The After Life: Potluck Party, or Eating Across the Miles

I don’t think anyone would deny that our relationships with our college roommates have their ups and downs. Maybe sometimes we wish there weren’t always people underfoot. But other times—hopefully most of the time!—they’re among our best friends, and our closeness to them is part of what makes college great.

Now that I’ve been out of college for almost two years, I look back on the randomest times of roommate bonding with fondness. My college roommates and I are spread out all over the East Coast and are in various states of postgrad life at the moment—med school, law school, working life, and Teach for America, to name just a few. In spite of the distance between us, we’re committed to getting together in person as often as we can, and at least once a year.

Our favorite annual get-together is affectionately known as “College Cousins Christmas” (so named after  a tradition my roommate’s mother still has with all of her college roommates, whose kids now call each other “cousins” and their moms “aunts”). Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, we all gather at one of our apartments and everyone brings a dish—a few entrees, a couple of appetizers, lots of desserts, and of course, some liquor (there are nine of us in total, by the way). All combined, a lovely gathering! Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned over the years, so you too can throw a successful potluck party!

**Tips and Tricks**

Low-stress and wallet-friendly! Potlucks are a great way of helping college roommates and friends consciously make time to reunite, and they minimize entertainment costs to boot. Restaurant dinners out can run upwards of $30 each, a price tag that’s slashed if you’re only responsible for buying the ingredients needed to make the dish you contribute. Just don’t forget to help your host or hostess wash the dishes!

Variety is the spice of life. Maybe you all love pasta, but if everybody walks in with a rigatoni dish, dinner will get boring real quick! Pick a theme, or even be multicultural—the dinner table at one recent potluck I attended featured an Ecuadorian chicken and rice stew, Indian biryani, and a butternut squash goat cheese lasagna. Maybe you feel like trying your hand at Asian cuisine? Brunch potlucks can be a blast as well—whip up a French toast casserole, or baked oatmeal, or coffee cake! When else can you legitimately call dessert a rightful start to the day?

When in doubt, bring a dessert. There may only be room for a finite number of main courses and side dishes at your potluck, but has anyone ever said no to an extra sweet treat? Try out these Nutella Cookie Dough Truffles or a Red Velvet Trifle—festively colored and perfect for party-sized servings!

Make time to hear everybody’s stories. Sometimes the “popcorn” method can be the best way to make sure every attendee gets some air time to share their life updates—the person who finishes speaking gets to nominate the next storyteller. Continue until everyone has gotten their time in the spotlight, and no one will be left out!

Remember that it’s about your friendships. If somebody shows up with the same cookies as you, or if your Chicken Cacciatore more closely resembles chicken noodle soup, don’t sweat it. The whole reason behind staging this whole soirée in the first place was to celebrate the chance to be together. And sometimes the worst recipe flops make the best stories!

Tara Powers is a reluctant college graduate now taking the publishing world and Manhattan by storm. When she’s not planning elaborate potlucks, she shares the stories of her tiny kitchen on her blog, Chip Chip Hooray.

Originally posted on Monday, February 20th, 2012

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