Re: Contribute to cooking common meals
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2006 11:27:04 -0800 (PST)
On Nov 29, 2006, at 10:24 AM, Chris ScottHanson wrote:

If you have grass and it needs to be mown, you don't want everyone to
participate in mowing the grass.  Same for boiler maintenance, or
gutter repair.  Why should meals be any different?

When I moved into cohousing I felt the same way. Why can't some do the accounting and others do the landscaping, etc? All work is equal. It makes sense.

But the fact is that meals _are_ different. They are daily and time consuming, firstly. They are a lot of work -- more than any other if you want to produce 3-4 meals a week. No subgroup of people can produce meals in the same amount of time it takes to mow the lawn or keep the books.

Secondly they are leveling. Everyone can be equal in the kitchen. (Chefs may disagree!) Not everyone shines at being a meeting facilitator or being the one to resolve conflicts or even in gardening. But in the kitchen, there is something everyone can do and that is appreciated by everyone else. Everyone eats.

Thirdly, and perhaps more important, meals are interactive. Not all other work is. Meals require giving and receiving. Coordinating and collaborating. As such they are the only form of bonding that can involve the whole community. Without a meal program, and active participation, you have a very different kind of community. In our community we have a subgroup that does meals regularly and other members participate in meals occasionally but it would make a real difference if from the start we had said, everyone is in.

I don't participate in meals so I speak as a non-participator. Like other non-participators, I participated early on but found it unworkable. Because meal participation is not required, we have not confronted a lot of issues that we would have to confront if they were -- organic vs non-organic food, fresh vs canned. A variety of vegetables -- not just rice and green salad. Noise. Kids screaming. Meals served on time. A kitchen that works better in terms of supplies and design.

I would call meal program participation a filter, as well, that sends a message, "This isn't a traditional condo where speaking to your neighbors is optional."

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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