Oberlin Blogs

What We Eat

October 1, 2014

Brendan Nuse ’17 and Frances Casey ’17


When I went on college tours, I was surprised that the tour guides all seemed to say that they "asked about food on all their college tours." I never once considered asking about food. That probably should have gotten me into a bad situation, but I actually like the food at Oberlin, so I guess it worked out.

I have a meal plan with CDS, which means that I can get meals from a few different places. First of all, there's Stevie (Stevenson Hall for those of you unacquainted with the hip Oberlin lingo), aka a wonderland of options. There's a vegetarian station, a station entitled "classic comforts" for all you carnivores, a station with fried food, one with pizza, and a variety of other stations with bagels, cereal, dessert, etc. Then there's the crown jewel of Stevie: Global Exhibition. At first I thought it was called that because it showcases food from around the world, but it really doesn't do that, so I've decided that it is because its food is so good that it should be showcased around the world. They have a different dish every day and they are often significantly higher quality than the food in the rest of the dining hall. Every weekend they have omelets in the morning and a pasta bar for dinner and you can choose ingredients for your omelet/pasta. I usually get spinach and mushrooms but you can get a lot of other things, like onions, peppers, or some kind of meat. Basically, I love Stevie and its omelets. I live on the north side of campus, so Stevie is the closest dining hall to me, and therefore the one I frequent, but it isn't the only option.

Another dining hall I go to almost every day is Dascomb. It is further south on campus, and is a first-year dorm in addition to a dining hall. Although I rarely go there for lunch or dinner, I go there for breakfast every Monday through Friday, as Stevie does not serve breakfast during the week. Additionally, Dascomb is home to Fourth Meal, also known as the best idea ever. Fourth Meal takes place at 10 P.M. every Sunday-Thursday. They serve food with a different theme every day, but it is always unhealthy and very tasty. I tend to go to Fourth Meal on Sundays when I realize that I have somehow defied the odds and ended up with an extra meal. That usually works out well, since they often have waffles with ice cream on Sundays. I never really considered that one could eat waffles with ice cream on them before I came to Oberlin, but now I look forward to them.

The third main dining hall on campus is A-House/Lord/Saunders. A few times every semester I tell myself that I am going to go there more often, since they have amazing food, but, unfortunately, I rarely make the trek across campus to eat said wonderful food.

In addition to the three main dining halls, there are several other places to grab food around campus. A lot of my friends enjoy getting breakfast or lunch at the Science Cart, which offers a quick and easy meal. You can also get food at DeCafe, which has really great smoothies.

Although Frances is going to address OSCA and its co-ops heavily, I also want to point out the Kosher-Halal co-op that I ate in during winter term last year. It isn't a part of the OSCA program anymore, but it still serves good, cheap food. It also happens to be the only co-op in the country that follows both Kosher and Halal dietary laws, so that's pretty cool. Go Oberlin!

Overall, I'm glad that my negligence in not asking about food on college tours didn't cause me any problems. I've been very happy with the food I've eaten here, and I can honestly say I look forward to eating a few more years' worth of it.


This year, I made a big change in my Oberlin lifestyle. I joined OSCA! More specifically, I now dine in Harkness Co-op.

For those who are unaware, OSCA stands for Oberlin Student Cooperative Association. It is an organization that operates 8 student co-ops, which provide at-cost dining and housing services to students. Some of the co-ops you can live and eat in, and others just have dining. Some fun facts courtesy of the OSCA website:

- 22% of Oberlin students are members of OSCA.
- OSCA costs a heckofalot less than regular Campus Dining Services and ResEd.
- Each co-oper does 4-5 hours of work in their co-op. This is why it's so cheap--all the cooking, cleaning, and management of the organization is done by students.
- OSCA is the second-largest student cooperative in the country.

So now that I've hit you up with the facts, you may be wondering why I chose to switch from CDS to OSCA in the first place. Well, over the course of my first year, I became pretty disenchanted with the food in Stevenson, where I ate the majority of my meals. I didn't like how a lot of the food was clearly frozen, unhealthy, and unsustainable. There were some days when I would look at the variety of options before me and not want to eat a single thing on the menu. I wanted an eating experience closer to what I had at home; a diet that consisted of a lot fresher, healthier food and more vegetarian options. (I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm used to eating meat very infrequently. Harkness is a vegetarian co-op.)

I also thought that co-ops seemed cool and fun.

To be in OSCA, one enters a lottery that sorts those with lucky lottery numbers into co-ops based on ranked preferences. There isn't enough room for everybody who wants to be in OSCA to be a member, so I feel pretty fortunate that I was able to join. Because Harkness is the only co-op that I have any experience with, I'm mostly going be talking about Harkness in this post.

On that note, here are some reasons why I'm really happy I've joined OSCA this year:

Harkness is awesome. I have found that everyone I've met in Harkness has been friendly, welcoming, and totally dedicated to making the co-op the best that it can be. The group discussions can be lengthy, but this is because everyone feels very passionate about OSCA and wants the co-op to be as accessible as possible, which leads me to...

...accessibility! Harkness is 100% on it when it comes to making sure everyone in the co-op is getting what they need, nutritionally, physically, emotionally, you name it. There are specific jobs within the co-op that are for the purpose of doing just that. For example, there are advocates, whose job includes speaking on someone's behalf during a discussion if that person feels uncomfortable doing so, and a nutritionator, who makes sure that everyone, even those who have very specific nutritional needs, is able to stay healthy and get nutritious, delicious meals every day. Harkness is accommodating to those with severe food allergies and is very careful about contamination in the kitchen. Essentially, Harkness does its best to make sure that anyone who wants to be a part of the co-op can be.

The food is tasty. Do words like tofu, kale, Sriracha, and lentils get you excited? They get co-opers excited! A lot of the meals we eat include some or all of the above. One meal I at this week consisted of corn chowder, tofu-kale stir fry, and a hunk of bread baked the night before. For lunch today, we had something that looked like compost, but sure didn't taste like compost! I'm not even sure what to call the dish, but it involved green beans, spinach, corn, cucumber, potatoes, and lentils all mixed together. It was delicious, especially with extra Sriracha.

Cooperation. It's really cool to be part of a community that emphasizes cooperation, holds each member accountable for their responsibilities, and is dedicated to enacting change and making sure everyone's voice is heard. It's something that's hard to find elsewhere in Oberlin, and out in the "real world."

There are about a gajillion other things about OSCA and Harkness that I haven't mentioned, because that would probably fill a large volume. In short, I'm pleased with my decision to join OSCA and encourage those who are considering it to do so!

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