College Confessions: What Working At My Uncle's Bakery Taught Me About Culture And Myself

I am a young adult white woman. I live in a house with a swimming pool, and I have loving, supportive parents along with a dog that never stops barking. I never had to worry about money, schooling or how others looked at me. I never felt like a minority in my life. I never knew what it felt like to be the outsider in a clan of people who all seemed to speak and act a way I had never known. That changed this summer when I became a counter girl at my uncle’s bakery in Brentwood, a town that is mostly Hispanic. I had been going to my uncle’s bakery ever since I was a little girl. I always knew the bakery as a place that was located in a bad neighborhood until that neighborhood became my work environment, and Spanish became a language I needed to understand and speak three days a week.


It Made Me Believe In Hard Work:

Hard work not by wearing a suit and tie every day but by getting frosting all over you and explaining to customers the difference between whipped cream and buttercream.


It Made Me Believe In Myself: 

After my first day, I didn’t want to go back and didn’t think I could. I thought there was no way I was going to be able to communicate with these customers, write on these cakes or write out orders for customers getting a two-tier birthday cake. But, I did it. I was able to understand a customer who only spoke Spanish and was able to talk to her and help her pick out a cake. I was able to write in script on each cake, no matter the language, and my favorite part about the job was taking orders for people and picking out what kind of special cake they wanted. This job made me believe I could do anything I set my mind to. I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could speak any language I wanted to speak and be a part of a different culture and still be myself. From the other counter girls playing hide-and-seek in the bakery when everyone had left to the decorators knowing how to deal with customers and making the prettiest roses out of icing I had ever seen, and the guys in the back working the hardest and always having a smile on their faces, I would have never guessed the amount of people it takes to put a cake in the fridge or to hand a cake to a customer.


Then, there is the man who will always be my favorite boss. I come from a big Italian family where you kiss everybody hello and everybody goodbye. Sometimes, the only time you would talk to them would be then. That changed for my uncle and me in the last three months. He became someone I could trust and someone I instantly clicked with. The bakery gave us a path to lead on, to talk about and to grow from. Having a family member be part of my work experience who was someone that I saw every other month or so to now seeing him three times a week was a truly unforgettable experience. It made me proud to know that my uncle built this business and for it to be 30 years in the making and to see where it has come from there. When the loyal customers come in and praise my uncle, I could never be more proud to be a part of my family. It is a bond that I always hope to have with one of the greatest men I know. I learned so much more than I could have ever learned just by being around people who were different than I am -- it gave me perspective about the world and myself. It was a summer filled with good treats, and a new place to call home.