I once thought I would like to ski. A good friend and her family spent their weekends skiing and it looked like fun -- all the schussing and turns. The excitement of conquering a hill ... And after that, sitting in the ski lodge drinking hot cocoa or Irish coffee in front of a roaring fire.
My friend took me -- and my second-hand skis and boots -- to the North Adams Golf Course and taught me to snowplow down the hill and then how to side-step up the hill and go down again. It was all I had hoped for and then some.
Two weeks later, another friend and I went to Brodie Mountain for a little night skiing. One small glitch -- I had never encountered a rope tow. She got me in position in the queue waiting to go up, but failed to warn me to let the rope drag through my hands before grasping it. (She later claimed everyone knew that ...). As I lay sprawled on the snow, flat on my face, I began to get an inkling maybe skiing wasn't for me.
Being the all-or-nothing type back then, (oh, those crazy college years), I signed up for an intensive winter study class on skiing.
The course was offered at the former Taconic Trails atop Route 2 in Petersburgh, N.Y. The first day, we did a little snowplowing on the small slope by the lodge. The instructor then announced it was time to head to the beginner's slope.
Wait, whoa ... isn't that what we we're on?
Turns out it wasn't and the instructor led us to the chairlift. (Chairlift? Where the heck was beginner's slope?)
He explained the technique of getting onto the chairs and we were off -- well, everyone else was off. I was flat on my fanny in the snow having missed the chair seat entirely.
I finally made it onto the chairlift and we rode, and we rode, and we rode ... to the top of the mountain. Now, why would anyone in their right mind put the beginner's slope at the top of a mountain?
Then came the adventure of a lifetime -- getting off the chairlift. The instructor was waiting to assist us and warning us not to fall or else we would get skied over by people getting off the lift. (Then why have a ramp that someone who doesn't know how to ski has to go down to get off the darned chairlift?) I made it off the ramp only to land in a heap a few feet away, flat on my back. Kudos to the skier that managed to jump over me. Nice wax job on the bottom of your skis.
I'd like to say things got better. Actually, it wasn't that bad until the end of the lesson when the instructor turned us loose to ski down the mountain on our own. I'd had enough after three or four falls and made my way over to the tree line. I took off my skis and trudged down the mountain in my ski boots.
That was the end of my ski career. I didn't even stop for hot cocoa in the ski lodge.
These days, whenever I fleetingly regret my decision to give up skiing, I turn on the TV and watch ski racing. I don't even miss the ski lodge; I have a fire going in our fireplace and a bowl of steaming homemade soup in hand.
One of my family's favorite soups comes from a TV friend, who calls her soups "stoups" because they are thicker than a soup, but thinner than a stew.
Italian Sub Stoup and Garlic Toast Floaters
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, plus 1/4 cup for croutons
3/4 pound, 3 links, hot or sweet Italian sausage, split and meat removed from casing
1/4 pound piece stick pepperoni, diced
1 ham steak, diced (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound)
1 green bell pepper, seeded, quartered and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound gemelli pasta or other short-cut pasta
5 cups cubed crusty bread
3 large cloves garlic, cracked from skin
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of handfuls
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bunches arugula, trimmed and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
Place a soup pot on the stove top and preheat to medium high heat. Add olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, and the sausage. Brown and crumble the sausage, drain off excess fat if necessary then add the ham and pepperoni. Cook meats together 2 minutes then add peppers and onions and cook 2 or 3 minutes more. Add diced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken stock and bring stoup to a boil. Stir in pasta and cook for 8 minutes. Make croutons while pasta cooks.
In a large skillet heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil, 4 turns of the pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add bread to garlic oil, toss and toast the cubes 5 or 6 minutes. Season the toasty cubes with red pepper flakes, oregano and lots of grated cheese.
Stir arugula into soup just before you serve it up. Ladle up the stoup and float several toasty garlic bread cubes in each bowl.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.