When a friend asked me last spring if I would like to live with nine other people for the following school year, my initial reaction was a firm no. I couldn’t imagine figuring out all of the details like eating, cleaning, sharing spaces and resolving conflicts, among many others. Despite my hesitation, somehow I found myself agreeing to this adventure in intentional communal living.
Our household is made up of students and alumni of Canadian Mennonite University. We have chosen to live together intentionally, and much of this intentionality has surrounded food. We eat dinner together every evening, taking turns cooking and cleaning up. This allows us to check in with each other, joke about our days and build deeper connections.
Over the months, our table has extended to welcome a number of other people. In the fall, we were gifted with 18 large squash from one of our professors, Kenton Lobe. As students on tight budgets, we were excited by this gift of food and grateful for the generosity shown to us. Our table is connected to Lobe and his family and the land they farm multiple times a week. They are a part of our community.
It soon seemed clear that it would be a challenge for the 10 of us to eat all the squash in the months to come.
We learned how to base our meals around squash, eating dishes like squash curry, squash pasta, squash pancakes and squash soup on a regular basis. Yet our pantry still featured a fine display of squash. We decided that we needed to extend our table still further.
We hosted a winter soup night and invited all of our neighbours to join us. We live on a block of 60 houses and we dropped invitations into all of their mailboxes. To prepare, we made a couple of large pots of the butternut bisque from the Simply in Season cookbook. In the end, we had an eclectic group of people join us.
It felt odd to welcome a bunch of strangers into our home, but sharing food helped us to make connections. We soon had neighbours remarking on how they had never met each other, and then introducing themselves and getting to know one another. Some neighbours who couldn’t make it to our soup night dropped off food to share. Not only were we working away at our large squash collection, the winter soup night was building relationships with those who live beside each other and extending our table and community.
The squash that fed our household for the last six months have encouraged us to practise hospitality with those who live beside us. In turn, our neighbours have gifted us with their presence, with kind notes and even sometimes with treats left on our door knob. Now, with a fine collection of squash left in our pantry, we hope to find more ways to build connections with those around us.
Visit canadianmennonite.org/butternut-bisque for a recipe from Simply in Season.