For the typical college student, a cooking portfolio consists of eggs, a bowl of cereal, a cup of ramen and, if fortunate, some mac and cheese. Evangeline Bergeron, on the other hand, can whip up a five-star meal within an hour, preparing gourmet dishes—from charred cabbage and nước chấm to cottage cheese banana protein pancakes—in the basement kitchen of Fischer Hall.
What started as a supplement to the freshman Chinese major’s Saga-dominant diet soon developed into a vibrant Instagram account, @evios.college.eating, where Evangeline, who goes by Eva, documents her prepared meals. Some recent examples include a butternut squash, chickpea and kale winter salad with tahini dressing, sweet potatoes with peanut-chile salsa or brown butter pumpkin spice cookies with chocolate chunks. Ninety-nine followers, a small but growing base, cheer her on, eager to see what meal she will concoct next.
Eva, who is from Portland, Ore., is quick to give credit for her cooking prowess to her mother, Cara, who invited her and her three older brothers into the kitchen from an early age.
“As soon as Eva could stand upright and use a spoon, she was involved in whatever [we] were doing,” said Cara, who works as a Latin teacher. “Feeding the family was a production, like an extra part-time job for me, so everyone got involved.”
As the kids got older, Eva said, her mother asked the kids to each make one meal a week, and to help out more and more. In middle school, Eva took a special liking to baking, according to her mother.
“No one bakes like Eva does,” said Cara. “When she’s not at home, I have to buy cakes from the grocery store.”
Over time, baking morphed from a love-language for Eva into a form of gift-giving. “I’ve always loved to bake cakes and bring them to school to share with my friends during class,” she said.
With nothing else to fill her time during the COVID-19 shutdowns, Eva said, she used the kitchen as a coping mechanism. Once she mastered baking, she ventured into cooking. “Over COVID, there wasn’t really anything I could do with my friends,” she said. “But I could always make a meal with my family.”
She said these family meals helped offset some of the uncertainty of the pandemic, especially since Eva’s father, Brian, is an airline pilot, and the early pandemic was a stressful time for his industry.
“While there were parts of life that were pretty stressful during COVID, cooking and eating good food brought a lot of peace to the days,” Eva said. “We made a habit of eating dinner together at night and then having a short time of singing and prayer afterward.”
She said that this evening routine of prayer and worship helped the family remember God’s provision, even in difficult and uncertain moments.
Cooking has continued to be a way for Eva to connect with family. Her oldest brother Brandt and his wife, Kendall, stayed with the Bergeron family for a few months during the pandemic. Eva said she grew much closer to Kendall through their mutual love of cooking.
Eva also found that her cooking skills were welcomed by her brother Seth, who at 20 is the closest to Eva’s age.
“As we got older and I started to bake a lot, I realized that I liked to make things and he especially liked to eat them, so it’s a good balance,” she said. “He is willing to eat everything, and if it’s especially ugly, he’s good natured about it and we usually make fun of how it looks together.”
The only time he wouldn’t touch his plate? When Eva was experimenting with chocolate pancakes, of all foods.
“I massively screwed up a batch,” she said with a laugh. “I also used baked goods as a form of apology sometimes, which may not have been the best idea, but I feel like there are worse things.”
When she moved to Wheaton last August, Bergeron brought her family’s favorite recipes with her, including her favorite Korean and Chinese meals. She got into Korean food in the last few years, she said, and even wanted to study Korean in college but chose Mandarin instead, since Wheaton doesn’t have a Korean language program.
Other favorite recipes include any dish from Molly Baz’s “Cook This Book,” a Bergeron family favorite.
Cara said each member of the family is formidable in the kitchen. Some even have their own specialties. “Eva cooks incredible Korean food,” Cara said, “including Korean street food snacks—and she makes it all taste right. Her homemade kimchi is incredible too.”
Cara’s specialty is Mexican food. Even Brian only recently discovered his abilities in the kitchen, Cara said with a laugh.
Back home, when Eva is clanging around in the kitchen, her mother knows everything is alright. “I just like hearing her working, moving all around in the kitchen, knowing that making things for others brings her joy, and that the kitchen is a happy place for her,” said Cara.