Food & Drink
Over about 18 years now we have found the 'Pot Luck' system works remarkably well. We have people from various cultures that do not eat certain meats and shellfish and also some vegetarians and vegans (the latter often bring what they need as do those who are gluten / lactose intolerant). We now let the host decide on which food/drink regime they will run.
Generally, people bring too much food as they try not to appear mean, but hosts abhor waste, so we will keep some reserves up our sleeves if it does run low, but if you think “Could I eat all I brought?” If the answer is “Too much for me?”, then think smaller. If you want to be more generous then bring more to drink – that tends to run out.. Hosts are happy to provide tea or coffee.
If you are likely to join us for the latter part of the event - just bring a liquid contribution as the buffet will be over – you will probably have eaten earlier as well. Sundays in Highgate follow the above pattern as it is lunchtime. For Ealing afternoons the emphasis is on 'tea time'.
A veggie offering is good for most - and even if you are an omnivore, a veggie meal occasionally won’t hurt you! Starters and nibbles are often veggie without thinking about it (samosas, bhajis, nuts, crisps tacos and salsas) cakes, sweets and puddings (chocolate nuggets, mini rolls, fruit cakes, trifles etc.) also work fine for vegetarians. There is a risk that one gets all nibbles and sweets, but people often bring pizzas, ciabatta / french bread and cheese, fruit, bean casseroles and veggie chillies/lasagne or the like. PLEASE DO NOT REACH FOR THE SHOP BOUGHT QUICHES! when they arrive and are put out they are almost invariably left as they are bland, bordering on nasty! Home-made versions have worked, but the general trend has been to make it a ‘quiche-free zone’ unless you are very good at homemade ones. Veggie parties tend to get a lot of Margarita pizzas, humus and olives and cheese. These are the obvious things to grab from a supermarket shelf, but look for the less obvious if you can to avoid a glut of the above. It may seem obvious but a round of egg or cheese based sandwiches or wraps (ensure they are meat / fish free for Ealing) can work very well.
Here we have to consider some guests from some cultures who do not eat pork or shellfish, others do not eat beef, so allowing meat does mean that some will have to avoid certain items. We fear a glut of sausage rolls or cocktail sausages! Please think twice before reaching for those.
Again we stress that a round of sandwiches or wraps with meat, egg, or fish filling is simple to buy and bring. Starters can include universal ingredients and sweets and cakes are good for all except those with a gluten or lactose intolerance. Fruit is another option.
We lay the omnivore buffet table out with red green and cream areas of tablecloth. Meat will be laid out on the red part, veggie dishes on the green part, and specialist (as marked) or universal food will go on the cream part. When you bring your contribution please check the label and if it says ‘suitable for vegetarians’, put it in the marked reception area. All other foods should go in the meat/fish reception area. If you have made or bought something specific for vegans, gluten intolerant people, kosher, halal, or any other specialty, please hand it to a kitchen helper with the advice of what it is. We will label it and put it in the specialist area (cream). Please let people that have special needs have the specialised food until it is clear they have had sufficient.
On the drink side, people tend to underestimate, but not badly so. If you
bring some beers, think are they the number you might drink yourself.
On the wine front, it does tend to go faster than one expects and
sometimes fruit juice could be in greater abundance.
Perhaps bring a bottle and a soft drink - preferably
without too much of the demon sugar?
Many have reduced or stopped drinking alcohol and one host prefers
not to have it in his home. Tea and coffee can be made for those but
soft drinks, cordials or zero alcohol versions are an option.