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Finding Family in Family Units

From March to August, a large majority of Boston College students grudgingly traded late night at Lower for early mornings in Mom and Dad’s kitchen. But despite the isolation from college friends, the extra time inspired many to learn new cooking skills and recipes that they could carry back to BC. And what good is a new homemade bread recipe with nobody to try it? Since parties are no more, many college students have repurposed their beer pong tables into dining tables. Hence the revival of the dinner party as a way to bond with what few friends they are legally allowed to host. This is the first year that BC has experienced such a surge in Instagram content featuring charcuterie boards and homemade mimosas. Quarantine produced a cherished desire for closeness and family, which reflects itself in many forms on our college campus.

One Rubenstein six-man has taken the beloved Italian tradition of pasta nights and turned them into a weekly celebration of friendship. Ben Errichetti MCAS ‘21 was one of the roommates who spearheaded the efforts. “After a summer of apartness and staying in the home and isolation, my good buddy Jeremy and I were like, ‘You know what we should do? We should bring a little warmth into our dorms, and every Sunday we can invite people over and have a nice meal.’ And instead of just inviting people over to eat we can make it a real familial type thing, which is why we invested in a tablecloth to go that small extra mile.” 

This idea of the “extra mile” began with a bright red tablecloth (to hide inevitable sauce stains) and a candle centerpiece, but they did not stop there. With each week came a different dish, side, and theme. According to Errichetti, it began as a way to celebrate and reflect on his and some of his roommates’ Italian roots. The first several main dishes included shrimp scampi, carbonara, and chicken parmesan. From there, they began to expand into more themed occasions, such as sausages and Bavarian pretzels in honor of Oktoberfest and pork chops with applesauce for the beginning of fall. Jeremy Harris MCAS ‘21, another one of the roommates explained how his upbringing influences his ideas for the Sunday Gravy meals.

“A big part of my childhood was getting the extended family together for holidays like Easter and Thanksgiving. When I was young I looked forward to these events because the food was always so unique and delicious. Being around my family for an extended period of time over quarantine made me realize that the delicious food was there to emphasize the importance of family bonding, not just eating rich food. I wanted to make Sunday Gravy a staple in college because food is what brings us together, and the people that we care about is what we stay for.”

For other family units, the food itself is not the centerpiece of the gathering, but it remains an essential component nonetheless. Mary Stenerson CSOM ‘21 explains how her roommates in 2150 have been trying out new recipes to complement their themed nights, which typically revolve around a movie or board game. “We’ve done a fair amount of movie nights where we make a lot of movie-themed food and drinks and some of us will even dress up as characters from the movie. We’ve had some nights where we just play games and make food altogether. I like finding foods I think my roommates will enjoy and making it for us to share.”

One of these particular nights consisted of a Twilight movie marathon, featuring blood-red velvet cupcakes, garlic bread, and their patented “werewolves in a blanket.” Naturally, a vampire-themed spread wouldn’t be complete without homemade red sangria. Another story that Stenerson recounts involved an apple-themed baking spree resulting from the prior week’s apple picking trip. “I made apple crisp, I made apple puff pastry cups, and I made apple cake. And even after that we still have a giant thing of apples on the table!”

When asked what they personally get out of these family unit experiences, a few keywords consistently jumped out: providing, thanking, and bonding. It’s strangely beautiful to see roommates who are usually no more than a year apart in age take on the roles of provider and beneficiary in these family scenarios. Everyone who gets to eat the food is grateful and in return contributes to the jovial atmosphere. But the people preparing the food, like Stenerson, find their own satisfaction from not just the meal, but the process of preparation.

“What do I personally get out of the experience? I think I view it as a way to give back to everyone. To say thank you for being such amazing roommates, here’s a little gift. And it’s also fun because I enjoy baking, so it’s a way I can make other people happy while still having fun myself.”

Cover photo courtesy of Marcelo Kenne Vicente