Scroll To Top

The Art of the Lesbian Potluck

The Art of the Lesbian Potluck

The BYO-food party can be a disastrous dyke drama debacle, or be a fabulous evening of delectable dishes and merry match making. If ou are daring enough to take on the Lesbian Potluck Party, here are some hints from the experts for keeping it real and fun, without the vegans choking on tartare or the histrionics of old flames clashing over appetizers.

We’ve all been to them.  The BYO-food party that can be a fabulous evening of scintillating conversation, delectable dishes and merry match making, or it can be an unforgettable disastrous dyke drama debacle.  It’s up to you, the host.  So if you are daring enough to take on the Lesbian Potluck Party, here are some hints from the experts for keeping it real and fun, without the vegans choking on tartare or the histrionics of old flames clashing over appetizers.


First off, there’s the guest list.  If you are inviting couples and singles, there are no hard and fast rules, says Steven Petrow, etiquette expert and author of the forthcoming book The Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners, but try to balance it out.

“No one ever wants to be the only single person at a party. If you’re going to invite one single, make it a duo. Even better, try to make it a set-up.”

As any lesbian bevy is bound to include at least a couple of ex lovers, as host you must consider everyone’s comfort before inviting them all to break bread together.

“Just because you want to invite them all, doesn’t mean that you should. Masked or unmasked bitterness, rage or jealousy can quickly tank the best of parties. But if you’re committed to this potentially prickly guest list, be transparent,” says Petrow.

He advises letting your guests know if an ex will be attending. “Then each of your friends can decide whether it will be worth the pain to come out to your party.”

As for seating arrangements, Petrow advises hosts to “Make sure the party is big enough so that folks can hide in corners. Spread them around.”

Main Course:

Now the easy part, the menu.  A potluck is a great way to have a dinner party with a lot of variety of dishes without a lot of fuss, or expense, for the host.  But the host is not off the hook. 

“Traditionally, the host provides the main dish, primarily because you have access to an oven and can serve hot foods,” according to Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati, authors of the independent cookbook, Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's.

Gunn and Miniati recommend chicken or roast beef which is easy to pair with any sides.  Or, if you have a large group with several volunteers bringing main dishes, you can opt to skip providing one yourself and instead provide all the beverages.

Also, don't forget that the host also provides serving utensils, flatware, plates, cups, glasses, napkins and condiments.  Also make sure you have plenty of potholders and kitchen towels as well as ice and a cooler for beverages.  Clear out the fridge as much as possible in order to create room for any dishes that do have to be kept cold until served.

More on next page...



Hold the Meat:

It’s hard to throw a dinner roll at a lesbian gathering and not hit a vegetarian, so be prepared for the non-carnivores at your party. There are really two ways to handle this, according to Rebecca Matter, author of the culinary blog,

1. Organize the menu so that there is something for everyone. Ask people to bring either a meat or vegetarian dish, and to coordinate with you in advance.

2. Ask everyone to bring items that can be combined by the individual potluck attendees.  So basically keep the meat and cheese on the side.

To head off the chaos of people running around asking, "What is this?  What's in that?" Gunn and Miniati also recommend calling your guests ahead of time to ask about any dietary restrictions, preferences or food allergies, and then assign them dishes to bring.

“Offer a choice of appetizer, entree, side, salad, dessert, or beverage.  Once you've compiled all your information, send out the party details and each person's dish category in an email or make follow-up calls.  Don't be too specific - it's enough to specify ‘One vegetarian entree that serves six,’ or ‘One nut-free dessert that serves six.’  Another option is to set up an E-vite and ask people to pick something to bring among the available categories.”

Bring it On:

Gunn and Miniati suggest bringing foods that keep well and taste good at room temperature (See recipes below for potluck dishes from their book, Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's).  Avoid foods that wilt or get soggy, like a spinach salad, unless you prepare it at the last minute.  Most pasta dishes and casseroles do well at potlucks.  Even main dishes can be great served at room temperature.  For example, broiled salmon and grilled chicken are delicious at room temperature.

For hot foods, the Crock-Pot Trio Cook & Serve ($99.99 at Target) is perfect for potlucks.  It features three side-by-side mini slow cookers with individual high and low temperature controls all in one base.  It not only looks great in the center of your table, but it replaces multiple pots, pans and serving dishes, and the stoneware pots can be removed for refills.

If you do decide to bring a Crock-Pot or hotplate, plan to bring an extension cord just in case, and make sure the setup is safe in case there are small children at the party.’s Rebecca Matter recommends playing it safe when it comes to potlucks. “Avoid anything too exotic unless cleared by the host first.  You don’t want to bring the one thing that everyone at the party avoids trying,” she adds. As a failsafe, Matter suggests “backup food.”

“Someone will inevitably not bring what they planned, drop it on the way, burn it, etc.  So be prepared with a couple of frozen lasagnas just in case.”

More on next page...



She Brought What?:

Save your judgment.  Potlucks are supposed to be a fun, casual and inexpensive way to have friends over, not an audition for “Martha.”

“Honestly, I’ve been to plenty of potlucks and dinners with the requisite KFC bucket and Chinette. What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing! Especially today, when the economy trumps all and folks love finger lickin’ comfort food,” says gay manners expert Petrow.

As for entertaining lesbians, gay men, straight folk or anything in between, Peltrow says anything goes, though there continues to be a trend toward healthier foods. 
“The good news is now that gay men are starting to eat carbs again, at least smart carbs.  We’re no longer the freaks of nature that we were just a handful of years ago. ‘Hold the bread!’ ‘No pasta, please!’ ‘I’m allergic to potatoes.’ (Who’s allergic to potatoes?) Whatever differences that may have existed between straight and LGBT folk are pretty non-existent. Folks in the community used to joke that you couldn’t go to a lesbian potluck without overdosing on carrot cake, while gay men completely exhausted themselves decorating the crudités plate. Now everybody — gay or straight — prefers plain healthier choices.”

Less is Not More:

The golden rule of any dinner party, don’t run out of food.  According to Gunn and Miniati, each person should bring a dish that serves 4-6 people, and that is the average yield of most recipes.  So if 12 people are attending, you will need two to three appetizers, two to three side dishes or salads, two to three entrees, and two to three desserts, which is a total of eight to 12 dishes.  Some of your guests may be couples and will only bring one dish.  You can also ask guests who don't enjoy cooking, to bring their favorite beverage.

Order of the Evening:

Plan to begin your meal within an hour of guests arriving.  Late comers get a 15-minute grace period, then feel free to start without them.  Plan for the party to go about two hours, or four hours if your guests are having a blast. 

“If you’re looking to lengthen a potluck party, and keep it interesting, consider putting out the food in courses.  Round one, appetizers; round two, main dishes and sides; round three, desserts,” says Matter.

More on next page...



Name that Theme:

Theme parties never go out of style, and they can make menu assignments, introductions and mingling easier for the host and guests.  For instance, a South-of-the-Border-theme party can guide the menu and set the tone for the party.  Guests can dress the part, and entrees could include traditional Mexican dishes such as burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas along with chips, guac, salsa and of course tasty tequila drinks. 

For a Margarita party that would make Jimmy Buffet sing, check out the Margaritaville Bahamas Frozen Concoction Maker ($199.99 at Target and Wal-Mart) to blend up pitcher-perfect Margaritas, daiquiris, pina coladas and even virgin smoothies, with the touch of a button.  Not only will it keep the frozen drinks flowing, it provides a great conversation piece and gives guests the chance to play mixologist and create custom frozen drinks.

More on next page...



There’s One at Every Party:

Alcohol is part of the mix at every party, and a good host makes sure guests have a good time without going too far. Petrow recalls just such an incident at a party of his when two lesbian guests had it out. “One of them bawling in the bathroom, the other drinking like a fish. Together, the whole party was riveted — just like watching the proverbial train wreck.”

Petrow advices that if mayhem breaks out, it is the host’s responsibility is to his or her other guests. “That means asking your dueling dykes to chill until later,” or, as a last resort, asking them to leave.

“Of course, there's that risk that someone will drink too much or lose control,” says Palm Springs clinical psychologist Jim Berman, PhD.  “Then what?  Best advice - deal with it together, as a group, never take a chance of getting hurt by approaching a drunk or a bully alone.”

Berman says to keep the party from going south use a friendly show of force. “A quick, ‘Hey you guys, give me a hand with Sammy; he's three sheets to the wind,’ and Sammy can be bundled off to a back room or a cab without making a scene.  After all, that's not the kind of scene you're hoping for with this party.”

I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together:

When the party is over, it’s time to go home.   It’s a good sign if partiers want to keep reveling into the wee hours, but if you’re ready for your guests to head home, Rebecca Matters offers this easy way out. “Ask them if they’d like to take any of the leftovers home with them, and then start packing them up. That usually gives them the hint it’s time to go.”

Potluck Good Luck:

It can be a lot less stress and cost than a traditional dinner party, and with a bit of planning and preparation, you can be on your way to a memorable sister soiree that the girls will be talking about at many parties to come.

Just remember these three main ingredients for a successful potluck from Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati: an organized host, smart dish assignments, and happy partygoers.

More on next page...



Potluck Recipes from Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's:

Anytime Mediterranean Pasta:

This pasta dish can be your fallback option any time, even if your fridge is nearly bare.  Just keep a bag of pasta, a bag of pine nuts, and the jars of ingredients on hand in your pantry.  Parmesan cheese will keep for a long time in your fridge.

3 cups dry fusilli or penne pasta (we used Penne Rigata, about ½ a bag)
½ cup Pitted Kalamata Olives
2 Tbsp Julienne Sliced Sun Dried Tomatoes
1/3 cup Dry Toasted Pignolias (Pine Nuts)
2 Tbsp Pesto alla Genovese Basil Pesto
Grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

1.    Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain.
2.    Stir in remaining ingredients, topping with grated Parmesan as desired. 

Prep and cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves four

More on next page...



Olive-Stuffed Bread:

A few minutes of work yields a rustic yet sophisticated crusty herbed-bread loaf with the salty surprise of olives inside.  It's a nice bread to enjoy warm with cheese, alongside an appetizer, or with a full meal. 

1 (l-lb) bag refrigerated Garlic & Herb Dough
½ cup Mixed Olive Bruschetta

1.    Preheat oven to 425° F.
2.    On a floured surface, roll dough (or stretch out with hands) so it is about 6 x 15 inches.  Spoon bruschetta down the center lengthwise, except for the last inch at each end.   Pull up sides of bread and firmly pinch a seam down the center, sealing in bruschetta.
3.    Place seam-side down on a pizza stone (preferred method) or an oiled baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. 
4.    Slice loaf into one-inch pieces and serve warm.

Prep time: five minutes
Hands-off cooking time: 30
Serves six to eight

Find more great posts from Pearson here!

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

author avatar

K. Pearson Brown