Common Eating – The Meal Itself.

This post is probably the one that has changed the most since I wrote it. I originally thought that I wouldn’t bother with any textbook. However, I think I’m going to add a cookbook to the list. Not just any cookbook, but the More with Less cookbook. This cookbook is the greatest contribution of Mennonites to the world, well, greatest after Pioneer Farmers Sausage, and Shmaunt Fat.

I also think that I will need to provide material to point students on the best ways to purchase food for large groups of people. I often find that when I’ve shopped and thought that I might not have enough food, that the opposite is true and that I’ve purchased a fair bit more than I need. 

Since my last post I’ve also come across another cookbook that may be helpful to have around. It’s called Volume, and it’s published by Sharon Steward, the chef for Manitoba Pioneer Camp. Although the volume quantities are larger than what might be needed for the class, cutting the recipes in four should be fairly simple. 

Common Eating potatoes
A cookie sheet full of roast potatoes is a good, simple cooking option. Cutting larger potatoes, rather than using minis will be a way to cut down on cost.

I would really appreciate it if people would leave comments as to how they have been able to overcome diverse eating habits in positive ways for all concerned.

If you’ve had a chance to read the previous posts in this series, you’ll have noticed an emphasis on the meal that begins each session.  This meal is intended to be the central part of the course.  I hope to accomplish several things in doing this.

Foremost, is the opportunity for students to get to know each other in a way that a normal seminary class may not allow.  The meal allows for something more than a coffee break, even a somewhat protracted one does, for  the building of relationships.

As more and more people pursue ordained ministry later in life, and there is a greater diversity in students, cooking a meal that represents your tradition, whether religious or cultural will be encouraged. As it’s a paired assignment, creating a meal that combines traditions will also be encouraged. 

I want to make the meal both a limited budget and limited (by number) ingredient meal.  Hopefully this would keep the meal simple.  Since, it would be expected that everyone would cook, keeping the budget low and the meal plan simple, would likely serve to keep the meal from becoming a competitive cook.  It’s likely that the people in the class would have different cooking abilities and hopefully this would prevent those with less skill feeling embarrassed by those whose skill is more advanced.

Common eating soup
Soups are typically a good way to provide a cheap, tasty, and nutritious meal for a larger group.

Another thing that needs to be dealt with is food allergies, and dietary choices. Before the classes begin each student will be required to submit any allergies or medical restrictions on their eating. This does not include things such as eating Paleo, Keto, South Beach Diet, etc.

The course will respect vegetarian and vegan choices. This does not mean that every meal will need to be vegetarian or vegan, but should make a reasonable attempt to accommodate any vegetarians or vegans. While this may seem difficult, it’s part of why the course is called “Common Eating.” It’s about learning to better eat together. 

Common Eating Veggie Tray.
Preparing your own vegetables can make for a much cheaper vegetable tray option.

As an example of the unaccommodating approach: A few years ago I attended a fund raising dinner. A friend who is a vegetarian also attended asking in advance for the vegetarian option. The regular meal was chicken breast, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. The vegetarian option was mashed potatoes and broccoli. Clearly, no thought was given to making sure there was some protein option included for vegetarians. 

My own way around this, if I’m not preparing a vegetarian meal, is to plan a dish, and then use the non-protein ingredients, find a vegetarian protein source, and build a smaller dish using the same ingredients. These means I can produce another dish without adding to much preparation time. I am sure there are other ways of doing this as well. 

There obviously needs to be give and take in these practices, that is one of the things that I hope students will learn. The basic approach however, is, if it isn’t going to cause you medical problems, eat what is put before you. Remember, that as a priest/minister you are a guest in people’s houses more often than not, and accepting what your parishioners offers you, is often the most important ministry bridge you can build. 

Thinking about your classmates also means realizing that not everyone likes their food prepared like you do. For example, I like spicy food of the type that makes your eyeballs bleed. However, most people don’t so go easy on the spices. You may, like one of my parishioners at St. Philip’s does, bring along some hot sauce or spice mixture, that people can add as they desire. 

In keeping the budget low, I also hope that people in the class would be forced to reflect on the cost of food.  In preparing and eating meals that are simple in nature, participants in the class will be given the opportunity to reflect on what life is like for people in their communities who are living on fixed incomes.

To accomplish this I’m suggesting a food fee of $45.  $30. of this would be the budgeted amount that the students are allowed for the meal they prepare(receipts must be submitted), and $15 for the closing feast(I’m rethinking the potluck thing).  The $15 would be due up front, and the $30 dollars would be used for purchasing ingredients(marks will be deducted for students who try and spend less/more than $30(give or take a few cents)).

I’m thinking the costing would work better on a per person basis rather than on a flat rate per meal basis. Part of the reason for this would be the time and location that course is taught. Food prices can vary quite considerably given different seasons and places.

There is also no limit on the types of food. If a person wants to cook using only fresh, local, and organic ingredients, they are welcome to do so. If they wish to cook using packaged, canned, and frozen, they are welcome to do that as well. 

By pairing students together, it also becomes an exercise in collaboration.  Both students will need to participate in the exercise, and both students will receive the same mark. While it may seem unfair if one student does more work than the other, part of the point of the exercise is in learning to work together.  For example, if you are a good cook, learning to share a kitchen with someone who isn’t quite is good could be quite challenging.

By the end of the course, the plan is that students would have developed some skills in understanding meal planning.  Some may have cooked for the first time. Some may learn a little more about simple meals. All, if it works out, will have become more closely connected with each other and the food they eat.




  1. Sounds fun — I am not keen on either the chicken mash etc for veg option mash and etc nor am I keen on just substituting say tempeh for chicken ( which is inexpensive enough). But I am keen on celebrating differing dishes outright – purple pepper jack pasta for example. Garlic of some dried variety, pasta which is inexpensive cheese of the pepperjack kind which could in limited amounts be substituted for aquafaba – a vegan bean starch ‘cheese’ or soy cheese which may be more readily available… and purple cabbage . I happen to like the McCormick brand Montreal chicken seasoning which is mainly garlic but salt and pepper as well. But at heart this is only! Cheese and cabbage? Pasta but fun colored. (Obviously dinner last! (Nasal awareness policy)). I would rather celebrate vegetables vegetarian than try to accommodate for it but no matter what being aware of low phosphorus diets say for kidney complaints /advancing diabetes (cheese) diabetes itself (pasta?). It’s/ sense of smell etc (cabbage is. Gaseous for many). I mean no matter what, there is going to be a substitute required for someone somehow! But honoring this with disclosure is important even if by doing so most excitement is visibly diminished…. I find listing ingredients just before consumption with alternates is keen but in advance too many veg or beg out.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve been meaning to suggest a book you might like – “It Happened in the Kitchen, Recipes for Food and Thought,” by Rose Nader, mother of Ralph. In the book she says people kept asking her how she raised Ralph Nader, so she wrote this cook book about how eating brings people together. I think you would like it, you can get it on

    Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018 to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cooking and sharing foods indeed bring people together.
    As for vegetarian options, I find that having vegetable patties/mini bakes is low cost and tasty alternative. They can also be made gluten free, in case such an option is needed.
    If interested, check the following links:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “I would really appreciate it if people would leave comments as to how they have been able to overcome diverse eating habits in positive ways for all concerned.” Do you mean eating more healthy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not particularly as far as eating more healthy goes. I’m wondering how we can best integrate meals, when we have vegans, vegetarians, gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, or any number of allergies. Plus there are people who are eating paleo, keto, raw, etc., etc. What I’m looking at is ways in which we can all work better with each other when we eat together.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you for opening this discussion. It is a huge issue in our family, since we have celiacs disease (which requires NO gluten whatsoever), vegetarian, meat-a-saurus, lactose intolerant, spicy addict and super-bland preference all sitting down together fairly frequently. Two kinds of soup, fresh bread and a tray of cut veggies with a dip works really well! We season gently and put plenty of seasoning options on the table for those who want bigger flavors. Taco night, or variations of that theme, where people assemble their own, also work beautifully. Grilling a mix of veggie burgers and sausages with a big side salad is a crowd pleaser, but more expensive. Everyone feels together and relaxed when they can enjoy their meal. Even with our diverse eating needs, two choices for the main dish seems to give enough variety for everyone to feel respected.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love cooking for my wife and for the family – a practice that saw us end up at Weight Watchers 12 months ago this week. Since then we have both dropped from large to small size clothing. The only way we were able to maintain the discipline was to cook together to encourage each other. We weren’t eating unhealthily – just large portions. Portion size was right out of control. We appreciate dining out frequently, and in between dining out we started cooking and sharing meals with and for each other to keep our weight in check and to have a ‘hobby’ we can share. Now… the added challenge here is my wife is a vegetarian turning vegan, and I’m not. I’m more than happy to eat vegetarian meals when we cook together, and catch up on some animal protein while dining out, or lunch time at work, or on our off-nights from cooking together.

    On the sideline we also have a young adult son at home built like a rake who at the same time
    commenced in the workforce with a fairly labour intensive job and was trying to put on weight. Our main dish had to become his side dish while he added a great deal more protein to the meal in order to make it work for him. He’s still struggling to putting on weight in a healthy manner, but by the same token he is not weak and unhealthy.

    To address my baking urges I now regularly experiment/bake sweet treats and take along to share with friends at our weekly home group bible studies.

    Works for us…


  7. How to overcome diverse eating habit?
    With lots of creativity and love! When I found out that I was intolerant to some foods I have started to create more and use ingredients in an innovative way…That’s why I have started a blog. Maybe you could use time, in your workshop, to find out which ones are the ingredients that can be eaten by everyone (I am sure you can find something that everyone can eat!) Then ask your student to invent recipes with only those few ingredients. You could divide them into teams and the team who will have cooked the best meal will win. It might work…Who knows…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for your follow! I enjoy the thoroughness of this post – of bringing common ground IE: food/eating to the table (no pun) in a group/team project. A meal can be rewarding on so many levels and this touches on the simplistic beauty of natural foods, prepared with love, shared with friends/family without breaking the bank.


  9. In our house, our family lives by a take it or leave it approach in our everyday lives lol. However, we do a lot of large cookouts in the summer with friends who have various types of dining habits, and as someone who have a severe allergy, I appreciate the need to be aware. When I know we have will be dining with many friends who have a variety of dietary needs, I often will ask for a potluck, and have them bring what they want to share with a larger crowd from their dietary “world” (if you will). And even though it seems crazy, I ask them to bring a copy of the recipe. It’s almost like an educational opportunity for everyone. Inevitably, people want this recipe or that, and often the rest of us had no idea that recipe was vegan, paleo, etc. It’s often packed with protein, delicious, and we all have the chance to share in food we might not otherwise have tried based on whatever our perception of that dietary plan was.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Home Chef have all been tried. The Rooster on the grill, April-September has the best taste and goes well with a fine Microbrew. You are always an enjoyable read Padre. I wish you weren’t
    2702 kilometers away so I could do some site testing myself.

    Wishing you a meaningful, memorable and wonderful Easter! A fine Bone-In Ham shall grace our table.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. The Rooster grilling sounds like a great way to enjoy the spring and summer. May your Easter also be a time of great meaning and joy.

      Easter dinner for me is at my brothers. It’s often a surprise as to what is being served. However the food is always delightful.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. In our community we have parties and eat together often. One way to accommodate multiple dietary needs is to set up a customizable food bar. For example a taco or chili bar. This way people can choose what they want. Also I always take a dish to share that I know I will be able to eat. We get together often and it always works out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I try to make sure when planning that I’m bringing something along that’s edible for everyone.

      If I know there are specific allergies, etc. I try and make sure there is something in the main course


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