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Pretzels, Peanuts, & Popcorn? April 2, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Humor, People.

Once or twice a month, the Social Committee in the neighborhood hosts a potluck Happy Hour.

People bring their own drinks and hors d’oeuvres or appetizers to share.


These cocktail parties are unlike any I’ve attended elsewhere.

As an attorney, cocktail parties hosted by the firm or the local bar association went something like this:

1.  Wander into the venue and over to the bar to get a cocktail, nodding politely and making small talk along the way.

2.  Drink in hand, swing by one of several tables of food, pick up a napkin or small cocktail-sized plate, place a few morsels and tidbits on the plate or napkin, step away from the table and find someone to converse with until your glass and/or plate is empty.

3.  Repeat.

Parties held here ignore three time-tested techniques designed to encourage  social interaction at cocktail parties: (1) small plates, (2) food serving stations spread throughout the venue, and (3) bottomless beverages.


Here, people run in, grab a table, and RACE back to the food line.

Yes, there is a line.

Once safely in line, they deign to chat with the people in front and behind them as they wait to load up their plates at the food trough . . . I mean table.

Reaching the serving table, they  grab MASSIVE platter-sized plates and walk S~L~O~W~L~Y around the table.


Carefully scrutinizing the offerings with a discerning eye.

Piling the chosen food high . . . higher . . . highest.

With plates practically buckling under the weight of their food . . . they head back to their tables and scarf it down, mumbling between mouthfuls.

Meanwhile, people at the back of the line arrive to find that 90% of the dishes are devoid of food.

Instead of the full complement of culinary offerings, those at the tail end of the processional must be  content to nibble on scraps left behind by the “early birds” . . .  crackers, pretzels, peanuts, popcorn, and that perennial favorite, potato chips.

Wikipedia ~ Potato Chips (in Public Domain)

How do I know?

Because BFF and I are always LAST IN LINE.

We arrive at the party, chat our way over to a table, pour ourselves a drink, turn around (glass in hand), and gulp when we see the food line wrapped twice around the serving table.

Imagine a feeding frenzy of piranhas in the Amazon river.  It’s like that.

We shrug and keep drinking ~ the only way anything left for consumption at that point is going to taste good is through the golden haze of alcohol.

We drink and chat until the potluck pod thins.  Then, we collect our consolation prizes of pretzels, peanuts, popcorn, and potato chips.

If we’re lucky, we get a teaspoon of dip.

If not, we choke down the dry fare with further liquid libations.

Aah . . . that’s better!

What about you?  When you attend a cocktail party, do attendees focus on convivial conversation . . . or consummate consumption?

For Party Tips:  Party All The Time (Accidental Cootchie Mama)


1. Piglet in Portugal - April 2, 2012

I always make for the trough first!

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

I had to laugh reading this comment . . . in conjunction with your chosen cyber name, PiP!

If ANYONE deserves to be first in line at the “trough” . . . it’s YOU! 😆

Piglet in Portugal - April 2, 2012

…and the years of practice shows on my waistline.

I know exactly what you mean though about the left overs. I only go to these gigs for the food, and of course to observe. Mr Piglet usually stands there chatting while I’m despatched with 2 plates. 🙂

2. Piglet in Portugal - April 2, 2012


nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Worry not, PiP! I always make a beeline for the bar. :mrgreen:

3. souldipper - April 2, 2012

I’m on your agenda, Nancy. When there’s tables set up for people to sit at, there’s little chance to talk to the folks I haven’t seen for a while. They’re engaged with the same folks they socialize with and their friends squint when there’s an attempt to chat with “one of theirs”.

I like the circulate, nibble/chat, circulate, sip/chat, circulate, chat and escape! Business knows the value of short and sweet in that setting.

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Yes! Exactly. Too many chairs makes for a DULL PARTY because people tend to park themselves with “familiars” rather than mingling with “unfamiliars.”

We’ve stopped going to these events with the expectation that titillating conversation will ensue. 😉

4. Crowing Crone Joss - April 2, 2012

It’s been so long since I’ve been to a party of any kind, I’m sure I’ve forgotten all protocols! Which may not be a bad thing. But, it is another good reason – parties, that is – to be making plans to go back home to Ontario. ahhhh, that’s better.

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Oh, I hope you get home to Ontario soon, Joss. In small groups, it’s great for everyone to sit around a single table to eat, drink, and be merry.

But cocktail parties for 80-100 people benefit when people are mingling about rather than planting themselves firmly into a single seat for the duration.

Crowing Crone Joss - April 2, 2012

yeah and the best part is you can move on when the conversation is boring instead of being stuck at the table for the whole time!

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Yes!!! 😀

5. suzicate - April 2, 2012

Ha, I’m usually the last in line as well….I figure it can’t hurt me to miss a meal, and after a drink I don’t mind anyway!

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Suzi, if you and Dirt Man ever come down here, I’ll take you to one of these communal feeding frenzies . . . you and I can stand at the back of the line, giggling like crazy as we sip our wine.

The epitome of civilization. That’s us!

6. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - April 2, 2012

I like this process, I think it sounds therapeutic and enlightening. Drink, repeat… ahhh, that;s better.

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Alcohol helps a-social social gatherings feel more social. 😉

7. ceceliafutch - April 2, 2012

I can just picture the scene. I’ve been in similar places myself. I agree that tables and chairs are killers when it comes to conversation. Every time we move (frequently) we have to adjust to the prevailing custom of the locale. When there are big round tables and skads of chairs, with the food laden buffet down the center, I KNOW there will be NO convivial conversation. In fact, in those settings “awkward silence” or “weak conversation starters” followed by “awkward silence” is the norm. I concur that no tables or accompanying chairs leads to more scintillating conversation.

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

For potluck suppers, it makes sense to fill a plate and sit down to eat the “heartier” fare, but I’ve always viewed cocktail parties as chance to nibble, sip, and chat . . . not park it and pig out. 😉

I wrote this post to let readers weigh in on the customs they’ve observed at cocktail parties around the world ~ South Africa, Portugal, England, Canada, Australia, France, and other areas of the US.

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Cecelia ~ I read your posts via e-mail. Sorry to hear that you’ve been bedridden and in pain from a bruised spleen.

Feel Better Soon!

ceceliafutch - April 2, 2012

Thanks Nancy. Thankfully it was not a serious situation, but it was very painful. I’m feeling much better now, almost back to normal! I appreciate your well wishes.

Are you still having problems with my blog??? I’ve changed so many things on it to make it easier for everyone to access. Time to call in the WP techies I guess. 😦

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Since I sent you the e-mail 5 days ago, I haven’t tried. That night, after you removed the wallpaper, I got STUCK in a holding pattern for 25 minutes.

I’ll check later today.

8. jeanne - April 2, 2012

I prefer to mingle…small plate, large glass and lots of conversation.

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Same here! If I want to pig out without being social, it’s better to stay home and curl up on the couch with Ben . . . and Jerry. 😉

9. flyinggma - April 2, 2012

My husband often tells a story of a large family from his hometown whose parents made the kids eat one or two pieces of bread before they left home so they wouldn’t devour every morsel put in front of them at their host’s home.

Perhaps a small snack before arriving at the potluck would slow down some of the famished eaters and save some for others.

At our church potlucks they have the oldest members go through the line first and then parents must accompany their children through the line. Stressing the fact that their are others behind you and no seconds until all have gone through the line first.

Manners have gone by the wayside….

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

Maybe that’s the problem, Jeanne!

Many of the attendees at our potlucks are in their 70’s & 80’s. As the “oldest members” of their churches, maybe they’re used to being first in line. 😀

It’s just such a different type of cocktail party than ones I’ve enjoyed in the past.

flyinggma - April 2, 2012

Dean and I tend to just mingle and “graze”, not necessarily filling our plates but take a few things we can munch on and visit at the same time. Not necessarily planning on sitting down to eat a meal.

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

That’s what BFF and I would do . . . if there was anyone to mingle with. But everyone is so focused on the food that it’s difficult to engender any real conversation.

Henceforth, we’ll bring drinks and mingle with folks in line for food (working our way up the line, no doubt making everyone nervous that we’re trying to cut in line) . . . then leave. 😉

10. SidevieW - April 2, 2012

For some years at one company I had the barmen well trained. They gave me drinks of a half tot of spirit and a lot of mixer. That way I could drink a lot but not disgrace myself.

We also have some who think of snacks as a whole meal

nrhatch - April 2, 2012

That’s one thing I do enjoy about these cocktail parties . . . I mix my own drinks at home and know exactly how much alcohol I’m bringing and consuming.

I enjoy cocktails . . . I hate hangovers. Moderation is key. 😀

SidevieW - April 3, 2012

exactly, and when it was work functons you have to be so sure not to make an idiot of yourself

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Drinking too much at business functions => CLG (Career Limiting Gesture).

SidevieW - April 3, 2012

so true, and people forget that so easily.

1 drink, chat be friendly, remember when to laugh nd when to just be quiet

11. Patricia - April 2, 2012

Our home owners association has a catered Christmas party every year. It’s held in our community room. Some people come fill their plates and glasses and head back to their condos! It’s just weird…

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Oh my word, that’s worse than “I hate to eat and run” . . . it’s like squirrels stuffing nuts into their cheeks for later.

12. viviankirkfield - April 2, 2012

Thanks, Nancy…so very funny! I was smiling all the way through your post!
Remember the scene in Gone With The Wind where Mammy tries to make Scarlett eat something before the BBQ so that she won’t “pig out”?
I love to have tiny tastes of lots of things…and since I don’t drink (not for want of my husband trying for the last 44 years to get me to like alcoholic stuff), if we go to a pot-luck or other foodie affair,I do head for the food trough. 🙂 I used to be really shy and would just stick with my husband…but now I enjoy chatting with whoever is there. 🙂

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Good scene, Vivian. I’m glad I don’t feel compelled to have a waist the size of Scarlett O’Hara’s ~ I guess if I did, 3-4 peanuts is all it would take to fill me up. 😉

Good for you. Shyness is self-consciousness peeking out. When we focus on making others laugh and smile (instead of on how we are feeling), it dissipates.

13. sweetdaysundertheoaks - April 3, 2012

I haven’t been to a cocktail party in years but CH and I tend to belly up to the food table to get the food while the getting is good. Learned after years of having nieces and nephews that ALWAYS went through the food first at family get togethers and left little for us. 😀 I am not a good mingler, CH however likes to work the room.

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

I enjoy making the rounds more than BFF . . . I also sitting in the corner watching events unfold.

sweetdaysundertheoaks - April 3, 2012

I can see where you would enjoy that. 😀

sweetdaysundertheoaks - April 3, 2012

Watching events unfold……

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

“People Watching” can be VERY entertaining. 😀

14. Three Well Beings - April 3, 2012

I do NOT go running for the food…not that I’m beyond that…I can eat plenty when unchecked 🙂 But when I observe this behavior I am somewhat repelled. I do not understand what has happened to make people so oblivious to the idea that recreating a form of Last Supper is going to mean others have nothing! My dad describes this behavior at each and every one of their church potlucks. It’s funny, but when I’m at a cocktail party I like to visit with others. That’s why I go! It’s not the food, but if people attack the food table, then they aren’t interested in visiting with me…I would love to be a fly on the wall and just observe:-) Debra

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Thanks, Debra. That’s exactly it. This compulsive focus on “getting their piece of the pie” is rather repulsive ~ instead of being a communal dinner with the focus on SHARING and CATCHING UP . . . it becomes a race to be first in line.

Being a “fly on the wall” to observe functions like these is FUN . . . people are amusing.

15. JannatWrites - April 3, 2012

Well, I tend to avoid cocktail parties and potlucks. I’m not an outgoing person, so gatherings are more stressful than pleasurable. I don’t like to eat community food because standing on the sidelines, I’ve seen how people handle the food and it can be quite gross. Not appetizing at all.

As you said, it’s like a “feeding frenzy of piranhas in the Amazon river.” (Love that line, by the way 🙂

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Thanks, Janna!

You’re right. Food preparation and handling is a BIG issue ~ e.g., mixed nuts without a serving spoon are easily contaminated. People reach into the bowl, grab a handful of nuts, and leave gross and disgusting germs behind on the remaining nuts. I’ve also seen people in buffet lines pick up a piece of food, put it on their plate, change their minds, and put it back. GROSS!!!!

I expect that at future cocktail parties, we will enjoy the cocktails that we brought . . . talk to folks for a bit . . . and leave as soon as the feeding frenzy begins.

16. Victoria-writes - April 3, 2012

Thumbs down to a food line, I would not be impressed with that 🙂 But yay to cocktails!

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Henceforth, my focus will be on creating an enticing cocktail to imbibe from a quiet corner while watching our neighbors play STUFF ‘YER FACE! 😉

17. Maggie - April 3, 2012

If I’m ever at a party where there is food, I’m like one of the “piranhas” that goes straight for the food. Chances are, I came for the food in the first place, not necessarily the conversation!

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

You’d be in good company here, Maggie . . . FOOD is the FOCUS. 😀

18. bluebee - April 3, 2012

I avoid them altogether – become averse to the whole mingling thing as I’ve got older :-\

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

I hear ya, BB. 😀 BFF and I go to, at most, 50% of these shindigs ~ but, if I go, I want to chat over cocktails . . . not mumble through mounds of food. ;).

19. William D'Andrea - April 3, 2012

I’ve never been to a cocktail party in my life, and after reading this, it’s something I’m glad I’ve avoided. The event sounds so boring. After reading your description, and seeing the photo of what I think is a much too small serving table, I get the impression that whoever they are who host the party, haven’t got the slightest idea what they’re doing.

For one thing, they should estimate just how many people they expect to attend, and make sure there is more than enough food and drink for them all. Then this thing about mingling and making small talk, seems unnatural and forced. Staying on your feet for the entire event can be very uncomfortable. I’m always more comfortable seated at a table, having a full conversation with friends; and inviting others to join us.

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Cocktail parties are boring . . . IF the attendees are boring. 😉

I expect that age is an issue ~ the older we get, the sooner we want to walk in and “park it.”

20. Jackie L. Robinson - April 3, 2012

Loved this…your description of the difference between the two. I’ve been to the first kind…not much fun usually. The second kind sounds more enjoyable…especially the ‘food trough.’ That’s my favorite thing about going to events such as this – the food!

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Definitely more variety than the average dinner at home . . . but only if the people at the front of the line exercise some “restraint.” 😉

21. 2e0mca - April 3, 2012

I did get to help with the nacho chips after the last Wingate & Finchley Home Game 🙂 Apparently the players couldn’t handle the Jalapeno peppers and Salsa. Bunch of wimps the lot of them – no wonder we’re not top of the league! 😉

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Bwahaha! That’s it! If they could stomach jalapenos and salsa, they would rise in the standings for sure!


22. kateshrewsday - April 3, 2012

Nancy, the cocktail parties we are invited to these days total a big fat zero 😀 We settle for bohemian multi generational dinners round a big farmhouse table. You get more to eat that way and everyone, somewhere along the line, gets a chance to say something.

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

I like the sound of that type of gathering, Kate. It’s great to pull up to a massive table and pass the food round and round. 😀

23. thirdhandart - April 3, 2012

If I had to attend your neighborhood potluck Happy Hour, I’d sit with you and Pix. We could drink a moderate amount of alcohol and people watch together. Let’s eat before we go to Happy Hour though… just in case we miss out on the buffet food. 😉

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Theresa . . . that sounds like a Master Plan! 😀

24. Sandra Bell Kirchman - April 3, 2012

Very amusing, Nancy. I used to drink enough to make CLG almost a pastime. When I went to gatherings where alcohol was imbibed, I had to make sure I was truly among friends. My friends not only tolerated me, but seemed to enjoy my antics. Mercifully, I would get sleepy and doze off before I did anything too gross.

Then I got tired of that behavior and decided to stop drinking. I had been worried I was an alcoholic like my mom and dad, so I stuck to it. This, of course, severely limited my socializing, since I didn’t really want to test my newfound temperance.

After a few years, I found that I wasn’t really an alcoholic, since I didn’t really crave drink, that it was just a habit that was as easy to break as stopping biting my nails (which I did in my 20’s). So I began to have the odd sociable drink. This means that I generally head for the food at social gatherings.

Right now, I live in a small town where social gatherings consist of a bunch of people who all know each other. I often feel like an outsider, but, true to western hospitality, these people have drawn me into their midst and befriended me. (Also, I met quite a few in my stint as journalist for the town paper.) I never observed any feeding frenzy though. And here, people stop at others’ tables for a chat before moving on. It’s almost expected that you get up and go and chat to people at the other end of the room. I like it.

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Sounds quite sociable, Sandra. My days of over-consumption of both alcohol and food are behind me. I don’t like to feel like I’ve had too much to eat or drink. Moderation in all things.

Neighbors do talk to each other here. They’re very friendly at water aerobics and other activities. But at the potlucks the tendency is to eat first . . . and then chat. 😀

25. nancycurteman - April 3, 2012

Cocktail parties are less popular with us than dinners of from six to twenty people. My husband cooks an annual St. Patrick’s Day feast and invites everyone in the neighborhood. We set up a few card tables plus the dining room table and everyone gets their share of the corn beef and cabbage.

nrhatch - April 4, 2012

Small dinner parties are my favorite too. Lovely tradition for you to share with your neighbors, Nancy

26. Booksphotographsandartwork - April 3, 2012

I think it’s a southern thing. Park and pork. Disgusting.

nrhatch - April 4, 2012

Yes! You crack me up, Linda. It is a “park and pork” potluck. 😉

27. Perfecting Motherhood - April 3, 2012

Haha, vultures! I only have one piece of advice for you. Arrive earlier and be first in line!

nrhatch - April 4, 2012

Maybe they starve themselves all day to make room? 😉

Next time, I’ll bring cocktails to drink and nuts to nibble on . . . while sitting quietly in the corner . . . like Little Jack Horner. 😀

28. spilledinkguy - April 5, 2012

I don’t attend too many cocktail parties, but something tells me I’d spend all my time huddled in the corner, too.
Also, when reading ‘hors d’oeuvres’ I have to get much further along before I recognize what it is I’m looking at than I should probably admit. Hmm… this might shed some light on that first thought.

nrhatch - April 5, 2012

I used to call them Horsey Dervies . . . a distant relative of devils on horseback and whirling dervishes. 😀

29. Team Oyeniyi - April 8, 2012

Horses Doovers here.

Cocktail party? Hmmmmmmmmm – I have NO idea – perhaps in Sydney in about 1972.

Perhaps I should do something about my social circle……

nrhatch - April 8, 2012

Judging from the comments . . . cocktail parties are disappearing from the social horizon. People want to sit down and tuck it in. 😉

30. eof737 - April 23, 2012

I don’t enjoy them as much anymore… used to. Now I have very little interest in idle chatter … could just be my age showing. 😆

nrhatch - June 9, 2013

I hear ya, E! When two people are genuinely interested in conversing, conversations are GRAND. Otherwise . . . ACK!

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