Re: food handling/partitioned dining rm
From: Hungerford, David (
Date: Thu, 19 May 94 17:11 CDT
Personal to Gareth Fenley--I'll check and get back to you, maybe early next 

To Rob Sandelin re: is food contamination really a problem?

I think Robert Hartman expressed better than I the problem of multiple 
pathways of exposure/infection.  Did you know, for instance, that people who 
handle money for a living get more viral infections, on average, than the 
population as a whole?  One problem that he didn't mention, however, is that 
when you prepare a large volume of food, you tend to leave it out of the 
refrigerator longer.  At home, you cut up one chicken; it takes five minutes. 
 In cohousing, you cut up 12 chickens and it takes an hour (longer, 
actually), and unless you're our registered dietician or otherwise extremely 
conscientious about this sort of thing, you leave all the chicken out the 
whole time.  Also, the number of times the refer is opened is a function of 
how many need access.  In our place, the thing is constantly opening and 
closing before, during, and after meals.  There is also the fact that in a 
common refer, you have to look harder to find what you want because you 
didn't put it in there, somebody else did.  Comparing cohousing to the 
community kitchens you mentioned,  I'd bet those organizations buy all the 
food for a meal the day, or the day before, the meal is prepared.  We make 
bulk purchases once, sometimes twice, a month on things like cheese, eggs, 
salad dressing, plain yogurt . . . you get the idea.  We also leave leftovers 
there for sometimes many days.  We also store garden produce there. There is 
also the capacity issue.  We can do these things because we have a big 
fridge, and a big fridge has to re-cool a larger air volume.  I also can't 
imagine not sterilizing the utensils.  You can either buy a 
dishwasher to do it or you can do a simple bleach rinse (a couple a 
tablespoons in a dishtub of water, use rubber gloves).

regarding partitioning off the dining room to 60% capacity.  We've had no 
need to do that to keep a feeling of intimacy.  We freely move our tables 
around.  Sometimes small separate groups feel nice.  Other times we push 
tables together and make like the Waltons.  I've noticed in talking to future 
cohousers who visit us, in articles in the _Cohousing_ newsletter, and in 
this forum the almost overwhelming desire to maximize community interaction 
at the design level. We used the same words and designed with the same goals 
5 years ago.  I see this same underlying idea in the concern that the dining 
room be partitioned to feel more intimate with smaller meals attendance.  
Well, if you do move into cohousing, chances are that you will get as much 
community interaction as you want--and maybe more.  Sometimes people want to 
eat in the Common House, but they also want to be alone, or with only a small 
number of other people.   Sure you want to design to encourage interaction, 
but you don't need to do things to prevent possibilities for privacy. In 
fact, if you don't design to allow privacy, even in community spaces, you may 
end up having problems.  If you're not living in cohousing now, you probably 
became interested in the concept because you feel a certain lack of 
community, an isolation that is part of American suburban 
double-garage door opener hide in the backyard watch TV because you never 
know your neighbors spend money at the mall to be happy and go into debt at 
christmas to impress your relatives consumer culture.  The idea of a friendly 
community fills that need.  BUT.  Once you've spent every second of 
your free time with your community for a few months, its nice to get a 
little private to balance it all out. Sometimes living in cohousing can be 
too much; the ideal of consensus decision-making is wonderful, but in real 
life application it often means that for any decision, someone has to subsume 
her needs/desires/perception to the overwhelming needs/desires/perceptions of 
the larger group.  Sometimes consensed group expectations seem managable 
at the meeting, but then end up taking far too much time in actual 
practice  (Sure, if we all put in 13 hours apiece we can have that [fill in 
your preferred amenity here] built by Spring).  And sometimes people's 
feelings get hurt; and sometimes people get angry and need to blow off steam; 
and sometimes people just need to be alone.  That doesn't mean cohousing 
isn't working, or that you made a design error; it just means that sometimes 
people need space.  Everyone in cohousing doesn't have to be a best friend to 
get along, they just need to have a desire and willingness to work things 
out--and that sometimes requires a little space and a little time.  Once you 
live together you can't just leave the group--the prospect of selling a house 
forces people to stay together even if they find they are not of exactly the 
same mind on some things. I suppose I'm making a mountain out of a molehill 
on the partitioning of a dining room, but it started me on this line of 
thought so I thought I'd share it.  I'll get back to work now.

David Hungerford 

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