“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~ Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
As the third year anniversary of Bunkycooks quickly approaches, I thought it might be time to share a little more about me and Mr. B with my readers. Do you ever wonder what drives people to do what they do? What compels someone to travel 30,000 miles a year and write about their experiences? There is always a back story and it is time that I share a little more about us.
Bunkycooks was started in November 2009 as a traditional food blog. There were no big plans for the blog, other than to share my passion and love of cooking with others. Since that time, this journey has introduced us to an ongoing adventure that I never could have imagined. Meetings with some of America’s best chefs, small farmers, distillers and wine makers, food artisans, and behind the scenes visits to extraordinary culinary destinations have been eye-opening and inspirational. If you understand what led up to November of 2009, maybe you will see why our travels and essays of the last few years have become a way of life for us.
Cooking and entertaining have always been a big part of my life. My parents were divorced early on and I was a latchkey child. I was in the kitchen at a very young age preparing weeknight meals for my mother and myself so dinner was on the table when she came home from work. Cooking became a creative outlet and a way to occupy many hours at home alone. As I got older, I planned elaborate dinner parties with friends and prepared meals for holiday and family gatherings.
While I had designs on culinary school in Paris at age sixteen, my high school college counselor had other plans for me and suggested Cornell University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Young women did not attend culinary school in the 1970’s, so I was told to go to college and if I still had frivolous designs on becoming a chef after college, I should pursue them after a “real” education. Managing a hotel or restaurant was not my goal, so I decided to attend the University of Richmond.
As they say, life happens and becoming a chef was shelved for more traditional company jobs in order to make a living. My passion for cooking never left me and I filled my free time immersed in cookbooks and in the kitchen.
Many years, a family, several career moves, and countless recipes later, I married my husband, Roger. I left a corporate job in Boston and moved to Atlanta. We had a wonderful life planned, filled with travel and new adventures. One month after we were married, tragedy struck. Roger fell from the roof of the house in what was a near fatal accident. Two years later, he was diagnosed with what we would learn was Stage 4 colon cancer. Life would never be the same.
The first six years of our married life were filled with medical visits, surgeries, and concern about the future. Roger went through two bouts of cancer and years of chemotherapy. He had another cancer scare with a tumor in the spine that turned out to be benign. We did not want to think about what would come next. In that time, I also had several major surgeries. We focused all of our attention on healing, but each year brought a new challenge. It seemed like the bad news would never stop and it was taking a toll on us.
During that time, I turned to cooking and entertaining, once again, as a way of dealing with the catastrophic events that we could not control in our lives. I hosted numerous dinner parties at our home. Visiting with our friends was therapeutic for Roger and cooking in the kitchen was medicinal for me. We never realized how important our good health was until we had lost it.
During these years, our travel was limited because of Roger’s chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and fatigue. We did, however, manage to go to Europe when he was on a break from treatments and felt well enough to travel the long distance.
In October of 2009, we flew to the South of France. It was every bit as spectacular as I remembered it. The food, the markets, the mountains, the Mediterranean sea, and the lifestyle…I did not want to return home. After several unforgettable days in France, we boarded a ship that would take us to several ports in Spain: Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, and Barcelona.
While every port was memorable in its own way, the Boqueria (market) in Barcelona truly was a life changing experience. We strolled through the market and were in awe at the stunning foods on display. We had never seen anything like it before. The meats, the cheeses, the produce, and spices; everything was spectacular. A bustling counter service restaurant (Kiosko Universal) prepared tapas of razor clams and heaping mounds of beautiful wild mushrooms. Simply sautéed and seasoned, it was some of the best food we ever tasted. That was late October. Inspired by our trip and visit to the market in Barcelona, the first actual post on Bunkycooks was published November 24, 2009, Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona.
In the spring of 2010, with Roger feeling better and his cancer in remission, we decided to take the opportunity to explore the world around us and write about some of our discoveries along the way. For many years we had focused on friends and activities close to home due to health considerations, but with renewed energy and the prospects of a brighter future, things began to change.
I interviewed Chef Johannes Klapdohr at Old Edwards Inn (Highlands, N.C) in June 2010. Chef Klapdohr was passionate, to say the least. He talked about our food supply and the problem with many aspects of the American diet. He encouraged us to reach out to farmers, artisans, and other chefs to learn more. Half a day with Chef Klapdohr and a lunch later, our world was turned upside down and suddenly, there seemed to be a real reason and a purpose for the blog.
Since that first chef interview, one thing has led to another. The next chef interview was with John Fleer at Canyon Kitchen in Cashiers, NC (Chef Fleer was formerly at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN). This interview again led us to other farmers, artisans, and opportunities. One chef interview would result in a farm visit which connected us back to another chef, a new culinary destination, or food artisan. And so it has been for the last few years.
We did not ask for this to happen, it has just evolved over time. We have been pulled into this life. It is not out of design. It is not out of ambition. It is from a sincere desire to share the amazing stories of the people we have met and the places we have been. We have been moved by the stories of these people, perhaps it is because of our own challenges that we have had to overcome. The insight in to the food and the culinary world continues to excite us. It has been an honor to become a member of this extraordinary community.
We believe it is important to share what we have learned and for people to understand where our food comes from. So many people have lost that connection and think that food comes from plastic packages and cardboard boxes. Our visits to farms are continuous reminders that animals have provided that meat on our table and that farmers have pulled those vegetables from the ground in order for us to nurture our bodies. It is also important to understand how our food supply is changing and to keep informed in order to make wise choices about our food purchases.
We want to support local farmers, artisans, and purveyors and help preserve food traditions and heirloom ingredients that are at risk of being lost forever. We want to encourage families to create traditions around food that will be passed down through generations. We want to bring the stories of some of America’s great chefs to our readers to build a better understanding of the passion and skill that goes in to great recipes and extraordinary food. This is also the reason we have created our culinary tour business, On The Road culinary adventures, to allow others to experience and meet some of the chefs, artisans, and culinary destinations that have changed our lives.
I could never have imagined in November 2009 how much we would learn, the relationships we would form, and the people we would impact. I feel fortunate that we have our health for the first time in years and that we can enjoy life again. I also hope that Bunkycooks has inspired and educated others over the past few years to get out and enjoy the best food, people, and places that life has to offer. As we know from personal experience, life can be short and you need to live each and every day to its fullest.
For those of you who have always wondered how and why we do this, we do it out of pure love for the people we have met. Their stories are inspiring. We do it because it chose us, we did not choose it. I am thankful for all of the opportunities that writing Bunkycooks has given us and grateful that we have survived the worst of times. I look forward to what the future has in store for us, and hopefully, the best is yet to come.
Thank you for reading Bunkycooks and for your support over the past three years.