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Alumni Reflect: Food in the Co-ops

Each month, we choose a topic and solicit memories from our BSCAA members. If there are topics you'd like to see in future editions, email us at bscaa1996@gmail.com.

Oxford Central Kitchen, 1949

"I learned really how to cook at Barrington because I signed up for the Sunday brunch shift, which means I got up early and they had this big griddle—came from a carrier ship or something—you just got orders going, you had assistants breaking eggs, which were in pitchers, people saying “what do you want," two spatulas going same time. It was a lot of work. And a lot of fun; I got to see my friends, and could custom cook for them. And I really enjoyed cooking for them ever since." (Wick Smith, Barrington 1974-75, Ridge Project 1974-1977)


"CZ is a very impressive setting, an industrial kitchen with every resource you could want at your fingertips. Because the magic of economies of scale, it was about the dirt cheapest price I could imagine as an 18-year-old, on account of that I really learned how to cook properly not just for myself but for 100+ people all at the same time. It was the co-ops—in general—a beautiful instrument of instruction when it comes to food and cooking and socialization in general—how food is the nexus of that social instrument." (Bryce Brown, Casa Zimbabwe 2008 – 2011)


"We had a lot of food at Oxford Hall because that’s where central kitchen was—the dinner meals were all cooked there and trucked around to the co-ops in the evening. Andrew Casgro was the cook and Monros Johnson Baker, and Barbara Day was the dietitian. She was dressed in a starch white outfit and she and Andres Castro were at constant war with each other about who knew more about food and cooking and whatnot. He was a professional chef and she was a dietitian, so there you have it." (Victor Garlin)


"I was kitchen manager. I have a lot of good memories around that, I learned how to cook for 24 people in Euclid, and ended up as the KM. I was controversial at the time and I wanted to support the will of the people, and my people at the time wanted corn dogs. In the other houses I was the pariah ("how could you order corn dogs!"). Labor struggles were leading to issues with bananas and people didn’t want us to order bananas; it was interesting to learn how to navigate food politics, and preference, and understand as a manager what you want versus what the people whom you’re serving want. It a was fascinating social experiment to be thrown into in college. I learned more about that and managing people and expectations better than any class I took—it was a class in and of itself." (Alexandra Daily-Diamond, Euclid Hall 2009-12)


"Food at Stebbins—if you said "please pass the butter," everyone responded the way they responded to pants: “We don’t have any butter here, so just forget it." (Judy Bertelsen, Stebbins Hall 1957-59)


"Barrington and food—we had the first veggie kitchen in the co-ops in the early 70s when vegetarianism was considered way out there. We talked the board into letting us make a three-person suite into the AK—alternate kitchen. Five hours of worksheet a week, and then extra if you wanted to eat in the AK. So if you ate two nights a week, you had two extra hours etc. That’s where I think people really learned how to cook, in my experience. Because they had fresh vegetables and fresh food, whereas the stuff from CK came partially prepared so you had to heat it up—we had the pans with water in it, a steam table. My roommates in Barrington created a mural in the AK, which depicted "The Last Supper" but with vegetables. One of the coolest things about it—I think which was supposed to be Jesus—was a pea with Richard Nixon’s face. It stayed there forever; it's probably painted over now, but it was something. Those guys became professional artists, and went to NYU." (Nancy Blattel, Barrington '73-'75, Rochdale '75-'76, Northside Apartments '76-'80)


"I remember during my time at Ridge, a lot of my housemates were into cooking the fanciest things they could think of. One year for special dinner, we did the theme "marriage of heaven and hell"—my roommates wanted to make a fancy cake with spun sugar and decorations—it was beautiful." (Tori Partridge, Hoyt Hall 2008-09, Ridge House 2009-11)


"I got to help build the AK (Alternate Kitchen) at Barrington. The Summer of 1971. That was my first summer on central maintenance crew, and I’d already been doing maintenance for my house Hoyt. I’d never really learned to cook and then I had to take the reins because CO shut down kitchen at student’s vote, so I converted the houses to the home cooking system they have now. I also baked a wedding cake: 16", 12", and 8" round cakes with Mr. Johnson’s special silver pound cake recipe. That was 50 pounds of cake." (Margie Guillory, Hoyt Hall 1970-73, Northside Coop from 1974-1978)


"Some of may fondest memories are of the post-eating clean-ups in Cloyne. I just remember whoever had to do pots would just turn on some loud and angry music and just go at it for hours with boiling hot water, and also in IKC—no one wanted permanent shifts, so once a semester had to spend five hours cleaning up the kitchen. A group of five, just spending your Friday together cleaning. There was a lot of camaraderie, and learning what goes into running a large household, and learning how to clean—not just surface level—but industrial level cleaning." (Michelle Nacouzi, Castro, Wolf, Sherman, CZ)


"Food was cooked centrally, but on Saturday and Sunday we cooked brunch at Barrington, pretty good meals! It was always fun to have a good meal and fun to see who was sitting together after Friday or Saturday night. Always an interesting meal to attend because with 200 people in Barrington, you didn’t have to go far to explore things you wanted to explore with people in the house. If you were imbibing substances that might disorient you, people could get up to their bedrooms...or somebody else’s bedroom." (John Ehrlich, Barrington Hall 1974-77)


"My (most appropriate) favorite kitchen memory. CZ was one head chef and four prep chefs, but I had a shift where we were always short, so the head chef one time had a final and left, so three of us assistants had to cover, and I had to poach 96 eggs across one giant pan thing across four burners. One person had an emulsion mixer, and they were making the hollandaise sauce. The three of us managed to pull off making Eggs Benedict for 100 people; it was great. Also, there used to be a whole cow on the CK order menu, that had to be butchered." (Zach Gamlieli, Casa Zimbabwe 2014-18)


"This is hilarious because things really haven’t changed. When I lived at Kidd Hall, we pushed so hard to get new carpet in the living room, and new flooring in the kitchen. When it finally happened we were so excited that we decided to throw a party to celebrate. It was really cute because we were only 17 people so we got to know each other, and we put on a movie, and at some point a marshmallow fight broke out and we were running around all over. ...We spent the next morning scrubbing, with toothbrushes, the marshmallows out of the brand new carpet." (Shiloh Pinto-Quintanilla)


"I have many stories about food and maintenance, but my first pair of workshifts was one hour of maintenance and one hour as lunch server. When you have 150 starving students it is very difficult to keep any food available at the end of lunch. But when I was on it, if you came in at the end, you got food. At one point, we desperately needed to get our water pipes replaced keep getting refused, so we finally said we’ll do it ourselves for $5,000 as capital labor improvement, which got approved; we meticulously went through our 26 bathrooms and commercial kitchen and figured out all the materials we needed. We went to a plumbing supply place, and though our PO card was good for $250, we bought $5,000 of stuff on that card. It was anticipated that the house would write a check, but when they gave it to the house, we spent it on food—so we literally ate the $5,000. I can’t remember how that was resolved... This DIY pipes replacement was a massive multi-month event with sub-stories of people falling through ceilings and water being released in places it shouldn’t have, but we succeeded. When the multimillion-dollar retrofit happened for Cloyne in 2006, they kept the plumbing that we had done because it was so good. Copper pipes." (Steve Greenberg, Cloyne Court, 1980-1985)


#alumnireflect #CK



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