Re: Meals and Dietary Preferences & Requirements
From: Elizabeth Stevenson (
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 08:50:03 -0600 (MDT)
The most important thing that our community does that makes the process 
easier is that we have semi-permanent cook teams. We only change partners
every six months, and many teams choose to stay together for years. What
this means is that you can have a repertoire of meals that you know everyone
can and will eat, and you don't have to, as they say, reinvent the wheel
every mealtime. I've been a vocal opponent of changing who you cook with for
every meal, but for some reason new groups tend to prefer this. I think it's
a misguided romantic notion of getting to know everyone. It means alot more
work for every meal, so groups end up disenfranchising those with special
diets. Another benefit of stable groups: you can tailor your cook times to
when it is convenient for everyone on the team. We have a member who
belonged to a group that had no teams, and she thinks our system is vastly

Surprisingly enough, I don't think we have any people who are diabetic(yet).
If they are, they are closeted. We have vegans, vegetarians, and a couple of
wheat free. We also have lactose-intolerant, but they get by with lact-aid
pills. My son is allergic to dairy, and we just have to eat the vegan food
when the meal is based on cheese. We usually just skip those meals.

We have people's diet preferences listed on the sign-up sheet, so that we
know who needs to be accommodated for each meal. Sometimes, we don't need to
cook a vegan alternative or whatever. Many cook teams get by the problem by
cooking all vegan meals, or having an entree that is easily cooked
separately, liked baked chicken and baked tofu, made with the same marinade.
And it's just as easy to throw TVP into one pot of stew and ground turkey
into another.

We also indicate if there will be a kid-friendly substitute on the meal
sign-up. So if we're having spicy Thai food, there might be fish sticks,
too. The kids food is often very simple frozen food. I'd say that gets the
older kids to be more adventurous and eat more adult food.

As a person whose child has special dietary needs, it can get frustrating
that there isn't always something they cook that he's willing to eat. But
the alternative is to make separate meals for everyone.

We have found a balance, although precarious at times. Most folks have come
to understand that we do our best to accommodate most people, and that some
meals will just not be for everyone.

Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, California

tamgoddess [at]

>From: Sharon Villines <sharonvillines [at]>
>To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
>Subject: [C-L]_Meals and Dietary Preferences & Requirements
>Date: Mon, Jul 2, 2001, 1:16 PM

> We are just getting our meal program going and I have some questions about
> how you handle all the diet stuff.
> I have diabetes that is diet controlled except when I eat commonhouse meals.
> Then I go over the top with all the high-glycemic-index food and it takes
> several days to get back on track.  Starch seems to be the order of the
> day--starch over starch with salad on the side followed by sugar.
> No one  is forcing me to eat the absolutely delicious food, mind you, but
> when faced with another meal where the only thing I _should_ eat is salad, I
> can see I need to do something differently.
> THEN when I think of cooking for the group I start with a menu, calculating
> amounts and logistics, thinking about how delicious this meal will be, etc.,
> and run right into restrictions -- wheat-sensitive, lactose-intolerant,
> vegan, vegetarian, meat necessary, no "junk", child friendly, no hot spices.
> I know perfectly well how to cook for all these preferences/restrictions
> (and have been on one or the other of these diets myself at one time or
> another) but the complexity of cooking for all of them at the same time
> takes all the anticipated fun out of it for me. You become a short order
> cook.
> Commonhouse meals were one of the things I was looking forward to most but
> they have become a booby-trap. How do you all handle this?
> Sharon
> --
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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