meal administration
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Sun, 24 Nov 2002 16:05:12 -0700 (MST)
RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA
Common meals here usually have about 30 in attendance. 
Thursdays are pure potluck. This is also the meal where visitors are most 
often invited. 
Mondays are cooked by a team (often three, sometimes 1-4) with a simple 
sign up sheet on the bulletin board:
Date-Cooks-Menu-Alternatives if any- Sign up by

One handy thing is that we have a preprinted sign up sheet with all the 
usual names, plus room for write ins. Circle if you're coming, cross out 
if you're not. That way, if a cook wants to, they can ask or phone people 
who have indicated neither, often finding that they really would like to 
come, but didn't get to the sheet. This cuts down on last minute arrivals 
that the cooks haven't prepared for. 

Price is $4 per adult/teen, $1 per young child. Fifty cents of that 
automatically goes into a kitty for purchase of staples and additions to 
kitchen equipment. Cooks are reimbursed in cash or credit for what they 
spend, up to the remaining $3.50 per diner. Excess goes into the kitty. 
We're getting more supplies these days, as cooks get better about coming 
in under budget. We now have flour, organic frozen corn, organic canned 
tomatoes, butter, etc. in our pantry for Monday cooks to use. We just 
turned on our freezer: I made chili for 35 two weeks ahead, froze and 
thawed it for when I "cooked" on a Monday. 

Occasionally someone comes to a meal with their own food or snack, for 
the social interaction, but with their own special-needs/diet food. 

Cooking is not always a social occasion: often parts of the meal are made 
separately - whether at home or at the common house the night before, 
morning before- such as salads, desserts, breads. 

Spices: We are so glad we took a member's advice and got new spices from 
Penzey's. (They have a web site.) One whiff of their China Ginger powder 
and you'll be ready to ditch any dusty miscellany in your spice drawer 
and start fresh. We got ninety dollars worth of spices and they are a joy 
and an inspiration. 

A kitchen/meal subcommittee looks after the pantry supplies and such. 

An allergy and food preference notebook has a survey form each person has 
filled out, but more importantly has a summary at the front by 
ingredient. Thus, NUTS: Susan allergic to walnuts, George peanuts, Branka 
almonds. DAIRY/VEGS/FRUITS/etc. That makes it really easy for a cook who 
wants to make nut cookies, for instance, to see that they need to label 
them if they contain X, or substitute. We also label things pretty well 
even at potlucks (spicy, mild, ingredient lists). Sometimes ingredients 
are served separately: a dish of cilantro, bottles of hot sauce, and 
such. We encourage every cook to double check the allergy list. 

Another member made up a computer form for meal money that keeps a 
running total of how much credit each member has. Some pay cash each 
time. Most of us put in money ahead or take grocery shopping 
reimbursement in credit. Then the record keeper just notes who comes in 
at dinner and how many of them there are, and what, if anything, they 
paid in that day. After the meal it's apparently no big deal to enter 
those numbers on the computer and get an updated sheet showing how much 
credit each person then has, if any. When the record keeper can't be at a 
meal, he finds a substitute. 

A jar in the kitchen is a place for someone to leave a note/receipt that 
they bought coffee or such for the common house, and eventually want to 
be reimbursed for it. 

Third Sundays are breakfast potluck. 

Other eat-togethers happen as people decide to do something: 
Thanksgiving, salmon, an upcoming Vietnamese "Pho" meal. Via sign up 

Clean up is ultimately the responsibility of the cook team - in terms of 
a final sweep of the tasks- but almost everyone pitches in on clean up 
and it goes quickly. The cooking dishes/pans are usually mostly washed up 
before the meal. Someone who finishes supper early may start the 
(counter-top) dish washer and run an early tray or two through (just a 
couple minutes each) so they can be air drying till the next tray is 
ready. I often do that, then go eat my dessert and let others take turns 
at filling and emptying dish racks. We have equal or more participation 
of men in meal clean up- maybe the big steel dish washer that whooshes 
and steams attracts them? I like it too!

We have a small clothes washer and drying rack: towards the end of clean 
up, we often run a small load with napkins, dish towels, sponges, etc. 
Others take out the compost to the worm bin, wipe counters and tables, 
see to leftover distribution, sweep, clean up the beverage-bar area of 
coffee makings, cups etc. 

A rolling cart holds our Corelle plates (2 stacks), soup bowls (3 
stacks), small plates, and small bowls on the top shelf. On the shelf 
under that we have three "bread loaf" size plastic tubs, with spoons, 
forks, table knives. Stored there. Set on counter at meal time. 

A drawer under the serving counter has clean cloth napkins as well as 
paper ones. Another drawer has napkin rings (each different) so those who 
wish can keep a napkin through several meals. 

A large oval crock-pot (slow cooker) has proved handy for serving soups, 
especially "seconds" that need to be kept hot without scorching on the 
bottom. There is an electric outlet right on the serving counter. 

Mary Kraus's advice on having a Clean Side/ Dirty Dish Side to our 
kitchen and serving area has worked really well. Actually, we usually set 
desserts on the (later-to-be) "dirty" side at the outset of the meal, 
then once main dishes have been emptied or consolidated, we move the 
desserts to center stage, and start collecting used dishes in that area 
near the dishwasher. Our convection oven is right next to the tiled 
serving counter, so hot baked things can go right out. 

We have a drawer in the dining room, under the serving counter, with 
take-home containers (plastic yogurt tubs, etc) for leftovers. 

Sounds complicated, but it works pretty smoothly, and keeps evolving. 

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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