Re: Subject: Common meals - mandatory participation?
From: Doug Huston (
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 2014 10:07:00 -0700 (PDT)
Here in Ashland, Oregon we have 13 households. 
Previous to building, when we acted as developers for the community, valuing 
meals highly was instilled in our community’s culture from reading the 
literature about cohousing.
Personally, when I read about those bigger communities in Denmark in which one 
cooks one night a month and eats someone else’s cooking every other night of 
the month - it sounded fantastic to me.
I don’t know about it being the heart of community, but there are lots of small 
important things that take place when eating and cleaning and preparing 
Without some regular collective activity, it would be problematic for those 
small important things to occur.
In our community we have two community meals per week. That leaves five nights 
a week for members to do whatever they want.
Members whose circumstances make eating with us problematic are encouraged to 
join us to socialize with the rest of us before or after they eat, or to bring 
their own food.
The huge majority of our community participates in community meals.
One person has found her way to participate who did not much in the beginning. 
Even back then she would sign up occasionally when her internal sense of 
responsibility drove her to feel that she’d been eating enough without pitching 
in that it was time to compensate.
Another person generally does not attend. 
Occasionally members take their food ’to go’ to eat it at home.
It is a strong expectation that members participate. Getting stuck on whether 
it’s mandatory or not seems besides the point, though I ‘feel’ the charge about 
this leeching through the responses in this list serve thread. I have certainly 
experienced that tension in our community, though not really about this topic. 
In my opinion, it’s not usually about the topic anyway.
Of course there was never a conversation about making people eat.
Sometimes in my community, and in things I read on this list serve, there is 
this phenomena I’d call the Goldilocks syndrome. Ya know - this beds too soft, 
this one’s too hard, etc. People can miss the forest through the trees. 
Consensus can manifest as encouraging people to think up all the concerns they 
can, which can then becomes barriers to a solution and making a good thing come 
to fruition. I digress.
Some members revel in cooking, others don’t want to or are intimidated and are 
only prep helper or cleaner.
The quality of our meals is very, very good. I think the perceived or internal 
pressure to produce a fantastic meal has diminished over time, but the quality 
has not.
We have always said we would provide a vegetarian option. We have, although 
since there are not many who choose that diet, sometimes won’t if we know that 
person(s) won’t be there. We have had parents who are visiting for awhile make 
meals, as well as partners of members - though they don’t live here. Offsite 
members have also cooked. 
We have very rarely had a hole in our sign-ups that resulted in not providing a 

Like Fresno, The cost is the cooks' cost divided by attendees kids are 1/2 
price. The cost cannot exceed $5.00 per adult unless the cooks pre-announce it. 
Costs usually come out well below the aforementioned amount. Cooks get credit 
for their expenses against which they eat.

Our younger than 18 years old members are just now beginning to become 
incorporated into the cooking rotation.
Some cooks have a firm cutoff day/time, while others are more flexible.
We have adapted to changing diets, more lately often providing a vegan meal, or 
at least an option.
We made it clear from the beginning that we would not accommodate everyone 
dietary preference or requirement. 
Occasionally we’ll have a potluck, but that is in addition and usually has to 
do with a holiday or celebration of sorts.

Doug Huston (Ashland Cohousing Community, Oregon)

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