Question about common meals
From: Chili Head (
Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 05:59:58 -0700 (PDT)
I am something of a list lurker -- trying to get the lay of the land, as we set out on something of a long-term goal to find our way to a cohousing community that might work for us.

But I have a general question to ask regarding common meals, which many communities seem to participate in, at least to some degree.

What do any of you do when community members have special food needs? While there are many iterations of such a situation, my own would be that I cannot ingest gluten (anything containing wheat, barley, malt or rye) -- due to celiac disease. This doesn't just mean I'm fine if I just avoid the bread or pasta at common meals ... it actually means I am not able to eat any food prepared in a kitchen contaminated with gluten. And means also that I could not share cooking or clean up duties because of the potential contamination, as wheat flour pretty much gets everywhere. (I could clean up if I wore gloves and a mask, I suppose.) Surely this problem has come up in some communities, as it seems that lots of people (including, perhaps especially, kids) have peanut and other food allergies as well.

My usual approach to this issue in "real life" is that I always bring my own food, but sit and enjoy my own meal with friends and family, who eat the common meal. I guess what I'm asking is would I likely still have to contribute to the communal cost of these meals (which seem obligatory to me in many cases -- but that may be a misreading on my part), and would I be seen as "not contributing" when I am not able to cook or help clean up?

Being able to control my food, due to the very serious consequences of the disease I have, is quite a central issue in my life. And, quite frankly, this is something scaring me off of cohousing as a possibility. I also wouldn't want to opt out of the social aspect of eating meals together, as this seems to be a central part of most communities. Perhaps I'm concerned about nothing -- and it's typical in communities to be able to work out individual needs (disability comes to mind as well, since my husband is disabled), no matter what they are.

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