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May 20, 2009 06:02 AM

When you bring a dish...

Do you typically bring enough for the entire party? Or just enough for some?

This is one of the many reasons that I decline (or at least try to) when people offer to bring a dish. First of all, as many on CH will agree the social dance goes like this:

We'd love to come for dinner, thanks for inviting us. What can we bring?

I'm so glad you're coming, just bring yourselves!

Then you turn up with wine for the hostess or a nice little gift.

But sometimes the host will accept or sometimes the guest will insist... so you've got a situation brewing.

As the hostess, I serve enough food for all of my guests. Running out of something is not an option even if that means I have double the food that people could possibly consume. I am certainly not going to make only enough of one dish for some guests to consume and think 'tough luck' to the rest.

When a hostess accepts my 'What can we bring' I bring enough for everyone to eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight snack. Otherwise I might put the hostess in an embarrassing situation. But that is certainly not the case with everyone.

If someone comes to your home with a dish that is too small to feed the group, do you still put it out? If not, what do you do with it?

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  1. Just like you, I always make enough for everybody and their brother when I bring a dish. I remember my parents always said "Don't bring it at all if you don't have enough for everyone." And how hard is it, really, to make an extra tray of brownies?

    If a guest brings a small amount of something, I still put it out, but with a small serving utensil, to discourage people from taking so much that others will not be able to try it.

    18 Replies
    1. re: phofiend

      As you phofriend, if I bring a dish it will be enough for everyone unless it is a very lot potluck in that case everyone brings a little of everything. A dinner party absolutely. But if I am cooking I always make enough and probably have some leftover. I always make sure everyone has enough. When asking can I bring something I usually offer a cocktail, the last party I went to I mentioned I would make a cocktail so I took everything needed for it which went over well. Other times ... Just wine or may be a nice kitchen gift I knew they were looking at. Another time a few bags of fresh caught grouper which I knew they would enjoy. Depends on the hosts.

      If someone brings something that doesn't feed everyone or wine I may not like, I still put it out just in respect. unless they say, this is for you. I want you to enjoy it, then I would keep it. It may be right or it may be wrong but usually if just given to me for the party I always put it out and it tends to work out better. But it is always a hard call, I may have to take a deep breath but I try to make everyone happy when entertaining whether I agree with it or not.

      1. re: phofiend

        This is a general reply to all those who have suggested one just make an extra tray...
        Brownies can be cut into a variety of sizes, and I would say there is no standard size. In addition, the amount people will want to eat will depend on what other dessert options are available. I do bake popular brownies and if asked to bring them a party, I bring one tray and cut them small. I hate bringing more food than is needed because I don't like thinking it might go to waste, nor the awkward dance of whether the host will tell me to take them home (sometimes not all that graciously "Oh don't leave those HERE! My DIET!"). Given the cost of butter and good chocolate, effort of making my own caramel, etc, I don't think it's unreasonable to want my brownies mostly consumed and appreciated.

        1. re: julesrules

          I think you make a really good point. I'm not a dessert person at all but have my mother's brownie pie recipe. The texture is between a brownie and fudge. I've taken them to parties after baking in a square pan rather than a pie plate. I think cut them no bigger than 1" square. That's SO rich and that makes them go farther. But as someone said here, I'm sick to death of potlucks. I don't host them EVER so that relieves half the issue. And if asked to bring something I'd bring a normal serving assuming all 20 people will too. It would be overkill to the extreme to have 20 dishes serving 20 people, wouldn't it???

          1. re: c oliver

            "And if asked to bring something I'd bring a normal serving assuming all 20 people will too. It would be overkill to the extreme to have 20 dishes serving 20 people, wouldn't it???"

            True! An eminently reasonable rule for potlucks.

            (I detest potlucks, too.)

            1. re: browniebaker

              In defense of potlucks...
              they have their place. If I'm Having A Dinner, I'd rather I do all the cooking (with the possible exception of dessert.) BUT I happen to have more entertaining space than many of my urban cohorts and having people over doesn't freak me out -- so people are at my house all the damn time! I like our friends, but I don't want to run a pot lucks and take out food make a lot of sense. I guess the specific circumstance is when reciprocity is not practical. Also in many informal afterwork get-togethers - it's just plain too expensive and unbalanced for us to provide everything all the time. I started having people over when most of my friends were broke -- too expensive to hangout at restaurants all the time.

              But I never call it a Pot Luck . . . I too think of that with prejudice and stigma . . .

              1. re: browniebaker

                I don't mind pot lucks IF (and only if) They are billed up front as a pot luck. My kids were both high school swimmers on a team that had an extremely active parents' group. We had pot luck dinners at least 4-5 time during the season for the parents & the kids. Always well organized, always with a TON of food (do you have any idea how much swimmers eat???), and always a great variety. And yes, there were parents who brought stuff from Sam's Club or Costco, but that was just fine. Ravenous HS kids are not known for their refined culinary tastes. With them, it was all about volume.

                In addition, my family has always had a pot luck-ish approach to family gatherings, with everyone (now, even the kids) bringing/making something. I think where things fall apart is when it's not made clear that it's pot luck, or when the expectations are not clear.

                If it's NOT a family gathering, I don't expect people to bring anything. If they insist, I will try to feel them out for what they want to contribute. Likewise, I may offer to bring something to a party I've been invited to (depending on my relationship with the host), but I'm not going to push my dish on someone who has already planned their meal. I'll bring flowers or wine or something I think that they might enjoy once the party is over.

                1. re: browniebaker

                  Well, I should be more specific: I detest potlucks where the host invites guests and tells them to bring food.

                  I like potlucks where a group has jointly decided, or has an understanding, that each person will share in providing the food for a get-together.

                  My favorite potluck is the semi-annual potluck dinners that my son's Boy Scout troop has. Each family signs up to bring a dish in the category to which they've been assigned. About 50 to 60 people in all. And, no, no one brings a dish that serves all 60 people -- there would be a ridiculous amount of food. Each family just brings a dish of a reasonable size: a cake, a tray of rolls, a pan of lasagna, a salad. Some people are known for their specialty dishes, and those dishes are eagerly awaited. Good eats!

                  1. re: browniebaker

                    Yep, we had potlucks at work a lot. Is was the one way to get a couple of department together which normally would not. I always organized them but always gave them a category and they had to let me know so we didn't end up with duplicates. Yes, someone would bring, green bean casserole or bag of lettuce with bottled dressing, but who cares. It was just to get us all together and have a good time. Usually we had a great turn out, good food but we always organized it well which makes a big difference.

                    And PattiCakes, when I was married was always potluck when the family got together. 50 so people so we always pitched in.

                    And even work now, when a bunch of us get together we pitch in. Too expensive and too hectic for everyone to do it all. Small dinner parties or special occasions can be different, but get togethers after work are usually everyone picks a dish or at least pitches in cooking at whoevers house.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      Funny story....

                      When my hubby and I got married in 1976, all of our other friends were already married, some with young kids. Nobody had much money. We were 30, had already been living on our own, so we didn't really need (or want) wedding gifts. We also had also kept our engagement a secret -- didn't want all of the drama engendered by it since we both working in the same large company.

                      Anyway, 1976 being the bicentennial year, we decided to get married on the 4th of July. We didn't want people to have to get baby sitters, or get caught up in all of those nutsy pre-wedding crap, so we decided to have a "surprise" wedding. We planned a huge 4th of July picnic, hosted in my parents' big back yard, and invited over 200 people. Since all of our friends would have suspected something if they had NOT been asked to bring things, we had a big list carefully mage up of what we needed: 4 potato salads, 3 coleslaws, bags of chips & pretzels for the people who couldn't cook, & etc. When we ran out of items to assign, we told them just to bring wine. We rented 6-foot long grills, tables & chairs, set up badmitten & horseshoes, got 4 kegs of beer, provided burgers, doggies, over 1000 steamed clams, and 500 ears of corn. My sister's college buddies came & manned the grills. We had people show up with their kids, their dog, and dressed in bicentenial regalia. Half-way through the picnic, we gathered everyone together to make an announcement. As we broke out bottles of champagne, THEY thought we were going to announce that we had gotten enganged. Were they ever surprised when we announce that we had gotten married that morning. I ended up throwing my bouquet out of the second floor bathroom window. Many people went home to attend to their own family obligations, but ended up coming back later to ours.

                      We had an awesome time, and our friends STILL talk about it. Now THAT was a pot-luck success.

                      1. re: PattiCakes

                        A pot luck wedding. How festive!

                        1. re: PattiCakes

                          I love it!! And what a great story to remember. At that point when friends and family are just having fun ... no one seems to remember 4 potato salads, 5 green bean casseroles, 7 bags of lettuce, 3 pork and beans, etc. You know what I mean.

                          It is just fun and good times which is what it is all about. Even those store bought cupcakes with more frosting than cake but they always seem to get eaten.

                          Nice story. And love the dog dressed up, lol! Times to remember!!
                          See Potlucks can be fun. Just don't worry about the food, just enjoy your friends and all the memories.

                    2. re: c oliver

                      you have obviously never been to a Hawaii potluck, where 20 people bring food for 40. The host is expected to have paper plates and tinfoil so that EVERYONE goes home with a plate or two (or three) of whatever they liked best. It is kind of rude to leave a potluck empty-handed, everyone would assume you didn't like the food. it is also pretty much unthinkable here to show up empty handed, no matter what the hosts say. you can never have too much wine, too much poke, too many desserts.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        Excellent post, Kaimuki.
                        If the rest of the mainland could take a few lessons from the people of the Islands the world would be a much better place, in my opinion.
                        It's statistically proven the locals live longer from the lack of stress...I can say, without hesitiation, there's most likely not one person in Hawaii who would give one second of thought to how/if/when/, should I/shouldn't I/, bring brownies/pies/cookies/cakes to a home where someone is thoughtful enough to bring family and friends together.
                        Where you live....I love it all.

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          Fun! What I like about this Kaimuki is that EVERYBODY is IN - everybody participates, everybody knows the deal, and the party-throwing is understood to be collective - - which is why everybody can just enjoy. Reminds me of some long-gone Italian-American family gatherings...

                          That of course is waaaaay different from singling one auntie out for special duties that nobody else is expected to participate in...

                          1. re: pitu

                            very different. of course everyone (including that one auntie) knows that she better bring her famous noodles, or potato mac salad, or banana lumpia, or...

                            of course in many instances she may also bring along her next door neighbor, or high school classmate who happens to be visiting, etc. but now I am getting a little bit off topic.

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              Oh I love it, KaimukiMan! We just went to a 1st Holy Communion party in South Philly. The Communion Boy's grandpop did all of the cooking (ham, kielbasa, pieogies.....), and the family actually bought those styrofoam takeout containers for everyone to take home the leftovers! Elegant, it was not, but it sure was a good time.

                              My mom always "over cooked" -- made WAY too much food for the family gatherings. Now that I am older, and am in the same position as she was, I understand that she made so much so that she could give it to her kids to take home. She knew we were on shoe-string bugets, probably didn't have time time to cook dinners, and her "leftovers" would keep us fed for a week. Now I do the same thing with my kids (AND any random friends that they just happen to bring along).

                              Now that all of the kids in our family are older, both my sister and I are very adamant about having all of them contribute is some way to large family dinners. They may have to bring an app, or a dessert, cheese & crackers, or maybe do the clean-up, but we've succeeded in making them realize that these large feeds are communal efforts. Sometime we even have them do an appetizer or dessert "throwdown", and "present" their dishes to the rest of the family. Not only does it lighten the work load and the stress level for the host, it is also a hell of a lot of fun. At Chrismas dinner, my 3 1/2 year old grand daughter proudly served cupcakes she had iced, and my nephew made that disgusting strawberry jello, sour cream & crushed pretzel thing. Neither of those dishes "went" with anything else that was served, but nobody cared.

                  2. Kater, I believe a similar thread was floating around recently. You are under NO obligation to put out food a guest brings. You can say, "Thanks so much for the XXX. It will be a great dinner/snack/side dish for us tomorrow when we are too tired to make dinner." Wrap it up and stick in fridge.

                    Although, as a woman of a certain age, I no longer fool around with people who offer to bring food. They are looking for an assignment, so give them one. Something benign that won't spoil your party. "Thanks much, I won't have time to pick up some wine/flowers/nuts/mints whatever. Please stop at XXX market along the way and bring some."

                    We have a family friend we have known for 25 years who used to do that all the time. Last fall, I decided to try the assignment approach, worked like a charm. She feels like she is helping and I am glad for the wine/flowers/nuts/mints whatever.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                      If I really don't want a person to bring something (for whatever reason) and they seem itching to bring something, I assign ice. It's cheap and you can never have too much ice at a party and the end of the night whatever is left goes down the drain.

                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                        That is great advice. Now, I would not have the nerve to put their dish away, but I do think that replying at once with some innocuous assignment will solve the problem. I decline and demure because I do not want them to bring something but the persistent ones then start offering suggestions so it would be difficult to revert to mints or cocktail napkins!

                      2. Depends on the number of people and if it's a designated "pot luck" or a case where it's a group and I've offered to bring something. Typically I think of number of people when deciding what to bring.

                        As a host we ALWAYS have too much food. I have a big fear of running out of food and so often have much left and fortunately we have one friend with a 20 something old son and he and his friends are always more than willing to take free food off our hands.

                        If I would put it out if a guest brings it depends on a number of variables. But generally the answer is yes even if it isn't enough for everyone.

                          1. re: Cachetes

                            Did you intend to link the entire thread? I didn't see anything about whether your bring for some or all but that thread is pretty long.

                            1. re: Kater

                              Well, it depends if it's for a large group or a small group.

                              But more interesting - WOW - disingenuous, Kater. Someone posts a thread about how they feel ambushed into catering dessert for a largish party, when they were making a casual social offer to Bring Something. You attack the original poster of that thread several times in a bit of a nasty way that assumes all sorts of hostility, and go start this related topic... and say Whyd'ja link to that long thread?
                              Bad girl!

                              There are limits, set by the relationship. People can agree to cater something together, but a pot luck can mean one dish for 8 people. A big party is different from a small party. If you're a guest asked to bring wine, you probably don't bring wine for 50 if that's how many people are on the guest list.

                              1. re: Kater

                                not cool kiddo.

                                you drew a line in the sand in the other thread stating you were done (that was also your recommendation to the OP there), then start this thread and then throw sand at linking to the other.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  I think this thread got started before the other thread started to get really nasty, so I don't necessarily think it was done out of spite, aggressiveness, etc.

                                  The original start day of this thread was May 20, 2009 08:02AM, only a day after the brownie drama (May 19, 2009 09:02AM). Kater makes some statements about if you are going to bring something, bring enough for everyone in that thread (May 19, 2009 12:12PM). She then pose the same question here. The line in the sand wasn't drawn until after this thread had been going for a couple of days (May 23, 2009 09:19AM) so I don't think it was meant as an attempt to be disingenuous, but rather a legitimate question.

                            2. I cringe inside, but put it out. I had a friend once (who I said to not bring anything, just yourself) bring 6 sauteed scallops. WTF? My meal was planned, all courses accounted for, and here's this interloper appetizer. So everyone got approx 2/3 of a scallop. Some people just can't help themselves. They can't imagine not bringing something, and flowers, wine or candy just won't work for them.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: leek

                                How incredibly rude.

                                I used to work with a woman who told me she was designated to bring brownies to a family holiday dinner. There were to be five people at dinner. She brought five brownies to the dinner, and kept the rest for herself at home. Can you imagine?

                                1. re: LJBTampa

                                  I would just like to understand it. Is if a financial problem? If so then why insist on bringing something? Or is the guest bringing it for herself because she doesn't like your food? Then again, some are surely just exhibiting a strange/weird/cheap tendency to starve their guests.

                                  1. re: LJBTampa

                                    LJB, except for the part about working, I was getting suspicious you know my MIL. She used to make brisket for our holiday dinners and bring one thin slice per person. She is not cheap, in fact very generous. However, she is very, very thin (think social Xray thin) and doesn't have much appetite. After being pi$$ed off for many years, I came to the realization that she truly thought it was enough. I always made sure we had another protein - roast beef, chicken, lamb, etc. as one slice of brisket would not satisfy my 6'2" husband or his 6'3" brother.