A Cornucopia of Communes

Pictures of most of the communities featured in Commune Life over the last year.  (All communes are in US states unless otherwise noted.)

Acorn, Mineral, VA:


Baltimore Free Farm, Baltimore, MD:


Cambia, Louisa, VA:

Cambia 4

Compersia, Washington, DC:


East Wind, Tecumseh, MO:


las Indias, Madrid, Spain:


Living Energy Farm, Louisa, VA:


Oran MórSquires, MO:

Summer OM5a

Quercus (disbanded), Richmond, VA:

Porch music jam on our snazy palette-finished porch

Rainforest Lab, Forks, WA:


Sandhill Farm, Rutledge, MO:

Sandhill 1

Sycamore Farm, Arcadia, VA:


The Common Unity Project (TCUP),  Gitxsan Territory, Hazelton, BC (Canada):


Twin Oaks, Louisa, VA:





A Cornucopia of Communes

las Indias’ 2017 Winter

LIWint1 This year María and Nat celebrated the Chinese New Year in London

LIWint2Birthdays are a big celebration among us. We celebrated Mayra’s with an oyster lunch and…

LIWint3…a special meal prepared by one of our customers who happens to be a great chef already recognized with two Michelin stars

LIWint4Caro will come back from Argentina during the Spring for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile we have chats and videochats.

LIWint5We started an «open doors» program for people under 30. Almu is the first visiting member.

LIWint6Young people participating in the program live and work with us learning information analysis and experiencing communal life.

LIWint7The arrival of visiting communards fuels conversations almost every day after midnight… sometimes until dawn.

las Indias’ 2017 Winter

Why producing in common is the starting point

by David de Ugarte, from El Jardin Indiano, Thursday, January 19th, 2017

It would seem that the whole history of technology, with all its social and political challenges, has coalesced to put us within reach of the possibility of developing ourselves and contributing autonomy to our community by taking the leap to producing in common with those close to us.

If we study the productive reality of the last thirty years, the changes turn out to be amazing. Among all of them, the most striking, the most unexpected, the one that most strongly contradicted the idea that the great economic systems of the twentieth century had about themselves, was not that the future would be full of computers, cellphones, and electronic equipment. That idea had already appeared in the ’40s and ’50s in science fiction and popular futurism. Nor was it globalization. The idea of a world united by free trade had been part of the Anglo-Saxon liberal ideal since the Victorian era, and from the foundation of the League of Nations, between the wars, it was part of the declared objectives of the great English-speaking powers.producing1

No, the most shocking thing was the beginning of the end of business gigantism. From the State businesses of the USSR, to shipbuilding and metallurgy in Asturias, from Welsh mining to United Steel or the big automotive companies, the oligarchs that had been the model of “enterprise” for the contemporary industrial world, stopped hiring, collapsed, and fired tens of thousands of workers. It wasn’t just “de-localization”: the new Chinese or Vietnamese plants didn’t grow indefinitely, either. Markets like electronic products expanded year after year, and yet personnel and capital global used were reduced. It was said that the new labor-intensive industries would be services, especially services connected with the new dominant form of capital: finance. But soon, banks and insurers that employed hundreds of thousands of people at the turn of the century started to reduce personnel. Today, the great banks are on track to reduce personnel by 30% over the next decade.

What happened?

producing2What had happened was, in fact, amazing. Following the Second World War, the United States had become the great provider to the world. When the war ended, US GDP was around half of the global GDP. Benefiting from the European need for reconstruction and from peace treaties that, while not reaching the level of humiliation of Versailles, were openly asymmetrical, big Anglo-Saxon businesses globalized at great speed speed. It was a dream come true for their shareholders. It wasn’t at all strange to economists. At the time, if Marxists, Keynsians, and neoliberals agreed on anything, it was that businesses were able to, and in fact tended to, grow indefinitely. But by the ’50s, it was already obvious that something was going wrong. In the USSR and the countries of the East European, you could always blame the arbitrariness of the political system or the mistakes of the planners. But in the USA, it was different. And yet, it was there, present and invisible, like an elephant in a high-society gala. The first to realize it was a economist called Kenneth Boulding. Boulding noted that American businesses were reaching the limit of their scale, the point at which inefficiencies due to having to manage a larger size were not compensated for by the benefits of being bigger. Looking at the America of his time, he also warned that big businesses would try compensate for their inefficiencies using their weight in the market and in the State. We were under pressure long before “too big to fail” in the crisis of 2008, but he could already tell that Big Businesses would not hesitate to use the power they had as a result of employing tens of thousands of people to get made-to-fit regulations and thinly-veiled monopolies. Business over-scaling, warned Boulding, could end up being a danger to the two main institutions of our society: state and market.

producing3But what came next was even more surprising. Businesses bet on improving their systems and processes. They discovered that information was important—crucial—to avoid entering the phase in which inefficiencies grew exponentially. It also became obvious that a business size that was inefficient for one market became reasonably efficient for a larger market. As a result, they used all their power to promote a branch of technology that had shone only marginally in the great war: information. With this same objective, as soon as the opportunity arose, they pushed governments to reach commercial agreements and, above all, frameworks for the free movement of capital, since the industry that had scaled fastest and had begun to give alarming signs of inefficiency was finance. Meanwhile, the champion in business scale, the USSR and the whole Soviet bloc, collapsed, to the astonishment of the world, in an obvious demonstration that operating life wasn’t infinite.

producing4A true revolution in support of the feasibility of large scales in crisis was implemented in the West. The political result was called “neoliberalism.” It basically consisted of the extension of free-trade agreements, which expanded markets geographically; financial deregulation, which allowed the rise of “financialization,” or extension of markets over time; and a series of rents and monopolies for certain businesses, which were assured by regulations, like the hardening of so-called “intellectual property.”

producing5The technological result was known as the “IT revolution,” which is to say revolution of information technology. But it came with a surprise, following a series of apparent coincidences in the search for ways beyond the limits on efficiency imposed by the rigid hierarchical systems inherited from the previous century. At the end of the ’60s, the structure of networks that connected big university computers, which was financed by defense spending, took a distributed form. This would not have brought about a radical change if a new field, domestic information science, had not evolved towards small, completely autonomous computers, known as “PCs.” The result was the emergence in the ’90s of an immense capacity for distributed and interconnected calculation outside the fabric of business and government: the Internet.

The revolution of scale

producing6The Internet brought profound changes in the division of labor, which overlapped with the ongoing reduction of optimal scales, and changed the social results expected from delocalization, the first trend in globalization.

In the ’90s, when the “end of history” seemed go hand in hand with the consolidation of a new string of industrial technology giants (Microsoft, Apple, etc.), free software, which had been a subculture until then, built the first versions of Linux. Linux is the “steam engine” of the world that is emerging: the first expression of a new way of producing and, at the same time, a tool to transform the productive system. Over the next twenty years, free software would come to be the greatest transfer of knowledge and value in the contemporary era, equivalent to several times all foreign aid to development sent from developed countries to those on the periphery since WWII.

producing7Free software is a universal public good and, in an era in which information infrastructure is a fundamental part of any productive investment, a free form of capital. Free capital drove an even greater reduction in the optimum scale of production. But it also helped make value chains of the physical goods with strong technological component distributed. Globalization and delocalization had broken the links in value creation in thousands of products throughout the world, especially in the less-developed nations of the Pacific basin, but all those chains were re-centralized in the US, and to a lesser extent, in Japan, Germany and other central countries, where big corporations (from Apple to Nike) branded, designed, marketed, and hoarded the benefits of intellectual property. The possibility of free software was key for many of those chains to “insource” in countries like China, and produce all the elements, including those of greater value added.

producing8The immediate result was prodigious economic development, the greatest reduction in extreme poverty in the history of humanity, the greatest increase in real wages in the history of China, and the appearance of new global centers of innovation and production in coastal cities. These cities play by a new set of rules that, not surprisingly, include an extreme relaxation of intellectual property, an accelerated reduction of scales, and production chains systems and assembly systems that allow a formidable increase in scope, which is to say, the variety of things produced.

The Direct Economy

producing9As all these changes were set in motion in Asia, in Europe, the free software model was expanding into a whole spectrum of sectors. Soon, groups would appear that replicate the mode of production based on the commons (“the P2P mode of production“) in all kinds of immaterial content—design, books, music, video—and increasingly, in the world of advanced services—finance, consultancy—and industrial products—drinks, specialized machinery, robots, etc.

But while the “P2P mode of production” is a fascinating path for a transition from capitalism to abundance, its direct impact—how many people live directly from the commons—is relatively small. As in Asia, Europe, and the US, structural change will begin in an intermediate space that is also based on the digital commons: the Direct Economy.

producing10The Direct Economy is all those small groups of friends—and therefore, a basically egalitarian organization—that design a product that generally incorporates software and free knowledge into itself or its process of creation, sell it in advance on a  crowdfunding platform (making bank financing or “shareholders” unnecessary), produce it in short runs of a few thousands in a factory, whether in China or on the side of their house, and use the proceeds to improve the design or create a new product.

producing11The Direct Economy is bar owners who invest 10,000 euros in equipment and begin to produce beer 100 liters at a time, or a few tens of thousands of euros and gain capacity to prepare almost 1,500 liters every 12 hours in continuous production—and then go on to bottle and begin distributing nearby and in networks of beer artisanal lovers.  And of course, they will have more varieties than the big brewery in their are, higher quality, and a better quality/price ratio.

The Direct Economy is the academy or the high school that installs a MOOC or Moodle to be able offer its students services over the summer, independent app developers, the role-playing bookstore that buys a 3D printer and starts selling their own figurines, or the children’s clothes store that starts designing and producing their own strollers, toys, or maternity bags.

producing12All of them are small-scale producers making things that, until recently, only big businesses or institutions were able to make. All of them have more scope than the scale model. All of them, at some point in the process, use free software and knowledge, which reduces their capital needs even further. All of them take advantage of the Internet to reach providers and customers for low costs—for example, by being able to reach very geographically dispersed niches or find very specialized providers. Most will not have to resort to banks or investors to finance themselves, but rather, will use pre-sale and donation systems on the network to raise money. And some of them use the “commodification” of the manufacturing industry and its flexible production chains for the process.

producing13As for internal organizing, we’re generally looking at models that are much “flatter” and more democratic than conventional businesses. While traditional businesses are autocracies, or at best aristocracies based on hierarchical command and responsibility, the large majority of projects in the Direct Economy are “ad-hocracies,” in which the needs of the moment shape teams and responsibilities. This even happens in cases where big businesses decide to take a gamble on creating a spin-off and competing in a new field. Instead of an org chart, there are task maps. Rather than “participation in management,” there emerges the type of energy that characterizes any group of friends that make something “spontaneously.” If the legal process wasn’t still so arduous, if it didn’t require notaries and endless paperwork, we would say that the natural way to the Direct Economy is worker cooperativism.



But none of this is as important as the broader meaning of the Direct Economy to people’s possibilities in life. In Wage Labor and Capital, one of his more accessible works, Marx explained the trap in the narrative that exalts social mobility and equality of opportunities: wages can’t become capital. Or, rather, couldn’t… and it’s true that it continues to be unable to in a good part of the world and in many branches of industry. But we’re seeing something that is historically shocking—the reduction to zero of the cost of an especially valuable part of capital, which materializes directly knowledge (free software, free designs, etc.). And above all we see, almost day by day, how the optimum size of production, sector by sector, approaches or reaches the community dimension.

producing14The possibility for the real community, the one based on interpersonal relationships and affections, to be an efficient productive unit is something radically new, and its potential to empower is far from having been developed. This means that we are lucky enough to live in a historical moment when it would seem that the whole history of technology, with all its social and political challenges, has coalesced to put us within reach of the possibility of developing ourselves in a new way and contributing autonomy to our community.

Today we have an opportunity that previous generations did not: to transform production into something done, and enjoyed, among peers. We can make work a time that is not walled off from life itself, which capitalism revealingly calls “time off.” That’s the ultimate meaning of producing in common today. That’s the immediate course of every emancipatory action. The starting point.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

The Communard Manifesto

Why producing in common is the starting point

Communal Postcards

by las Indias

Postcards were created in Austria for first time in 1869 but its «golden age» started with the Paris Universal exhibition of 1900. When tens of thousands of visitors from the whole world arrived to Paris, postcards illustrated with all kind of modern wonders and monuments were waiting for them. Among them, a few images of the phalansteries and the famous Guise’s Familistere, the most successful social experiment of the time and the most remarkable edification of communitarism since the Antiquity. Even if Fourierism was a cooperative movement, not a communal one, we could say it was the first image of an intentional community recorded in a postcard.


Familistere de Guise. Postcard sent in 1900 part of our collection. The Familistère was created in 1858 by famous Fourierist activist and innovator Jean Baptiste Andre Godin. It endured as a worker’s cooperative until 1968.

Ten years later, postcards already were an usual media for promoting «advanced ideas», specially of those groups and movements with a transnational aim, as Esperanto… and communitarism. Only few months after the birth of Degania, the first kibbutz, they produced their first postcard. In the one we have in our dining room wall, you still can recognize the young faces -all of them were around 20 years old- of the founders of the first egalitarian community of the twentieth century. It probably was the first photographic image of a living egalitarian community ever seen in Europe. Since then, Degania and dozens of other egalitarian Israeli kibbutzim made hundreds of them. You could explain the rise, trouble, differences and decay of the kibbutz movement just with them, covering decades of history.


Postcard of the 1909 Universal Congress of Esperanto in Barcelona.


Postcard sent from Degania, the first kibbutz, in 1910 after the first crop, also in our collection.

When we moved back to Madrid in 2015 we decided to get back to this tradition, making postcards a media for recording and sharing our own history as a community. We made then our first one and we sent it during the New Year celebration. The picture chosen was very symbolic: it was shot during the presentation of «The book of Community» in Gijón, an industrial town in the North of Spain and in the back you can see a gigantic reproduction of «Il quarto stato », the painting that has been «the» symbol of the worker’s movement in the twentieth century. We got the idea of adding to it a present. So, we prepared a web page optimized for smartphones with an electronic edition some of our books and we added a QR code in order to allow the receivers to easily download them in their cell phones.


Postcard send by us at the end of 2015 during the new year’s celebrations of 2016

This year we made a second postcard. But, what was the image of the year? We made a lot of things during 2016: we published «The Communard’s Manifesto» and a book of readings, Caro became the first communard accepting a political responsibility in a national government since the seventies, our workers cooperative grew until 40 people and with them we made beer and for first time we successfully crowdfunded a project, we made a lot of activism, we also made new products and customers in the midst of the Spanish economic crisis… But the picture we choose was not related to any of this good news, nor it was as beautiful as the one in 2015. It was shot in Madrid’s airport very early in the morning, our eyes were almost closed but we were specially happy because it was the day Caro came back to Madrid from Buenos Aires to celebrate with the rest of us our 14th anniversary as a community. We added a QR code too, it has became a tradition.


Postcard send by us at the end of 2016 during the new year’s celebrations of this year

As the postcards of Fourierist, kibbutznik or Esperanto propagandist, our postcards crossed the world and got into the houses of hundreds of friends an image of other possible way of living during a very troubled year. Many of them sent us back pictures of our postcards framed and exhibited in a wall of their homes. It meant a lot to them and to us. In a world of instantaneous massive free media, postcards are slow, small scale and low cost, nobody will expect anything great from them, won’t they? But they also are personal and full of meaning and ours is a movement focused in persons and full of meaningfulness.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we start a regular correspondence between communities and between every community and their friends with postcards of our own creation? Will it not be empowering to spread the world with meaningful letters and images telling of our way of live, values and aesthetics?

Communal Postcards

Winter meals and the vegan guest

by las Indias

In las Indias, cooking is felt to be a service and a creative personal expression. It is the everyday way of showing the others how you care for them. Around one o’clock someone, the first who are tired of work or have already finished the tasks they wanted to do during the morning, volunteers for going shopping and preparing lunch. We prepare the table with a tablecloth and we start every lunch with a little ceremonial toast. Lunch is meaningful. We spend more than two hours enjoying dishes and wine -usually from different parts of Spain- and conversation. And then we come back to the office.

But we are six, we often have visitors and guests, and we don’t have a big kitchen. That means we prepare small dishes and delicatessen as aperitifs and, if the «fresh ingredient» of the day is a light one, we will have to prepare a second dish that is scalable and powerful, specially during winter. For example, we cannot cook more than a big fish in the oven, but yesterday we bought a beautiful fresh hake of one and a half kilogram, so while Mayra prepared it for the oven we prepared our famous tuna sauce in the pressure cooker and I blanched in some tuna sirloins. Meantime the rest of us set the table and prepared some small aperitifs (homemade cheese carried from parent’s home, partridge pate made by a friend, spiced black Aragon olives…). You can imagine it. We use to say «without celebration nothing remains», and we try to make every day a memorable one.

And then imagine someone appears who says they are a vegan.


**The vegan guest**

When our friend GPaul was on his way to visit us the first time, he received creepy stoic advice from Danish communards: «You are vegan, be careful, you will suffer in Spain». There is some truth in it. In popular bars and «food houses», it is almost impossible to eat vegan. Spanish traditional food is full of fish and the «iberian pig» is more holy for the most of the people than any particular invocation of Virgin Mary.

Paradoxically traditional Mediterranean cooking is full of dishes that are objectively vegan. The problem is locals don’t recognize them. When they receive a vegan at home, they look for processed vegan food (tofu burgers, etc.) they would never eat, or specific «vegan recipes» on the Internet. These recipes come from English and German books of the seventies and the eighties. Let’s face it: few people come to Europe looking for traditional English or German cuisine and it happens for a reason.

We also know many vegans have a kind of martyrdom vocation which allows them to eat Mediterranean Summer food during the whole year: toasted bread with olive oil and vegan pates, humus, gazpacho, ajoblanco (a gazpacho of almonds, without tomatoes), boiled vegetables lightly fried in a wok… but if you go to the street with this in your stomach during Madrid’s winter, you will probably freeze before the bus arrives.

On the other hand, as you probably noticed, we are not vegan, but lunch is about sharing. The arrival of vegan visitors means to cook vegan convincingly enough not only for the newcomer but also for your fish eaters, pork lovers, and cheese fanatics too.

So, let’s look for help in the indiano traditional cookbook and let’s prepare some Mediterranean cuisine winter menus… vegan friendly.

**First Menu: On ancient revolutions**

The Revolt of the Comuneros (=communards) was the first Iberian bottom to top democratic movement. It set the cities of Castille against the coronation of Emperor Charles Habsbourgh (Charles V in Germany). It put an assembly controlled urban democracy up against the Imperial regime that was coming with the new dynasty. It finished in 1521 with a big battle -a massacre- in the town of Villalar, where thousands of revolutionary free peasants and bourgeoisie, badly armed, found the Imperial professional troops managed by the main nobles of the kingdom.

Villalar passed into popular History thanks to a famous «romance» of the battle preserved as folklore until today. But also because of its lentils. They still cook them with a simple recipe we improved with a honey touch.

– Wine: Caballero de Castilla, Ribera del Duero

***First dish: Leeks with ajoaceite***

We wrap the leeks in aluminum foil one by one. We put them in the oven at 180ºC for some minutes. We open it and we put them on the plate. We serve it with the company of a little bowl of «ajoaceite» sauce.

Ajoaceite means «garlic and oil». It is an strong and bitter vegan alternative to «mahonesa» (a sauce from Mahó in Menorca, whose name in English became «mayonnaise»). To prepare it, we put in the blender a clove of garlic without its heart, a bit of salt and half the juice of a lemon. Usually we make it with extra virgin olive oil, but sunflower oil produces a lighter result. While mixing them we slowly add oil until it curdles.

***Second dish: Communard lentils***


The night before, we put the lentils (around 1/2 kg) in a big bowl with water. Before cooking we will drain them.

We will use a pressure cooker. We stir fry three onions, cut in julienne strips, with olive oil. When they become transparent we add generous powdered nutmeg, salt and two glasses of oloroso or if we haven’t got oloroso, white wine.

Then we add the lentils and we cover them with 3/4 of lemonade (made just with water, honey and lemon juice) and 1/4 of white wine. We close the pressure cooker and leave it around 30 minutes (depending on the pressure cooker, the time changes). Finally, once opened, before serving, we will mix the result with the juice of half a lemon.

**Second menu: On abundance in poverty**

Chickpeas have been the life jacket of popular classes since the Roman times. Chickpeas were one of the first domesticated plants 8000 years ago in Anatolia and they never abandoned the Mediterranean sea. There are even Latin treaties on its, supposed, medical and moral properties. And the Spanish classic literature (Cervantes, Quevedo, etc.) is full of references to the «olla», the medieval stew of chickpeas that is still the basic winter dish in many Spanish regions. Nonetheless chickpeas were complemented since Renaissance times with potatoes, the only American treasure European working classes of the Empire could enjoy for centuries.

Our second menu will have two dishes: a very traditional one, «Poor person style potatoes» and Indiano chickpeas, a dish that is also rooted in tradition but with our own style.

– Wine: Peñamonte, Toro

***First dish: «Patatas a lo pobre»***

We cut five big potatoes in slices and we salt them, three onions in julienne, two peppers in strips and four garlic cloves in small cubes.

We stir fry in a big pan with very low fire, the garlic cloves in something around a half to a quarter of a glass of olive oil. When they are lightly toasted we give life to the fire and we add the peppers. When they lose their rigid look and the skin starts to separate from the pepper’s flesh, we add the onions until they become transparent.

Then lowering the fire, we add a little spoonful of hot paprika and the potatoes, mixing all with care. When potatoes take the paprika color (red), we add a glass of white wine (better if «oloroso» sherry) and put a frying pan top on, letting the vapor to go out through the valve.

It will take a around 25 minutes. We stir it carefully with a wooden spoon every 5 or 10 minutes and we serve the result with a topping of fresh parsley cut in small squares.

***Second dish: Indiano chickpeas***
We let chickpeas (around 1/2 kg) rest in a bowl full of water during the night and before cooking we drain them.

We fry with olive oil three onions cut in juliennes. When they are transparent we add two little coffee spoons of sweet and sour Paprika (usually «de la Vera», the best Spanish denomination, from «la Vera» county, in Extremadura) and immediately (there’s nothing worse than burnt paprika) 5 small juicy tomatoes. When the tomatoes are cooked, we will add three or four big spoons of soy sauce (depending on how salty you like them), two glasses of white wine (an «oloroso» sherry would be perfect) and we will blend it all. Then we cover with grape juice and water (50/50) and we close the pressure cooker, cooking them for about 45/50 minutes.

**Third menu: On the first workers strike**

The first workers strike in Spain is documented in the XVII century. In those days, tuna became more expensive and the ship owners decided not to allow the fishermen to take a piece of their captures for making their stew. In its place they would receive a salmon. When the fishermen tried to make their traditional tuna stew with salmon… it did not work, the flesh was too soft for stew and the result was clearly unsatisfying. So they stopped working until they were allowed to use their own fished fresh tuna. It was a big strike, the first remembered by Iberian History.

Indianos prepare a tuna stew of our own. But it is not bad at all for vegans… if we don’t use tuna but, in example, hearts of chives and small carrots. It is powerful, so it really doesn’t need a first dish, but just a little more of (vegan) aperitifs, like home made asparagus pate, artichoke pate or olive -green/black- pate. We will serve it with a wine called «Privilegio» (=privilege) just in order to give this very cheap menu an ironic taste 😀

– Wine: Privilegio, Ribera del Guadiana

***Heart of chives and small carrots stew***

We stir fry two big peppers and three onions in olive oil in the way we did in the recipes before, this time using sweet and sour paprika «de la vera» and 6 tomatoes before blending it all.

Then we add 1/2 l grape juice and 1/2 l of white wine and 3 big potatoes cut in little cubes. We add salt, a big spoon of honey, three spoons of soy sauce and we cook the mix in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. We blend the result, we add the carrots and the hearts of chives, and again close the cooker and cook for another 10 or 15 minutes.

**A good meal**

The important and most valuable part of preparing a meal together is priceless and cannot be found in the market. In this post, we added History and popular culture to learn how to transform Nature in the most productive way, with the less consumption of resources. We shared our little ceremony: every day a different one of us dedicates the work of the day to the meaningful things he/she considers the day have to be dedicated to, with a toast. And we enjoy our senses, being with the other indianos and our guests, and conversation: body, feelings and reasoning. And of course, we can share it with with our guests, vegans or not, too… even during a cold winter day.

Some notes:

Every menu here cost less than US$1.25 per person wine included.  Communal living is really more productive than an individualistic one in a very accountable way.


In Spain, lunch is the more important meal.   If people had to lunch out -as the majority do in Madrid- their quality of life will worsen -as they cannot share it with their families- and if they have to have lunch in a food house or a restaurant they will never pay less than 7 times what it costs to us…

For people thinking about making an urban community, making good cooking of any kind (vegan or not) can be really affordable…  We hope for American readers maybe this will make cooking itself and eating legumes a little bit more attractive.

We think that spreading cooking-culture is a big front in the fight against social decomposition. An NGO we met in Gijón (North of Spain) discovered that their program with the most social impact (and they do all sort of things) was when they created an industrial kitchen where they cook every day with migrant families. The original goal was to avoid the health consequences in kids from processed food and poor nutrition (many of them come from the Dominican Republic and Colombia where apparently low income workers and disclassed people have adopted the American industrial food culture). But their revolutionary achievement was to encourage the families to have lunch or dinner together. Just reimplementing this small institution not only changed their health levels, but also improved the achievements of the kids in school, reduced drug use and  alcoholism, etc. Since these migrants come from Hispanic countries, not only the language but the deep culture is the same, so the meals in every house opened them to neighbors, interchanging dishes, having coffee together… so, this NGO started with cooking but ended creating community feelings with more depth and extent than any program designed for confronting xenophobia and racism in troubled neighborhoods.

Here we have food markets in every neighborhood more like an American «farmer market» than to a supermarket, but they are always open and they are a lot cheaper than supermarkets (supermarkets are adapting now, distributing local producers and promoting them). So the majority of people eat what you call «real food» and have a discipline of family lunch or dinner that could turn out to even be oppressive if your couple’s parents or yours insist in extending it to the weekend every weekend (family lunches are really more like an unending assembly with friends visiting, table games, football matches, etc.). Paradoxically this institution of «dining with parents and brothers/sisters and visiting friends» has made the difference during the crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. In Spain, better productivity of real food cooked at home and extended family model allowed close to two million families, with kids and no wages nor income because of unemployment, to eat everyday thanks to the, usually small, pension of the grandparents.

The good side of all this is that the pride of community and family, as the basic institutions of society, grew. And with it an egalitarian community like ours changed a lot in social perception from something «odd», distrustable, associated with cults in the catholic imagination; to a healthy way of living and working happier and a model/lab for learning from and playing with. The bad side is that traditional culture pride also fed nationalisms of all kinds because people associate traditional culture with welfare and surviving and identify cultural challenges as attacks. The sad result is by first time in our memory Spanish left, specially the new left, is nationalist… and that is sad and dangerous.


Winter meals and the vegan guest