Re: data on the benefits of cooking together
From: Lynn Nadeau / Maraiah (
Date: Tue, 20 Oct 2009 10:34:53 -0700 (PDT)

On Oct 20, 2009, at 3:16 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] wrote:

i am looking for data that shows economic, health and other benefits of
cooking and eating together.  hard data is most helpful, but anecdotal
evidence is welcome as well.
also, any photos and rules for such kitchens would be nice to know.

Years of twice-weekly meals in cohousing tells me that in our community EATING together has major social benefits. It provides a balance to the mental-debating-process-meeting part of community life, often showing sides of folks that are easier to like than when they are arguing a point!

Cooking together is another matter. Either you are cooking individual meals in a shared kitchen, or you are cooking for a group. The group thing is what we do here, and when I need to get a menu to all come out ready to serve at 6 pm, I am not at my most social. I sometimes do part of the prep work at my own home (so I can simultaneously work on other projects at home). If I work with someone in the kitchen, we are usually very focused on the chopping and mixing and timing of things.

Sharing kitchen space by individuals or individual households, I have experience in group houses earlier in my life. Tricky territory. Who used up the cinnamon and didn't replace it? My cast iron skillet was left wet and rusted! I was saving that avocado for later. Don't use the white dish towels to wipe the floor. The areas of potential contention would be very specific to the circumstances and culture of the individuals. I'd think it would work better with extended families, or people who had banded together out of a desire to work out communal living. Sometimes, like in the Soviet Union, shared kitchens are an economic necessity, but I don't know that that makes it work better: I'd guess they just work it out as best they can.

Health benefits? Maybe learning to eat some hitherto unfamiliar foods, but on the whole, much less control of hygiene in dish washing, keeping towels and sponges for certain purposes, avoiding cross contamination from meat prep. Economic benefits? Certainly in construction, though the common appliances will get used more intensively and need repairs and replacement, which must be factored in from the outset. Food purchase in bulk can be advantageous, but takes energy to organize, and can be done from private households as well.

You might consider some combination of private cooking facilities in homes, and a common kitchen and gathering space, such as a cohousing common house, where people could eat together when they wanted to, share some fancier equipment (based on the cultural preferences of the population), and such. But then you get into the issues of maintenance, cleaning, supplies, and all that.

With the right group of people, it would be possible to have responsible shared use, especially with some really committed lead people, and there could be some advantages. But I agree with Sharon-- it's pretty complex to just go proposing it across the board as a good option.

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA

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