Potluck is the new dinner party

Remember the 'hostess gift'? In the glittery nineties, if you were invited to someone's house for a party during dinner time, you offered to bring something and were refused. To compensate, a hostess gift was the way to go.

And then, 2008 rolled around. We're not banking quite so much free cash these days, and it seems the height of folly to offer to foot the bill for a sumptuous meal for your friends. Potluck is so much friendlier! Not to mention you can forget worrying too much about your guests' dietary needs. If your good friend Sarah has decided she will heretofore only eat locally-grown, organic food, whole grains only, and no sugar!, well, she can make her own quinoa snow pea salad. I've been to three potlucks in the past two weeks and I'm hosting another tomorrow; I think I can say with some authority that potluck is the new dinner party.

I've been wondering how it is my friends and family have been able to relieve ourselves of the societal urge to provide for the every need of a guest in our home.

The desire to host runs deep in many of our bones. And I think the answer is 40% environmental and 60% economical. We live in Portland, a city known for its community-focused, rather less than material (ok, hippy) people. And then there's the wallet, just not as fat as it was 10 years ago when everything seemed to have cost far less (and expense accounts paid for more).

Are we better off in the brave new world in which we have to let go of our control freak-bridezilla selves, even if our groceries now cost nearly as much as our mortgages? I think so. We're able to embrace chaos, trust our friends to make food that doesn't suck, and set an example of responsible financial behavior for our families. All good things. What do you think? Have you been going to a lot of potlucks recently? Have you hosted one? Which is the better way?
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