Re: food service
From: Jean Pfleiderer (pfleiderer_jWIZARD.COLORADO.EDU)
Date: Tue, 17 May 94 10:48 CDT
David Hungerford from Muir Commons wrote:

>Is there anyone out there who is currently serving family style 
>most of the time?
Yes.  I'm in the Nyland cohousing community, and at this point I think our 
meals are mostly family style.  We started using our kitchen a year ago 
February, I believe.  (Our first move-in was August 1992, and the last folks 
moved in last summer.) We do, however, very frequently have some part of the 
meal available at the counter outside the kitchen rather than on the tables. 
 This can mean anything from someone at each table comes to get the bowls 
for that table or picks up the dessert, to an occasional buffet style meal.  
For the latter, when you really have to pick up a plate and carry it through 
a line, we do set up a table so that people can go round both sides.  We 
agreed as a community when we designed the kitchen not to incorporate a 
warming table/cafeteria style serving area.  We didn't want to eat up the 
space that way, didn't like the institutional feel of it, and wanted to 
encourage "seatings", not constant coming and going.  With a community as 
big as ours, all of those things are really major concerns.  

We have forty-two households, approximately 120 people, in our community.  
Weekday meals seem to attract about 40 people; Sunday dinner typically 
attracts more.  We serve meals four nights per week, with two to three 
people cooking.  A rotation is about 5 weeks, and people are expected to 
cook and clean up OR clean up three times, once per rotation.  People are 
supposed to bus their own places, as a minimum, and the last couple folks at 
a table bring back serving dishes, etc., and wipe the table down.  This 
leaves relatively little for the kitchen crew to do in the dining area.  We 
have a restaurant style dishwasher, and one clean up person is usually 
pretty much dedicated to that project after each meal.  I can't speak for 
everyone, of course, but I think that clean up is really not a major reason 
to avoid family style meals, especially considering all the advantages to 
having them.

A major difficulty which I think we are successfully resolving is noise 
level.  Discouraging kids eating at a kid's table and then jumping up to 
romp through the common house before most adults are halfway through the 
meal helps enormously on this one.  Interestingly enough, I've noticed that 
after a few rounds of eating with their families, the older children (8 or 
9) seem to be able to sit at a regular table as a group or three or four 
without being noisy. Some people have been advocating a kid-free second 
seating, but I'm not sure how much support is coming together for that. 

I think eating family style rather than cafeteria style also helps immensely 
on the noise level.  A moment of silence before a meal starts things on a 
nice footing, too, and that's something that's really only effective when 
most everybody is present and sitting down.  We've had some good experience 
with silent meals, too, or at least having the first ten minutes in silence. 
 It's a surprisingly calming and pleasant thing to do once in a while.

We haven't found a really good solution to the problem of creating a subset 
of vegetarians by making it necessary for them to come to the counter for 
their food.  I'm sure they would say the solution is to just stop serving 
meat!  :-)
But it's my impression that vegetarians do not create a "veggie ghetto" at 
Nyland, nor do we typically put the veggie alternative out on all, or any, 
of the tables.  Although begging from table to table certainly exists at 
Nyland, it is an activity for everyone!  Sometimes, when the main dish is 
spaghetti, say, the cooks will wheel the sauces around on a cart, and 
actually serve each person individually.  Obviously, at those times, the 
vegetarian and the meat eater are treated identically.

Jean Pfleiderer
Lafayette, Colorado

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