The Galley

Host the best Holiday Potluck!

Best of Holiday 2014-01For some people, Christmas time brings visions of sugarplums. For the rest of us, it can bring a stocking full of anxiety – especially if you are expected to host the festive meal. Whether you are taking in a collection of stray friends from your spouse’s unit, or hosting your nearest and dearest family members, a Christmas Potluck may be the solution to those yuletide dramas! Here is a collection of top tips for a stress-free and memorable meal. Then you can get on with the business of enjoying the holiday season!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring a dish – the first step is admitting you have a problem! And who couldn’t use an extra hand in the kitchen? No one enjoys a martyr – you’ll be a much better host or hostess if you haven’t run yourself ragged!
  • Assign appetizers only to your MOST punctual friends or family members. There’s nothing worse than having a house full of guests and nothing to serve them.
  • BYOB is absolutely fine – particularly if you are on a budget. If you want to really impress your guests though, have a signature holiday cocktail on hand as they arrive at your place.
  • Avoid soups – soup isn’t a dish so much as a course – and therefore requires its own tableware. Keep it simple for a meal of this size and scope.
  • Embrace the wonderful diversity of our land by asking your guests to bring something that reflects their heritage. If your guests are primarily friends you’ve collected at this posting, you could end up with a really interesting mix of dishes!
  • Keep a notepad by the phone or computer to keep track of what people are bringing – you don’t want to end up with 15 desserts and no side dishes. Then again, perhaps you do!
  • If you want to blow everyone away with your super organizational skills, have labels for each dish at the ready!
  • Don’t ask a guest to bring the turkey, if that’s your meat of choice. First of all, trying to move a 25-pound bird in a hot roasting pan is a chore likely to test the patience of even your dearest friends. And secondly, it’s makes for an underdone or overdone dish. Turkey needs tending … give your guests the other stuff to do.
  • Stuffing goes in a turkey. Dressing is cooked outside of the turkey. If you are dressing people, you can happily pass this dish on to a guest!
  • Mashed potatoes heat up in a slow cooker really well. This saves valuable oven space, and allows your guest to make them the day before, or early Christmas morning. Just plug the slow cooker in around mid-day on the 25th and you’ll have a big old bowl of mashed potatoes by dinnertime!
  • You can never have too many side dishes. A Christmas feast without a ridiculous amount of side dishes is no feast at all! When it comes to sides, let freedom reign and let your guests bring whatever the heck they want!
  • Stock up on inexpensive containers to send leftovers home with your guests – Gladware, or decorative take-out boxes are great for this!
  • Above all else, be sure to return dishes, platters, utensils and bowls to their rightful owners by the early New Year. You don’t want to be THAT person who pilfers everyone’s serve ware.

For guests attending a potluck:

  • For the love of all things Christmas, please label your belongings. Your poor hostess has no way of knowing one person’s Pyrex lasagna pan from another’s!
  • Just because you are bringing a dish, that doesn’t mean you no longer have to behave like a proper guest! Still bring a bottle of wine or a hostess gift. And for goodness sake, send a thank you note afterward!
  • To get extra potluck bonus points, bring your own serving spoon/cake lifter/salad tongs. The fewer burdens you present to your hostess, the more likely you’ll be invited back in the future!

If Christmas really is the season of giving, then apply that same thinking to your Christmas meal and allow others to give to you! No one in the history of Christmas has ever minded being asked to bring something. It’s a fact. So, take them up on it. That way, you won’t spend the entire day slaving in the kitchen and will have some happy memories of your own!


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Laura Keller

Laura Keller has enjoyed writing for as long as she can remember. Eventually, she became the wife of a Combat Engineer and mom of three. After her husband's retirement, the Keller Krew settled in southwestern Ontario, where they readjusted to life after the uniform. The Keller family faced another readjustment when Laura’s husband passed away suddenly the summer of 2016. Laura had been contributing to CMF Magazine since its inception back in 2010.

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