Monday, March 19, 2012

Philly Kitchen: Penny Jennewein

Every other week Penn Appétit profiles a student who cooks on a college budget and in a college sized kitchen.

This week we catch up with Penny Jennewein, a proud member and founder of Penn’s first ever co-op. When she’s not engaging in the “science experiment” of vegan baking, Penny is part of a system of shared cooking at the co-op. The members of the co-op put in money for a mutually agreed upon grocery list and then take turns cooking strictly vegan for everyone throughout the week. I got to enjoy a lively discussion about the power of food to bring people together and promote social justice over a delicious plate of homemade green coconut curry (recipe below!). I hope you’ll come away as inspired as I was to grab a group of friends and start cooking together similar to how the co-op does.

Penn Appétit: How did you learn to cook?
Penny Jenewein: My mom was a caterer for a while and a baker, she’s a really good cook. She would always teach us how to bake so me and my sister would make soufflés and things like that, but I didn’t really learn to cook until high school, I just felt like I should learn domestic things.

PA: Why did the co-op decide to make communal meals vegan?
PJ: Not a majority but a lot of members are vegan. Originally when we started out we decided that we all have a shared commitment to social justice and a lot of people, even if they aren’t vegan, agree that food is a source of social justice. I think that veganism is a way to be socially just and functionally the system wouldn’t work well if we were doing communal food and people had to pay for things they wouldn’t be able to eat.

PA: What’s the hardest thing about cooking in a college sized kitchen?
PJ: There’s not enough time for it, I rarely have blocks of time to do anything…I get around this because other people at the co-op cook and I can still have a healthy and good tasting meal but not have to put the time in every night.

PA: What’s the best thing?
PJ: I think it’s a relaxer. I look forward to cooking food and it’s something that I do with other people. Food is such a social justice thing, you know, if you plan your life in a way that you can cook food and enjoy food with other people that can be something that brings people together. I think it really does in the co-op when people sit together, eat and laugh.

(The co-ops cooking schedule, left)

PA: What’s your advice for people who want to start cooking?
PJ: I would say try to cook something that you really like first. But also, it’s not a science; you should just throw things in a pot, see what tastes good and add more or less depending.

PA: What’s your cooking philosophy?
PJ: I usually don’t follow the recipe that much.
PA: Why is that?
PJ: Usually I always do something wrong so I have to make up for that. Especially with cooking vegan I have to shift things so I will try to find a substitute or I wont add things and I’ll just see what happens.

Thai Green Curry – serves 9 people in a co-op
(Adapted from Oh Kitchen, June 20 2011)

• 3 Tbs green curry paste
• 2 14oz can of coconut milk
• 2 large cloves garlic
• 1 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
• 1 full onion
• 4 large red (or other thin-skinned type) potato
• 5-6 carrots
• 1 Tbs brown sugar
• ½ 14 oz package tofu
• 2 cups brown rice

WITHOUT SHAKING, open the can of coconut milk. Take the coconut "cream" layer off the top and put into a sauce pan along with red curry paste. Heat over medium heat and stir to combine.

Let coconut cream and curry paste come together till they thicken up and become more paste-like. Lower heat some and then add garlic, ginger and onion.

When garlic and ginger become fragrant, add rest of coconut milk, along with 1 cup of water. Add diced potatoes carrots, and tofu to the pot.

Turn up the heat till pot boils and then reduce to a simmer. Put the lid on, but leave partially open. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

Add brown sugar and squeeze of a lime or a splash of rice vinegar. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Serve with brown rice.

-Leyla Mocan

Do you or someone you know cook in your college sized kitchen? Want to be profiled on our next post? Send an email to and we’ll contact you to be featured!

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