Curling clubs require certain ingredients to make them function. Ice, of course, and an icemaker to make and maintain it. A manager, if the facility is big enough, to keep track of everything on and off the ice. Curlers, volunteers, spectators. And someone to run the kitchen and the bar.
Ah, the kitchen and the bar. Where would we be without them? Hungry and dry!
But the model varies from club to club, depending on size, resources and, I suppose, tradition.
For example, my current club has 8 sheets of ice to accommodate the 15 leagues scheduled throughout the week. That’s a lot of curlers drifting through the lounge looking for refreshment before or after games. We have a bar with its own staff, and a caterer who provides everything from snacks to full meals. Likewise, my previous club was a joint curling and golf facility with a complete, professionally staffed bar and dining room. It was common for curlers to show up on Friday nights for dinner, even if they didn’t have a game that night.
In both these clubs, curlers aren’t expected to handle the bar or kitchen. When the club rents out its facility for local events such as weddings or business bonspiels, the professionals handle all the food preparation, service and bar duties, bringing revenue into the club and, perhaps, drawing the attention of potential new members.
Leaving it to the professionals: that’s one successful model.
But the more volunteer-oriented model of club members in the kitchen and on the bar hasn’t disappeared either, although it’s most likely to be found in smaller facilities where the club depends more strongly on volunteers. The club executive runs the show, including hiring the ice maker, maintaining the building, stocking the bar, and preparing and serving food. It’s a lot of unpaid work, but it’s how many clubs across the country stay in operation. And I confess that as easy as it is to leave it all to the professionals, I think sharing kitchen duties with other members of the club forges bonds – and memories – that last for a long time.
The holiday season reminds me of being part of the dinner crew at a small club in the heart of agricultural Eastern Ontario. Are you looking for a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for 250 club members and guests? No sweat. With one person in charge and a dozen or so others working through the list of tasks needed to prepare, serve and clear away the feast, you would think a degree in Project Management was required. No – just a good supply of energy and good humour.
The turkeys were cooked in kitchens all over town and delivered to the club in time for carving and serving. The club stoves handled the potato pots and the cooks with the strongest arms got the job of mashing them into creamy whiteness – and let me tell you, mashing boiled potatoes in a steaming hot pot the size of a lobster cooker is no mean feat. Desserts, salads, and casseroles were brought in by club members and placed strategically along the buffet table. Crock pots and the club’s industrial-sized chafing dishes helped to keep everything warm. Barring catastrophe (a power outage, for instance), the meal would be prepared, served, and cleared away – just in time for the dancing to start. Our one indulgence? The club always hired someone to wash the dishes.
We curl because we love the sport, but at the heart of our curling clubs lie the other reasons we spend our winters together on and off the ice: socializing with friends, no matter who’s in the kitchen.