Oberlin Blogs

Italian Co-Op

February 6, 2024

Natalie Frank ’26

This Winter Term, I joined Italian Co-Op in Keep Cottage. A cooperative is a space for students to dine, cook, and clean together. I enjoy homemade, well-seasoned, locally-grown food for every meal here. During the school year, I am normally in Pyle Inn Co-Op. My friends and I decided to switch it up for Winter Term. Hanna describes the meals well in her blog post, and I encourage you to check it out! To sum up Italian Co-Op, I’ll give you exclusive details about the food, the workload, the parties, and the pros and cons.

Let’s start with the most important part: the food.


 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Italian Co-Op had amazing food this Winter Term. It was the best co-op food I have ever had. While some of the food was not as Italian as others (I’m looking at you, pierogies), it was all fantastic. Here are my top 10 notable meals:

  1. Eggplant, zucchini, and tomato ratatouille, served with ricotta rainbow spiral pasta and mozzarella.
  2. Chocolate chip cookies. (+ GF / DF chocolate chip cookies!) (I made these.)
  3. Carrot and potato soup with bread rolls and sunny-side-up eggs.
  4. Carbonara with seasoned carrots and rosemary honey butter sauce.
  5. Sweet potato fries, baked carrots, beans, and a spicy aioli.
  6. Pinto beans, cheesy potatoes, coleslaw, buffalo sauce, and cinnamon cayenne GF cookies.
  7. Pancakes, eggs, and carrot sticks.
  8. Make your pasta bar with red and pink tomato sauce and white garlic butter sauce.
  9. Frittata with tomatoes, breakfast potatoes, rosemary chickpeas, and pickled carrots.
  10. Squash stew, hummus, latkes, and Moroccan flatbread.

 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I worked five hours in the co-op each week, so it was essentially a part-time job. This was a very doable commitment because my Winter Term project was finishing my novel (writing ~2,000 words per day) and working 10 hours a week at Career Exploration and Development. I often spent 3 hours doing crew (washing dishes and surfaces) and 2 hours doing cook shifts (cutting garlic, writing the menu, and tasting sauces). It was not too much work at all.


 ★ ★ ★ ☆☆

While I was there, Italian Co-Op threw two parties (though they threw one before I got back). One was Jersey Shores themed, and the other was Stripes. Winter Term parties are less well-attended because fewer students are on campus. Our first party went pretty well, and many more people were showing up towards the end. Our second party overlapped with the Winter Term Ball, so fewer people attended.

I would rate the social scene at Italian Co-Op highly, though. We all ate in the Keep Cottage living room, which has some couches, armchairs, beanbags, and a few tables in the corners. It was very easy to make new friends and talk to different people. I met many other co-opers while eating at Keep. It is important to find a close community at Oberlin. Joining a co-op is a fast way to do so.

  1. The food was wonderful. While it wasn’t strictly Italian, I enjoyed eating Polish, French, Moroccan, and Mexican food. I love an adventurous Head Cook. It makes for an exciting meal, especially when you are on the cook shift with them. Often, the Head Cook will ask you what you would like them to make if they have free time.
  2. I ate with my friends every day. Hanna, Layla, and Jacob joined Italian Co-Op with me. I loved walking to Keep with them every morning or evening and enjoying a meal. One thing that a co-op can guarantee is a group of friends at every meal.
  3. I met so many new people. Because I had friends, I felt comfortable and excited to meet other Italian Co-opers; it was a lovely experience. Some of my new friends even joined Pyle Co-Op this year!
  4. I tried a new thing. This was fantastic character growth for me, which I can always use. Trying new things and meeting new people is hard, but it’s so rewarding when I am less scared to try other new things.
  5. I got good at using the Pot Sink. Give me any dish. Any pot. Any pan. I can wash it, I guarantee you. There is truly nothing like scrubbing pierogi dough off of a metal sheet pan in 110-degree water.
  6. It is less scary or busy than a dining hall that handles the influx of a few hundred students during a few short meal hours. Co-ops also have something called Pre-Line, where you can grab your food before anyone else for accessibility reasons. I'll grab my food if I have work or class right after a meal.
  1. Before I arrived, many of the meals were canceled due to a lack of people on shifts. This was hard for co-opers who relied on Italian Co-Op to eat. If a meal is canceled at a co-op, other co-ops will take them in and feed them, but only three co-ops were open during Winter Term (Harkness, Kosher Halal Co-Op, and Italian Co-Op).
  2. While I found the workload manageable, you must work five hours per week. If you qualify for Time Aid (>5 hours of paid work per week), you can work less than five hours. I chose not to apply for Time Aid because I could reasonably work five hours a week.
  3. You cannot eat with your friends at Stevenson Dining Hall because you have no meal swipes. I found a nice remedy to this, which was inviting my friends to Italian Co-Op. They enjoyed it as well!

I hope you enjoyed my blog on Italian Co-Op. Consider joining a Winter Term co-op. If you love homemade food, meeting other Obies, and cooking with your friends, you won't regret it.

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