What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

03 April 2012

C is for Cooking in a Co-op

Since I'm doing Script Frenzy and regular life in addition to the A to Z Challenge, I put out a desperate friendly call for guest bloggers incessantly a few times on Facebook & Twitter. My fellow Undergraduate Writing Center consultant Natalie was the first to respond. Natalie blogs at The First Kitchen and at Longhorn Confidential. Photos in this post (except the first) are Natalie's own.

About a week after I moved into Avalon Co-op, I came home from school at 9 p.m. I had been on campus for twelve hours, running between study groups and work and meetings. I was exhausted and cranky and starving, so after I dropped off my bike, I went straight to the kitchen. When I opened up the fridge, there was a plate of spaghetti, freshly baked bread, and steamed broccoli in front of me, covered in plastic wrap and labeled "NATALIE."

That was the first time I realized how incredible cooperative living really is. Like most people, I didn’t really know what to expect out of co-op housing when I moved in. All I really knew was that I would be sharing living quarters with 24 other people, which sounded simultaneously exciting and horrifying.

I didn’t expect to find a community of some of the most incredible people on the planet--people who I may never have met if I didn’t live at Avalon. People who are friendly, considerate, and genuinely caring; people who are dedicated to making the house not only function but flourish. People who love to have fun, but also respect my space and time when I need it. People who leave a plate of food in the fridge for me when I come home from a long day.

Living in a coop is an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, and most people I know would benefit from spending a few months as a housemate. Besides all of the obvious benefits--inexpensive rent, great people, shared responsibilities--it's an incredibly sustainable way to live (so much so that Mayor Lee Leffingwell and the Austin City Council recently endorsed cooperative living).

If you're interested in living in a co-op, check out ICC, College Houses, or one of the several independent co-operatives around Austin. And if you ever find yourself cooking for 24 other people, here's a great recipe for sweet potato black bean chili (this is also a great recipe to make in big batches and freeze, if your house is a little smaller than mine).

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

4 tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
10 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. cumin
1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
4 28-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
8 cups of water or stock
6 cups of dried black beans, soaked overnight then cooked
8 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
4 lbs. sweet potatoes, diced
2 cups cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. kosher salt
Juice of four limes

Heat the oil in a large pot, then saute the onions, carrots, and garlic. Add the spices and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stock, black beans, and chipotle peppers. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and salt, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 30-40 minutes. Add the lime juice and cilantro last. Serve with cheese, tortilla chips, or salsa.


Anonymous said...

I can smell that cooking.

Marian Allen said...

MMM, fantastic recipe! I hadn't heard about cooperative housing, other than a dormitory. Sounds like you fell in with a great bunch of people. :)

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks for that chili recipe; I saved it! Happy you like the co-op life and you're with a great group.

Natalie S. said...

Thanks everybody! FYI, here are some websites to check out.
ICC: http://iccaustin.coop/
College Houses: http://www.collegehouses.org/
Deutsche House: http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/dhaus/

By the way the first picture belongs to the Avalon website :)

nutschell said...

what a great recipe and I love the pictures. Interesting to be living in a coop!
Great A-Z post!

The Writing Goddess said...

So glad you fell in with the right group of people. Sounds like a great way to go.

Thanks for an interesting post, Natalie, and Cheekysu.

Su said...

I'm so glad you all came by today! :) And oops, will fix that attribution immediately. Thanks, Natalie!

Ros said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am also doing Script Frenzy! Hard to know what goodies to go for first, isn't it? *grin*


Rena said...

Really cool blog! How sweet of your co-op mates to make food for you. =)

Visiting from A to Z.

Al Penwasser said...

Living in a co-op is much better than living in a coop.
Especially if you're allergic to chickens.

Rob-bear said...

Glad you had a great experience in that situation. The whole co-operative way of doing things (anything, really) is a great way of share work and build community!

Su said...

Thanks for dropping by, everybody! I appreciate your appreciation of Natalie's story/recipe! :)

Karen Peterson said...

I think that sounds like such a fun adventure!

And that chili recipe sounds delicious.

grtlyblesd said...

Interesting! My MIL lives in a commune in San Francisco.