Re: Common meals - mandatory participation?
From: Margaret Porter (
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 2014 09:39:21 -0700 (PDT)
Hi, Pat. Let me offer a different perspective on common meals, particularly for 
a senior community.  When we at Silver Sage moved in, we had a common meals 
agreement that anticipated we would all take turns cooking in common.  We 
started with potlucks because cooking together seemed too daunting and we all 
wanted to have the companionship and community connection that eating together 
offered.  Seven years later we are still doing potlucks. Some of us have from 
time to time tried joint cooking ventures.  It's worked for special occasions, 
sort of, but I think we have ended up as a community continuing to think that 
voluntary participation with us each bringing what we want works best.  We have 
potlucks twice a week, post on our list serve by 2 that day whether we're 
coming, who we're bringing as guests, and what we plan to bring for food.  The 
later someone posts, the more likely they'll be left to bring what someone else 
hasn't claimed!  Sometimes our meals are lopsided (3 main dishes or 3 salads) 
but most of the time they're healthy, well prepared, with a lot of variety.  
Although I personally was an early advocate of preparing meals together, I have 
grown to love this tradition. Many of us think it gives us better meals for 
lower cost.  Most importantly, it brings us together regularly for 
companionship over food.  And most of us participate--not every meal when we're 
in town, but frequently.  And, from my perspective, we do so because it's fun, 
not because we're expected to. We have a regular schedule for cleanup by two 
members each meal, though we are each expected to serve and clean up after 
ourselves.  I personally agree that shared meals are at the heart of cohousing, 
but I personally believe we can be flexible in how coming together over food is 
accomplished. Hope this helps.  Margaret Porter, Silver Sage.
On Jul 31, 2014, at 5:33 PM, Pat Elliott wrote:

> Hi everyone,
> Until a recent community discussion about common meals, most of us had 
> thought our common meals program was working fairly well after almost two 
> years of living here. At that meeting, we learned, to the surprise of most of 
> us, that for members of two or three households participating in the program 
> is painful, if not traumatic, whether as members of cook teams or eating at 
> common meals. They would like common meal participation to be completely 
> voluntary, which means they won't participate at all, or at least that they 
> receive a complete exemption. And possibly others will decide to do the same. 
> We had a community agreement before moving in that called for mandatory 
> participation on a cook team once a month. While I sometimes have to nudge 
> folks, generally all have complied except when folks are gone, ill, or 
> otherwise unable to participate. We are a senior, retired community so there 
> is lots of traveling, etc. Nudging would be difficult, or at least useless, 
> with a completel
> y voluntary program, I fear, leading to a breakdown or serious diminishment 
> of the program. Many, if not most (though clearly not all) of us, agree with 
> Katie M. that common meals are the heart of cohousing.
> My question is whether other communities have a satisfactory "voluntary" 
> common meals program. More broadly, I would be very interested in receiving 
> descriptions or written agreements regarding other communities' common meals 
> program and descriptions of how your program is actually working, whether in 
> accordance with a community agreement or not. If you are sending a document, 
> you can send to me at either pdelliott43 [at] or (easier to get 
> right) pat6 [at]
> Thanks in advance for your comments, etc. I apologize if this is 
> well-ploughed territory for many of you. 
> Pat Elliott
> Wolf Creek Lodge
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