Potluck dinners V/S ‘Hostess-does-it-all’ dinners

©2012 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved

Just as there are two sides to a coin, two sides to an argument, two sides to a bed (you can either get out each morning from the right side of the bed, or… well..the wrong side)…similarly, there are two sides to the ‘how to entertain’ dilemma. Two distinct schools of thought are operating here and the twain shall never meet.

Those who belong to the school of ‘potluck dinners’ (where each guest brings a dish) can seldom see the view point of the ‘hostess-does-it-all’ school of thought (where the hostess cooks every single dish, from the mouth-watering entrees, through the delectable main course, and right down to the sinfully delicious desserts).  And of course the vice versa holds true too. Those who believe in cooking it all often do not display much support for the ‘bring a dish’ way of thinking. As in most things in life, neither way is right or wrong…it is just a matter of what suits you personally.

Some of my dearest friends prefer cooking it all when they are entertaining. And some of my dearest friends uphold the potluck cause.

Although, on occasions, i have indeed  chosen to cook the entire meal single-handedly while entertaining, I must admit, deep down,  i am a ‘lets have a potluck dinner’ kind of person. My reasons are simple, straight forward and have been deeply contemplated. I am a ‘people’ person. I love entertaining. After an exhausting week where i have run from pillar to post to get all my chores/activities/ appointments completed on time, i do love to let my hair down on the weekend and catch up with friends over dinner (and may be half a glass of wine).

In a potluck scenario, a hostess only has to worry about two main things: a) making sure her house is neat and tidy, so as not to frighten off  her soon-to-arrive guests and b) making sure she has prepared the dish she has volunteered to make. (Of course there are the peripherals eg: preparing the side dishes like rice, or making sure there is enough pita bread- rotis are an ambitious project when one resides outside India, and definitely not for the faint-hearted-or sometimes, tossing up a quick and easy salad etc etc). But these are minor hiccups when one considers the bigger picture, and the knowledge that the remaining major dishes are being looked after by each of your friends.

I often find that i am far more relaxed when i know that the upcoming dinner in the evening is a potluck one where the responsibility of enjoying a wonderful meal is distributed. Also i enjoy tasting different kinds of cooking (and am often bored with my own cooking) and this is one of the primary advantages of a ‘bring-a-dish’ dinner.

The moment the door bell rings, and my buddies walk in carrying piping hot dishes hidden under silver foil, with yummy aromas wafting into the air, there are squeals of delight as each one peeps under the lids curiously  to see what the other one has prepared. Every dish has the distinct stamp of the cook and that’s what makes a potluck dinner replete with mystery and variety. Of course, it is a bit of a gamble as well. After all, there might some times be a dinner where the dishes do not complement each other at all, and it is all a bit of a mishmash. But hey, meeting friends is all about having fun. It’s about gossip and laughter and having a good time. Having a meal tossed  into the bargain is a bonus. And if there is occasionally a bit of misalignment in what could have potentially been the world’s finest dinner menu, that is a small sacrifice indeed.

Having waxed eloquent in favour of the potluck cause for the past few paragraphs, i must add that on occasions i have cooked the entire meal from scratch myself for my guests.  And enjoyed that in its own way too. The biggest advantage of this kind of cooking (according to me) is the complete autonomy to be able to decide which dishes best complement each other, and to carve out a balanced menu.

If i had been at debating practice, i would have at this point in time, taken a graceful bow and summed up my arguments by saying ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I reserve my adoration for the potluck cause; but i do care very deeply  for the ‘hostess-makes-it-all’ dinners as well.  Suffice to say, i would not have won the debate. For after all, you cannot sit on a fence while debating. You have to be either completely on one side of the argument or the other.

So, my dear friends, which side of the fence are you?