Food, glorious food

You might be surprised at people’s priorities. For example, a question we Shedders often get asked is: what happens about food? cooking? eating? It’s obviously on people’s minds, but I ask you: how important are food and its rituals, really?

We’ll let that question hang in the air while I tell you about what happens in our own little community.

Let me first of all offer you our menu for a recent week (remembering that it is mid-summer here in Australia):





Basil pesto pasta and fresh garden salad, with homemade pumpkin pie (basil and pumpkin straight from the garden)



Thai chicken and mushroom curry, with garden salad



Chicken soup and fresh homemade bread



Warm beef and rocket salad



Mushroom risotto and green salad



[Choir night. We ate out.]



Pumpkin and zucchini frittata, with garden salad


Pretty impressive, right? If I added a few more adjectives and translated it into French, it would sound like we run a 1-hat restaurant.

But there are a few other things to which I’d like to draw your attention.

First of all, you may have noticed that I cooked only once. I ate like a queen all week and cooked once. How lucky is that? And that’s how it usually works out – for everyone. We all cook and there are six of us, so the pointer doesn’t swing any one person’s way very often. Each couple takes turns buying and preparing the meal; we work it out with our partner who does what.

Another noteworthy thing is that every meal on the menu is homemade. Except for the night we all ate out, we cooked from scratch: no takeaway and no packaged meals. That’s not always the case, but mostly how it happens. Is that because we are committed to healthy eating or saving money? Of course, but on another level, it has to do with having to cook only once a week. Cooking is fun if you’re not required to do it too often, and we all find cooking from scratch is more satisfying than throwing together a tin of this and a package of that.

Closely related to the above point, every meal was utterly delicious. That’s a function of (a) a little friendly competition and (b) the marvellous internet. I go to Chef Google, type in the word “recipe” followed by whatever is in surplus in the garden or on special at the supermarket, and a screenful of possibilities comes up. If the recipe has 5 stars, it will be a winner every time.

Another part of our system is that the cook(s) don’t have to clean up. And with all those happy diners to help after the meal, it’s not a big job – no matter how messy the chef has been.

(If you’re wondering about breakfast and lunch: everyone’s on their own. Although we occasionally end up with our cereal bowls at the same table, it’s by coincidence.)

But let’s get back to the question of how important food really is in the livelihood of an intentional community like ours.

Let me tell a cautionary tale.

Last year, I went to a yoga retreat in a wonderful location deep in the hills not far from here. Like some 15 other fellow yogis, I stayed in a little cabin. The cabin had its own tiny kitchen, with a bar fridge, two burners and a microwave, but during the retreat we all ate in a big communal dining room, which adjoined one of the largest and best-equipped kitchens I’ve ever seen.

Now, here’s the interesting thing: this little village was built in the 70s by a group of people (five couples, apparently) who wanted to live together in an intentional community. I don’t have full details about what happened, but the story is that after three or four years, people fell out. Harmony evaporated, the community was dissolved and the property was sold to become homestay accommodation.

After spending three days there, I can testify that ghosts do exist. The phantoms of those original visionaries are still wandering the site, their unfulfilled dreams intensifying their restlessness. Any time I found myself thinking about their failed community, I would suddenly catch a shimmering glimpse of bell-bottoms, big hair and tense faces. I envisioned them cooking in their cabins on their little two-burner stoves and eating, alone or in couples, in front of their own private televisions, while the big dining room sat empty.

So what has this to do with the Shedders happily cooking and eating together, and with our fine menu from last week?

Well, our situation, with no two-burner stoves anywhere, has us together in the kitchen and at the table each night. It’s a time for discussing, sharing, informing, resolving – and eating great food.

I reckon that’s an essential ingredient in the recipe for successful communal living.


5 thoughts on “Food, glorious food

  1. Joyce, let’s sneak over to Australia and get in on those wonderful , healthy meals….. and we will live to be 100. Waiting for next epistle, Heather…..wonder what it will be about?

    Date: Sat, 2 Mar 2013 02:43:45 +0000

  2. Cooking once a week or even twice sounds brilliant. I’d look forward to my cooking day and make more inspiring food. An awful lot of my time is spent planning, budgeting, purchasing, preparing and cleaning up each meal x 7 days a week.

  3. Pingback: The simple life | SHEDDERS, by Heather Bolstler

  4. Pingback: The simple life - Shedders

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s