Authentic Eagles: Joe Veroneau on Breaking Bread

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality  can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working towards being more authentic.

Joe Veroneau, CSOM ’15

French chef, Jacques Pepin, made an interesting point in an interview with Charlie Rose that has stuck with me over the past few years. When Pepin came to America in the ‘50s and went to the grocery in New York City, there was only one type of lettuce, no shallots or leeks, and when he asked for mushrooms, he was directed to aisle five for canned products. Now, he points out, even the most generic of grocery stores has a plethora of fresh produce and an international aisle. As he puts it, “grocery stores have never been as beautiful as they are today. It is almost an embarrassment of riches.”

In today’s world, our seemingly limitless options extend far beyond the grocery store. We live in an age of miraculous, even overwhelming, variety and choice when it comes to what we can do with our time. The diverse, international population of Boston College is a great example of the profound amount of access I have to different peoples, places and things. The opportunity to be a member of The Heights community is a privilege that I try to not let go unappreciated. This appreciation often comes in the form of a steaming tray of lasagna garnished with fresh basil, an uncorked bottle of Italian grapes, and a quick blessing before a feast with friends.

I love food – cooking, eating, even conversing about it. Growing up with seven brothers and sisters, I grew to recognize food as a mediator with an ability to settle the chaos and unite people. From large family gatherings around the holidays to a run of the mill weekday family dinner cramped around the dining room table, some of my fondest memories from home are closely related to breaking bread. Throughout high school and college I began cooking in restaurant settings as well as for pleasure with friends and family. Breaking bread has been something that has allowed me to more fully experience and appreciate my time at Boston College.

Freshman year, cramped into Claver, I prepared guacamole by cutting the ingredients with a camping pocketknife atop the glass plate from the microwave. After a quick rinse in the bathroom, I’d replace the plate and extend an invitation for nachos to some hall mates. As we elbowed and shoved over the last chip, the hall began to feel a little more like home.

When I moved into Walsh, I folded the pocketknife back up in favor of a George Foreman and an electric skillet. While my room bonded over Sunday dinners of pulled pork, fried chicken, or 8-man omelets, we drew the ire of the facilities crew for repeatedly blowing the fuses in a kitchenette nowhere near suited for the way we were cooking. With no dishwasher or parents present there was a weekly biohazard in the 223, yet, the meals made our room familial.

Junior year, during an RA stint, I was provided funds and an excuse to buy food. When I wasn’t putting on fondue or cookies and milk programs, I had access to actual kitchens in friends' off-campus apartments. Most meals were cheap and simple; others were opulent feasts. At the end of the first semester, the few of us still around for that inexplicably late final exam, devoured a full Mexican spread. We had upgraded from sitting on the floor, devouring pocketknife nachos. We were approaching civilized, as all of us sat around a table with Carne asada, pineapple salsa, and tacos, though a Christmas tree with beer can ornaments still adorned the corner of the room.

Parents’ weekend is a time when my life at Boston College feels whole. I first experienced the game day thrill eight years ago during my oldest brother’s freshman year here. Over the course of the past eight years, I’ve ascended to the position of head tailgate chef. Slicing, chopping, filleting, mashing, grilling – I find the rhythm and precision calming. With muscle memory, the processes become almost mindless, allowing me time to relax and to think. Last week, I manned the grill and handed off piping-hot food to hungry family and friends. The scent of barbecue filled my nose and permeated my Superfan shirt.

As the sun started to set behind Gasson on my last undergraduate parents’ weekend, I thought back on the day, the semester and my three years at Boston College: friends, experiences, growth, values, and education. As I looked at everyone gathered, I couldn’t help but notice the community. We were all breaking bread. It occurred to me that my family extended far beyond my parents and siblings. Whether it is cooking over the campfire on wilderness excursions away from BC, or eating a sandwich from the Eagle’s Nest alone at the labyrinth like Steven Glansberg, it is in breaking bread that I really remember how blessed I am.

 

 

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