Kitchen Table, by Joshua Sabik, invites listeners to eat well and cook adventurously.
When you think of college students’ dietary habits you’re more likely to envision ramen and cafeteria dining halls than classic french cuisine. In Austin, members of the Twenty-first Street Co-op, my old home, transcend and dissolve that particular stereotype. One hundred students there control every aspect of their living environment: the buildings, the rules, and the food. They hold twice weekly meetings to run the place, and elect officers to oversee the minute.
Food is so important to Twenty-first Street that four elected officers help operate their own commercial grade kitchen. It takes five or more people to cook dinner for everyone at the co-op. Tonight is Chef Edward Camp with cooks Diana Nguyen, Lola Barbier, Gwam Puerta, Joseph Grantham and extra help from Rose Gaines. Here, in the kitchen, Eddy is in his element.
Friday dinners at the co-op are the most elaborate meals of the week. As such, the Friday dinner chef is a prestigious job reserved for those who’ve proved their culinary mettle. Kitchen officers and the labor czar decide who has the chops.(How is this position chosen?)
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The kitchen is at the literal center of the co-op, but it’s also the figurative center of co-op life. Dinners are a standard time to socialize. It’s human nature to bond over shared meals, and most of us have lost that experience. For a semester, Diana had class during dinnertime, and she felt disconnected.
Dinners aren’t the only time co-opers socialize in the kitchen. It’s a twenty-four hour operation, which leaves plenty of time to hang out while making midnight munchies. You can still find interaction, even if, as Lola says, you’re just going in for a bowl of cereal.
The spirit of cooperation at Twenty-first Street extends outside of the kitchen. Co-opers frequently join together for projects, discussions and road trips. Co-ops instill a sense of empowerment in their members, which urges them to participate in ambitious endeavors during and after their college years.
The co-op is more than just a kitchen or a series of buildings. It’s a living, breathing community, and everyone who comes through it leaves changed.
Written and produced by Joshua Sabik
Edited by Jordan Gass-Poore
Other Side Drive Executive Producer Shannon Williams