“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
PratesiLiving.com (formerly Bunkycooks.com) was started in November 2009 as a traditional food blog. There were no big plans for the blog, other than to share a passion and love of cooking with others. Since that time, our journey has introduced us to an ongoing adventure that we 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 understand 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. Not many young women attended culinary school in the 1970s, 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. However, 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 big 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 travel 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 nine years.
The exciting thing to us is how our work, writing, and website has evolved over time. We’ve really enjoyed sharing the amazing stories of the people we have met and the places we’ve been and we’ve been moved by these people and our experiences; perhaps it’s because of our own challenges that we’ve had to overcome. The insight in to the food, travel, and the culinary world continues to excite us. It has been an honor to become a member of this extraordinary community.
I could never have imagined in November 2009 how much we would learn, the relationships we would form, the people we would impact, and the places we would travel to. We also never imagined back then that we would write and photograph a book with one of the country’s best Latin chefs. 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 we have inspired and educated others over the past 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.
We are thankful for all of the opportunities that authoring this site has given us and grateful that we have survived the worst of times. We look forward to what the future has in store, and hopefully, the best is yet to come.
Now, after six years of authoring Bunkycooks.com, we relaunched this site as PratesiLiving.com. We have expanded to include more travel articles and varied content and we look forward to seeing what the next years will bring. We hope you will take this journey with us!
If you are interested in working with us or would like more information or a press kit, please contact us through this form. We look forward to hearing from you.
Gwen and Roger Pratesi