Kelly Mager used to run a haut café in Victoria but she realized that she disliked the city life and the clientele that went with it.
“the soup would have been nicer if it was served in a red bowl” complained one of her customers.
When she met Marco Delesalle she knew that her new path was into the mountains. I had eaten Kelly’s cooking at Fairy Meadows so I knew that it would be a challenge to keep from over eating this trip.
Kelly, the chef of the Abbey
Never served us a meal that was shabby
Until Marco, her beau
Said, “chef honey? No!”
But he learned: never make your mate crabby!
Marco was commenting on the fact that Kelly was not a graduate of a culinary institute – as if we cared! Working with a bare bones kitchen she served up such delicacies for breakfast as fresh croissants and scones, eggs Benedict, and the most delicious pancakes I have had in a while (served, of course, with real maple syrup).
For several lunches (which we packed before going out) she had this wonderful round bread that we would break into pieces and cut to make sandwiches. When we got back she had appetizers such as soups, baba ganoush, and little baked things that were far too tasty (that alone probably added a pound to my body weight). For my friend, Peter, the soups were his downfall. I remember one afternoon he consumed 5 bowls and still had room for dinner. Granted, we had climbed around 4,000 feet that day and skied the equivalent on some challenging terrain but 5 bowls?? That is one of the great things about a mountaineering vacation; you cannot over eat. I should add that the soups were really wonderful. My wife, Stephanie, also fell under their spell but she managed to limit herself to just a couple of bowls. My home assignment is to try to approximate them.
There was once a skier named Max
Who was inordinately fond of his snacks
Despite all that he climbed
His friends loudly opined
That soon he would not fit his slacks
Max’ friend, Rich; one of the Colorado boys, came up with that one. Dinners were quite the affair. We sat crowded into a long table with mountains of wonderful food. This was not the time for a delicate 3 dimensional tower of some small tasty bits. The meals were both hearty and subtle. We could afford calorie rich meals since we were working so hard each day. Probably we could have done with one or two less bottles of wine but it was vacation after all. One of the most outstanding meals I remember was a pork stew. I cannot describe it adequately. Its presentation was simple but its flavor was complex. This is, at least on these sorts of trips, the hall mark of Kelly’s cooking: complex flavor in a simple presentation.
A few bottles of wine into dinner and the poetry would start. Robeson, our host was a master of the ballad and recounted several over the week. We began to try our best to imitate using the events and stories that surrounded us.
Robeson that man debonair
Was ski cutting a slope without care
‘till a slide caught him silly
And endangered his Willie
He almost soiled his guide underwear
As you can see we have a long way to go.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about all of this was that Kelly did all of her morning work, cleaned everything up, and then caught up with us around lunchtime. She easily out skied us (I think she would give Lindsey Vonn a run for her money). Then, back at the hut, she would start whipping out these delectable appetizers and dinners while we just sat around …whipped.
Kelly graciously offered her pancake recipe which I reproduce here:
Glorious Breakfast Oatcakes
2 cups Rolled Oats
2 cups Buttermilk
2 Tbs Sugar
4 Tbs Veg oil
½ cup Flour(May use whole Wheat or any other flour)
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
Soak Oats in Buttermilk overnight or at least ½ hour.
Add rest of ingredients and mix. Fry on a non-stick griddle if possible.
**May add bananas or blueberries
Serve with CANADIAN Maple Syrup!
Kelly calls her operation the Backcountry Bistro. To see her web site click below: