An OpenVillage Food Culture: Sidi Kaouki

Do you think that it’s easier to create that situation in a system where the majority of the participants are long-term residents?
I wonder if it’s as easy to do if there is a high level of temporary visitors. Then the burden is on the permanent members of the community to perform oversight. This is fine if there’s a strongly established culture within the group, but harder when the culture is still emergent.

I had an interesting conversation with @natalia_skoczylas about how if i was setting up a space from scratch for the first 4-6 weeks i’d employ a few people to come in and set up the kitchen and cleaning practices. They’d live alongside everyone and contribute in all the other ways, but they would be responsible for developing the culture of cleaning and food in the space. I idea would be to habituate the best practises as quickly as possible.

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That hiring people idea sounds useful, if it came down to it, but I would hope it would not be necessary. With a strong group of long-term residents it is pretty easy to give visitors an orientation where what is expected gets spelled out.

One thing I know is, not everyone is good at cooking but everyone knows how to clean. One thing that is helpful is to figure out how much maintenance is needed for X people living in X space so it can be determined where a baseline is, because dirty dishes in the sink is pretty obvious but what about keeping the bathrooms clean? What about laundry for commonly used items like dish towels? Also, it is a valid point to have someone monitor the food supply so it stretches far enough between runs to the store, or stays within budget.

One balance that has to be looked at with a group (I think I have mentioned this before, not sure) is how to balance the physical organization with the atmosphere or “vibes” in the household. I think is it important for everyone to consciously agree that they are of equal importance. Some people are naturally neater than others. But some neat and orderly people get upset and unhappy when their standard is not shared by others in the group. What do you do if that person is always kind of angry at the others for not pulling their weight? And what if those less concerned about physical order resent being told to clean up all the time? This is why these things need to be talked out - because there is no one way to get it right and the correct balance varies depending on the specific individual residents.

You could make a kind of grid where one line goes from industrious to laid back, and the other line goes from happy to not happy (or something like that). In the old “grasshopper and ant” story, which for me was always presented from the ant point of view, industriousness always takes precedent over good feeling because not being industrious means you might starve or freeze. But who wants to be pissed off all the time? But again, someone can be friendly and happy but always the last to get up off one’s tail and chip in. I would describe that as a form of passive/aggressive behavior.

Also, in my experiences in group living, I found that these conversations were more needed in the earlier days when we were just figuring out how to live together. After a few years, we became better at keeping the physical and mental planes in balance. Plus, living in the country especially, but in the city too, it becomes clear to all before long that you have to work hard just to survive. It’s just that if one loses one’s sense of humor in the process, then what exactly has been gained?

One thing in discussing these matters that I think is important is to keep the one-to-one arguments under a kind of control by agreeing that matters of physicality and the group atmosphere are everyone’s business. And that it will go better if a kind of quorum is present so others who might have less emotional investment in a given encounter can provide perspective. Even just one other person can thus provide a “fair witness” function. In practice, this means that when arguments erupt, or when there is an excessive “muttering under the breath” resentment, that, given it becomes inefficient to stop everything and spend the day sorting it all out, it is important to not let things go too far. When you get to the point that when talking something over becomes unavoidable it might be a conversation that generates more heat than light, so to speak. Thus, it will go better when others are present.

It is is an ongoing problem that doesn’t take care of itself, then I suggest calling a meeting with all hands to talk it over so the balance might be found.


(like when @anique.yael created the unique Edgeryders version of Shakshuka :sweat_smile:)
@anique.yael I’m glad to know that you were able to spread the tunisian food culture and i am even more happier that you created your own " Edgeryders version " of it .
hope you liked it guys


As usual John, your first hand experience of the issues at play is invaluable.

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Thanks. I didn’t touch on going to the store for supplies or carrying water from the well, but these are as important as any other part of the chain that gets people fed and the place cleaned up. It is easy to chow down on that bread in the morning!

Somewhere up there we were talking about nutrition and food economics. One thing I remember from living in a large collective where food was either centrally grown by us or bought at the store and distributed by us according to how much we had. (It got pretty specific like 1/2 banana per person per three days and things like that.). Food was seasonal and like most people, families, or groups, we had fatter weeks and leaner weeks. Some very lean, but that is another story.
We almost always ate hot cereal for breakfast. Big pots of the stuff can go far for less money. But in this cycle where sometimes we had more of one thing than another, we would often hav different choices on different weeks. And being a young and inexperienced guy who never worked that hard physically, my own body became for me a kind of lab to see how well one cereal did over another.

Corn meal - tastes good but I was hungry by 9 o’clock…
Wheat farina (Cream of Wheat) - same thing but lasts till about 10.
Oatmeal - much better…could make it to lunch or close to it.
Multigrain cereal with soy flour - good tasting if you like very hearty food, so maybe not what you would choose, but it was the clear winner for energy and lasting into mid day.

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