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Cooking with roommates


fresco
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My son is making noises about sharing an apartment with a couple of his pals in Montreal. From an eating perspective, it's good that it's Montreal--the food possibilities are wide.

But few situations seem to evoke more complaints and horror stories than sharing a kitchen--some people help themselves and never replenish, others insist they don't eat much and therefore shouldn't contribute much but in fact eat a lot, some are pigs, some obsessively tidy, etc. etc.

Are there any rules or methods for making situations like this workable and pleasant?

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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It's a tricky one.

Sharing a kitchen is bad enough. Sharing cooking duties is even worse.

The advantages are clear - It can be cheaper, it becomes more practical to buy some things in bulk, some recipes just don't work for one, and everyone gets nights off from cooking.

My advice is to not try and cook for everyone every night. Have one night a week where a person cooks for the others (Or just do it once a week, on a rota). Then you can make it an occasion (Plenty of wine!). Then try and do it informally - If someone is cooking, and there is someone else in, then they should make an extra portion, if the other guy wants some. It should all balance out.

The real arguments tend to come with the cleaning and washing up anyway.....

Of course this doesn't work to well if there is only one foody type person in the house, and the rest live off pizza and ready meals (Like my current place!)

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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And wait until one of his buddies has a controlling girlfriend start living with him "unofficially". That's when things gets interesting. Next thing you know they have a mini fridge in their room where all of their food is kept and you have the beginnings of a war...(no experience here :) )

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My roommate and I don't seem to have these problems.

Of course, she has very few earthly needs.

Does she have a pulse?

Certainly she has a pulse.

She is a missionary, actually.

She is also gluten-sensitive, doesn't go in much for meat, and eats very little. Lots of fruit.

She can cook the shit out of some Mexican food, though. Between that, and what I cart home from classes, we do fine. :wink:

Noise is music. All else is food.

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Is she out to convert the heathen in Chicago?

Dude, she lives with me and has mentioned nothing about conversion.

For which, frankly, I thank God.

Noise is music. All else is food.

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:laugh:

My last Alaskan roomie helped himself to the very ingredient that I needed while in the midst of its preparation. :angry: This also was the one that always left the dishes for me to clean and dropped my favourite large, cobalt blue ceramic mixing bowl. :hmmm: He always mooched a glass of my favourite Thursday evening ritual of enjoying my preferred Zinfandel. He never shared!

Then I had a roomie a couple summers back that helped himself to one of my cold Canadian lagers in the fridge, still in the cardboard 12 pack carton. He stuffed a few bucks in there with a post it "hope you don't mind, but I couldn't resist". :raz:

Worst: during university nothing was sacred. I lived in a co ed house of 7 other roommates that all drank Gin and tonics. I think the only thing that ever remained within the fridge was a sack of limes and an almost empty bottle of tonic.

I *love* not sharing my kitchen!

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My first Manhattan roommate was an absolute slob. We each bought our own food and cooked for ourselves, but we had to share a refridgerator. N. would buy apple juice, open it and then leave the open bottle for such a long time that mold would form on top. She also cooked some food and left on the bottom shelf for about 6 months. Then, she wanted to know why I never washed out the pot.

She was a nightmare. :shock: I could tell horror stories for hours.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I had housemates several times, and the two most recent experiences were great.

The first, Matt, taught me how to cook with garlic. Previously I'd only lived with hippies who know how to use two things, and two things only: too much garlic and too much cumin. Matt was, and is, a great cook. We became cooking buddies, and that carries forward to this day. He also taught me the importance of good music while I cook. Cowboy Junkies, Lyle Lovett, Mary Black—something I can sing to is very important.

The second domestic situation involved me in a household of four grown women, two little girls, and two female doggesses. Our strategy was that each of us would cook once a week for the household, buying all the ingredients and making something nice. A salad had to be included if it was seasonal. Two were vegetarians, but we never suffered for a lack of good food. If you cooked, you also cleaned, so that we all got three entire nights off.

That worked pretty well, except I was the most enthusiastic cook of us all, and my messes were bigger. I thought it a little unfair in that regard, but oh well.

Labelled shelves in pantries and refrigerators are a "good fences make good neighbors" tactic that I came to believe is necessary.

And as far as living with someone who drinks your good Zin and won't reciprocate?

Never. I would say something about it, and make it clear that a pattern has been detected.

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My experiences thus far:

_dorms_

The girl and I pretty much got our separate food (we had meal plans) and asked to mooch. The unauthorized mooching occured mainly w/my stash of laundry quarters. We were pretty cool about sharing, and she'd get me back for her half if I did a real food run.

_1st roomie_

We went to the grocery store together and split the bill right down the middle, 50/50. When my boyfriend moved in, he started chipping in as well. We ate the same things (Kraft Mac N Cheese, Diet Coke, Snackwells Devils Food Cookies), so there wasn't a whole lot of disparity.

_boyfriend n' me_

This is where the boy and I became foodies. From Food for Less to Trader Joe's to Whole Foods. We generally split it 50/50 when I have the $ to do so (me being a student and him being full-time employed by the Navy), and when he's gone, I pay for my own food (Ramen and Humboldt Fog, you can see where my priorities lie!)

_boyfriend, me n'roomie_

The roomie eats his own food. The inventor of the Stupid Pasta Trick , he eats oatmeal, Kudos, pasta, and iced tea. When we cook, he'll eat it most of the time, but doesn't keep any of his food int he kitchen. I don't get it. When his wife is home from her post in South Korea, they go out to eat and leave the leftovers in the fridge until she leaves.

I'm the cook, and the cause of the mess, generally. The roomie empties the dishwasher (my most hated kitchen chore), and the bf takes the trash down after a few days of prodding. We get along all right.

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What's the Stupid Pasta Trick?

My partner and I live with our best friend. We save all shopping receipts and she pays 1/3 of them. (I do 95% of the food shopping.) I cook dinner for us all once or twice a week, something nice. I'm in charge of almost all food-related chores, I take care of the dishwasher emptying, the dishes, even taking out the trash. I don't have to do any yardwork because of this, which is better for me what with my allergies. The housemate rarely eats things intended for dinner parties, she has learned to ask if I am about to entertain. She is a leftover garbage disposal and will eat almost anything for the lunch she packs every day so we rarely have languishing moldy food hanging about the fridge.

But she's moving in a few weeks. :unsure::sad:

We have found a new housemate. No idea how it will work out with the food thing. We tried to work out agreements about food-sharing and food-separating without success, since we don't really have enough information to commit to a system. So we're going to wing it for a month and save all receipts and talk it out at the end to see what we think.

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It's one of the many reasons she made such a great housemate.

Now I pack a lunch for my partner most days, so I foist a lot of leftovers on him. And since I'm home at lunchtime I make a meal from leftovers often. I currently have zero leftovers in my fridge. :cool:

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My first apartment was supposed to be with one friend over the summer and then a second one would move in when fall semester began. First friend was living there all along and both other roommates had left. One left on bad terms and took all the stove burner rings and we couldn't find replacements so they had to be propped on lids and saucers and other awkwardness. Within a week, roommate lost his job and invited three assorted high school aged runaways, only one of which we knew, to move in. I would buy what seemed a weeks' worth of food for four people -- hoping at some point soon I wouldn't be the only one paying for it -- and come home the next day to find it all eaten and every dish, utensil, etc in the sink. That was the pair of total stranger runaways. The other one would help me clean and then I'd take us out to dinner since they didn't share. I lasted one month. Was not the last bad roommate experience but certainly the worst. On the other hand, right before all that went to hell, we had a housewarming party that people were still talking about ten years later. Spent the whole evening in the kitchen churning out assorted snacks and blender drinks, but in a good way. Police came, the works.

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my roommate and i are both on pretty specific diets, and have various food allergies and sensitivites not in common. so things tend to be every girl for herself, for the most part.

she is a juice hound tho, and will drink it like it's going out of style if it there. I had to resort to labeling anything i don't want her drinking (my gatorade and specialty juice are actually "dosed" according to my diet and training needs)

other than that we pretty much share. when we go shoppign she gets her stuff,a nd i get my stuff,a dn then we chip on on stuff we will both eat(fruits, breads, milk).

we both plan and cook our meals for the week on weekends, so there's no getting a meal together at the last minute issue. the good thing is in a previous life she was a sous chef, so she has taught me a lot of techniques, and between the two of us we can make a meal from nothing, and on the cheap that will last us both the whole week through.

the last meal we cooked together was a "empty the pantry on a dark and stormy night" meal - stale baguette broiled until it was toasted with from scratch mushroom gravy, canned corn beef and kipper snacks, followed by a pound of rainier cherries, whilst watching minority report.

it was a good time. :rolleyes:

Edited by tryska (log)
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What's the Stupid Pasta Trick?

Stupid Pasta Trick is pasta, butter, McCormick's garlic and herb spice blend, parmesan, and occasionally some bits of beef, corn, or peas. It's the Nobody wants to Cook dinner. (Or at least until I went on this low carb diet!)

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Stupid Pasta Trick is pasta, butter, McCormick's garlic and herb spice blend, parmesan, and occasionally some bits of beef, corn, or peas.

I'd forgotten that. A roommate used to do that but also a can of tuna. It made it quite different from tuna helper, no real sauce, and oddly tasty. Esp the browned bits.

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Aw, man. One of my FAVORITE memories was cooking with an old roommate, totally spontaneously.

We'd just recently moved in; it was a lazy Saturday. He got up before me and was watching cartoons. I got up, watched a while, then at some point I got up to head towards the "kitchen" (this being NYC, the "kitchen" was actually "the corner of the living room where the oven is") to start making scrambled eggs. As I did, HE got up and started for the kitchen too. We stopped and looked at each other.

"Uh, I was going to make some scrambled eggs, want some?" I said.

"Actually, " he said, "I was going to make myself some hash browns. But, I'll swap you some for the eggs..."

"Hey, yeah," I said. "And hey, I've got bacon some place..."

"ooh, and I think there's some tomato, I can do something with that..."

"Wait, I'll make some oatmeal as well..."

We kept talking like this AS we were cooking -- gradually adding progressively more and more to this breakfast.

And we ended up TRASHING the kitchen. At some point every last pot in the kitchen was being used. We set off the smoke alarm because of the frying bacon, and my roommate dealt with that by just ripping the thing out of the wall.

We ended up with me setting out a tablecloth and brewing tea from scratch, and settled down in the smoking remains of the kitchen for a long, hearty, and leisurely brunch.

We ended up making joint breakfasts for houseguests whenever they stopped by becuase it wasn't just food, we were the floor show.

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My roommate and I have a couple of rules:

1. Buy and/or make your own food.

2. Ask before mooching.

Seems to work out pretty well. Of course, on occasion he takes what he thought was his when in fact it's the opposite -- but then he pays for what he takes, so it's fine by me. As long as he lays off my ice cream and chocolate. (I get Godiva chocolates as a yearly anniversary gift from work. These usually last about four to six months. It's a BIG box.)

I'll cook an occasional breakfast and lunch if and when the mood strikes me. Usually I make enough for the two of us, and then some. (Otherwise, I usually cook my own breakfast. My roommate seems to subsist on an endless diet of Special K, doughnuts and Chee-tos.)

When it comes to dinner, the kitchen is MINE, MINE, MINE; he, like cabrales and others, doesn't know how to cook -- not even how to boil an egg; his favorite culinary activity is to eat Ovaltine straight out of the can....his most annoying culinary activity is to leave the unwashed spoon on top of the can for hours. I've made mention of this several times, but true to form, he forgets all about it in an hour. He usually cleans up after dinner and lets the dishwasher do the rest. He'll split the dinner cost 50/50 with me. Leftovers are not a known quantity -- I think my roommate might beat me for Human Leftover Disposal Machine. :blink:

Soba

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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