Food and drink: I’ll be home for Christmas. Not 

Reinterpreting Christmas when you’re on your own

Ahhh, Christmas. Sparkling trees and gay little presents. Frosty cheeks and frosted fruitcake. Or maybe a barbecue and a bottle of beer.

From the Nutcracker to the cracked nuts, no matter how each family celebrates it, that’s Christmas. For if nothing else, this seasonal celebration stands as a string of traditions and memories, each a single bead starting with the first Christmas we remember.

But for the hundreds of young dishwashers, “sales associates”, bartenders, lifties, chambermaids, servers, snow crews and cab drivers who keep Whistler running throughout the season, what happens when you’re spending Christmas — maybe your first — away from home?

 

TURKEY AND MATSUTAKE GOHAN

Pauline Wiebe can’t stand the thought of international students sitting alone in their dorm rooms, far from home at Christmas.

So every Christmas day for the past dozen years, she and hubby Ray have shuffled the furniture in their cozy home in White Gold to host a traditional Canadian turkey dinner for Japanese students and friends. It means their family of four plus their three home-stay students instantly triples.

“I try to keep it to about 20. But visiting Japanese students don’t experience this, and some of them are now staying for more than a year, so it’s growing,” says Pauline.

The food, centred around roast turkey and ham with all the veggies and trimmings, is presented on a beautifully decorated table, with the chairs set round the room. Everyone helps themselves after all standing in a circle, holding hands and singing grace.

So what’s the one-must have Christmas dish for Pauline? Her dad’s stuffing — he was the traditional turkey cooker in her family. This means patiently cooking onions and celery until they’re translucent, adding apple, pork sausage, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, of course, and tons of cubed whole wheat bread. (“Everybody loves stuffing and it’s a really good way to feed big hungry guys.”) The other must-have: really good pumpkin pie.

The only Japanese touch Pauline adds is matsutake gohan — pine mushroom rice, made with wild pine mushrooms she picks herself. And friend Fumie Kashino brings her to-die-for dinner buns.

“Everyone loves it — they all have a really good time,” she says. “And I love it, too. Every year I say it’s the last, but it keep’s me going.”

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