Savoring Summer- Guest Post from Bunky Cooks

Maya Angelou said, “Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives”.  Endurance and fortitude go hand-in-hand in most every childhood. The lessons we learn as children and the tools we use for finding our way in the world are precious gifts that come wrapped in surprising packages. Gwen Pratesi of Bunky Cooks shows us that thriving with the gifts we are given is what makes us accomplished adults. GREG   

 am flattered that Greg asked me to do a guest post while he is in Norway (I assume my Smoked Salmon and Jarlsberg are in the mail. ;)).  He asked me to do a guest post about my summers growing up in Pennsylvania instead of writing about food or posting a recipe.  I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive.  My summers were not what you would consider traditional for most children, although I had my fair share of fun playing outdoors with friends, time at the beach and road trips to visit family.

It seems to me that our society has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. There was a time when people kept their personal lives, well… personal. Today, we have opened our lives for everyone to see, especially when we write a blog.  Perhaps we can attribute this to Reality TV, or perhaps Reality TV is a product of these changes in attitude.  With that in mind, let me try to open up a little bit and share some of my childhood experiences from summer “vacations”.

gewn pratesi as a childWhen I was very young my parents separated. By the time I was four they had divorced. I lived with my mother who had to work full-time to support the two of us.

She would leave early in the mornings and come home at dinnertime. During the school year this meant that I was a traditional latchkey child, however the summers posed a different challenge. After she left for work each day I was responsible for myself. This meant that from the time I was four years old, I was responsible for taking care of more than we expect of most children.

I remember getting my own breakfast and staying home to read books or heading out to the local swim club where I spent many of my days each week.  I would walk the long distance to get there and spend my time with neighborhood friends. My mother would pick me up from the pool after work each day.  I also spent some days at my grandmother’s house, but I would walk there by myself much of the time. Can you imagine letting your child do this today?

My duties around the house began as soon as we arrived home. I would help my mother prepare dinner and clean up afterward.  I took on even greater responsibility for the cooking and household chores as I got older. I am sure that is the reason I became more independent and self-sufficient.

I don’t want to give the impression that my childhood was just work and being alone. I would visit with my father every other weekend. I enjoyed the time we spent on his boat in the summers and most of all, I had fun convincing him to take me to the latest and greatest restaurants in Philadelphia. I was enamored with cooking and entertaining at a very young age and even worked in the kitchen of a well-known restaurant when I was in high school.

The most memorable summer vacation experience was when I went to visit my Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom for a few weeks at their home outside of Philadelphia.  Aunt Helen was a wonderful cook and introduced me to a wide range of cooking techniques during my visit with them. I knew then that cooking and entertaining would be very important part of my life.

Bunky Cooks Gwen plays dress up in childhoodI have honed my cooking skills, entertained family and friends and have studied the culinary arts over these many years. I am happy to say that during my learning experiences I never  burned down the house as I tried out all kinds of new dishes.  Can you imagine how exciting it is to flambé dishes and make Crêpe Suzette and Bananas Foster as a young girl?  It was incredibly exciting to me.

Maybe cooking was one way for me to fill a void that I had in my family. Maybe cooking was something special that I could do with friends.  I do know that cooking has provided me with a wonderful creative outlet.

I am sure that many of you look back at your childhood summer memories of family, sports, vacations and friends.  While I may have missed much of this because of my family situation, other doors have opened for me as a result. Gwen