There's nothing wrong with organizing a potluck party that is a genuine pot luck. You would call up your friends and tell them to grab the best thing out of their refrigerator and bring it over to share with everyone else. Or you could invite them and tell them to bring their favorite potluck recipe. As I said, there's nothing wrong with hosting a genuine pot luck party, except for the fact that there's a good chance the food will be uinspired or repetitive. Chances are good that with the classic pot luck approach, a group of 10 people will show up with five trays of brownies and 5 plates of nachos. That's okay if you're still in college.
But if you're past the dormitory stage, your tastes have probably progressed as well and you'll welcome food that's more diverse and interesting. A good potluck organization plan will help to alleviate the risk of duplicate dishes. But add a theme to your party and the food will be more interesting and fun as everyone compares notes on how they interpreted the theme. Just remember, as the organizing host, to follow these Etiquette Rules for a Potluck to keep everyone happy and to make sure you have food for every course.
Themes for a Fun Potluck Party
Movie Theme - Pick a popular movie. Perhaps you might choose one of these Movies for Foodies. You could even have a screening of the movie during the party. Then asks guests to make a dish that echoes the theme of the movie. For example, if the selected movie is "Ratatouille" the theme for your party would be French Cuisine.
Book Club - A Book Club potluck party would take place during a regular book club meeting. Each member would bring a dish in the course that he or she has been assigned, that reflects the book.
Family Heritage - Everyone should bring a dish that reflects their family heritage. You might end up with a sushi appetizer; Argentinian Picada as a first course; Italian Bread Soup; Dutch Chocolate Custard for dessert.
Appetizers and Desserts - Those two courses are often the favorites at any party. So cut out the middle course and assign everyone an appetizer or dessert. Make sure that everyone tells you specifically what they plan to bring so you don't end up with 5 plates of nachos.
Eat Like a Kid, But Better! - Ask your guests to bring a childhood classic that they've "kicked up" for adult tastes. For example, macaroni and cheese might have lobster added to it; franks and beans can be made using chorizo instead of hot dogs; spaghetti with butter is a classic but substitute truffle oil instead.
Salad Supper - This is a great party theme for the summertime. There are salads for every course starting with antipasto salad and ending with fruit salad. As host you should make sure to have big bowls of ice ready to chill perishable salads at an outdoor party.
Autumn Casseroles - Just like salads will hit the spot at a summertime party, casseroles are the thing for fall. Who doesn't love the sight of a warm and comforting casserole when the weather turns chilly? And the warm dessert casserole possibilities make me long for autumn everyday - apple crisps, bread pudding, Indian Pudding… can you feel the cozy?
Letter of the Month - If you and your friends get together monthly for a potluck, you can kick off the first one of the year in January at the beginning of the alphabet with recipes beginning with the letter A and move up one letter each month. For example… Apple and Brie Appetizers; Avocado, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad; Albondigas Soup; Amaretto Mousse Cheesecake.
Last Meal - A popular theme is the Last Meal where everyone brings a dish starting with the letter that begins their last name. For a more creative twist on this theme, ask guests to bring a dish they'd want to eat if it were their actual last meal.
Challenge Ingredient - The host chooses an uncommon ingredient that each person needs to work into their recipe. For example, you could assign beets which could be in a beet soup or beet salad. But did you know there's a recipe for beet cake?
If you'd like to find more of Donna Pilato's advice on hosting parties and entertaining friends and family you can visit her at The Delicious Dozen.