Think Thanksgiving couldn't get more entertaining?

Let's stir the pot and dive into the controversy surrounding the age-old Thanksgiving potluck debate! It's kind of a big deal.

Ahhh, Thanksgiving – the holiday that blesses us with feasts, family, and the inevitable food coma.

As we gather around the Thanksgiving dinner table to enjoy the parade of mouth-watering plates, it's often a question (sometimes serious, sometimes joking) that arises:

Well, grab a fork and let's break bread as we explore the pros and cons of a potluck Thanksgiving feast.

Gobble Gobble, Good Manners?

Let's begin by digging into the basics of Thanksgiving dinner etiquette and why it's important to follow tradition.

To dish or not to dish? That is the question.

At its core, Thanksgiving is a time for sharing, gratitude, and (let's face it) feasting. So, does adding your culinary skills into the mix contribute to the holiday's spirit, or is it simply a potluck pot-stirrer?

Food for Thought: The Pros & Cons

Pros: To Dishing-Out Delights

1. Sharing the load:

Hosting Thanksgiving and cooking such an elaborate meal can be a mind-numbing daunting task for even the most skilled hosts.

Think of it as tag-teaming with the turkey – bringing a dish to a dinner party can reduce the stress and work for the host.

My Dad always said, "Your mother slaved for hours in the kitchen only to have the meal polished off in 20 minutes!" 😬 So we started bringing side dishes. 🥘

Photo: David M. Russell -

2. A smorgasbord of flavors:

A potluck dinner party introduces you to an assortment of dishes, each reflecting the tastes and backgrounds of our friends and extended family. Personally, I love this part.

And who doesn't want a taste of Aunt Mildred's famous sweet potato casserole alongside Cousin Gordon's mac and cheese? And the best part is that Cousin Gordon follows the Martha Stewart mac and cheese recipe which has like a dozen different cheeses! (JK - I think it has 4 different cheeses) It is a delight because it's cheese! 🧀

3. Community building:

If the Thanksgiving menu is like a symphony, then dishes are the instruments. Each one contributes to a harmonious feast, fostering togetherness and bonding with loved ones over a delicious meal.

Cons: To Focusing on Festivities

1. Too many cooks in the kitchen:

You know how the saying goes! With multiple people bringing different dishes, there's a risk of ending up with five different types of stuffing and no greens. Plan ahead to avoid duplicate main course dishes.

2. Logistical nightmares:

When it comes to transporting that oh-so delicate pie or piping hot dish to someone's house, things can get messy or, worse, lead to a Thanksgiving tragedy (cue dramatic music).

But that can happen in your own home as well - like that year my mom wasn't paying attention, and she dropped the stuffing coming out of the oven. 😲 What?! No oyster stuffing, boo-hoo! 😀 That's when we fessed up to not liking it. She was a little upset - because she loves it. Luckily that year, at the last minute, I made my Gluten Free stuffing and enough to share. No one likes that one either but at east it didn't have oysters and they ate it!

3. Potluck politics:

Let's face it, some guests may feel compelled to bring food begrudgingly. Or they bring a store-bought dish to contribute while secretly hoping others don't mind. Yeah, right! Faux pas!

A Pinch of Advice: Deciding Whether to Bring a Dish

Still mulling over whether or not to bring food?

Here are a few suggestions to help:

1. Communicate with your host:

A polite check-in with your Thanksgiving host will clear the air and prevent any accidental double-bookings.

Huh, communication - imagine that?

But the reasons for it are clear - you wouldn't want everyone to bring green beans, now, would we?

2. Bring a dish and a surprise:

If you do decide to bring something, consider including a small, unexpected treat - like a bottle of wine, some pre-dinner snacks, or a Hostess gift.

The dish I make every Holiday - Finocchio al Forno - Oven Baked Fennel - DELICIOUS! The aroma alone will make you hungry.

Dishin' on Dishes: Recommendations & Recipes

If you're planning to celebrate Thanksgiving with the entire meal being potluck style this year, consider some unique, fail-safe options guaranteed to make you the star of the Thanksgiving table:

  1. A seasonal fruit salad livened up with a variety of fall-spiced fruits and nuts.
  2. A savory bread pudding.
  3. An apple cider sangria to kick off the festivities in style.
  4. Creamy, buttery, homemade mashed potatoes – a real crowd-pleaser that pairs perfectly with turkey. I add cream cheese to my mashed potatoes and it's such a crowd pleaser there are never any leftovers.
  5. A tangy, sweet homemade cranberry sauce. It's a classic for good reason and it adds a refreshing contrast to the savory dishes.
  6. A traditional green bean casserole, made from scratch with fresh green beans and a creamy mushroom sauce.
  7. For dessert, consider pies! Like a Pumpkin pie or an apple tart. Either pie will pair beautifully with a dollop of whipped cream. If you're feeling adventurous, why not try a sweet potato pie for dessert instead? I bake mine on a chocolate chip cookie crust - it's delicious and a surprise for your Thanksgiving guests. Making pies always reminds me of the pie song in the movie Michael. 🙂
  8. Stuffing can be a make-or-break dish – consider a traditional recipe with sage, onions, and celery, or add a twist with some dried cranberries or chopped pecans. My mom used to add oysters to her stuffing. 😝 She ended up with a lot of leftovers!
  9. Sweet potatoes are a staple for many as part of their Thanksgiving meal. They're very versatile and you can prepare them in numerous ways. A favorite is a sweet potato casserole topped with a crispy, caramelized pecan crust. A family favorite for us is baked sweet potatoes with Kahlua! 🤤 So good!
  10. And last, but certainly not least, the turkey. Whether you roast your turkey, braise it, or fry it, make sure to consider your Thanksgiving guests' preferences, and maybe even share your secret for a juicy, flavorful bird.

The Cleanup Conundrum: Should you be on Dish Duty if you Don't Bring a Dish?

If you arrived empty handed to the Thanksgiving feast, you might consider offering your services in another way: cleanup duty. Taking on this task can demonstrate your appreciation for the host's efforts and the meal they've provided.

Clean up can be a substantial task, especially after a large feast like Thanksgiving.

If you've arrived empty-handed, stepping up to wash dishes, clear the table, or help with storing leftovers can be a meaningful contribution. It also allows the host to relax and enjoy their guests' company rather than worrying about the post-meal mess.

However, it's important to discuss this with your host beforehand.

Some hosts may prefer to handle the cleanup themselves or have specific ways they like things done. Your willingness to help is most appreciated when it is communicated and coordinated with your host.

Remember, the key is to contribute in a way that supports the gathering and respects the host's preferences.

In this spirit, whether you bring a dish or scrub one clean, your contribution is a valuable part of the Thanksgiving celebration.

And That's it!

While it's ultimately a personal decision whether or not to bring a dish to a potluck Thanksgiving, one thing is for sure: this holiday is all about coming together, giving thanks, and celebrating with the people we love.

So, whether you bring a Thanksgiving meal dish or not, let's savor each moment and enjoy the Thanksgiving feast in all its delicious glory.

And remember there are no rules when it comes to enjoying good food and the company of family and friends on this special holiday – so pass the potatoes (or your famous dish) and dig in!

Cheers to a happy, healthy, wonderful time and oh-so-full Thanksgiving!

Happy Holidays!

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