In a kitchen just off campus, Phoebe Brooks (Comm ’13), Melissa Davidson (Weinberg ’13), Amanda Myers (Weinberg ’13), Sarah Wachtel (Bienen and Weinberg ’13), and Alicia White (Weinberg ’13) gather for dinner four to five times a week. The place has a homey atmosphere, with a brightly colored tablecloth on the kitchen table and frying pans hanging on the walls. The spice cabinet is impressive. Although there isn’t much counter space, the cooks navigate around each other with ease, practiced in making the space work for them.

Phoebe, Melissa, Amanda, and Alicia spoke with Spoon one Sunday evening as they prepared dinner.


The women met in Jones residential college during their first year at Northwestern, and decided to move off campus in order to cook and eat communally. The summer before moving in, they made a list of each person’s likes, dislikes, and allergies. It still hangs on the fridge, but they never need to consult it anymore.

Why eating together is important:

“We would never see each other otherwise,” says Amanda.

“We have great conversations,” adds Phoebe.

“Kinda like a family dinner,” Amanda finishes.

Sharing the time and cost of meals:

Although it has been difficult to reach four or five communal meals a week this quarter due to busy schedules, the general aim is that each member of the group will cook about once a week. Amanda affirms that this is a shorter time commitment than it would be for each of them to eat separately, even if each one just “threw something together every night.”

Alicia explains, “As an apartment, we have a joint bank account with Chase,” – “For this, but also for rent, utilities,” Amanda adds – Alicia continues: Paper towels and light bulbs and stuff, so that way it’s never ‘oh, wait, you owe me 44 cents for the roll of paper towels that I got’ which would just be a huge pain in the butt.… That’s how we pay for apartment dinners.”

The group recommends this approach for students who are responsible enough to keep paying into the account, and who use similar resources in their cooking.


The main advice from the group? Stock the kitchen.  “We can cook anything whenever we want to because we have the ingredients,” Melissa explains, as Alicia shows off the spice cabinet.

A second tip: stay flexible. If committing to a year of communal eating is difficult, Amanda recommends planning “quarter by quarter.” Alicia suggests starting out by cooking with friends one night a week, if that is what fits in your schedule.

Recipe to try

Alicia recommends the Biden’s Spiced Pecans (yes, those Bidens), a recipe that can be found here.