Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and drink

Happy turkey day, Whistler style…

by

comment

Imagine: 700 plump, healthy turkeys, sans feathers, all wrapped in shiny plastic, waiting to be hefted in hand, considered and brought home to roost in a Whistler kitchen in time for Thanksgiving.

Say you feed an average of eight people a turkey, or at least you dish out eight nice servings - that's 5,600 turkey dinners being gobbled up this coming Thanksgiving weekend at Whistler alone. And those are just the turkeys rolling out of Nesters Market.

Then there are the ones from all the other grocery stores and likely even a few rolling up the highway, raw or cooked, stashed in the trunks of cars driven by weekenders and guests.

Granted, some quail and game hens, a goose, probably a pheasant or two and a few dozen hams will cross the cashier's scanner line and make it onto the table, but nothing comes close to the classic Thanksgiving turkey.

"It's definitely mostly turkeys," says James Thomas, who runs the meat department at Nesters. "And it's mostly a 50-50 split between Grade A and free-range turkeys. We might have 15 or 20 people buying organic ones.

"At Whistler, everybody goes for turkey at Christmas and Thanksgiving," he says  - including him and his family. More than one soul rushes in to grab one at the 11th hour before dinner - some even ask him to cook it.

And here I thought I might find people at Whistler branching out for Thanksgiving, going for something a little more creative, a little less traditional - a few oysters or lobsters here, a little lamb or deep-fried tofu there.

But, no. After calling around town this week - even making a point of calling people I thought might do something out of the ordinary, including a master restaurateur from Spain and a Japanese family whose chief cook is from Osaka, I can assure you that when it comes to Thanksgiving, James is right on the money - Whistlerites make theirs traditional, straight up, with family and friends at the forefront.

For instance, since the late '80s, Whistler's original marathon man, Murray Coates, has almost always had a gang of long-time friends over, including Chuck and Karen Blaylock, Dave Kirk and Jeanette Callahan, Mitch and Rita Sulkers, Kevin and Georgina Titus.

Traditionally, he hosted a classic turkey dinner at his place on Monday because the Victoria marathon is on Thanksgiving Sunday and Murray and his buddies would do it, then drive back to Whistler Sunday night for Thanksgiving dinner the next day. He doesn't do the marathon, now, but the tradition continues.

"I cook the turkey, Kevin brings pumpkin pie and ice cream, Mitch is famous for his salads, and Jeanette is famous for bringing some sort of veggie dish.

"Amongst the group it's popular, but very few other people know about it," says Murray, now 68. He's done at least 40 marathons, 90 Olympic-distance triathlons and 18 Ironman competitions over the years. (That's why you do all those events, so you can eat lots.)

"It's a good way to get the group together at the end of the cycling/running season, stand around and drink a little bit of wine, have a big feed, and giggle and tell stories," he says.

Over at Fumie Kashino's house, they don't do marathons, but they love Thanksgiving traditions just the same.

Fumie is the chief cook when it comes to turkey dinner, complete with pumpkin and apple pies, for her family. They often include their kids' school friends and their parents who come from Japan but haven't yet discovered the custom of Canadian Thanksgiving.

"We don't have Thanksgiving in Japan so my recipes were from people from Vancouver who are second or third generation Japanese and, yes, they were all explained in Japanese," says Fumie, who hails from Osaka. "They are old people and they taught us how to do it, so I just go to it."

Now, 19 years after coming to Whistler, Fumie is known for the desserts she creates at Nagomi Restaurant, including her famous green tea brûlée, not something she serves for Thanksgiving but delicious just the same.

"I haven't asked all my friends about Thanksgiving but many Japanese people who've been here a long time are making turkey dinners and gathering their families up for Thanksgiving," she says. "It's an opportunity just to get together and have a nice dinner."

So not a single piece of sushi can be seen at the Kashinos' on Thanksgiving. But I thought I'd try one more person who might, just might, create an off-beat Thanksgiving dinner: former bullfighter and restaurateur extraordinaire, Mario Enero.

Of course, nobody celebrates Thanksgiving in Spain, since it was all about giving thanks in North America when everyone had gotten the heck out of the Old World and survived a brutal winter here.

But since moving to Canada, Mario has gotten into Thanksgiving in a big way, usually celebrating it twice, once on Sunday night at his Caramba! Restaurante with friends, and again on Monday when he cooks a classic turkey dinner at home for friends and family.

"I learned that when I lived in Saskatchewan and had a restaurant in Saskatoon," he says. "For me, Thanksgiving after all these years I've been in Canada (about 28), is like Christmas Eve. It's all about being with the people you love.

"People come over, we prepare food all together, we drink, we eat, we watch football because that's a tradition after being on the prairies, and then we're ready and have a big dinner all together with all the trimmings - pumpkin pie, Brussels sprouts, everything. And whatever's left I make a good soup!"

So while you're enjoying your turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, be at least a little grateful for all the folks who keep the resort going while you enjoy yours and who have to get creative about how they enjoy theirs.

People like James who, after supplying you with birds all week, will also be cooking one for his family, but on Saturday night because he has to work Sunday. And Shawn Benest, who works with James in the meat department at Nesters and is spending his third winter at Whistler, far from home in London, Ontario.

Will Shawn miss out on his Thanksgiving dinner, even when he'll be working until nine or 10 o'clock that night? No way and, yes, thank you, it's going to be another classic turkey feast with the folks who share the front half of his house cooking up a storm for Shawn and their friends.

After all, it's a great Canadian tradition, one he hasn't missed yet.

 

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who will enjoy this Thanksgiving dinner with friends she met 30 years ago.