Ask Mr. Fish, a media lifestyle advice column: the pot-luck paradox

mrfish2.gifTime for the second installment of Ask Mr. Fish, our advice column for Los Angeles media professionals. If you’d like our advice, email your problem to us. We’ll solve it, and we’ll keep you anonymous.

Dear Mr. Fish,

Okay, this is not exactly a media problem, but it relates to media professionals, so I think I can turn to you. Every two weeks some friends of mine, mostly journalist/screenwriter types, have an informal little pot luck dinner at someone’s house. I actually think you may know some of these people, because my friend [redacted] says he [redacted] you once in New York and you were [redacted].

Anyway, this one person in the group, let’s call him X, every time he brings a bottle of two-buck chuck from Trader Joe’s. Meanwhile, every one else is going all-out, buying expensive sausage thingies at Whole Foods or laboring over their stoves, or what-not. It’s starting to engender some bad feeling in the group because people feel he isn’t pulling his weight, but nobody will talk to him about it. Plus, I mean, does he think we’re clueless and don’t realize he’s only spending $2?

Anyway, let me know if you can help. The next dinner is next Thursday and I’m determined not to let this go on.

-Reticent in Silverlake-Adjacent

After the jump, we tell Reticent where to tell his friend to put his wine.


Dear Reticent:

The economic structure of pot-luck dinner contribution has troubled specialists in the field for years, because it presents problems in valuation. Is a pre-prepared beet salad purchased for $18 at Joan’s on Third worth more or less than a veal roast for which the ingredients total $7 at Ralph’s but which is prepared from scratch by a pot-luck attendee who usually works for glossy magazines at a $2 word rate? One might think that the labor adds value to the veal which surpasses the fixed market value of the beet salad, and I’m inclined to agree. But suppose the veal roast is burnt or dry– what then?

My advice, then, is to abolish this regular pot-luck event. True, this might seem drastic, but there’s really no systematic way to determine value equivalencies, and thus, the pot-luck dinner, so popular among our young urban intelligentsia, gradually chips away at the social order. Do you really want to contribute to lawlessness?