The Phoenix Reporter and Item (

THE TABLE: Staying home — no bathing suits at the dinner table

By Bette Banjack

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Today, for something different, we are going to stay home. For almost two years now, we have been checking out countries, cities and areas throughout the world. The new thing is a “daycation” — instead of one big trip, we go on day trips of nearby places or visit friends and relatives.

There are so many places locally with many choices according to your interest and your pocket book. Even day trips can be quite costly, and many times we feel we must do expense things like theme parks and entertainment meccas.

As a kid, we cooled off in the summer using large metal tubs or a hose. Inground and plastic pools were things yet to come. Neighborhood moms took turns at manning the hoses. It was their job to determine how long the water would stay on. After the first thrill of running through the cold water (hoses had no heater), we would settle down to individual metal tubs filled with cold water that had been warmed by the sun.

We had to be cleaned up for dinner, no bathing suits at our dinner table. When I was a kid, most mothers cooked dinner every night, no matter how hot. Today, it is so much easier. Grilling has come a long way with dads starting to cook more at home. Men seem to be cooking more these days.

Now making dinner means something a whole lot different than it did in the ’50s and ’60s. Along with outdoor cooking, many of us eat several meals a week outside our house. Then there is takeout we bring home. If the food cools down before getting it on the table, there is the microwave ready to heat it up. A big thing is the coupons in publications offering discount on meals and grocery foods. These coupons can be a big savings, but cooking in your own kitchen without coupons can be just as cost effective.

I also recall as a kid summer electrical storms. As a kid, electrical storms in the summer usually meant no lights or electric stoves. Today, lights and stoves are still rendered useless. But when the electric comes back on, now you must program televisions, the VCR, carbon monoxide indicators, clocks, computers, the fax and the telephone answering machines.

What did we do before there was before air conditioning, which we have gotten so used to? At one time, families would sit outside in the evening to try and catch a breeze. Today, we stay inside with our televisions and computers because it is so hot outside. Even cars are air conditioned. I would guess that there are five cars in all of Pennsylvania that still do not have air conditioning. In the 1950s to present, energy and power has developed beyond the average person’s comprehension. It was only between 1955 and 1967 that microwave cooking was developed for public use.

Weekly Sunday School and Summer Vacation Bible School were mandatory for me in our household. There was no question as to if I was going or not. It was OK with me because I was anxious to attend. Of all the things, what I remember about Bible school was the chocolate milk. I always liked it when we were taken by bus to a church in the country for joint sessions. There was a very old cemetery right next to the church. If I could get away with it, I would take my chocolate milk, lean against a tombstone and, between sips, daydream.

Time at the playground started right after July Fourth after Bible school ended. Over the years, I spread myself between two playgrounds. There was Reeves Park, which was the main facility, and a much smaller one on Morris Street. Reeves Park had a lot more activities. I remember a playground instructor who was very creative. He wore a whistle around his neck to keep us in line. Under his guidance, we would present talent shows with all the kids taking part. A big thing was arts and crafts — sometimes they were free, and sometimes they cost a little money. You can be sure the free items were grabbed up in a hurry.

I would like to mention Girl Scout Day Camp in Birchruville. Each morning, we got picked up and transported to an environment very different then I was familiar. At home in Phoenixville, there was pavements, tar roads, sidewalks and lots of sun. At camp, there was dirt, trees and a lot of shade. The trees were so close together that you could only see bits and pieces of the sky.

It was the summer I was 13 that my cousin Debbie was born. I was old enough to visit the hospital by myself. At that time, there was no air conditioning — opened windows included the delivery room. Mothers at that time stayed in the hospital recovering at least a week. One afternoon, someone went into labor. The mother-to-be’s screams were heard throughout the hospital as well out the open windows. With each scream, we would jump, then hold our breath. When we started to relax, there would be another scream. After an hour, I told my Aunt Sara I had to go home. I only felt a little guilty. After all, she did get a baby.


A Salad favorite — summer-fall-winter-spring!

½ to ¾ loaf of day old bread

1 medium/large red onion, thinly sliced

4 to 5 ripe tomato, medium dice

½ cup loosely packed snipped fresh basil leaves

½ cup loosely packed snipped fresh parsley

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Break bread into pieces in food processor. Pulse until coarse in texture. In a large bowl, place bread. Add onions, tomatoes, basil and parsley. Gently toss. Add vinegar and oil. Gently toss. Add salt and pepper taste. Give it one final toss. Allow to stand for 25 to 30 minutes so flavors will blend.

If you have bread that is hard, tear into small pieces and place into a large bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak about 20 minutes. Drain the bread well, pressing out the water to eliminate all the water. Crumble bread into another large bowl and continue as previously instructed.


Let me hear from you: Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.”