By Joe Wlos
The residents of 1128 East Street can’t quite see Russia from their house, but they can at least admire Vladimir Putin during every meal. A printout picturing Russia’s paramount leader obscures the house number on the front of the porch, and a massive poster of President Putin covers one wall of the kitchen. This, however, is not the address of Grinnell’s Russian House.
“Welcome to Food House. None of our f*cking knives work,” Eleni Irrera ’14 said, trying to create a new standard greeting for Food House’s eleven residents: second years Nipun Basrur, Kristen Dabney, Aarti Kolluri, Rebecca Rea-Holloway, Rachel Van Court and third years Olivia Finster, Kai Mayer, Emmy Nucaro, Arthur Richardson, Nicole Robertson and Irrera.
The pictures of Putin are deceiving. Normally, the focus isn’t Siberia—it’s sustenance. Food House recently hosted a Russian-themed party, which the members of Russian House attended, and they decided to leave the posters hanging because they liked the decorations. The other walls of the home are adorned with plates, pots, pans and spices.
Sunday through Thursday, the residents of Food House host dinners featuring dishes cooked by some of its members. At the beginning of each week, they assign shifts to each person and they shop for ingredients with a budget of around $200. Each resident is required to contribute $20, but some still stay on Grinnell’s dining plan.
The dishes range from Italian-style pasta to “Russian” potatoes. Tonight, though, four housemates were in the kitchen cooking fajitas, with sweet potatoes and four types of salsa.
“This is a smorgasbord of delightfulness,” Arthur Richardson ’14 said, upon seeing the table full of food. “There are going to be so many leftovers! Are any of my bowls clean?”
For several minutes, utensils, plates, and bowls dominated the discussion, as residents searched for the tools needed to eat their meal, but once everyone was seated at the table outdoors, the conversation turned again to food.
After some praised the quality of the ingredients, house leader Aarti Kolluri ’15 explained that Food House subscribes to a produce program, which gives them access to fresh vegetables until the winter. Many in the house drifted from this topic, though, and began expressing concern about their shrinking supply of Nutella.
Food House welcomes students to their meals, as long as they chip in $3 for the food. On Fajita Night, members of Grinnell’s vegan organization were planning to attend the dinner, so no meat was served, but Food House always tries to provide a vegetarian option anyways. However, there was still a bit of confusion in the crowd of hungry college kids.
“Is anyone here even actually a vegan?” Rachel Van Court ’15 called out, while moving towards the sweet salsa.
Although this article is not a review and this reporter is not a critic, it must be said that the food was fabulous. Kolluri said that residents only spend two hours or so each day preparing meals. Given that amount of time, the quality and quantity of the food far exceeded expectations. Still, the chefs were humble.
“The beans are a little burnt, but it’s good,” Nicole Robertson ’14 commented, while talking about preparations for the next meal—tofu.
They had to speak loudly, because the table was packed. Besides the eleven members of Food House and the vegans, Jack Menner ’13 had brought along banjo player Jon Eric in order to feed him before his concert in Bob’s. It was an odd, but exciting, mix of people that helped illustrate Food House’s commitment to community.
This community is always adding new members. Although some of the people at the table were Food House veterans, most were second- or third-years who recently began living at 1128 East Street. However, the group bonded quickly—no doubt over a table full of delicious, wholesome food.