RE: cooking and time
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 20 May 94 14:00 CDT
Laura Bagnall asked:
> How long on
>average does it take to prepare food for 60 (to pick a number) people?
>If one supposes that the majority of adults in a cohousing community
>work full-time (aside: is this a valid assumption?), when do those
>people find time to cook?

>Do you end up having people take a
>half-day off of work once or twice a month, and work late other
>days to make up for it?  Is it generally harder to find cooks on
>weekdays versus weekends?

At Sharingwood we only do meals for 20 at this time so I can give that 
perspective.  Last night I cooked dinner which was 5 kinds of quiche 
and two types of salad, plus melon. We use teams of three which sign up 
in advance and one person is the chef each week so you meal plan and 
purchase food once every three weeks.  My team of three broke out the 
tasks so that I did the menu planning and baking  and they did food 
prep.  I spent 30 minutes the night prior doing some food prep and the 
other team members also did about 30 minutes, mostly chopping stuff.  
The salads and melon took 1 hour to prepare and shopping took me about 
45 minutes, which was an addition to my regular household shopping.

Here is how the schedule worked for me and this is a good typical 
example of how it works for us generally showing how people work 
community dinner prep into their life schedules.

Wednesday morning before leaving for work I spent 10 minutes in a cook 
book making a list of the things I would need. I stopped on the way 
from work and picked up the ingredients I needed which we didn't have 
in the community food store. (I did actually walk up the commonhouse to 
check on what we had which took a couple minutes)

After my kids went to bed(8pm) I distributed a bag of ingredients to be 
chopped to my team members and spent 30 minutes making the crusts for 
the quiche which I stored in my home refrigerator.

Thursday evening I left work at 4pm  to make dinner. Starting at 4:30 I 
assembled the quiches and began baking with 3 in my home oven and 2 in 
the commonhouse oven. At 5pm, 2 other crew arrived at the commonhouse 
and we assembled the salads and cut up the melon, made juice and sliced 
bread. (note: we were listening to a hilarious comedy on the radio and 
at times were laughing so hard our productivity was pretty much reduced 
to zero)  At just before 6:00 we took the quiches out of the 
commonhouse oven and all three of us each carried one quiche from my 
oven to the commonhouse. All food was ready to be served at 6pm, our 
typical community dinner start time.

As to the aside about working full time - about half the people who are 
part of community dinner work full time and usually do less elaborate 
meals than those who have more time, although we have some good 
cookbooks such as Marion Burroughs, You Have It Made, which offer good 
ideas which are pretty quick. (one of my future writing projects is a 
list of good community dinner recipes from our cooks, a community 
dinner cookbook)  Community dinner is a team effort and so sometimes I 
don't even show up till 5:30 to start helping, depending on what is 
happening for that meal.

I have been consistently delighted and amazed by the variety and 
quality of the food we serve.  I expected a lot more repetition than we 
have. This weeks dinners were Pasta Pretoria on Monday, Stir fry 
chicken or tofu on Tuesday, Chicken tetrazinie  on Wednesday and quiche 
on Thursday.  Most meals also have side dishes of rice, beans or 
potatoes, usually have some kind of fruit and usually have salads also.

Weekend meals for us are spontaneous combustion potlucks.  The other 
day several us ordered out for pizza and last weekend we had a 
community barbecue potluck.  We also do weekend breakfasts sometimes in 
the same way, just everybody bring stuff and we eat together.  These 
tend to draw more people (usually everyone and assorted hangers on show up too)

I would encourage any groups which are forming to start a dinner club 
within your membership, hosting meals at each others houses once a week 
or so.  It gives you real insight into cooking for each other, is an 
incredible opportunity for group interaction and lets you figure out 
strategies for doing meals (you bring the extra tables, Sally has 6 
folding chairs, Mike has a large Salad bowl etc..) as well as good 
recipes.  Some of my non-cohousing friends got so jazzed about our 
community dinners that they created a supper club.  Just do it!

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