Quick themes for food

Chiefly a collection of good cookbooks and good websites to help you prepare assorted popular potluck themes.

When possible, cookbooks have been chosen for illustrations, easy-to-read print, and some suggestion that the authors eat their own cooking!

Websites were chosen for distinctiveness and no pop-ups. (No promises on busy graphics, sorry.) The largest sites are stand-alone entries at the end of the post. Your host is still learning HTML coding. Just type the address in your URL bar on one line. It’ll work!

Potlucks consist of dishes that are prepared in advance by each participant and brought to a gathering place. Therefore the dishes should be easy to transport and shouldn’t need more than minimal maintenance at the end location. This could mean either a quick reheating of a finished dish or a raw dish in a slow cooker with time to let it do its work.

There are only two concerns with these meals: duplication (easily avoided with a quick list), and people who bring a dish but forget to bring their own dishes (easily amended with spares).

So as parties go, the potluck is one of the easiest for even the busiest among us, and the fundraiser [see checklist in next post] is the hardest. The home entertainer is in-between and, being unique to the personalities and interests of the couples, is not covered here.

What is the purpose of your meal?

  • The picnic and/or outdoor barbecue


  • The casual breakfast of the donations-welcome variety


  • The casual potluck (e.g. before or after worship, alternately a family & friends meal. Also, most showers and non-catered office parties fall into this category.)


  • The casual holiday (e.g. St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day brunch), etc.



  • Entertaining at home


  • Entertaining at home


  • The commemorative event (e.g. wedding, baptism, funeral)


  • The fundraiser


What themes are you considering for the meal?



  • All you can eat breakfast (e.g. steak & eggs, pancakes/waffles, omelets, Amish casserole, etc., or something different like “Chocolate for Breakfast” by Laura Zahn, or “bills” [sic] ricotta pancakes from Australia: http://www.bills.com.au/recipes/recipe2.htm


  • Midday or evening casual, can be all-you-can-eat (e.g. spaghetti, chili, loose meat, casseroles, soups and stews, rolled sandwiches/wraps, pasties, etc.)


  • Appetizers. (Example: “Stacks: the Art of Vertical Food” by Deborah Fabricant; “Big Small Plates” by Cindy Pawlycn.)


  • Under the stars


  • If a barbecue, red meat versus poultry versus vegetarian


  • “Pick up sticks” (skewers)


  • If for children, finger foods versus course meals (versus washer & dryer). If children will help prepare the meal, try an illustrated cookbook. (Example: “Superfoods for Babies and Children” by Annabel Karmel, or “Good Housekeeping Illustrated Children’s Cookbook” by Marianne Zanzarella.)


  • If a commemorative meal, some of the honoree’s favorite foods or foods from the honoree’s travels


  • Around the world / Wonders of the world


  • Alternately, foods for which your state/province is famous


  • Sock hop/Fifties


  • Historical era (costumes encouraged)


  • Baby’s first foods (alternately, grown-up version of childhood favorites. Match-the-guest-to-the-baby-picture game optional)


  • Technique foods: slow cooker, Dutch oven, deep fryer, etc. (Example: “The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying, and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables” by Carol W. Costenbader; “Food Processor Cookbook” consultant editor, Valerie Ferguson; “Doin’ Dutch Oven Inside and Out” by Robert L. Ririe; “The Best Convection Oven Cookbook” by Linda Stephen; “The Best Pressure Cooker Recipes” by Cinda Chavich; “One Pot Favorites” by Joanna M. Lund; “Delicious & Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes” by Judith Finlayson; “A Flash in the Pan: Fast, Fabulous Recipes in a Single Skillet” by Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard; “Wok Fast” by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison; “All About Braising” by Molly Stevens; “Grilling” by The Culinary Institute of America; Grilling Cookbook” by Good Housekeeping; “The Smoked-foods Cookbook” by Lue & Ed Park; “Smokin’” [a.k.a “Your Stovetop Smoker”] by Christopher Styler.)


  • Camping (travels well, freezes well, minimal dishes). (Example: “Wilderness Cuisine” by Carole Latimer; “Camper’s Guide to Outdoor Cooking” by John G. Ragsdale; or “Roughing It Easy” by Dian Thomas.)


  • Tailgating (Example: “Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style: the Essential Cookbook for NASCAR Fans” by Mario Batali).


  • No-cook (from salads to sushi)


  • Breads and spreads (from loose meats to relishes to preserves)


  • Bring-an-ingredient soup/stew (Example: “Saved by Soup” by Judith Barrett; “Ladle, Leaf & Loaf: Soup, Salad and Bread For Every Season” by Lisa Cowden; “Book of Soups: More than 100 New Recipes” by The Culinary Institute of America.)


  • Creative leftovers


  • Teaching your teen/college student/boomerang to cook


  • Favorite films about food (movie night optional)


  • How our gardens grew (also, organic cooking; also, seasonal foods)


  • Wild game (note: ask a pro)


  • Specialty ethnic foods (note: visit specialty restaurants first. If you’re going to make an Americanized version, what’s the point? One exception: parts of the Gulf Coast are still rebuilding. Try “100 Greatest Cajun Recipes” by Jude W. Theriot, “The Black Family Reunion Cookbook” by the NCNW, “Soul Food: Classic Cuisine of the Deep South” by Sheila Ferguson, and this Creole/Cajun site, recommended by the New Orleans Public Library: http://www.gumbopages.com/recipes-page.html”>Creole/Cajun


  • Vegetarian/vegan (again, visit specialty restaurants to appreciate the variety)


  • Kosher (Example: “Jewish Cooking For All Seasons” by Laura Frankel; “Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking” by Phyllis Galzer with Miriyam Glazer; “Passover Cookery” by Joan Kekst; “The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine” by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane.)


  • Restricted (e.g. allergies, diabetic, low sodium, etc.). (Example: “The Gluten-free Cookbook” by Bette Hagman; “Cooking Gluten-free” by Karen Robertson; “The Milk-free Kitchen” by Beth Kidder; “Cooking Free, 200 Flavorful Recipes for People with Food Allergies and Multiple Food Sensitivities” by Carol Fenster; “Diabetic Cooking Around the World” by Vilma Liacouras Chantiles; “Last-minute Meals for People with Diabetes” by Nancy S. Hughes; or “Low-Salt Cookbook” by The American Heart Association.



  • Old school (“memory lane”). (Example: “The Route 66 Cookbook” by Marian Clark.) Try these sites.


“Comfort Foods & Home Style Favorites” at http://recipes.bestsimplerecipes.com/eRMS/Browse.aspx?=847


Alternately, “Home town favorites” at http://www.hometownfavorites.com/recipes.html


alternately, “Teri’s Kitchen” at http://teriskitchen.com (includes Pennsylvania Dutch section)


  • The original: loaves and fishes


Recipes, anyone? These are big sites but well-organized.


“The Recipe Source” ( http://www.recipesource.com ) has less graphics, more links on frontpage.


“All Recipes” ( http://allrecipes.com ) has more (static) graphics.


“Bobbi’s Favorite Recipes” (something smaller & more manageable; no graphics on frontpage; page includes links on sushi, tofu, mushrooms, crockpot recipes, regional-Alaska, hot sauce, raisings, fat-free, soybeans, and dining out, among other unique features) at http://worldpath.net/~hiker/recipe.htm


Remember “bills” [sic] ricotta pancakes? For more of his recipes, see: http://www.bills.com.au/recipes




Author: The_Old_Maid_of_Potluck

Author of Potluck2point0: The resource formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net (a.k.a. My humongous [technical term] study of "What's behind 'Left Behind'").