Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Dressing up a tostada compuesta



A number of years ago, there was a popular cartoon theme. It always involved two characters: a pilgrim on a quest to discover the meaning of life and a wise guru. In what generally looked like an impossibly remote setting — on top of a craggy mountain with no chairlifts for example — the perplexed looking pilgrim would be standing before the lotus-seated guru and the caption would be something esoteric like, “Life is like a beanstalk, isn’t it?” Or, “Life is like a kumquat.” Or tapioca pudding or motor oil or something that made no sense whatsoever and wasn’t, on the surface, even remotely funny but if you followed the thread of the cartoons, was at least as funny as most of the panels in any given issue of The New Yorker.

Lost on the shoulder of a memorable ski season, a spring best described as a tease and a summer that, if it gets here at all is only going to make it once I’m firmly planted at Smilin’ Dog Manor, I have decided that life in Whistler is like a tostada compuesta.

For those of you who are not habitués of Mexican food — Taco Bell doesn’t count — a tostada compuesta is a concoction consisting of a flat, crispy tortilla, a generous dollop of refried beans, onions, chilis, melted cheese, maybe sour cream, and, depending on the sanitary standards of the kitchen, other surprises. Like so many legume-based ethnic dishes, it looks uncomfortably like an accident your puppy might have had after its first encounter eating roadkill. In the evolution of tasting Mexican food, tostadas compuestas are way down the list of things any normal person tries, long after the more appetizing dishes like enchiladas, tamales, and carne asada and only then on a dare or after innumerable Coronas, possibly both. Messy doesn’t begin to describe them. Neither does delicious.

Why, you might ask, is life in Whistler — at least my life — messy like a tostada compuesta?


In the Elegant Living in Rustic Places book I’m sure Martha Stewart must have written in a few spare moments between whipping up a soufflé and cracking the mystery of cold fusion, there is a very strong Place for Everything and Everything is in its Place philosophy. There are closets, bureaus, armoires and chests of drawers filled with neatly hung or folded clothes, each sorted by colour, style and designer label. There are cedar chests brimming with clothes of a different season, carefully laundered and put away with sachets of lavender or more masculine scents, depending on the gender orientation of the wearer. There are racks of wicker baskets for painstakingly categorized accessories.