Re: Common meals - mandatory participation?
From: Jennifer Ryan (jenniferryangmail.com)
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 2014 11:58:29 -0700 (PDT)
Like Katie McCamant, I am also a firm believer in the value of cooking as
an expectation.  My partner and I have lived in three cohousing communities
(and also vacationed for about a month in two others -- long enough to
participate in meals).  Since 2010, we've lived in Temescal Creek Cohousing
in Oakland, California.  I concur with the sentiment that the meals ARE the
heart of the community, and where they don't occur with broad
participation, the community is weaker.

We love our community meals, look forward to them, and even plan our travel
(we're retired) to minimize missing meals. Much has been written about how
food-ways have defined communities and societies for millennia.  For our
community, meals are such a core part of how we connect, how we stay open
to each other, and how we come to know each other deeply.  The nature of
our community would be a fundamentally different if only some people joined
in meals.

We are a community of 12 households and meals usually have about 16-24
people eating. Most of our two dinners each week are good to great, mostly
vegetarian and a preference for organic. We work around dietary issues.
While TCC's commitment to meals is common, at least in cohousing here on
the West Coast, our implementation is unusual. We don't do any accounting
or billing, menu announcements or signups for eating. We use a sign-up
system for cooking; the cooks pay for the meal; members cook two slots over
about six weeks; and  cooks are responsible for cooking and ensuring
clean-up, with clean-up help from everyone. By not announcing the menu in
advance, the cooks have the flexibility to buy what's good in the market,
cook in accordance with their own budget, and delay planning till they get
to the store. Although some cooks may opt for economical choices and
sometimes when people are traveling, they miss a lot of meals in a cycle
where they "paid" because they cooked, the sense is that it all comes out
in the wash.

I also lived for a year at Doyle Street Cohousing, where cooking is also an
expectation. They serve three meals a week, announce menus, sign up to eat,
and track costs. Their system, from our experience, also worked great,
resulted in excellent meals, and created community.

At Takoma Village in Washington, DC, our home for three years, we joined
the voluntary cooking program, and we remain closest to those who also
participated.

As to  your initial question, Pat, I wonder if those who are not
enthusiastic about cooking and eating share the community value of meals
being the heart of the community. If that was a basis for your founding,
and they don't share it, perhaps the community would want to ask them
consider whether your community is the right fit for them. If on the other
hand, it is your system that isn't working, perhaps some modifications
could help. It is interesting to note that Silver Sage, also a senior
community, has used a pot luck system, which, by its nature, is
voluntary.  Maybe
that works better for some seniors for whom cooking for a crowd feels like
a chore. Good luck.

-- 
Jennifer Ryan

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