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bring your own
how to be a perfect potluck party guest 
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Control freak that I am, when it comes to menu planning at any rate, I have to confess that there’s a certain five word phrase that fills me with apprehension every time I see it on a dinner party invite: Potluck – Bring your favorite dish!

As a busy twenty-something with occasional lazy-girl leanings, I understand the appeal of the potluck, so it’s not that I have anything against them on principle. They’re a fun, low-fuss, low-cost way to gather a group of friends for a casual meal, and a great solution for anyone who wants to host a dinner party but fears their meager cooking skills might not be quite up to the task of a Martha-Stewart level multi-course banquet. I love to eat, and I particularly love eating with friends, so any affair that allows me to share food, drink and conversation with people I like is a-okay by me.

The problem with potlucks, though, is that they leave a lot of room for potential culinary disaster. The Perfect Host/ess would, of course, possess the foresight to assign specific dish genres to each of his/her guests, thus ensuring the proper proportion of entrée to appetizer to side dish to dessert. The PH might even be so brilliant as to dictate a theme. But this, of course, would require a fair bit of planning and effort – which is precisely what the real-world potluck host/ess is probably trying to avoid in the first place. Thus, the potluck menu becomes a game of chance. Roll the dice, whisper a blessing, and maybe you’ll end up with a winning combo that leaves every guest’s belly happy and full.

On the other hand, you’re just as likely to end up with an oh-so-well-balanced meal that consists of one entrée accompanied by five salads, or an entire meal that could be summed up as variations-on-a-theme-of-baked-pasta. While an eclectic menu – chicken vindaloo and crepes suzette, anyone? – doesn’t necessarily mean a bad dinner party, there are still a few simple steps that you, the considerate potluck party guest, can take to ensure that the eating’s as good as the conversation and company …

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