Re: Communal eating question from new UK group
From: S. Kashdan (
Date: Sat, 23 Nov 2002 00:30:06 -0700 (MST)
Here at Jackson Place Cohousing the cooks are quite good about preparing
foods for people with special needs, even though we often have 50 people
eating a meal. But, there are still some problems, because some people want
desserts with sweets, while others do not, especially not for their
children. So, some cooks accommodate and others do not. And, some people use
more oil when cooking than others, which disagrees with some of our
digestive systems. and, I know at least two people who don't attend most
meals because of needing to lose weight. But, generally the meals are quite
good, and the cooks and cleaners work very hard to make them fit the needs
of everyone who expresses an interest in coming.

There are also tensions because most of the children are very excited by the
presence of so many people, all shouting, and especially the other children.
Most of our 12 children are under 7. They tend to want to shout too, and to
run around, and to carry their food with them if they are not stopped fairly
firmly. But, some of the adults (both some with and some without children of
their own) want the children to learn to be quieter and sit still longer in
the common house dining room. This involves different ideas of how to define
rules for children and how to influence them. And it also involves parents'
feelings being hurt because they experience the complaints as being
criticized for their way of parenting. So, this has caused some tensions
that we are currently trying to resolve.

The problems of making meals that suit members' needs and the problem of how
to handle children's issues related to common meals are both more difficult
to deal with than the problem of soundproofing, although they probably
require less money.

Sylvie Kashdan
Jackson Place Cohousing
800 Hiawatha Place South
Seattle, WA 98144

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sharon Villines" <sharon [at]>
To: <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 3:59 PM
Subject: Re: [C-L]_Communal eating question from new UK group

> Hello from Springhill, Stroud England
> We are a group of 30 families currently building a co-housing project in
> Stroud, Gloucestershire ( Now that building has started
> we are concentrating on the common house and the way in which we see
> ourselves living there. We are very exc ited at the prospect of eating
> together but find the organisation of such a task a challenge to say the
> least.  It would be very helpful to hear about other communities
> experiences and how they have managed to accomplish this feat.  We are
> particularly co ncerned about administration (meal planning, food
> ordering, keeping accounts etc.) and the amount of time that will need to
> be devoted to it.

The payment part is actually easy. We have meal cards and set meal prices of
$4 and $2 for kids. People pay by check, in advance for a meal card of 10
meals. The cards are kept in the kitchen and people sign when they eat a
meal. All the checks go to a checking account from which cooks are
reimbursed for their expenses.

Meals are the one thing I feel disappointed in and they were the one feature
I was most looking forward to. Cooking for a one person is a drag. I never
eat enough vegetables.

Our group is large (75 residents now) and people often invite guests to
meals. 25+ is the standard and for a nice meal, 50 is not unheard of. Then
there is the range of eaters from meat to vegetarian to vegan. I eat a very
low carb diet (or should) so most meals are out of the question for me.
People tend to cook beans and rice, perhaps with a little meat thrown in.
The only vegetable is salad. As good as the meals are, I really need
vegetables -- not starch. This seems to be an impossible concept for large

I spend on average a full day a week (often much more) on community work of
various kinds so I have not offered to cook. Perhaps 4 years in there will
be time. In the meantime, if I go early, I stand around. If I go late there
is nothing left that I can eat. Meals are also loud. (Acoustics is one of
the projects I am working on.) I usually take a plate and go back to my

And none of this is the fault of the cooks who do wonderful meals -- too
wonderful -- too many people!

So meals are not as easy as they sound sometimes but paying for them is not
the hard part.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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