Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

No Question about it

Newspapering ain't natural without the nachos



There's no escaping it. Food — good food; fast food; high-carb, high-cal food; liquid food; late-night munchie food — has long played a key role at Whistler, no matter which way you slice it.

I think of Alex and Myrtle Philip pulling all those tasty rainbow trout from Alta Lake. Then there's the old wooden Keg Restaurant building, trundled along the highway when the RMOW bought it for a buck to turn it into municipal hall.

Not to be left out of the Whistler/food pantheon, the Whistler Question was born — where else? — on a dining room table.

Many folks have been thinking this month about the Whistler Question, sister paper to, and, in many ways, mother paper of Pique, for it was at the Whistler Question that Pique founding publishers, Bob and Kathy Barnett, met. It's also where I got my start in newspapering.

It's 40 years ago this April that Paul and Jane Burrows launched the community's newspaper of record in their 450-square-foot A-frame in Alpine Meadows. (Years later, when Paul ran for mayor, one wag said, "Paul, you can't be mayor — your house is too small for a mayor to hold parties in.")

"It was the only table we had," Paul says of that notable furniture. "There was a workbench downstairs so that was the printing place where the Gestetner was. But all the prep and everything else was actually done upstairs on the dining room table."

It was an apartment-sized table, teak, one metre by half a metre when it was folded up and a whopping 2.5 metres long unfolded. The Question was simply pushed aside when dinner was ready, then pulled back into place to be worked on when dinner was over.

Given there were few eateries in Whistler in '76 — L'Apres on the "gondola side;" Rudi Hoffmann's steakhouse at Nesters; and the Boot Pub in White Gold were the main ones — no one ate out much, including Paul and Jane.

Both worked other jobs, Paul in construction, Jane as a teacher, and both cooked. Although Jane did most of it, Paul liked to cook, too, making things like a favourite oven-baked pork tenderloin dish with mushrooms and whatever vegetables were available.

"We had carrots and root vegetables in sand in the cold room down below our A-frame. We would get them from Pemberton in the summer and bury them in the sand, and they'd start growing hairy things on them, but they still had quality," says Paul. They also had a freezer downstairs, with maybe a quarter of beef and a whole pig from Pemberton inside.

"So it was a pretty pioneering, homesteading kind of lifestyle," he adds.

You could get some convenience store basics at the Husky or the Gulf stations, but that was it. No local grocery store existed until Geoff Power opened The Grocery Store in 1980, so locals would make a major grocery run maybe once a month to the Overwaitea in Squamish.

By the time I got to the Whistler Question in '81 it had grown too big for the Burrows' dining table and was ensconced, along with Young's Travel and Whistler Office Services, on the second floor of Whistler Centre — that funky building on Lake Placid Road where Southside Diner now resides.

That's where I joined the Questionable team, first as a reporter, eventually working my way up the masthead to publisher/owner in 1982.

"It was a very sought-after publication... It was delivered by mail to all kinds of interesting offices in Victoria because they wanted to keep tabs on what Whistler was doing so they used the Whistler Question as a reference, plus all the weekenders had subscriptions," says Paul.

We were a crack team in those days, winning top awards for editorials and features and cinching best-newspaper spot in our circulation class year after year, both Canada-wide and across B.C.

All that brainpower took fuel, otherwise known as maintaining cerebral nutrient delivery. We all had our nutrient delivery systems of choice.

"Hey, this is the deal with me going to work — a peanut butter and honey sandwich," says Pauline Wiebe, who, after starting at the Question in '79, became the typesetting and layout wizard for eight years.

"I'm not an early morning eater. I would just get myself to work with a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and get myself a cup of coffee somewhere," she says. "I was in a little peanut-butter-coffee office heaven."

Hours were long so desks were littered with food and drink supplies. At any given time mine could be covered with half-full chip bags and sandwich and cookie debris from Jan Systad's Husky Deli. Later, it was from Ted Nebbeling and Jan Holmberg's Gourmet Bakery in the village after we moved there above the current Rexall, where we could watch the world pass by.

Journalists were notorious in those days for having a bottle of scotch in their desks, or even passing out at same. I don't recall that any of us actually doing that, at least not at work. But I do remember bringing a nice bottle of Cuervo Gold back from Mexico, which we passed around that morning shortly after opening. Thank goodness JR, our office manager, had the presence of mind to lock the front door.

But the finest fuel came at the end of paste-up days, as they were called then because you literally pasted the paper together.

"What I remember, after putting the paper to bed, was going and getting nachos and beers at JB's (Jack Bright's old restaurant at Whistler Resort) or the Creekhouse, when Bob Dawson owned it," says Pauline.

"You were really looking forward to that — it kept you going to get the thing done."

Fittingly, they served nachos at the Question's 40th party at Tapley's.

Happy 40th, Whistler Question. Enjoy your middle age.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who is happily working her way down the masthead.

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