Re: Subject: Common meals - mandatory participation?
From: Diana Carroll (
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 2014 09:09:30 -0700 (PDT)
Another perspective: if I were single, I would be a frequent attendee at
common meals I think. I love to eat and hate to cook, and have a very
flexible diet.

And really...I LOVE TO EAT!  And we have some great cooks in our community.
Our family can't usually participate but I often read the menus posted for
a meal wistfully, wishing I could attend, because it sounds great.

If all meals had to be suitable for all palates this wouldn't happen. I
also think it wouldn't happen if people who don't enjoy cooking were forced
to cook. The joy our cooks take in cooking makes for fabulous meals.

Perhaps some of what's missing in your meal program is joy?  Just thinking

 More generally, I don't think a failing social program is going to improve
by forcing people to participate.  I never enjoy socializing out if

Diana at Mosaic Commons

On Saturday, August 2, 2014, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]>

> On Aug 1, 2014, at 1:23 PM, Susan Coberly <susandgeorge [at]
> <javascript:;>> wrote:
> > In response to Wolf Creek's post on Coho list serve re their
> consternation
> > on finding people don't want to participate in common meals, We here at
> La Querencia/ aka Fresno Cohousing [beginning move in Sept 2008] have had
> an increasingly rocky road with our common meals program. Sorry in advance
> for the opus...
> Thank you for the wonderful opus. It is the "opus" quality necessary to
> explain the whole issue that I think reveals the problem of common house
> meals. I think the conflict between desire and implementation is the result
> of our desire for both  family-style Leave It to Beaver meals and for
> cultural diversity.
> We can't have it all -- homogenous diversity is an oxymoron. "Family" is a
> bad model for a governing  a diverse community of people who did not grow
> up together. Families are autocratic organizations. However benevolent the
> patriarch or matriarch is, they establish expectations and requirements
> from birth and keep things in line until death. Villages and churches,
> etc., do the same thing.
> Diversity brings conflicting expectations: Indoor/outdoor voices.
> Seasoning preferences. Vegan, vegetarian. Fish but not beef. Beef but no
> pork. Buffet vs at the table bowl passing ("family style"). Early or late.
> Casual or formal with set tables and flowers and scheduled arrival.
> There is no longer a common meal time. Nor a commonly accepted healthy
> diet. Nor a diet that everyone can or will eat. Nor a common desire for
> what is easy to cook for large crowds. And certainly not common
> expectations of children.
> We all have our own perfectly fine personalized lives. My choice of food
> and work and entertainment and household composition isn't a "style" that I
> change with the season. It's something I have crafted carefully through 72
> years of study and experimentation. To change that because common meals are
> the center of community is not something I would be interested in. When
> I've tried common meals on a regular basis (not just in cohousing) I've
> discovered that I'm not common. I want food to be cooked the way I like it.
> I eat with others in order to have conversations without yelling.
> Personally, while I think common meals are a wonderful idea and certainly
> enjoyable and a good way to meet people, the complexities are unpleasant.
> As a person who loves living alone (with lots of people outside the door),
> quiet meals on my own schedule with my own menu are divine. I find
> occasional festive meals lots of fun--cook outs, the squash fest challenge
> to use up the garden harvest, Pesto Festo to use up the basil over
> abundance at the end of the season, Dinner at Eight for adults, Pi Day, etc.
> And living alone, meals are simple. Wash one plate, one fork, one glass.
> Usually one pan. Or no pan at all. Or just throw out the paper towel that
> held a piece of left over chicken. To exchange that for trying to move
> around 4-5 people in the kitchen, clanging plates and scraping chairs while
> the floor is being swept, topped off with a hugely noisy steaming
> sanitizer, and getting home after 8:00 is not inviting.
> And then there is the issue of diets. I literally should not eat the
> common meals except for salad. And salad only if I bring my own dressing.
> The base of almost all the CH meals is sugar -- carbohydrates. I love beans
> and rice but it's a death sentence to me with an inherited inability to
> tolerate carbohydrates and to most older people, who become less and less
> able to tolerate carbohydrates. And all the salad dressings in the CH have
> sugar as the first ingredient.
> I might eat carbs once or twice a week, but only when they are worth dying
> for. I'm not ready to die for sugar in salad dressing. In half a really
> good brownie, maybe. In a bowl of barley soup as the main meal? No.  4 oz
> of flavored yogurt often has 3-4 teaspoons of sugar.
> It would be interesting to be able to compare the diversity of a community
> with the success of meal programs.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
> For those who don't understand the carb-lowfat problem, the following link
> goes to an article in Nutrition on this subject:
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