In the summer of 1971 I worked in the kitchen of the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Less than a week after I got to the rim, I fell in love with a handsome young cook. He was the one who was always seemed to be cutting his hands and the one who actually washed his hands. (I’m not compulsive about hand-washing, but you might be amazed at how rarely I saw food preparers wash their hands). He worked at night. I’ll tell you his name: Tom. It’s easy to remember his name because he has been my husband for most of these last forty years. At night, Tom prepared the box lunches for the dudes who the following morning would ride the mules down the North Kaibab Trail to Roaring Springs. He also prepped food for the next day’s cooking and did general kitchen clean up. I worked during the day, but, besotted with him—just friends I said to everyone—I stayed up late talking with Tom while he worked. To have a more practical reason/cover for being in the kitchen, I decided to make cookies for the help. As kids, my brothers and I had made lots of cookies (dream bars, hermits, Swedish nut cookies, brownies and more), so I thought I knew what to do. I just had to figure out how to make cookies for, I’m guessing, fifty or more employees. I did figure how and I remember I made the old standards like oatmeal or peanut butter. Later on, other friends got into making the cookies. Maybe this was partly because we were young and homesick even up there with the wind in the ponderosas and with all our brand-new friends from everywhere. People would make runs off the rim for the chocolate chips and that was no mean feat. At least back then, there didn’t seem to be chocolate chips in Fredonia, Arizona (73 miles away), so usually people went to Kanab (80 miles away, i.e., 160 miles round trip for a few packages of Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels). On occasion, people picked up the goods in Cedar City, Utah 168 miles away.
The bottom-line on the cookies The other workers liked the cookies. Most of the workers were high school and college students, who were energetic and open to making new friends. Many of our co-workers were Mormons and cookies and milk seemed right up their alley. There were also a few older workers at the rim, too. One kindly, capable woman—my roommate’s aunt—managed the curio shop. Another older woman (I call her older now, not old, because I have now attained the age she was then) from Goshen, Utah supervised the housekeepers and one friendly older guy ran the gas station. There was one dour old man—the night watchman. I was a little scared of him. He seemed so scrawny, old, and wizened and his skin was mahogany (or something) from his years as a sheepherder. Being the little Midwestern rube that I was, the man seemed exotic, but I didn’t seem to be able to connect with him. Then along came those cookies, made in the romantic (but chaste) night kitchen. When the cookies were served, the sheepherder loosened up. It was a long time ago now, but I think he smiled. My lessons: cookies almost always work—there is something to that sharing food thing. There is something else I often still forget even now, so far down the road from that summer. All those clues we think we get from a person’s exterior (book/cover) aren’t true.
Tomorrow: Ain’t No Reason to Go in a Wagon to Town