Re: Common house kitchens/community meals
From: Berrins (
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 21:15:48 -0700 (MST)

In a message dated 12/1/03 2:14:13 PM, tamgoddess [at] writes:

<< One person to run the kitchen will not be enough. It's a huge job. We have 
committee that runs the commonhouse, including the kitchen. We are in charge
of making sure there are supplies and getting things repaired and replaced.
If there is something needed, you can tell a committee member. There is a
list of staples that we keep stocked on the refrigerator. >>

Ditto at Pathways.  There is one community member (who used to be a caterer) 
who likes buying stuff for the kitchen, but everything else goes through the 
common house committee.  

Have you ever looked at a recipe in a cookbook and realized you had to buy 
half the stuff?  A half-stocked common house kitchen feels the same way.  In 
well-stocked common house we have many of the little things (like a lemon 
zester) that, unless you are a gourment cook, you won't have at home.  It's 
easier to cook in the common house than at my house.

<< There is another point that I feel I need to make (again), so sorry to 
old-timers for having to read it once again: If everyone is required to cook, 
things work a whole lot better in the common meal department. People simply 
put up with a kitchen that doesn't work, and much more energy goes into meals 
when everyone feels that they are doing their fair share.  >>

Ditto again.  We had volunteer meals for over two years and they eventually 
fell apart.  There were a number of people who often signed up for meals but 
not to work. No amount of discussion was able to get them to put pen to paper 
and commit to working and we were never, as a community, able to consense on 
requiring people to work at meals.  Over time there were more and more emails 
asking for workers for this meal and that one.  Some of the people who were 
committed to having meals ended up working more than their share, eventually 
resentful and stopped signing up for extra shifts. We went from two meals a 
week (not a lot for a community of essentially 27 households) to maybe 3 or 4 a 
month.  Even those became difficult.

Some of us became more than disenchanted and we started our own supper club, 
one night a week.  Since we set it up ourselves we were able to make our own 
rules.  We started out with a limited enrollment (18 adults, open to anyone in 
the community, first come first "served").  All adults (except one disabled 
person) are required to work one shift a month, no matter how many meals you 
that month.  Work signups and meal signouts (it is assumed you are eating 
unless you sign out of a meal) have to happen by the first of each month.  
Payment is due when you sign up.  If you forget to sign up, the nudger puts 
name in a slot and you are responsible to either work that slot or get someone 
else.  We were very strict from the start (even with those few clear, 
well-defined rules, initially a few people tried to weasel out of one rule or 

Eight months later it's going great. Meals happen regularly and, except for 
the first few months, there have been very few glitches.  The common house 
committee has adopted a version of the supper club rules and is starting 
community meals again.   

The bottom line is that some activities that happen regularly need a work 
committment from all doing that activity, no matter what other role you play in 
the community.  Since we all use the common house, we are each required to 
clean the common house once every three months.  Is it a perfect system?  No; 
the job, for the most part, gets done.  So far, this newer meal system is also 

Roger Berman
Northampton, MA
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