|food service||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Hungerford, David (dghungerforducdavis.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 16 May 94 12:35 CDT|
On about 5/16 Judy Baxter wrote to ask about family style vs. buffet style meals in cohousing. By the way, I'm David Hungerford and I live in Muir Commons in Davis CA--I've been watching the talk for a couple of weeks now. We moved in in September 1991, so we have almost 3 years of experience with meals. What works/doesn't work for us may be a function of our size (26 households; 48 adults; 27 kids; 4 teen/young adults), and our meals system. Each adult cooks once a month with a partner (yields about 24 meals) and cleans twice a month (so 2 cook and 4 clean for each meal). Meal attendance is usually between 35 and 45. We're pretty comfortable with this system--it works okay for us. Family style has a number of advantages: 1) because you don't have to stand in line, you can sit right down and begin eating with the rest of your table (buffet style, you start eating when you get through the line, so everybody at the table tends to come and go at a different time); 2) at least initially (before people want seconds), there is less traffic around the tables, and the mealtime is a little quieter; 3) families are more likely to eat together, rather than the kids eating at a "kids table" and the parents eating at an "adult table" (hungry kids hang around the common house waiting for the meal bell to be rung and are always first in line, so often the kids have eaten before their parents even get through the line--which has its own advantages and disadvantages). All these things together make a family style meal a more intimate experience. However, we eat 9 out of 10 meals buffet style, for a number of reasons: First, eating buffet style reduces the work for the cooks, and especially the cleaners, by a substantial amount. Quite simply, we eliminate serving up and then cleaning bowls and platters for 7 to 8 tables(for a meal with 3 or 4 serving dishes per table, plus condiments, that can add up to 40 or so serving bowls/platters). Second, since we almost always have a vegetarian option/version of the main dish, providing both at each table is a bit difficult, especially since there are usually only 5-10 people eating veggie. It marginalizes the veggies to have them hop from table to table looking for a (usually cold) serving of their food, all sit together in a veggie ghetto, or make them serve themselves buffet-style while everybody else eats family style. The other problem is dividing the food so every table has enough. When we serve family style, it always ends up that we wander from table to table doing the cautious "you gonna eat that?" when we spot an unclaimed fritter. Most foods also get cold when there's only a small amount left in 8 serving bowls. Soups and casseroles especially stay warmer all in one serving container. We just leave soups in the pot, and put them on the serving table (on a trivet, of course). We've even discussed investing in a steam table. Seconds are easier to deal with, too. It's easy to see how much there is left and to know whether it would be polite to take a little more (sometimes people show up late for a meal, we leave the sign-up sheet out so you can check it before you get seconds to see that you're not eating somebody else's dinner when you take that last chicken breast). I guess the lesson I can pass on to newer groups on this topic is that there are good reasons for doing it both ways. Currently, we treat family style meals as something special, like an old fashioned Sunday dinner, and buffet meals as part of our daily grind, when we need to eat and get out to the PTA meeting, the City Council meeting, the Little League game and so on (RE: a topic from last week; yes, we have an inordinate number of 'leader types' in our group). We've also come to realize that group preferences will change over time--one year you may eat all buffet style, then the next year you might get on a family style kick--SO DON'T DESIGN YOUR KITCHEN OR DINING ROOM TO PRECLUDE ONE OF THE OPTIONS. Also, when you move in, be aware of how your meals organization affects the spirit of the community AND BE WILLING TO REVIEW OR CHANGE IT WHEN PEOPLE BECOME FRUSTRATED OR UNHAPPY (this goes for other levels of organization as well), don't let it become so much of a burden that people don't want to deal with it; on the other hand, don't make the meals so institutional that people feel like they're eating at a hospital cafeteria. Is there anyone out there who is currently serving family style most of the time? David Hungerford, DGHUNGERFORD [at] UCDAVIS.EDU
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