Meals Together at Los Angeles Eco-Village

New Years Eve Potluck Dinner organized by Yuki

New Years Eve Potluck Dinner - organized by Yuki - in the Community Room

Like most intentional communities there are frequent shared meals at Los Angeles Eco-Village. There’s been some discussion lately about guests attending these shared meals. For the really intrepid stickler reader there’s the more official summary of what we’ve discussed and decided about this, see meeting notes here and here on the LAEV wiki. For the rest of us, I thought I’d blog down some of my thoughts about meals and how they work for us and for me.

We have a whole spectrum of shared meals – from the more intimate to the downright crowded.

Many of the smaller meals happen informally and rather spontaneously, such as when Melba Thorn brought out a bowl of her vegan chili to be shared by a couple of us digging a hole to plant a jujube tree. Permit me to mention here that Melba is one of the best cooks at LAEV, though she may not want to be called a cook as her organic vegan food creations are nearly all raw also. I guess she’s called a food designer. Everything she makes is very yummy and very healthy. Melba’s vegan organic chocolates and desserts are sold at local health food stores and increasing all over – and can be ordered from her Native Gardens website. One of the most enjoyable smaller meals recently (other than Melba’s chili,) was a wonderful Korean dinner cooked up by Kwanwoo for a half-dozen neighbors (see the blurry cell-phone photo below which does that phenominal meal no justice.) These small meals happen relatively spontaneously and aren’t really part of any formal participation – they’re just neighbors hanging out with neighbors.

More formally, we have two main types of meals: potlucks and Super Suppah (which has a tradition of being spelled differently by different people – so I’ve had fun varying its spelling here.)

Potlucks take place each Sunday night, starting at 7pm… well… more like 7:10 or 7:15. Right now, in the Winter, these take place in the upstairs community room. In warmer weather, they take place in the courtyard, lobby, or in the street. Everyone brings a (generally vegetarian) dish and their own place settings. There’re no assigned dishes and very little communication ahead of time, so, once in a while many people will show up with the same stuff, especially when there’s an abundance of some vegetable in that week’s Food Lobby box. Nearly all the time, though, there’s an excellent and abundant mix of dishes. Frequently folks will incorporate food harvested from the LAEV Garden. Lara Morrison, one of our standout cooks, does this masterfully.

Souper Suppers, the brainchild of another standout LAEV cook: Dr. Ann Finkelstein, take place somewhat sporadically, though generally mid-week. For Supah Supper, one or a couple of eco-villagers announce ahead of time that they’ll be hosting, then others just show up. Soopah suppahs have been great. Really delicious, generally smaller than potlucks. And, other than when I am the host (every ~3 months,) I just get to show up and eat. Unfortunately they wax and wane. Some weeks/months nobody came forward and the mid-week meal just didn’t happen. It took some organizing (thanks Ann) to get folks to come forward and make them happen consistently.

There are some other shared meals that don’t fall neatly into the categories I’ve just outlined – such as the one pictured above, which was a potluck New Year’s Eve dinner potluck, organized by Yuki. We eat out together, too, whether at the Thai place in the local strip mall, or a short bike ride to Pure Luck.

Group meals are a part of LAEV’s official participation expectation, which states that eco-village members need to, at a minimum, do two out of three of the following every month: 1) attend one weekly community meeting, 2) attend one weekly meal, and/or 3) contribute four volunteer hours toward a community project.

So… what has the discussion been?

Let me premise this by stating that I am deaf in my left ear. It’s not a huge deal – though I have no sense of hearing direction, and I make sure I keep the person I want to speak with on my right. It does mean that I don’t hear well in a room with a lot of folks talking at once. So I am not all that comfortable in a really large group eating dinner together.

A few of us recently expressed some displeasure in that our Sunday potlucks have been very popular, with sometimes as much as 15-20 eco-villagers and another dozen guests. The thought was that we might set aside certain weeks for just us locals, with few to no guests. Most of the community wasn’t happy with this proposal. They expressed that not only would it be difficult to remember which week was which, but that it would also be bureaucratic for us to introduce rules about how we should conduct meals. The Sunday potluck is a place that many of us, myself included occasionally, introduce new folks to LAEV.

And… what did we decide?

Instead of placing restrictions on the Sunday meal, we decided to create an additional shared meal that would be limited to just eco-villagers – open to just members, candidates for membership, current short-stay residents and neighbors. The additional meal is currently slated for Thursday nights; sometimes it’s a sooper supper. If no supa suppa host comes forward, then it’s a potluck. The limitation is a soft one: generally don’t bring gaggles of guests, but if your mom/best-friend/favorite-blogger is in town visiting for a couple days and you want to bring her on Thursday, no problem – though invite your rugby-team/party-central-committee/book-club to visit on a Sunday.

(A short qualifier to members of the general public that may read this: just because we are open to guests at our Sunday potlucks doesn’t mean that you should just show up unannounced any Sunday. First of all, once in a long while, we’ll cancel or reschedule a Sunday potluck, such as when we’ve been in an all-weekend-long retreat together. So, we’d like you to come to a dinner, but I’d suggest that you contact one of us before you attend. If you don’t know anyone at LAEV, you could use the contact information here… though my suggestion would be that you’ll learn much more about eco-village by taking a tour first, before you attend a potluck. Up to you, though. If you come to the potluck, please bring food to share, serving utensils, plate, cup/glass, bowl and silverware – single-use disposable stuff discouraged. Please note that we have many vegetarians and a few vegans, so your dish will be much likely to be better received if it doesn’t have any meat in it.)

This shared meals set-up seems to strike a balance between the joint purposes of meals as times that we share our community with others, and times that we build relationships among ourselves. So far I think it’s working well. We’ve had two super supper Thursdays, and they’ve been delicious… so I am looking forward to more shared meals ahead.

Time to finish up, this blog is making me hungry…

Intimate Dinner in Kwanwoo's Apartment

Intimate Dinner in Kwanwoo's Apartment