They say ignorance is bliss. They’re wrong. I’ve been at Swarthmore for nearly four months and I’m here to tell you, that when I went to the Co-Op for the first time on a sunny afternoon in late November and, rid of my ignorance, I experienced true bliss. There’s something magical about the Co-Op. I didn’t realize how large it was from just seeing it from the outside, and was amazed to see a grocery store — I had imagined something of an earthy corner store. As I walked down the aisles, I realized that despite not being a restaurant, the Co-Op has ambiance. The lighting is bright, but still romantic enough that you will fall in love with the refrigerator full of fancy cheese. The aisles are cozy and the foods stocking the shelves beam radiance and joy. The ice cream lines part of the side wall and filled me with a unique mix of hunger and regret. The favorite dessert of our vice president and esteemed Delawarean, Joe Biden, has just been sitting in the Co-Op waiting to be purchased with my leftover Swat Points. I wondered how I could have missed everything that the Co-Op has to offer, from my favorite grocery items like ice cream to prepared foods like sushi and paninis. The breadth of options gives the Co-Op a unique vibe that feels like the world’s possibilities are endless.
As a very serious amateur food critic, I had internally debated the merit of reviewing the Co-Op. I realized that it was not a restaurant, but I had heard excellent things about their paninis. I wondered, if an establishment sold soap and birthday cards in addition to their food, did it fit the criteria for this series? I wondered, until I ate. I had a panini, cleverly named “The Gobbler of Fire”. All of the Co-Ops signature paninis and sandwiches have witty names, and would be more accurately named pun-inis. From ordering the Gobbler, a sandwich with turkey, arugula, red onions, a balsamic sauce made in-house, and provolone cheese, to receiving it, I spent nearly ten minutes waiting for my lunch. Well worth the wait, the Gobbler of Fire is delicious. The turkey is savory and exceeded my expectations in terms of its flavor and overall quality. The red onions gave the sandwich tang that was complimented well by the honey balsamic sauce. The panini was what I really want Thanksgiving to taste like. It had warm flavors that work together to provide a layered experience. I personally rank turkey as my least favorite deli meat, but the Co-Op transforms it from an overrated meat into an eating event well worth the walk from campus.
In addition to prepared foods perfect for any meal of the day, the Co-Op is the best place to stock up on snacks. When I saw the pepperoni sitting under the glass at the deli counter, I thought I was having anticipatory meat sweats. It turned out I had just been wearing my coat indoors for too long, but nonetheless, I was ready to have some quality pepperoni in my life. Much of the Co-Op’s meat, including the pepperoni, comes from Applegate Farms, a company whose meat is antibiotic free, GMO free, rBGH free, organic, and grass-fed. While the benefits of some of those specifications is debatable, the meat at the Co-Op is delicious and seems to match the progressive tastes of the Swarthmore clientele. Upon arriving back at my dorm and opening up the meat I had purchased, I was pleased. The pepperoni has the perfect overtones of heat and the classic zesty taste of the pork and beef combination. I also picked up hummus and pita chips while at the Co-Op, and was highly impressed with the hummus carried by the Co-Op. Coming in several flavors, the garlic variety might border on too garlic-y for some, but I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as too much garlic.
The Co-Op is a great place to get lunch, dinner, snacks, and anything in between. It’s also good for getting non-food items like shampoo. The versatility of the Co-Op is what makes it one of the best uses of Swat points. Not only is it possible to get a hot lunch to take back to campus, but you can also get peanut butter and other basics without having to go all the way to Target or have a friendly relative send them through the mail. The Co-Op is by far the most useful addition to the OneCard. Although it offers a very limited menu of cooked food, the wide variety of other items and the ability to stock up on items like fresh vegetables and assorted cheeses means that the Co-Op is not just a store. The Co-Op is an institution that has inspired my culinary optimism and given me both the snacks and the hope to get through the rest of the semester.