Potluck Tips

Written by Maulana Halima al-Rakkasa

These are some ideas to make potlucks more interesting, and perhaps more fun. (Many thanks to Paulus of the Heather, Crickstow-on-Sea, for inspiration.)

Hints and Tips

To participate in the feast you must bring a potluck dish. Every person in your party (excepting very young ones) must bring a dish large enough to serve 8-10 people, and a card listing all the ingredients must accompany it. (For instance, an adult with two teenagers bringing buns and butter will have, in total two to three dozen buns and a pound of butter; the buns will be in a large bowl or basket, and the butter set out on a small plate or bowl.)

Charts are often used to guide feasters. As an example, if your ordinary/modern last name begins with... then bring...

  • A-E: Salad
  • F-J: Side dish (vegetables/grains)
  • K-R: Main dish
  • S-Z: Dessert

If no guideline is given, bring your favourite medieval dish (suggestions and recipe links below).

If you live more than a half-hour drive from the event, consider dishes best served at room temperature, that are not troubled by the travel; bread and cheese fits that category.

Then there is the question: "How much should I spend?" Paulus of the Heather answers this way:

"This can be a ticklish question. Is it fair that someone brings a beef roast and someone else brings a loaf of bread when both people fill their plates from the same table? Instead of comparing the items on the table, a contributor to a potluck has to take a look at their own finances and ask the question, "What would I pay for a ticket to a feast for myself (and my family)?" and budget for their contribution with that amount in mind. Therefore a couple who would normally spend $30 for feast tickets should consider that spending $10 to $20 on a potluck contribution is still a significant savings.

Get medieval: Generosity is a chivalric virtue!"


If you are new to SCA potlucks, or are looking for an update, this may be useful to you.

Regarding your contribution:

  • Medieval recipes or medieval-type food is preferred, if only for the ambiance. Alcohol is not considered a potluck dish.
  • Label all dishes with ingredients (some people being allergic to the durndest things), and with your name (so people can ask you for the recipe).
  • Each person attending the potluck should bring enough to feed 8-10 people. The one-dish-per-person does not apply to young children.
  • Prepare the dish for small servings. For instance, slice the ham before putting it on the buffet; slice the cheese; cut the pie. A 10-serving dish should, if possible, be divided to serve 20 or more, so that everyone has an opportunity to taste it.
  • Bring the serving dishes and utensils. Again, try to aim for medieval ambiance with serving dishes and platters of wood, pottery, or wicker. A trivet will protect the table from hot dishes. Put your name on the utensils so that they go home with you. Caveat: In the interests of food safety, crockpots are allowable; mask with a teatowel draped over the bulk of it.

Regarding your presence:

  • Bring something to drink, as beverages may not be supplied, or not be to taste. Event copy will announce whether beverages are provided. Do have at least water nearby, for when you hear "Please charge your glasses"; you are expected to stand for the toasts that follow.
  • Bring your feast gear. There may only be tables and chairs, so your tablecloth may be handy.
  • There may be an announcement that parents with young children present, and those with limited physical ability, approach the buffet to serve themselves first. Please do so. Parents should bring their children's dishes and dish out their portions; parents with more children than hands will readily find assistance.
  • Take small portions of those dishes that interest you. Look behind you to see how many people have yet to be served, and adjust your portion size so that all may have a similar portion size. You will likely have a chance for seconds. And maybe thirds.
  • Help clean afterwards. Some people carry a plastic bag in their feast kit to drop the dirty dishes into, for washing at home. If you prefer to wash-up at the site, scrape off your dishes into the provided garbage container, and wait for the announcement of the kitchen sinks' availability, or a wash-station; do -not- use the bathroom sinks, as the plugging of drains is an ugly hazard.

Non-cooking ideas

If you shop for your potluck contribution, here are some suggestions to help simplify your choices.

round loaves (and buns); whole wheat, rye, seed, currant; flatbread (pita, chapatis) is also appropriate. (If your pocketbook will allow, also bring the butter or cheese.)
Cheese, sliced:
(there are others, but these definitely were known in medieval times): yoghurt cheese, farmers' cheese, Brie, Caciocavallo, Cantal, Fontina, Dournay, Gruyere, Livarot, Munster, Neufchatel, Pecorina Romano.
apples (small pinkish, yellow or green), pears, apricots, bilberries (blueberries substitute well), grapes (seedless are easier to deal with); dried fruit is also appropriate (apricots, dates, figs).
olives, mushrooms, eggs, marinated vegetables.
Chicken, hot roasted (deli!) and cut for serving:
with Cinnamon sauce, or Ginger-Mustard sauce.
Ham, cold sliced:
with Galyntyne sauce, or Honey Wine Mustard sauce. (for meat or fowl.)
Roast pork, sliced:
with Yellow pepper sauce, or Cinnamon sauce.
Roast beef, sliced:
with Garlic-Pepper sauce, or Ginger sauce.
Sausage, sliced (deli):
gypsy salami, genoa salami, pastrami, etc.

Also consider greens and herbs in salads, with olive oil and vinegar dressing. A more extensive list of recipe links can be found on our Library page.

Medieval Recipes

These links to medieval recipes barely touch the surface of the recipes available. Not all recipes are complicated, so explore the possibilities fully; many recipes call for less than 6 ingredients!

  • Roasted carrots: chopped, dressed with olive oil, spread on a cookie sheet and baked.
  • Carrot salad: shredded and dressed with oil, vinegar, and a touch of sugar.
  • Savoury rice: cooked with caraway seeds and bay leaf; color with saffron.
  • Bashed 'neeps: rutabagas boiled, mashed with milk, salt, sugar, and nutmeg.
  • Onion soup: onions gently fried olive oil until well-carmelized, covered with vegetable stock and simmered; thicken with breadcrumbs or not.
  • Beef roast: dry rub the roast with pepper, cumin, and salt, and let sit a couple of hours in fridge; roast (see any basic cookbook) in a medium-low oven until medium-done; cool and then refrigerate; slice thinly before serving.
  • Cumin chicken: brown chicken; simmer in a sauce of beer, bread, cumin, salt and pepper.

First Time Feast Gear

Yes, medievally, cutlery and tableware was used; fingers may have come into play, but the manuals of the time are quite specific about which fingers were used for what purposes (and I will not attempt to summarize such compexities). And since we neither waste food, nor wish to sully beautiful garments that we (and perhaps you) have spent hours creating, we like our "feastgear".

We encourage the medieval look, but that can come later...

  • beverage container (heavy glass goblet will hold hot or cold liquids, as will pottery; metal does not work well with hot; wood may warp with heat)
  • bowl (relatively open; most servings will be small and quickly consumed; a salad bowl generally works; a peasant, one-dish meal might require a soup-bowl, but seconds [and thirds] are generally allowed)
  • spoon (round or teardrop shape looks right, but whatever works)
  • knife (steak knife works, especially as it can stab food that needs it... instead of a fork)
  • napkin
  • something to carry it all

Optional feast gear

  • plate (a bowl will handle everything, but sometimes a plate is nicer)
  • fork (if you must, or your persona would use one)
  • tablecloth, extra napkins
  • candle in enclosed glass container
  • salt or other seasoning in small bowl/box
  • additional bowls and cutlery may be useful (bowls will hold any kind of food, and also beverages, and ort)