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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: Potluck OK if made clear in advance

Judith Martin Universal UClick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Rarely is it that I find myself in disagreement with you, dear Miss Manners. However, I take issue with your taking to task dinner and party guests for bringing “hostess gifts” in the form of food and beverages. And that you further discourage the “potluck” practice of everyone bringing something for the meal.

Perhaps being so successful and talented has blinded you to the fact that many others have not been as fortunate or industrious. Especially from the vantage point of Washington, D.C., where I presume many continue to fiddle and entertain lavishly while Rome burns.

Perhaps we common people will be much happier if we can continue to afford to socialize by bringing along something for everyone to enjoy rather than everyone sitting and eating alone in their own homes because they cannot afford to entertain.

Now excuse me, I have to go make a salad to bring to my garden club’s fall dinner.

GENTLE READER: Must you declare class warfare on cooks whose notion of hospitality is to provide full meals for their guests?

And anyway, don’t you have the argument upside down? In religious texts, we learn about the virtue of the poor who freely share what little they have, while those who can afford more stint on hospitality.

Cooperative gatherings, such as your garden club dinner, were not under discussion.

The issue was dinner parties for which the guests are unpleasantly surprised by being given catering assignments, or at which hosts are dismayed at being expected to serve courses replacing those they had planned.

There is no legitimate financial angle here. Unless we are speaking of those who always expect others to feed them and never reciprocate, it costs no more to take an occasional turn serving a full meal than it does to have to contribute every time one goes out. Presuming a social circle of five households and meals of three courses, it actually would cost less.