Sure, it can be tough to eat well in a town like Whistler. After paying your exorbitant rent and chipping away at that dreaded student loan/credit card debt, there probably isn't a whole lot of a paycheck left over for groceries. But that doesn't mean you have to resort to a diet of KD and peanut butter sandwiches. You can learn to cook.
Kari Mancer is program manager for the Whistler Community Services Society, which started the Community Kitchens program up at staff housing with Whistler Blackcomb about four years ago. The focus was on helping young adults (mainly Whistler Blackcomb seasonal employees) learn to cook their own meals.
"I guess it all started at the Food Bank; we noticed a lot of people really lacked cooking skills. Like, you'd give them potatoes and they'd ask what they were supposed to do with potatoes," Mancer said, laughing.
"It also came out of people talking about affordability issues, that in Whistler the food's so expensive. Well, if you're cooking with lentils and dried beans and all the food that we teach you how to cook with, then you can eat very affordably in Whistler."
The program has now expanded its reach and has been made available to the entire community. Up until this year a local caterer Karen Kay taught the classes, but she's decided to step down and Mancer has recruited a few new cooks to take the reins and teach people tips and tricks for creating healthy and delicious meals without busting their budgets.
"The cooks that I chose were all into really basic food items, like cooking from scratch, and they all really understood the importance of eating locally, so a lot of the dishes feature local, in-season products from Pemberton," Mancer explained.
She added that participants will be canning tomatoes at the end of the season, while organizers will be sourcing as many ingredients as possible from the surrounding community.
In the past the focus has been placed largely on cooking and eating vegan, which might be a bit intimidating to novice cooks. So this year they've tried to strike a balance between vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
Just last week Matt Prescott of Snowline Catering taught a group of nine eager chefs-in-training to make an assortment of hearty vegetarian bean soups "for rainy spring days" (very appropriate, considering the weather of late) and an easy pesto recipe.
"It was really good! We had nine people... and everyone just had a really great time. One of the people who works for Whistler Community Services was there and she said that it was a really great group dynamic. Matt was really great about going into tonnes of little cooking tips along the way."
In the coming weeks, sample dishes include a garden blend soup, not-tuna pate with crudités and banana ice cream with chocolate sauce.
It costs just $10 to participate in a session or $40 for a five-workshop pass, which includes all ingredients. And anyone who is financially restricted can contact Mancer to see if they qualify to have their fee covered by Sea to Sky Community Service's new Stone Soup Grant, which is designed to give low-income residents access to fresh food.
"This program totally falls under that," Mancer added.
The next session is slated to take place at Myrtle Philip Community School on Monday, May 31 and again on the second and fourth Mondays of June and July. Anyone interested in finding out more about Community Kitchens, or just wanting to a hold a spot in the class, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
An extra scoop
There are more than a few wine lovers in Whistler, but the summer is when the real connoisseurs come out to play. That's right, beer drinkers are bustin' out the barbies.
But the folks at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler's Wine Room have decided to host a bit of a high-brow event for the suds-sipping and swilling masses: a Beer Maker's Dinner. The event features a sumptuous-sounding six-course meal (heirloom tomato gazpacho, sablefish spot prawn roll and lamb sirloin, just to whet your appetite) designed by Chef Vincent Stufano. Each dish paired with an ale or lager from Whistler Brewing Company.
On Sunday, May 30 at 7 p.m., Whistler Brewing Company owner Bruce Dean is providing the commentary for an evening of food and beer. Plus he promises to bring along something extra special, as well - a new and experimental brew recipe for attendees to test out.
The experience costs $75, and anyone interested in taking part should call 604-938-2036 to reserve a spot.