Monday, July 4, 2011

American Party

It's a complete coincidence that this post is falling on the 4th of July; it has nothing to do with America's Independence Day.  (First because I'm Canadian, and second because it's just not).

It IS about a concept that is new/strange/totally uncommon amongst Brazilians (at least in MY circle of Brazilians, before you Brazilian readers blow your socks off).  This concept is the POTLUCK party.
As the picture indicates, a Potluck party means that all guests need to bring a plate of food to share!  What an awesome concept, you say?  I KNOW!

However, when I presented the idea to our B-zilly poss, EVERYBODY'S HEADS EXPLODED.  I kid you not.  Nobody could really comprehend the idea.  "We have to BRING something?"  "We have to COOK it OURSELVES?"  "We can't just bring a bottle of wine??"  YES, YES AND NO!

Now, I understand that there are several possible reasons that this misunderstanding existed.
  1. I was writing a Facebook Party Invitation in Portuguese.  Perhaps there was a little bit of language barrier.  But even after I seeked the help of a Brazilian friend who wrote the actual message for me, we were still met with confusion.
  2. I was trying to describe the party, calling it a Potluck.  I didn't realize there is already a name for this party.  It's called an American Party.  Go figure.
  3. This was a birthday party.  In Brazil, you do not bring anything (minus a gift - which is always a tshirt???) to a birthday party.  It's fine to bring food to a Festa Junina.  But a birthday party, no.  Usually birthday parties are at a restaurant, or they're catered, or feature a full pizza rodizio, or maybe MAYBE the host will prepare the food, but asking people to bring food has quite possibly never ever happened in the History of Birthday Parties in Brazil.  Ever.  (Based on complete non-fact).
  4. Finally, once everyone seemed to understood the concept of a Potluck, they could not understand why they had to physcially make the dish themselves.  This was by far the most challenging aspect.  I was met with 'I have no idea what to cook", "I don't know how to cook!", and "I'll ask my mom to cook something."  Crazy!!!!
With all do respect to my crazy, lovable, Brazilian peeps, I know things are different here.  That being said, after all of the confusion, everybody managed to come up with something totally awesome and creative to bring and the result was a table FULL of delicious home-cooked food to share!

And of course, we provided all the drinks, including a full make-your-own caipirinha station.  That's how the Potluck works!  

Woohoo!  I did it!  Maybe this is the start of more Potlucks to come here in Brazil.  For us, parties at home are where it's at.  Here are a few of my tips on how to make your party more special (and cheap!).

  • Create an event on Facebook and message your guests regularly.  You don't have to be annoying; just remind them and get them excited for the big event.  
  • Decorate with unexpected surprises - for example, 10 balloons are cool but 100 balloons are stupidly cool!!!
  • Stick to one colour (or two) for a classier look.  We went with green and silver and used streamer paper to put on the tables and then covered them in plastic for protection. 
  • Rearrange the furniture to make sure people aren't separated from each other.  Or if they have to be, at least so there are distinct areas (we had a sit-down conversation circle and a games area)
  • Expect that there will be spills and messes to clean up.  Have lots of paper towel ready.
  • Make sure you have too much.  Too much alcohol.  Too much food.  Too many napkins.  Too many plates/forks/knives.  You never know how much people will want to indulge!
  • You better make sure that music is pumpin'!  Make a great playlist that will keep going for a few hours so you don't start repeating. 
Happy Partying!  Oh, and P.S.  Happy Birthday to the love of my life!


  1. Love me a good potluck, then again I am American! My Brazilian friends do this too but I never thought to ask them the actual name for it. Funny stuff!

  2. I'm having flash backs to some of our legendary parties - gah I miss you!

  3. I have to meet your friends Rach. My friends here didn't get it. But now they do and they LOVED it.
    Laur, our parties were unbeatable!

  4. My friends are keen on the "American Party" concept. As parents they are used to cooking things for others. We have one friend who always keeps track of "shared" expenses, like beer (we can drink 8 - 9 cases of garrafas!) and maybe table/chair rentals, etc.

    I always just suggest: "Bring the dish you are most proud to serve to your guests."

    Lucky us, we have one guy who LOVES seafood!

    Another good party favor to pull out at 1:00 a.m. are those glow in the dark sticks you can wrap around your wrist, waist, neck, ankle...

    Lights up the dance floor.

  5. some people have parties like this in brazil too but for a birthday party is considered rude to ask your guests to bring food.

  6. Y'see Anon, I just don't get that! What's rude about asking your friends to group together to make a great party even better? It's not expensive at all for the guests and it allows the party to be way more diverse. Plus it allows us to spend more money on drinks.

    @Jim - I love the glow sticks idea haha that would have been so great at 1 am!

  7. Because TRADITIONALLY the host provides food and drinks for all guests.
    (so guests think its not polite when the host ask them to bring food.)

  8. This is great, Lindsey! I love the caipirinha station! I (and everyone I know in NY) love potlucks--it's a town of food lovers and it gives everyone a chance to show off their culinary skills. If and when I move to Rio, I would love to do this. I'm sure I'd have to give lots of explanation, so people don't perceive it as rude... ha.

  9. Hilarious, great story great ending! Ill have to give this a try sometime in SP...cheers

  10. haha, thanks Jana!! I'm glad you liked it :)

    Try it and be sure to let me know if it's met with the same kind of blank stares... haha

    Meilina, are you coming back? Do you have a date already??

    THanks for reading :)

  11. Hi Lindsey,

    I don't have a definite plan right now for moving, but I am leaving myself open if things align for something like that :)

  12. did u expect them to bring u a dish and a gift? or just the food in this case? how is normally done in the usa ?

  13. Hi anon!

    I expect just a dish - no gift. I don't think gifts are expected at an adult birthday party in North America, that is unless it's a very close friend, but even then it's optional.

    Thanks for commenting!

  14. We always say: "Your presence is your present." So no gifts are expected. Plus gifts for adults (except between very good friends) tend to be soaps, candles, alcohol or picture frames... no need.

    I would much rather eat their favorite dish to prepare!


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