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Food and Drink

What's in a staff housing fridge?

Simon Clarke nails it with his description of life in Whistler Blackcomb staff housing: "We joke it's a university residence. The only difference is we don't have homework, so the time for studying is literally more drinking time for everybody."


Simon joined Whistler Blackcomb back in mid-November as a parking host, or "parkie" as they call themselves (as in "liftie"). Shortly thereafter, he moved into building 2 of Whistler Blackcomb's Base II staff housing, his first home away from home. Everything at home No. 1 was cozy and comfy, but it was a case of "like, I've gotta move out. There is so much to see when I'm 19 in Whistler, and I can't do it at home."


No doubt you've run into one of the 14 or so parkies - not literally, I hope. Wisely, they're decked out in flashing, high-viz safety vests as they guide you to the best, most accessible parking spot and generally keep things flowing in the eight mountain lots.


When parking settles down, usually around midday, parkies can also be found doing 101 other things, like shoveling snow at the Tube Park or off the bazillion wooden stairs at Wizard.


"Parkies are pretty much the handymen of Whistler Blackcomb," says Simon.


While residents in staff housing do like to party, the reality is most of it happens on Friday or Saturday night, just like university. And with shifts outside in the cold that may last 10 hours (four days on, three days off), they quickly learn how to keep the calories piling in to keep themselves fuelled up.


While the beige, 8- x maybe-12-or-14-foot room with two sets of bunk beds offers tight but reasonably priced accommodation at $315 monthly for Simon; his buddy, Nick; and, soon to come, two more roommates, unlike a university dorm room it actually has a full-sized fridge. A GE with a white vinyl exterior, in this case, covered with stress marks that come up to the base of Simon's neck on his lanky 6-foot-1 frame.


Besides the plethora of electronic toys, the dorm room, I mean, the staff housing has a surprising amount of space for food and its prep, with eight cupboards, three drawers, and a four-burner cooktop (no oven).


But it's the fridge, located outside the kitchen near the front door, that's our focus here. And for the first time in the history of the "what's in your fridge" series, we are checking out the freezer, home to a lonely, empty ice cube tray and one of the highlights of Simon's food life - frozen chocolate chip Eggos.


"Throw them in the toaster, wait two minutes and the whole house smells like chocolate chips - it's just awesome," he says.


Since this is the first time Simon has lived on his own and tried to feed himself, it's pretty much Ichiban noodles for lunch, when he has time to run home and eat, and Pop-Tarts, Eggos, Shreddies or toast for breakfast.


"Then we've got pasta every single night. It's just awesome," he says. "Like, pasta never gets old. You can throw wieners in there (and) it will taste different. We had tuna; beans; hot dogs and rice last night - so good. My plate was stacked so high because we used pretty much all the fresh stuff in our fridge because payday is tomorrow and we'll have to stock up."


Moving to the fridge, now denuded of anything fresh, on the top shelf we find a package of pretty mouldy BC-grown Roots Organic oregano behind a tin of half-used Western Family tomato sauce, with the tin lid still wedged inside and another smaller can of half-used tomato sauce with the same wedged-lid effect. There's also Fontaine Santé artichoke and asiago dip, a Philadelphia cream cheese herb and spice dip, and Heluva Good jalapeno/cheddar sour cream dip. Many chips are eaten in this household.


On the middle shelf is a half-drunk Kokanee (likely left from Simon's birthday on the 3rd); a rustic brown teapot full of cold Red Rose orange pekoe tea; and a slice of some kind of old, dried up, unwrapped cheese coated with something wet, possibly beer. That's it.


On the bottom shelf, we find a 12-pack Kokanee box with five bottles of beer, which, according to Simon, tastes better than all other beer and, unlike other beer claiming to be Canadian, is truly Canadian; a white, empty Nester's Liquor Store bag with the delivery number on it: 938-BEER; plus three Kootenay beers left from a six-pack marking other birthday celebrations.


There are no fruit and veggie drawers in this fridge.


On to the door, we find, amongst other things, two bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup for all those Eggos; some seedless raspberry jam; barbecue sauce and an almost empty four-litre jug of milk. But the highlights are a partially empty bottle of Labrot & Graham Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 45.2 proof, and a bottle of Bushmills Irish Whiskey (not so popular).


Simon is best buddies with Max Zeidler, also known as the Human Thermometer - another long and lanky dude. Both bottles of whiskey came from Max's parents' ranch in Lillooet, where the boys helped clean up after a party.


When he's not busy being a councillor in Whistler, Max's dad, Eckhard, grows alfalfa, grapes and potatoes that are "to die for." They form the heart of a dish invented by Max and his brothers, Sebastian and Stefan.


"I'm a mashed potato fanatic, and what we did up there at the ranch was triple cook potatoes," says Simon. "You boil them, then cut them up when they're still a bit hard in the middle. Fry them in butter in a pan and add whatever seasoning you like - garlic, seasoning salt, basil.


"Then you mash it up, so you get pieces of fried potatoes - all golden brown and crispy, caramelized - roaming around in there, and then same thing, keep adding more seasoning. Then you throw it in the oven with a nice layer of Parmesan on top. About half an hour later, you'll get a nice, crispy brown, cheesy layer on top.


"You dig right through and find those nice pieces of crispy cooked potato, and the garlic is super in there. It's pretty much your whole meal until dinner - it's just so good."


Who says young guys don't appreciate a good veggie dish when they meet one? Don't forget, tomorrow is payday, and a few potatoes just might appear in Simon and Nick's fridge, alongside the beer.



Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who can't wait to try making those triple-cooked potatoes.