|Re: Cooking as a social ingredient||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: pattymara (pattymarajuno.com)|
|Date: Sun, 24 Nov 2002 09:20:02 -0700 (MST)|
At Tierra Nueva, Central CA coast, we are in our fifth year of living together. Common meals have been offered on an average of 2 or 3 meals per week. The only constant we can count on is that everything changes. I've noticed cycles of participation which then change into cycles of low energy. I've learned to trust in change. It seems to always circle round, and I think that the circles are a spiral: we are learning as we go, and that accumulated learning creates trust. So now, when attendance at meals drops, or more importantly, cook teams don't sign up to create meals in the first place, I don't panic. LIfe is happening to all of us, and we all have changing needs for socialization, or cocooning in our own homes. Background Info: Comida Nueva is set up to have 3 cooks (1 lead, 2 helpers) and 3 cleaners. Cooks eat free. Cleaners get half off. Meals are $3.00 for adults, $1.50 for kids, $4.00 for guests. The overall "rhythm" that we have agreed upon is: if you eat, then you sign up to either cook or clean once or twice a month. I just assumed the role of kitchen manager this month. As an exercise to bring me up to speed concerning the "state of the union" of Comida Nueva I recorded every signed-up cook and cleaner for the month of November. We have 2 meals per week scheduled through the month of November, including two Thanksgiving potlucks (Thurs and Sat.). The results: of the 47 adults at Tierra Nueva, 28 signed up to either cook or clean. Half of the 27 worked once, half of them worked twice, and 2 of them worked 3 or 4 times each (go figure, they just love to do it). 19 adults did not sign up at all. Of these 19, only two people choose regularly to not attend meals. The others do participate in eating with us, but their lives were in some kind of overload, such as time in the hospital, relationship crisis, time out of town at a meditation retreat, or being on a special diet. Most of the 19 who did not cook or clean in November, DO sign up normally. Now with this in mind, I can tell you that the general feeling in the community was that we were not living up to our desired expectations of having 3 meals together a week. We cut down the meal sign ups in the early fall of this year to 2 meals a week, because cooks simply weren't signing up to create the meals. Experience has proven: If you cook, they will come. Rob's question about the level of social intimacy in the context of eating together, would have to include the notion that in order for folks to gather together to EAT, there first has to be the willingness of cooks to COOK, and cleaners to CLEAN. Getting cooks to commit to signing up to do the work of planning, shopping, prep and cooking is the biggest hurdle. The very act of cooking together on a team involves a level of social intimacy. Some cook teams have been working together for 3 or 4 years, comfortable with one another, and very regular in their willingness to sign up. They spend oodles of time (in my opinion) shopping together, sometimes even having lunch out together, and then a couple of days chopping and prepping and cooking. Other cooks seem to be able to handle the work with a seeming minimum of time and effort. They work alone, or with a helper, and pull off great meals. We have a couple of former chefs, or bakers, who have high skill levels for cooking for crowds. The notion of cooking for fifty is undaunting. I'm one of these cooks. It comes easy to us, and doesn't consume more than a few hours of concentrated time. The rest of the group is somewhere in the middle. On average I would estimate that the middle group of cooking teams spend 5-8 hours to create a meal. (planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, setting tables). Then there are the Clean Teams. We don't discriminate between the two teams. The time investment for most clean teams is about 2 hours, which is less than the time it takes to be on a cook team. But some folks just clean, and that's just fine. Whatever. Some folks always clean, and hardly ever cook. Some people do both. If a cook team signs up to cook, we can rustle up cleaners with little effort. At our last community life meeting I floated the suggestion that we play a game for the month of December to sign up cooks and cleaners with the goal of providing 3 meals a week. I asked if folks were willing to participate in the game, which would mix up cook and clean teams with a random drawing of names. The group was willing with some private trepidation, because we had grown familiar with our self-selected teams of friends. At the most recent business meeting we voluntarily put our names in a bowl on different colors of post-it notes (for head cook, helper cook, cleaners). Special instructions could include "Wed. only" or "early in the month" A very organized person, Susan, created a big chart with the Monday, Wednesdays and Saturdays of December. And started pulling names for each of the meals. After about 15 minutes the entire schedule was full, except for Christmas week and a few open slots sprinkled throughout the month. Since we rarely have full attendance of members at business meetings, those who were not present at the drawing, have been signing up in the empty slots and we are well on our way to a full schedule. Provided with the opportunity to play a game, we now have a couple of guys on the schedule as helper cooks who have never signed up to cook before. That is really exciting to me. With the experience of doing it under their belt, my hope is that they will gain confidence to sign up regularly. We'll see! Back to Rob's questions: >Are there any communities out there on the list which are on the low side (four meals a month or less) who feel their >social intimacy level is high? >Or how about the opposite, groups with many meals, 12 or more a month, which have a > low social intimacy? > Or to put it another way, is there a relationship between eating > together and social cohesion as a community? Tierra Nueva would be on the higher number of meals per month 8 - 12 a month. When we have fewer meals the social intimacy feels about the same as when we have more meals per month. There is another distinction to be made: some meals are smaller in attendance, because of a range of reasons: weird food, past experience with the cook's expertise or just a scheduling problem. I happen to enjoy the smaller meals. There is a quiet intimacy to just 20 people in the room, compared to a fully attended popular meal where 60 sign up and fill up the place. There is a relationship between eating together and social cohesion as a community, but I would clarify it further by saying that the most critical aspect is whether cooks commit to doing the work of cooking....and from there, the rest follows. The act of cooking together creates social intimacy among themselves, and allows for the experience of groups eating together. And cleaners, well, they have to be appreciated too. We're experimenting with rearranging the comfort levels of the cook teams by scheduling the month of December with a random drawing....I look forward to seeing how this affects the levels of social intimacy, in the "getting to know you" department. It should be interesting. everything changes, Patty Mara Gourley Tierra Nueva, central CA coast. mmm ________________________________________________________________ Sign Up for Juno Platinum Internet Access Today Only $9.95 per month! 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Cooking as a social ingredient Jean V Reese, November 23 2002
- Re: Cooking as a social ingredient pattymara, November 24 2002
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