Meals [was Common house design
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 25 May 2015 08:14:37 -0700 (PDT)
> On May 24, 2015, at 12:59 PM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:

> I believe it was you, Sharon of Takoma Village, who once mentioned a trend 
> away from huge common meals toward smaller, more selective "dinner parties".  
> Do I remember correctly?

Not me. There was a thread about meals being smaller when there are more of 
them. People don’t want to think of more meals because it seems like too much 
work to cook for 30 people every night. But if there are more people, fewer 
attend each meal so it is more like cooking for 15-20 every night. I heard 
Katie McCamant said that in person. I don’t know who said it here.

The big mistake right off the bat for us was people having really special meals 
that took a lot of time. Banquets. Everyone attended AND brought guests. 50-60 
people, not all of whom signed up. It set the bar too high. Regular meals got 
back on track when Ann Z suggested Soup and Simple on Mondays. It took off, 
even though many of the meals are more than soup and salad. Some people enjoy 
cooking and do a real spread. From experience, it will be a problem when people 
begin to feel they have to compete. 

The most attended meal is exactly the same every time and relatively easy to 
prepare — Taco Time. Rice, beans, turkey filling, tofu filling, and purchased 
toppings plus chopped onions. Purchased shells, and vanilla wafers and oranges. 
Salad. I guess that sounds like a lot but the team has it down to a drum roll. 
It is usually 30 people.

This is more than about tables. We always have the option to set up small 
tables but very few ever do it.  We keep all the tables together in the center 
of a large room. What might help is separate dining areas so some can eat in 
peace. For a party once, the host arranged the soft furniture and tables in 
clusters. The soft furniture is normally in conversation areas around the edge 
of the room. The clusters were very nice. Especially with the large plants in 
the middle as well. 

I think the tables get moved back to the center of the room because dining hall 
style is just faster and easier to maintain. And no one wants to be isolated. 
They want to be together. An mixing food and soft furniture with a mess of 
children can be hazardous. It’s easier for parents not to worry about it.

The other thing that happens with large tables is that people move around. As 
they finish eating and some leave, others move to talk to someone at that 
table. So it isn’t static. People arrive over the course of 20-45 minutes and 
leave over the course of 30-90 minutes so Its a changing scene. Some move to 
soft furniture to talk. It’s not like everyone sitting down at the same time 
and finishing at the same time like you see in the movies.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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