Re: Meals [was Common house design
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Mon, 25 May 2015 08:37:02 -0700 (PDT)
I agree that simpler is a better option, for at least some if not all meals.  
For a while I was running a mid-week “Dinners for Dozens” program that not only 
involved a limited menu, but also set the ceiling at 12 adults total (with 
kids, if any, at another table).  This was popular, but surprisingly, not 
over-subscribed; there was no complaining about being “shut out”, in part 
because the mid-week schedules of our members seemed heavily programmed, and 
people tended to have standing commitments that kept them away from any one 
specific night.  The small(er) group made for a gratifyingly low-noise dining 

With a range of arrival and departure times, it sounds like your whole meal 
event takes a couple hours, with about two-thirds of the participants in the 
room at any one time.  I am presuming that you serve cafeteria / buffet style, 
not restaurant or family style.

Sorry if I got correspondents scrambled.

R Philip Dowds
175 Harvey Street, Unit 5
Cambridge, MA 02140

land:     617.354.6094
mobile: 617.460.4549
email:   rpdowds [at] <mailto:rpdowds [at]>

> On May 25, 2015, at 11:14 AM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at] 
>> wrote:
>> 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
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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