When I was in my 20’s I lived in Riverside, California, and belonged to the Riverside Ski Club. Friday night after work twice a month sixty of us would cram our boots, skis and selves into a bus for the 300-mile trip to Mammoth Mountain. Back then US 395 was two-lane all the way; seldom did we arrive before midnight, 1 am was more typical; snow days, more like 3 am or 4 am. The working assumption and reservations were some people would get beds; others the floor. The earlier you signed up for the trip and the earlier you committed to the kitchen crew the more likely you got a bed.
Saturday morning breakfast was cold cereal or Eggo waffles; Pop Tarts had not yet been invented. Gulp and run to be first on the lift. Same for Sunday.
Saturday dinner in the condominiums was the ubiquitous spaghetti in all its various incarnations. We brought the ingredients, that is, the standard list, with us from Riverside. It was truly amazing how many different “forms” of spaghetti could emerge from “the list” depending upon the kitchen crew for that trip. (We will have a conversation about spaghetti sauce later.) If you did not want spaghetti you ate out. Frankly, arriving late, little sleep and a long, hard day of skiing, spaghetti was the easy choice for getting (attempting to get) to bed early, assuming, of course, the drinking revelry did not keep you awake.
Another hard day of skiing, got to make the last lift before closing for one more run, and we were back on the bus. The bus ticket included a Sunday night sack dinner, something and chips. No wonder most employers wondered about Monday mornings.
It only took a few trips to Mammoth and the spectrum of interpretations of spaghetti for me to start wondering if the universe of Saturday night dinners included something other than spaghetti. It had to be easy to prepare, easy to clean up and, preferably, nutritious. Here nutrition is defined as enabling another hard day of skiing for sixty people, nothing more. Food groups … what?
For the first time in my life I started paying attention to recipes, which for the most part were inscrutable other than a list of ingredients. Ingredients were listed typically for four people, sometimes six. I needed to feed sixty; I needed to know how much of what I would have to buy. Furthermore, what I had to buy had to come in ready-packaged multiples, and it would have to survive the bus trip and the “expertise” of the designated kitchen crew.
Thus, an idea was born. It was to be a cookbook to be entitled “Condominium Cookery for a Crowd” and subtitled “The Well Fed Skier.” The “gimmick” was all of the recipes would show non-perishable ingredients for four and for six in manufacturer-size quantities. To feed sixty I need this number of cans each this size. I even went so far as to research restaurant-size canned goods.
Like most good ideas, this one got sublimated by work, dating, going skiing, and everything else in life, including meeting my ski buddy Rich on a Mammoth trip. You will hear more about ski escapades with Rich later (at least some of the ones that can be shared in public). Nonetheless, over the years I collected hundreds of recipes and scaled them for group cooking in a condominium in a ski area. I still have my original blue three-inch binder overstuffed with recipes.
Time goes by, relationships change, tastes change, technology changes, but the original idea lives on albeit in a different form. I invite you to walk with me (preferably ski with me) from the canned food world of the “Condominium Cookery for a Crowd” cookbook-to-be to today’s fresh and savory Web-based “The Well Fed Skier” … cooked by you for yourself, or with family and friends.