“When I look back, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it otherwise,” she said. “Here, there’s enough people to listen to me.”
Green Vine Co-op
Organizing value: Buying, cooking, eating and acting intentionally together around food
Rules include: Label non-
vegan items clearly; sign up for “hobbies” (or chores), including performing duties of accountant or coordinator
Tomatoes and kale harvested from the backyard garden were in a bowl on the table, alongside mustard-seed potato salad made using items from the nearby Petworth Farmers Market.
And what is served up for conversation at a typical nightly house dinner at the Green Vine Co-op?
“A recent big conversation was about quinoa. And it was passionate,” said Amanda Wilson, a 31-year-old international development contractor.
Green Vine, a gray, six-bedroom rowhouse on a quiet block bookended by churches, draws residents who take food seriously.
Shopping and cooking is shared, dinners are communal Sunday through Wednesday, and spring begins with each person naming two items to plant for the season in the big backyard beds (this year included escarole, endive, chard, eggplant and at least 30 tomato plants). Much thought and talk goes into decisions about things such as whether CSAs (“community supported agriculture,” which usually means giving money up front to local farmers and getting regular installments of fresh food) significantly help farmers, which one to partner with and what qualifies as organic or fair trade.
And there’s the problematic quinoa question: Are higher prices driven by the booming U.S. appetite for the super-nutritious grain making it less affordable for people in the Andean regions where it’s grown?
The eight people who live in the house — ages 20 to 37 — are into the ethics and politics of food but also just into cooking. They view shared eating as a way to deeply bond. Committing to a vegan dinner together at least four times a week is part of the intentional structure of Green Vine, said Joe Wheeler, a government civil rights lawyer who co-founded the house.
In interviewing prospective residents, Green Vine folks have found an illuminating question to ask: What meals would you cook here?
If the candidate hasn’t given it much thought or says something boring and predictable, such as “lasagna,” it’s probably not the house for him or her.
The ad the house posts when there is an opening names its priorities: “Open-minded, community-oriented, active, and quite silly . . . a mix of non-profiteers, social-justice advocates, runners, gardeners, former Peace Corps volunteers, sauerkraut makers, readers, dancers, bike riders, explorers, writers, cooks, AND MORE.”
“In D.C., people are busy, and I feel it’s a self-selecting situation,” said Kate Conmy, an advocate for women’s rights in the Catholic Church who moved into the house nearly three years ago. “You have to say: I’m going to spend time cooking and eating together, and it does take time and energy. We’re looking for people who don’t want to be just ships in the night, but we’re so much more.”
Residents tend to be advocates and active, particularly in left-leaning social justice causes.
“One person might be working on anti-bullying legislation, another writing about a recent Supreme Court decision, another working with the [D.C. office of the] Peace Corps,” Conmy said. “We are all in interesting islands in D.C. and able to connect around the dinner table.”