Re: Question about "dining clubs"
From: drmaryanngroups (
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 2013 10:14:12 -0700 (PDT)
Here at Manzanita Village we have common meals once a week with everyone who 
attends regularly expected to join one of the cook teams. Each team is 
responsible for one week a month. We average between 25 and 40 individuals out 
of our 35 households. Some people attend every week, some never attend.

We have in the past had groups you have characterized as dining clubs. This 
started when a small number of members objected to people drinking wine at the 
common meals. They started a smaller "alcohol-free" meal that was organized in 
the way you describe: small group, no money exchanged, everyone take a turn 
cooking. As several of our older member also found a smaller group to be more 
pleasant (not as noisy, smaller meals, etc). A second, similar group was active 
for a while.

Once organized these groups were limited to about 12 people and closed unless 
one could wrangle an invitation from a member or someone dropped out leaving an 

Over time as the membership has changed these groups have waxed and waned. For 
example, both those who objected to alcohol at our large common meal and those 
who insisted on drinking over their objections left the community for various 

We also have a once a month Vegan Potluck sponsored by community members, and 
opened to both community members and outsiders. This is a hybrid 
community/outreach group.

We have lots of different kinds of events in our common house, some large, some 
small, some open to everyone, some private, some like your dining clubs 

There are lots of ways to do meals and encourage community, and sometimes 
smaller groups are more comfortable for people. It sounds like in your case 
these different sorts of meals are causing friction within the larger community 
and it seems as though it is that friction, not the meals per se, that needs to 
be addressed.

If this was happening here, those concerned (you, for example) would organize 
what we call a Focus Forum where both sides could air their concerns and 
determine whether there should be a policy change offered to the community. 
Often, just the airing of concerns in an active listening environment is enough 
to defuse the issue without further action on the part of the community.

Just my .02,

Mary Ann
Manzanita Village where it looks like our monsoonal rains may have come to an 

On Sep 13, 2013, at 2:33 PM, Jennifer Taub <jennifer.taub [at]> wrote:

> In addition to our community meals program (small, but seems to be working
> ok), we have two "dining clubs" that have formed. Each group is "closed" -
> members started on their own and have never opened the group up to new
> households. One of the groups started because we did not have a good
> community meals program at the time, and they wanted to eat more meals
> together. The other group formed much more recently, and is comprised
> mostly of younger families who recently moved in close together (although
> not exclusively). They follow this structure:
>   -
>   - 4-5 households belong
>   - Each household takes a turn cooking each week for the group
>   - No money changes hands
>   - Eating is in community spaces
>   - One of the groups has publicly invited others to join in via bringing
>   their own meals, the other group has not
> As we work to pull together more full community meals, these arrangements
> have three drawbacks:
> 1) Those who most enjoy cooking and eating together aren't available
> 2) The community's common space is in use (some of it)
> 3) Hurt feelings by those who are left out. Each group formed amongst
> themselves - neither was done openly.
> Our community is split on the issue. Those in the clubs, of course, love
> them. They enjoy the intimacy of the smaller group, find cooking meals for
> a more limited group far less intimidating, and some folks like that no
> money changes hands. Those who have more means will buy pricier
> ingredients, those with less means will cook more simply on their nights.
> Some other cohousers really enjoy being able to dine together bringing
> their own food (especially those with various dietary restrictions who
> often find the community meals won't work for them anyway).
> Those who were not asked to participate in the clubs and who find it
> impractical to prepare their own meals in time to bring their own food feel
> left out.
> As someone who has been working on and off for eight years to pull together
> community meals programs, I find these efforts really frustrating as I feel
> they "siphon off" energy for the community wide program. But when I bring
> it up I think folks think I just have "sour grapes" (that is true, too)
> because I have never been able to participate (despite asking if I can
> join). Our most recent retreat revealed that others also have hurt
> feelings. So it is tough for me on both these levels.
> My questions to this list are:
> 1) Does your community have anything like this? If so, how has it worked?
> How have you dealt with the resulting challenges?
> 2) What are your thoughts and opinions about such groups within the
> cohousing structure?
> 3) Are there any suggestions about how to divert that "meal energy" back
> towards the greater community?
> Thank you in advance, Jennifer Taub, Jamaica Plain Cohousing (Boston, MA)
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Mary Ann Clark                                                  drmaryann49 
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