Every fridge tells a story.
Some fridges tell static stories that are more or less completed final drafts without much expectation of different endings. Because even with their contents changing with each expedition of grocery shopping, they usually stick to pretty predictable themes.
Then you have the stories that are more like serial tales, with each installation changing the narrative as it builds to some as yet unknown conclusion. Much like this fridge belonging to Bob Barnett, co-founder with his late wife, Kathy, of this very publication, Pique Newsmagazine, which he edited for nearly one thousand issues before selling it in August 2013 to the current owners, Glacier Media.
Moments like that change the backstory of a fridge.
In this case, Bob's sits in what looks like your basic blue-grey, wood-sided modest half-duplex, circa 1990. The house is on Nesters Road, halfway between two local icons, Whistler Daycare and Nesters Market. With one of two big garage doors out front, it looks less like a ski chalet or cabin and more like something that would be at home in, say, Burnaby or Coquitlam.
But this suburban-ish house comes with an authentic Whistler backstory. It replaced a Canadian classic, one of those Beaver Lumber cabins too small to swing a cat around in that Bob's father, Doug, and one of his UBC medical school classmates, Irwin Stewart, built on a lot they bought in 1967.
The Barnetts and the Stewarts shared it for decades, like kind of a second dual-family home, as the two skiing families, each with three kids, grew up in tandem with Whistler. Then in 1990, with the kids now full-grown adults, the parents had the place torn down and the current version built, with the original lumber re-used "in some place up in Pemberton", Bob says.
"The reason I'm here now is Kathy and I had this townhouse we had to sell after about a year and a half in with Pique to make ends meet (so) the business (could) stay alive," he says. In the spring of 1996, they moved into the duplex, "temporarily," as we've all said with the best of intentions at one time or another. Bob's been there ever since.
To get to the fridge, you walk in the front door then go up a few stairs to where you spill out into the open kitchen / living / dining room, where Bob spends maybe 70 per cent of his waking hours when he's at home.
The fridge is one of all new matching appliances Kathy wanted and they got about 10 years after moving in. A KitchenAid with a stainless steel front and the freezer drawer on the bottom, it faces over top of a pony wall and sits kitty-corner to the TV. "Maybe they look at each other," Bob says.
Either way, the fridge has a great view of Blackcomb Mountain — that is, when the cloud ceiling lifts.
To start with, the outside of the fridge is almost as interesting as the inside. On top of it sits what Bob calls a "death-defying" plant, a viny thing he waters about as often as he cleans the fingerprints and what-not off the stainless steel appliances, which isn't often at all.
Stainless, Bob notes, does not hold fridge magnets (now you know how old my fridge is). But the non-stainless side does, and the right-hand side features some pretty eclectic ones.
There's a much-coveted "Nick Davies for Mayor" magnet, circa 2005, featuring Nick on a snowboard. Another treasure that long-time Whistler resident and housing advocate Steve Bayly gave him features a bright orange smiling Kool-Aid jug saying, "Oh, yeah. Beware!" Under a little magnifying glass beside the jug, tiny print reads: "Totally compromising Muni Man Mix."
"I have no idea what that means," he says, laughing. Then we talk about people getting drunk on power after getting elected and abandoning their common sense and good judgment — "drinking the KoolAid." Eeugh.
These much-sought-after collectors' items are only part of Bob's Whistler political trivia collection. Another highlight, also from the local 2005 campaign, is the "Kristi Wells for Mayor for a Breath of Fresh Air" box of Tic Tac mints, which is kicking around somewhere in the spare bedroom that doubles as his home office.
Now it's high time to get inside this serial-story fridge, but first a major qualifier.
"Some of this stuff isn't mine," Bob says, pointedly calling out a can of aerosol whipping cream. And as we shall see, this is often the case.
His dad, Doug, now almost retired at age 85, still puts in a few hours a week doing surgical assists in Burnaby and on the North Shore, which gives him time to come up often and downhill ski. His mom, Iris, comes and stays, too, although not as much, so some of what we find in his fridge is theirs.
Other stuff, however, remains a constant mystery. Bob doesn't know who left it in the fridge, or when. And he sure the heck doesn't use it.
But the first thing we find on the top shelf is something he did buy and use, organic authentic chai iced tea concentrate for chai spice loaves he made to give away at Christmas. He's also been using it the last two weeks to make chai tea while he's had a bad cold, which was probably really the flu.
There's also some Larosa olive tapenade he likes on crackers, and a leftover slice of Creekbread pizza he and his dad ordered on the weekend, a half-and-half with two of his favourites, Mopsy's Kalua pork and the Pemberton potato pie. As well as some leftover seasoned meat filling for tacos Bob made for the two of them. Plus a variety of jams and the like: apricot jam; black cherry jam; ginger marmalade of unknown provenance; and a couple of bottles of half-used maple syrup, which he never uses.
The latter might be from the former Pique staffer who stayed at his house last year when he went to Europe for a couple of months after selling the newsmagazine — one of those watershed moments that can alter a fridge's narrative.
But at this point, dear reader, in a case of form mimicking content, you'll have to wait until next week for part two in this serialized column to see what else is in store for us in Bob's fridge.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who loves it when writing imitates life.
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