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Dec 29, 2010 05:35 PM

Potluck dilemma

Friends are hosting a "taste-off" potluck, with four families bringing variants of the main dish, with a view to comparing them. The other (six or so) families were asked what they would like to bring.

Today I got the confirmation email - I am down for salad (as I offered). What I did not expect is that I am the only person making salad for a potluck at which 50 people are expected.

This seems insane and unreasonable to me - I have even googled "potluck etiquette" to see if I'm just being clueless. The standard suggestion is that one make enough to serve 10.

So, what do I do? Just take enough for 10 (or even 20)? Bring this up with the hostess (who can be a bit touchy)? ???

From the looks of the assignments, the hosts get away with providing just one of the main dishes. Not bad if you can pull it off, I suppose.


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  1. Well, with four families providing a main for fifty people it sounds like they're being asked to make at least an ample 12 servings apiece; probably a bit more. It does sound a bit unreasonable that you'd even have fridge space equal to storing the goods you'd need to provide it; so probably your best bet is to call the hostess and explain that you have a space/time/storage issue and ask if someone can split the chore with you - perhaps Herself? I don't know from potluck etiquette, but I went to a lot of them and it seemed like a large casserole or a big bowl of salad or whatever was as much as anyone ever brought or was expected to bring. This doesn't sound quite like a potluck but more like an assigned "cookoff" among friends.

    1. I would bring a normal-sized potluck salad and if you get pinned down by the host asking why you didn't make more just pretend that you didn't ever imagine that you would be the only one bringing salad or that you assumed she had it covered in some other way. (Wink, wink you only read the part of the e-mail that pertained to you). In no way should you try to figure out a way to bring a salad for 50 (IMO).

      1 Reply
      1. I'd call the hostess (no email) and let her know about a willingness to prepare a salad for "X" number (I'd hold it at 10) but that a salad or series of salads for fifty folks is somewhere beyond of a reasonable request. If she's touchy, you may have to deal with the reality and decide whether you truly want to participate or not. Frankly, if my "friend" asked me to do what you've been asked to do I'd find a new friend to share potluck dinners with.
        Well .... even though I prefer not to play games with this sort of thing, now that I've read JohnE's suggestion, I think it might be a bit more tactful. Ultimately, however, the choice is yours.

        1. The confirmation does not tell you to make for 50, right? The confirmation also shows that the other 50 people are bringing items, right? If 50 people brought 50 full servings, there would be a huge amount of waste. Nobody could eat and finish- or appreciate- 50 full servings of different items.

          Nobody eats a "full" portion of anything at a potluck; they take a taste of everything. Bring enough for you and to share.

          If you had been told verbally to bring a salad, you would not even know there were no other salads.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Cathy

            Everything was done via evite, including the list of families and contributions, so I can't plead ignorance on who's been asked to bring what. (It's families Cathy, so there won't be 50 people bringing items, just 50 people eating, with each family being assigned something). One poor soul has been asked to provide all the dessert. One family is bringing the drinks!!

            I suppose I just need to bite the bullet and call the hostess.

            Thanks for the advice - good to know I'm not barmy (crazy).

            1. re: Chatsworth

              I agree with the prevailing wisdom here. Noone can expect you to bring salad for 50.

              Just bring a normal sized salad and don't give it another thought. A potluck isn't necessarily a normal meal anyway. With all the main dishes people are bringing, people will just have more main dish and not very much salad. No big deal.

              1. re: Chatsworth

                How big is your family? Because, for example, if it's you, spouse and two kids, then it is in effect four of you supplying salad for fifty. Just like the dessert family is splitting that task among themselves.

                If I were in your shoes, I'd make two or three different salads, each 'normal' potluck size. And count your blessings that you weren't assigned dessert!

                1. re: Chatsworth

                  I actually agree with the person above saying make for 10 and plead ignorance, but if you call:
                  You can put it nicely. "I know you are busy so I thought I would call and ask if someone else is also bringing salad because I saw i was the only one listed" "Can I do anything else to help and do you need any serve ware or anything at all? Thank you for hosting".

                  Not even the grumpiest person can resist sweet and honest.

              2. Just to be a tiny bit contrarian here - and putting aside the propriety of the request, it's not that hard or expensive to do. I've done salad for 60 and just kept it simple - bought mixed greens bags from Costco, chopped a reasonable amount of fixins (chopped vegetables, perhaps some toasted nuts, blue cheese crumbles) and put them in separate containers, made a big container of dressing, and brought a big bowl and tongs. At the party, I set up the bowl full of appropriate amount of salad for the first serving, and either assigned refill duty to someone else (who was shy and wanted a job) or checked back periodically, myself, to see if the salad needed refreshing. It didn't create leftovers, but if you don't mix it ALL up ahead of time any leftovers will keep nicely.

                3 Replies
                1. re: rcallner

                  I totally agree with this post. My costco and even my local grocery store sell large plastic tubs of mixed greens for about $5. For that many people I'd buy 3. Really, people don't eat that much salad when there is a ton of other food. Then I'd choose a couple of things to add in - croutons, grape tomatoes cut in half, red peppers, cucumbers, avocado, nuts, etc (not all of them, just one or two). Put it in your biggest bowl, with a refill ready. Don't get overly stressed about it, just make the biggest salad you can afford/handle.

                  1. re: milklady

                    Thanks - you're probably right. I'm stressing about the amount 50 people could eat, but it probably isn't as much as I think, since the food will all be served together. (I usually serve salad first and people often eat a lot of it.) I'll get three tubs and extras, and if there's enough, good, if not, too bad! This will also be one of those occasions when I don't shell out for the best quality, organic ingredients.

                    1. re: Chatsworth

                      Definitely okay to take the easier and less expensive routes in this situation! You'll do great.