Summertime, and the livin' is easy. Well, for most of us it is. But maybe not so easy for the young 'uns who take to the workforce each summer, often for the first time and, at Whistler, often for their first time away from home.
There they are by the dozens — cheerful and capable, keeping the food and drink flowing at your favourite cafe; helping the jetlagged visitors from Munich find their way to the gondola; keeping kids younger than they are happy at summer camp — their first time away from home.
Sixteen-year-old Owen Gibbs, a guest services rep at Whistler Sliding Centre, is one of these summer student miracle workers. He's also the son of Katie Rodgers (whose mom, Christine, was Whistler's doctor for ages and dad, Terry, was a long-time councillor and mayor) and David Gibbs (whose mom, Angela, taught at Pemberton's Signal Hill Elementary and dad, Gordon, ran the RCMP detachment).
Like so many other students, this summer marks Owen's first time living on his own away from home. It's also his first paying job.
Whistler Sliding Centre is run by a not-for-profit group, Whistler Sport Legacies, which keeps some of the former Whistler Olympic venues running — Athletes' Centre; Olympic Park with its cross-country skiing, biathlon range and ski jumps; and the Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Mountain, considered the best sliding sport track in the world for bobsled, luge and skeleton.
National teams from all over the world rent the Sliding Centre to train, but here's the groovy thing. You, your family (locals get a discount!), and your pals from out of town can head up to the sliding centre, hop in a bobsled on wheels specially designed for summer, and slide halfway down the track.
"It's a roller coaster but better. It's more adrenaline — you feel the g-forces more. It's not a set track so no two rides are the same," says Owen, just one of the centre's summer students who will get you oriented and give you a track tour.
So how, I wonder, do these young ones sustain themselves when their adrenaline runs out and they have to head home to feed themselves, with no dads or moms to help?
Here's hoping whatever they chose, it's easy to make, not too expensive, and at least relatively healthy. After all, the novelty of a pack of chocolate bars topped up with a six-pack of pop only lasts so long, and most of these kids are making minimum wage.
To help them out I've gathered some great tips from Whistlerites and their fans near and far, including my mom and Owen's.
GO KRAFT OR GO HOME
If there's one great meal that says "Whistler" and "dinner" for first-time-away-from-homers it's Kraft Dinner or, as the locals call it, KD. Legends were born from KD nights in squatters' huts long before the village was born. Writing for The Whistler Insider (revealing Whistler one secret at a time), Feet Banks elevated KD to celebrity status along with nine other all-Canadian picks for Canada Day. "Find Kraft Dinner in any grocery store, all you need is boiling water," he writes, adding: "While you're there, check out Ketchup Potato Chips." Chips or not, hands down KD was the most popular quick dinner tip for first-time cooks, albeit with variations. White cheddar KD, fried hamburger and onions was one. Sliced garlic sausage and broccoli thrown in with the boiling water for a minute, another. Leftovers? Fry it up in butter next day till it's golden brown. An apple or fresh peach is dessert.
GET A BLENDER
OK, so food processors are nice but big and clunky and they're expensive. First-timers, you can do lots worse than getting yourself a blender at London Drugs. Buy good plain yogurt, like Olympic (no gelatin crap and no sugar). Add your own goodies. Ripe bananas, often on sale. Fresh berries. Walnuts. Honey. Cinnamon. Chocolate chips. Milk. Juice. Let it rip.
Mushrooms are really good for you. They have tons of B vitamins. Blueberries are really good for you, too — lots of vitamin C and antioxidants. Both are super-versatile, grown in B.C. and cheap in summer. Eat the mushrooms raw. Slice them into salads. Hopefully you have a salad spinner. If you wash the greens and store them right in the fridge in the salad spinner, they'll last longer and they're handy that way. Or fry your mushrooms in lots of butter, not too hot. Add salt, pepper, some garlic. OK, never mind the garlic. But you have salt and pepper, right? Crack a couple of eggs into the fried mushrooms, scramble it up. Chunk in some cheese, stir till it melts. Make it fancy and take Sue Adams' tip from last week: add a bagged salad with all the fixings on the side. Wham-o. Dinner is served. Have a handful of blueberries for dessert. Wash them and the mushrooms just before eating them, not sooner. The 'shrooms will go mushy. The blueberries, they say, will get tough skins. Don't ask me why.
Now here's an easy tip. And it's from Owen's mom. Sign up for Cook Smarts at www.cooksmarts.com. It's only seven bucks a month. They give you meal plans and a list of all the ingredients you'll need, perfect if you're trying to teach yourself how to feed yourself, or if you have lazy roommates. If somebody yells, hey, what's for dinner, just leave the Cook Smarts plan on the kitchen counter and tell them, there it is. Knock yourself out.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who says go check out the Sliding Centre.