Food is social glue – how many times have you been at a party, and everyone ends up in the kitchen? How many new friendships have formed over a cup of coffee and a muffin, or at a dinner thrown by friends? How many families have been welcomed to the neighborhood, comforted in times of stress, or surprised at the holidays with a hot dish or plate of cookies? Sharing food is a way to bond with our friends and loved ones, and to meet and interact with a wide variety of people. It can be a sacred experience, it can be fun and engaging, connecting us to each other and to the land we live on and the cycle of life we're a part of. In short, sharing food is more than just eating together – it represents part of our commitment to our mission as Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, and our commitment to living happily in connection with each other and the land.
As a community, we hope to eat together frequently. Our Common House, both the eating and cooking spaces, is designed with this in mind. We won't always eat together (our own home kitchens are going to be top-notch, too), but having frequent community meals offered at our Common House means it'll be easy – parents can depend on a few nights a week they won't have to cook, folks feeling lonely can come up and socialize, people wanting to try something new can always check out what's on the menu.
Recently, we participated in a visioning exercise to discuss some of our values around food and brainstorm some fun ideas about what community meals at BC&E could look like. Ultimately, we'll develop a mission statement to help shape how it all comes together.
Our discussion began with a little appetizer – uh, I mean opening exercise. We broke into groups, with folks of all ages and dietary persuasions to develop a dream menu for a community meal. Some samples:
Big green salad from our own garden and with other local seasonal ingredients
Hearty lentil soup, with carrots, potatoes, etc., also from our back garden
Hearty multi-grain bread, baked in our own kitchen
Big bowl of locally grown fruit
Seasonal spinach & arugula salad with homemade vinaigrette
Quesadilla with roasted peppers, refried beans, cheese (optional) with salsa and sour cream on the side
Homemade coconut milk ice cream
Egg frittata with greens
Mixed green salad
Wendy's bulgur, tomato, feta, cuke and garbanzo salad
Organic fruit salad
... you get the idea. By the time just the opener was done, I was hungry (which is saying a lot, since I'd just scarfed down a tasty grilled cheese from the Co-op). As we moved on to the larger discussion, several key themes came out: Inclusivity, Simplicity, Sustainability, Quality & Fun. These themes seem like such a simple vision, an answer to both the WHY and the HOW of eating together, but there is a depth and richness behind each of those statements that will be discussed, teased out, celebrated as we move forward with our project.
While it's just the beginning of the discussion, and there is much to be figured out, it is clear how gifted (and enthusiastic!) our group is when it comes to food. I doubt we'll ever have a shortage of cooks or fantastic menu ideas, and I'm really looking forward to cooking and eating with my neighbors.