08 November 2011

The Beauty of Bring-A-Plate Parties

Here in the southern hemisphere, Summer is on its way. BBQ's are being scraped off and warmed up all over New Zealand (and Aussie too, I'm sure).

We kicked off BBQ season on Saturday night {Guy Fawkes Night} with a bunch of friends letting off fireworks, and eating together. It was relaxed, it was enjoyable, there was nobody slaving in the kitchen, just the mandatory bunch of blokes propping up the barbie while Mr G grilled the steak and sausies.

Mr G on the BBQ with his Supporters club; we had a tarp ready in case it rained... but the weather held (whew)

Its how we do things in this part of the world. Everybody brings something to share. We all help a little, we all get to enjoy the night. The host doesn't bear the cost of feeding and watering forty people; the hostess doesn't spend the evening slaving out back while her friends party without her.

That's just how we roll.
In New Zealand if you invite friends for lunch, their first question is always, "What shall I bring?"
When they arrive at your house, their first question is "What can I do?"
It sure does make it easy to have people over.

Think about it.
  • Everybody prepares a little bit, it spreads the load
  • You always have the right amount of food because each family brings enough to feed themselves
  • Last-minute extra guests are no drama - just tell them what to bring
  • You get to try out other people's amazing cooking, a BBQ is a great place for a recipe exchange
  • Everyone takes their serving dishes home with them - less to clear away
  • Everybody gets to enjoy the party, including the hosts

On Saturday night I sat around the table under the grapevine talking to my friends and watched their jaws drop when I told them that in the UK where my hubby is from, things are done very differently.
My husband's aunty and cousins explained to me that in England, if you ask people to "bring a plate" to a party you are hosting, its a shameful thing. It means that you "can't afford" or "can't cope" with hosting. Nobody would ever dream of requesting guests to bring a plate of food, or to help in the kitchen or tidy up.
The host does it all.

"Well, who would ever put their hand up to entertain then?!!" one friend exclaimed as I related this story.

Precisely. Its in the too-hard basket.
Who wants to take out a second mortgage for the privilege of spending all night slaving in the kitchen while your friends enjoy themselves without you?
Not me.

While we were in England, a relative told me that while she was watching Australian Masterchef, she heard the presenter remark on someone's dessert: "Now wouldn't that be lovely to take to a party!"
The idea really struck her as strange, making food to take somewhere. She said it was obviously something people do in Australia, which would never be done in England. But she thought it sounded like a lovely idea.

It is lovely. And we entertain a lot more in our part of the world, because it's so much easier when everyone pitches in. To us it seems strange to do it any other way.

Misty's To-Die-For Lemon Slice with Homemade Limoncello Candied Peel

My clever friend Misty made The Best Lemon Shortcake Ever for our party on Saturday.
I took one bite and got goosebumps from head to foot. It was so good, I found myself doing the scene out of When Harry Met Sally; simply could not stop groaning as I ate and floated up to heaven on a cloud of lemony goodness. See, when friends bring treats like these we all get to share the joy. Now I just need to convince Misty to share the recipe.

This post has been written for all my lovely UK friends and family, to encourage you to try a party "Kiwi-Style". Especially in these days of "Recession Gloom" everyone can do with a good party, dontcha think? Doing it Kiwi-style makes it affordable, do-able and really very easy...

Hosting a Kiwi-Style Party
Tell your friends you are having a party "like they do in New Zealand."
Send out an eco-friendly email (or txt) invitation explaining:

"For something different we are going to have a DownUnder-Style party...
In New Zealand it is tradition for each guest to bring something to contribute to a party. Each person brings "a plate" of their favourite food, and it is all put out on the table buffet-style. 
Come dressed in black wearing "jandals" (flipflops) or "gumboots" (wellies) 
Each family please bring a main PLUS a dessert AND/OR a bottle of drink to share."

{For a BBQ its usually meat for the barbie PLUS a salad or dessert and a bottle of drink}

Here's what I sent out to our friends for the Guy Fawkes night party...

Now don't think that the host has nothing to do with making the party awesome.
We string up lights, light lanterns, make punch - and of course whip up some world-famous Sangria. We create the atmosphere, provide the venue and make sure the loo is clean. So we don't get off  totally Scott-free.

For Guy Fawkes night, everyone brings a family box of fireworks. We end up with quite a display; meanwhile the cost is shared.

On New Years Eve we do it all again. We toast marshmallows over the brazier. We let off sky lanterns.
We dress the kids in their PJs and snuggle them into sleeping bags to watch a DVD and fall gently off to sleep while the grownups get to see in the New Year with our friends in a relaxed and enjoyable fashion.

I love the way we do things Downunder.
If you've never tried it our Bring-a-Plate way, give it a try. There's no shame in it.
Its just totally the most sensible (and enjoyable) way to have a great party.

More Backyard Parties:


How do parties or barbeques get done where you are from? Do guests "Bring a plate" or do hosts provide everything? Do you enjoy hosting parties - or does the work involved put you off?

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Jules said...

I love 'kiwi style' parties, it's what I grew up around and like you said, makes so much sense to share the food and the job of setting up/cleaning up. It feels more relaxed and like a real community.

Would you believe, since moving to Oz 4yrs ago, I've only taken a plate to a party twice and it was kind of frowned upon and seemed strange to the host, like I was trying to steal their thunder! Almost as if she would have to tell anyone who complimented the dish 'no actually Jules made it'. Maybe it's just the group of friends/family that Hubby hangs around with, it could be different for others here in Oz. But I definitely miss the 'kiwi way' and feel bad when asking people to bring something to our place. Almost like 'I can't handle hosting a group so need everyone to pitch in'.

Amongst my parents' group of buddies, it's called a 'pot luck' dinner, but Hubby had no idea what I was talking about when I told him we were going to one while back in NZ!!

Anonymous said...

You are so right - I love the Bring a Plate tradition!

It's something we do in SA too. A "bring and braai" is standard and like you say it means you get to see friends much more often than if you were expected to provide everything (it would cost a small fortune!).

Unknown said...

I want to come to your house... and I'll bring Gluten-Free cookies! I love the idea of everyone contributing. It makes entertaining much more appealing!

PaisleyJade said...

Wow - I honestly didn't think people did it any other way in other parts of the world!! Isn't it interesting!! Love the way we do it here - fab post.

Miriam said...

Last year we teamed up with 4 other couples (10 people) we wanted to share our lives with a bit more and decided to cook our way around the world together. So every couple of months we have a themed dinner and everyone brings a plate around that theme (one couple is allocated entree and one couple dessert). We ened up with a grown up, restaurant style meal without the cost for anyone. It's SO good.

Jen said...

an interesting well written post :)

pleased you had a great party

jacksta said...

lovely post...And I love how we do it too. Maybe it comes from the "Whanau" styles from the pacifica influences.

Simoney said...

Miriam, I LOVE that idea! Hey Auckland girls, anyone want to join me & Mr G for this idea next year? (Gail? Lyns? Sammy? anyone?)

Jacksta, I think that's what it is. I still remember attending my first island funeral wake, and seeing all those family members turn up with food and money to help the bereaved family. Something very precious about that and I'm glad it has found a way into the core of Kiwi culture

remaliah said...

I love this about kiwi culture too. It's something I miss, especially now as the weather is getting warmer over there and the BBQs are coming out! Oh for summer! I can't complain because they do do it here from time to time and our friends always ask what they can bring. Funnily enough the name we call those meals here is 'Repas Canadien'...which translates literally to 'Canadian Meal'...I guess the Canadians have had a good influence too :) Your party looked like great fun!

Sophie said...

So true - the UK vs Kiwi way of doing things - much prefer the Kiwi/Aussie way! Love it!

dearfutureme... said...

Thanks for the heads up - I'm in the UK at the moment and don't want everyone to think I'm poor when I ask them to bring a plate to a party!

Jess said...

I never knew that this "grown up with" style is so unique to NZ and Aus. I couldn't imagine the stress and cost of hosting dinner parties and having to foot it all yourself.

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