Thursday, January 26, 2017

Interview with a Long-Time Cohouser - Installment #1: FOOD

The folks of Iowa City Cohousing have had the pleasure of spending time with Sarah Ross over the past week. Sarah lives at Great Oak Cohousing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is considering the possibility of moving to our own cohousing community sometime in the future. She's been at Great Oak for 14 years and is enthusiastic when she talks about what it's been like to live in cohousing for that long. In fact, she says that if she ever moves, it would only be to another cohousing community.  I interviewed her this week and filled so many pages of my notebook that I've decided to post this interview in installments. This one is about Great Oak's common meals. Food is about as important as anything in people's lives, and Great Oak's practices around food are something we can learn from.

What It's Like: Sarah says that Great Oak has a robust meal program. They started with meals in the commonhouse five nights a week, but more recently changed it to four. Participating in these community meals is one of the most successful ways for members to interact. There is a team of people preparing the meal, a team cleaning up afterward, and a friendly social atmosphere during the meal itself. Common meals are a time to visit with others, catch up on happenings, and enjoy the children of other households. Parents get a chance to visit with adults as their children go off to play in the children's room after they eat.

Who Can Come: Anyone who participates in the cohousing work program (which means about everyone) is invited to join in the common meals. (There will be a separate post about how Great Oak distributes the work of the community.) Usually there are 20-40 people at any given meal. 70-80% of the members go to at least one meal a week.

Signing Up: A menu is posted ahead of time. Great Oak has an online sign-up so that people can check the menu and their calendars and then sign up to be at a given meal. That way the cooks know how much to prepare. There are different costs per meal depending upon age: free for the very young, a little more for bigger kids, more for teens, and more for adults. A member tallies up each household's meal bill regularly and sends it to the members.

What Kind of Food? Sarah says that in general, the food is very good and high quality. There are regular community discussions about the kinds of food people prefer, the menus, the quality (i.e. how much should be organic, meat and vegetarian entrees, etc.) and the quantity. Different cooks, of course, have their own specialties. One favorite is an inventive food bar so that people can pick and choose to put together their own combinations.

Celebrations: Although members decided awhile back that they did not need to have desserts at every meal, a special dessert is made for birthdays and other celebrations. On these occasions, all members (even those who did not attend the meal) are invited to come for the dessert/celebration after the meal.

The Core: Sarah says that mealtime is the core of how Great Oak cohousers connect. That makes sense. So as Prairie Hill members think about the future, much focus will undoubtedly be placed on our times together in the commonhouse dining room, perhaps eating from our gardens, certainly enjoying a variety of creative cooking our members come up with. It should be a food adventure!

Sarah camping on Isle Royale

No comments:

Post a Comment