A lot of things are becoming shared these days – cars, energy, childcare – yet one of the most everyday and immediate of our needs continues to be atomised: our food. Imagine a community hub that provided a square meal every evening, for everyone to enjoy…
Surely that’s called a restaurant?
No, not a restaurant. And no, not a bring-a-quiche community buffet. I’m thinking of something more. Especially in northern European countries – like I’m used to – eating out has always been a bit of a posh thing to do.
That’s because the entire economic structure makes it so. The cost of running a restaurant means that the food has to cost a certain amount to be worth preparing – a certain amount more than most people would contemplate more than once a week.
Costa del London
I got a taste of something else in London, where competition is so fierce, and people so time poor, that eating out can happen a lot more often, at much lower cost than small town Britain. But still, it’s a solitary pursuit. And it’s always a one-off transaction.
Imagine a place that you subscribed to, paying your monthly rate in order to go to the community kitchen every night – or as often as you like – to eat the meal of the day – on seven-day rotation, reflecting the seasons.
Now that’s what I call community
It would eliminate the strange way in which every little household individually buys tiny, pre-plastic packaged pieces of food to take back to their individual tiny kitchens and prepare their individual tiny meals. Imagine the resource savings!
It’s been done with car sharing. It’s been done with energy where we can sell unused renewable energy back to the grid. Why not with the way we eat? It would also, in the process, have a knock-on effect on our social life.
It might mean a reduction in the epidemic of loneliness and alienation. It would mean that, on cold winter evenings in the northern hemisphere, we wouldn’t all be eating our solitary meals, aside from those rare occasions when we thought f*k it and went out for a £15 pizza.
• If this is one of those zeitgeist things that’s already happening somewhere, please comment and tell me all about it
• More urban life brainstorms? How about making cities soft?