Re: Paying for meals...and cooking them
From: David L. Mandel (
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 95 07:43 CST
Stuart of N St. writes that the rumor is true: Folks pay cash for each meal 
and may well not know the price until they actually arrive. Still sounds 
horrific to me, but hey, it takes all kinds. Invite me for dinner sometime and
maybe I'll be amazed. 
        A few questions: do you require exact change? When you haven't made it
to the bank that day and need to borrow from a neighbor, doesn't that add 
hassles and complications to your life? And how do cooks calculate the cost of
a meal? Surely you have a lot of staples already in your pantry. Also what 
about the cost of electricity, gas, cleaning materials, water? Replacing the 
fridge someday?
        True, any system must guess at eventual replacement costs and 
recurrent non-food expenses. But at least we know we're guessing and once a 
year or so we take stock to see how it looks in the big picture of covering 
these types of costs.
        And while there is a bit of bookkeeping, the person who does ours has 
it pretty much on computerized autopilot, she says. And very little money or 
even checks ever have to change hands. 
        Finally, I assume N St. has some pretty low-income people, as we do. 
Aren't they deterred from going to the more expensive meals? That would feel 
creepy if it happened here.


        On another thread, it makes me nervous to hear about policies that say
the more you eat the more you cook. Founders of a cohousing community may be 
highly motivated enough, for the most part, that this doesn't have a serious 
negative effect on the numbers of folks cooking and eating (though it sounds 
like it has deterred singles at Winslow and perhaps elsewhere). But think 
years from now, when some of us founders move away or mellow out. While we 
can't legally force people to cook, I'm worried that in some coho sites at 
least, the acceptability of opting out of cooking by not eating common meals 
could accelerate a tendency to revert to being a more standard condo 
development. Might it then lease the common house to a restaurant owner? 
        If common dining at least a couple times a week is such a central 
feature of the cohousing concept, then shouldn't we at least exert major peer 
pressure to have all participate in the work (eating any given meal is still 
optional, of course)? I know that with us the issue never arose (not yet, 
anyway). If you live here, you're expected to be on a cooking team, and each 
cooking team is expected to do its thing once a month. Perhaps making the 
schedule less onerous than it seems to be elsewhere keeps anyone from feeling 
too oppressed by it.


        Another issue that hasn't arisen (also yet) is any perceived unequal 
burden on childless adults, for instance a complaint that they're cooking for 
others' kids, whose parents thereby reap an unfair benefit. I have to agree 
with Stuart that from here, such a complaint sounds pretty petty. It probably 
has to do with folks' expectations, though. In our founding and recruiting, we
always said that we intended to establish a "child-friendly" community, 
meaning that adults who chose not to have their own were welcome as long as 
they accepted that a lot of the facilities and policies would be oriented 
around kids. So for the most part, the childless adults who joined expected 
and even sought an environment in which they could relate (in some cases, 
wonderfully and intensively) to children without the constant responsibility 
for them. Everyone's home purchase included built-in $$ for the young 
children's room, teen room and playground, so in comparison to that, what's a 
few extra little mouths to feed when we're cooking for 30 or so adults anyway?
By the way, we also all chip in for child care money for the teens during 
general meetings. And all adults, parents and non-parents, are encouraged to 
take turns too.
        If some folks want to start an adults-only cohousing and it's legal in
your state, go ahead. May we come for retreats?

David Mandel, Southside Park, Sacramento 

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