Potlucks are difficult for me. I keep Kosher: the traditional, Orthodox, Shulkhan Aruch kind of Kosher. Many people, in particular, many of my friends who I want to pray and eat with – don’t. So, potlucks become a problem.
There are two bad answers that I am familiar with. Number one – Kosher only. This doesn’t work, because among other problems, it limits the number of people who can participate, the amount of food that there is, and it creates an unwanted stratification of the community. Number two – Vegetarian. Under this model, the food is kept vegetarian, which limits the possible kashrut violations, and allows pretty much everyone to participate. While many more people are comfortable this way, those of us who observe a narrower definition of kosher are still not satisfied. At the vegetarian potlucks, we have two options. The first is to rely on a mashgiach-like guide to make assumptions about different people’s observance, and to inform us of what we can and can not eat. The second is to put people on the spot one at a time, to ask them what they made, and to ask them about their own religious practices. Both options are intrusive, rude, make everyone feel uncomfortable, and not to mention the headache that the host has in keeping everyone’s utensils separate.
This past holiday, up in Boston, I had the privelege of spending the evening at the Moishe/Kavod House where they hosted an awesome Yom Tov potluck. The method they used solved all of my problems. All the food that people brought was placed discretely on one of two buffet tables. The first was labeled “Vegetarian” and the second table was reserved for “Hekhsher Only” food made of ingredients that all carried kosher certification, and that were prepared in kitchens that only use certified kosher products. Each table was laid out with its own distinct set of utensils, and each spread was overflowing with yummy tofu, vegetables, quinoa, rice and other veggie delicacies. (My last-minute, improvised, lemon-basil quinoa came out particularly delicious – I’ll post the recipe in the comments.)
Everyone got to participate. Everyone got to eat. Nobody felt singled out and nobody was made uncomfortable. One community, many practices. A perfect pluralistic potluck.
Kol HaKavod!
Note:  zt pointed out a great discussion that BZ has of potlucks and the two table system in his hilchot pluralism.