These are two words, when used together. that can strike fear into the hearts of mere mortals. When apart, they make people happy. Or less aware of reality.

Having hosted and attended many a pot luck, I thought I'd help out those who have yet to experience the joie du pottage au luck with some helpful tips.

For hosts:
1. Suggest what people can bring - and keep track. Give people categories: appetizers, entrees, desserts or chocolate. Yes, chocolate gets its own category.

2. Ask them to bring their own serving utensils. No one has fun at a party with only one large spoon.

3. If any of your guests have a food allergy, let your other guests know so you won't send anyone to the hospital. We hosted one party with guests allergic to eggs, nuts, shellfish and -- get this -- citrus fruits and tomatoes. Some went home hungry.

For guests:

1. Bring what you said you were going to bring. Unless you have substituted your shrimp ring with a chocolate fountain.

2. Show up. Being a no-show at a par-tay is bad, but being a no-show at a pot luck is particularly heinous. Especially if you were assigned the entree category. One cannot live on shrimp and chocolate alone, though many have tried.

3. Think before you bring. This is not the time to try a new recipe or substitute ingredients. Butter and peanut butter are not interchangeable, even though the word 'butter' appears in both.

4. Bring utensils, extra plates and, if your dish is particularly messy, napkins. You'll earn brownie points from the hostess.

5. Take your stuff with you when you go home. Leaving a crusty lasagna dish in your host's kitchen sink is not cool. She may end up selling it on eBay, claiming you can see an image of Elvis near one corner.

Whether you're hosting or attending, have fun and drink responsibly.