I’m not particularly coordinated, as I’m mentioned previously.  In high school I was a pretty good tennis player, and as an adult I was an excellent water skier, but for the most part I left sports to those who could manage to participate without involving paramedics and emergency room personnel.

In my late twenties I dated a man who not only played on a local soccer league and barefoot water skied but was into winter sports like skiing and snow boarding.  Because I came from Nova Scotia, he naturally assumed I skied.  As a child I ice skated, sledded, took equestrian lessons, and piloted a mean toboggan, but I never had the urge to slap a couple of skis on my feet, put two poles in my hand and fly down the side of a mountain.  Never.

After we had dated for several months he invited me on a weekend trip to his family’s cabin in Mammoth.  Try as I might to get out of it, he kept insisting that I come, and that he would teach me how to ski.  After all, he reassured me, “I’ve been skiing since I could walk”.  Somehow, after finally agreeing to go, this did not make for a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

About a week before our planned trip, we rented skis, boots, poles, and a full ski outfit for me.  I purchased a wool hat with a pompom on the top to keep my ears warm, and we were good to go.  Despite the feeling of impending doom, I  gamely helped to load the equipment on the car while trying to keep the look of sheer terror out of my eyes as we were approaching the ski resort.

The cabin was lovely, as was his family, all avid skiers themselves.  The first night we cooked a huge casserole of creamy chicken and dumplings in the surprisingly well equipped kitchen.  Afterwards, we sat around the welcoming fire, drank hot toddies, and just got to know each other, with the conversation often traveling to hitting the slopes the following morning.  I had a feeling that “hitting the slopes”, would be the part of the conversation that would most pertain to me.

Up early and the rest of the group all fired up, we headed out to the designated ski area.  I suggested that perhaps I should take a lesson first, but was assured that once I got up to the top of the chair lift there would be many hands to help me.  Silently, I hoped there would be a rescue crew to help me as well.  This run, according to the posted sign, was an intermediate course.  Okay, in my estimation a bunny slope would be a stretch, but intermediate?  Somehow I managed to get on the chair lift while maintaining some of my dignity and not urinating on myself, which was miraculous in itself.  Dangling high above the snow-covered mountains I prayed for a helicopter to air lift me out of there, but no such luck.

Approaching the top Larry gave me explicit instructions on how to get off the chair when we arrived.  I was to keep the tips my skis up, and stand up out of the chair, and not to worry he would hold my hand. I can’t count on my fingers and toes how many times in my life someone has told me not to worry, they’d have my back, and things have gone to from bad to worse moments after the words exited their lips.  This, was to prove to be no exception.  Learning how to stand on the skis might have been the first lesson, but it was too late to panic now.  Ski tips up, I stood, or how I would have stood if the damnable skis weren’t strapped to my feet.  Immediately I lost my balance but the lift chair gave me a good whack on the side to straighten me up.  (Where was that hand again?  Remind me.), I took off over the bump in front of me I believe on one foot, dropping both poles on the way, and up and over the side of the hill I went.  I’m sure I must have looked like a very acrobatic clown slipping and sliding across the ice at the Ice Capades. Now, somehow turned backwards and facing the lift, Larry was finally spurred into action.  He told me later he just saw the bobbing pompom on the top of the hat, and two eyes the size of dinner plates as I disappeared over the other side.

Thankfully, a large snowdrift was close by to impede my downhill progress.  Falling down wasn’t so bad, at least I wasn’t being propelled forward.  Getting up, however, was nearly impossible.  Fortunately those helping hands promised earlier in the program got me vertical once again, and I found myself looking down an incredibly steep mountain.  Help.

For those of you that ski, and ski well, you can understand how long it might take a novice skier such as myself to side step down an entire slope.  Once, I actually managed to get going forward but ended up practically riding piggyback on a skier in front of me, with both of us ending up on our behinds.  My feet were cold, my hands could have chilled a nice bottle of wine, which I was thinking about at this point, and my patience with Larry had run its course.  Finally, I just told him to go ahead and leave me to my own devices before I pushed him over a cliff. No jury would have convicted me.

About half way down the slope a man came along, another angel in my life, and was so kind and somehow got me down to the bottom of the slope where I headed directly for the warmth of the ski lodge.  I never put on skis again, not for snow, at least.  I also never went out with Larry again after that weekend.  I don’t blame him for being an idiot, although I do support the adjective, I blame myself for not insisting on getting lessons first.  I did establish one thing after that weekend.  I definitely can live a happy and full life without ever going snow skiing again.

These dumplings have a savory rosemary taste to them. I also like the traditional dumpling without the rosemary so left it as an option.

Chicken and Rosemary Dumplings

1 whole chicken (4 lbs.), cut up
10 cups water
1 onion, large dice
3 carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped with leaves
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 cup freshly chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup butter
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup half and half

Dumplings

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
4 tsp. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary (optional)

Combine the chicken, water, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, salt, and pepper in a Dutch oven. Bring to boil. Skim foam from top of broth. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove chicken. When cool enough to handle, remove from bone and dice. Strain broth and reserve both the strained vegetables and the broth.

In the same Dutch oven, melt butter. Whisk in flour and paprika until smooth. Gradually add 6 cups of the reserved broth to the flour mixture saving the extra for another recipe. Bring to boil. Continue stirring for another 2 mins. Reduce heat. Whisk in cream, reserved vegetables, and add chicken. Cover and bring to boil once again. Reduce heat to simmer.

For the dumplings: Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and rosemary (optional) in a bowl. Combine eggs, buttermilk, and butter in separate bowl. Add to dry ingredients gradually to form a stiff batter. Drop by generous tablespoonfuls on top of simmering stew. Cover and continue simmering for 20 mins. until a toothpick inserted in the dumplings comes out clean. Leave covered while simmering. Do not lift lid. Serves 8.