Life in the USA
Bringing Refreshments and Food
Some parties are “pot luck” or “covered dish” affairs. The idea is that everybody brings something for the entire group to enjoy. Sometimes the person giving the party will assign various types of food (breads, beverages, pasta, or dessert) to different people to assure a variety. In some cases, the hosts will prepare the major dishes, such as meats or fish, and expect guests to bring side dishes, like salads and potatoes. If in doubt, ask. You cannot please everyone, but it never hurts to ask the hosts whether they have any food allergies or preferred foods, and choose your own contribution accordingly. Even if the hosts will vacuum up anything put in their path, they will appreciate the thoughtfulness of your considering their needs.
When bringing food, the thoughtful guest purchases a dish of some quality, the even more thoughtful guest goes to the trouble of preparing a dish, provided he or she has the skill. If you are particularly adept at preparing the cuisine of your own country, this might just be the time to introduce it to others. If your cuisine is pungent or spicy, however, you might decide to modify the strong flavors a little so the dish will better appeal to a broad variety of American tastes. Bear in mind that, in any case, Americans usually shy away from organ meats and slimy vegetables.
In some “pot luck” events, just a few friends bring the food, often in large amounts. If you find yourself at such an event without being warned in advance, just dig in and enjoy the food. You weren't expected to contribute. Common sense does indicate that it is a good idea to compliment the dishes prepared by the other people, of course.
If a party is given on a B.Y.O.B. basis (it means, “Bring Your Own Bottle”) you'll be expected to bring a beverage, often alcoholic. If you do not consume alcoholic beverages, it is perfectly acceptable to bring a soft drink, mineral water for example. As a general rule, bring about twice as much as you would ordinarily drink, whatever the beverage.
If your religion mandates that you avoid certain foods, it is best to simply say, “No, thank you” when they are offered to you rather than going into detail on the topic. You do not want to make others feel uncomfortable about consuming these foods in front of you.
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