Sandwiches save lettuce
Preparing to take my son, then about 12, and his friend skiing, I said casually, “I’m packing a lunch.”
“You can make your own,” Teddy said, glowering, as I began assembling sandwiches.
“They’re good,” I said firmly. “They have cucumbers.”
“Cucumbers?” he raged.
His friend Carson put in helpfully, “My mother’s sandwiches are worse.”
For the record, the sandwiches I make are great. They contain lunchmeat, pickles, lettuces, cheese and tomato, and sometimes olives, avocado or cilantro.
I started skiing at 13, growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, and in all those years with my family never once ate in the resort cafeterias, known as high-priced. Bringing lunch was part of the experience. At Elk Mountain, Pennsylvania, we roasted hot dogs over the open fire in the warming hut, which provided cooking utensils.
Often at Christmas, a group of families traveled to Vermont together, staying in a big old wooden lodge at Okemo Mountain.
A weep sheet was posted on the wall, with jobs for all, including cooking and cleanup. Two kids were always assigned to make the sandwiches for perhaps 20, and we’d set out long rows of bread slices on the counter. In some cases the ingredients we were given were conventional, and in others, our thrifty Yankee forbears instructed us to use dinner leftovers. We kids all wailed about the leftover roast and lettuce on which we could taste last night’s salad dressing.
I brought this ski tradition to my own family, and to my consternation, my children complained, especially when we planned to ski with friends who simply used the cafeterias.
“I don’t expect other families to change their habits for us, Teddy,” I would say, unmoved, “and they don’t expect us to,” even as he lamented, “But I’ll have to watch them eat” ” he paused meaningfully ” “good food.”
In time, the topic of sandwiches was guaranteed to send me through the roof. I told my sons they were lucky to be able to ski.
When they went to ski school and then the local race program, though, I found it hard to force them to be the only ones not buying. But $10 a day for two boys is $40 a weekend, $160 a month, in a costly sport.
Then two things happened. A respected ski-race family moved here, like us living not in more high-rolling Aspen but Carbondale, and they and their son, Wylie, matter-of-factly brought lunches to practice. Kevin from Glenwood, a top skier, also joined the team and unconcernedly brought his own food. Last, taking an idea from another downvalley parent, my spouse and I offered a deal: Each time our sons packed lunch, we gave them $5.
One day a group of the kids on Teddy’s team was ripping along, and a boy knocked down a bystander. Teddy came home talking about the incident, and how seriously the coaches took it, and what they said, and how all the kids had to write letters of apology to the Aspen Ski Co.
“Teddy, did you get in trouble?” I asked, taken aback.
“No,” he said. “Kevin and I weren’t even there. We were skiing to the bottom to get our packed lunches.”
But the funny thing is, this year, when my kids are finally willingly compliant, the lesson seems near moot. Between the economic crisis and, perhaps, a fresh post-holiday awareness that it takes longer to wait in a lunch line than pull the goods out of a backpack ” kids who normally spend freely are suddenly “bringing.”
Sandwiches are a good association to me. I remember the big kitchen at Okemo, and my friend Steve’s and my comical mass sandwich production. One of my favorite letters upon my father’s sudden death was from Steve’s sister Melanie, who wrote: “I’m sitting here with tears running down my face, but smiling, thinking of all the times at Okemo, and those disgusting sandwiches with the salad dressing on them.”
Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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