, a tossed salad would have been inappropriate because the host would have provided leaf lettuce and sliced tomatoes for the sandwiches.
                                              3) If there were 117 people and 2 bowls of salad, you might think your salad was not well received; if there were 7 people and 5 bowls of salad, you might be pleased that they ate soooo much of yours. Maybe you want to think about just how many decent servings were in that bowl and how many people were eating how many "salads" just to get a realistic picture for your own peace of mind.
                                              4) What I think.

                                            2. i'm not seeing how your food doesn't fit in.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: thew

                                                What I thought. As a side, it fits.

                                              2. doesn't really sound like a big deal; salads are salads and brunch is between 11-2. if it was a themed potluck like, "bring korean food" then, ya, that might be weird, but "sandwiches and salads" is pretty much wide open. and, I like that recipe too. the person who made cheese rolls should be more pissed that there was a bagel spread out to "compete" with their cheese rolls.

                                                1. "My garlicky broccoli was way too robust for the meal. It didn't fit in at all."

                                                  Yesterday I made a bit of your broccoli salad and had it with a steak sandwich.

                                                  Tonight I made a bit more of the broc salad and had it with (a hard to come by) bagel, cream cheese, lox, red onion, and capers.

                                                  Both were perfectly fine meals with no dissonance among dishes for either meal

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    And it would probably be a good side served with a couple of poached eggs on toast and fried potatoes.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      I love the idea of you recreating a Berkeley brunch in Columbia. Thanks to you and the others who reassured me that my broc wasn't out of place, though I think you may be more open-minded (less picky) than most.