The first time we met, Tim Graham was about 12 years old. We were the Grahams’ guests for an evening meal. When I complimented the salad, Mary said, "This is Tim’s salad."
"His favorite?" I asked.
"No, he made it himself," she said. I’ve enjoyed his salads many times since then; he’s my step-grandson. He enjoys working beside his mother in the kitchen and with my son, Walt, at the barbecue grill. In his final year at University of Missouri-Columbia, Tim transferred to a major in food science. He took 20 hours of school work and also was employed 20 hours a week at a popular restaurant near Columbia. Tim was thrilled when he was accepted for two years of training as a chef at New Culinary Institute, in Burlington, Vermont.
I recalled, from my childhood, playing on the floor with a jigsaw puzzle of the United States. My brother and I fit the shaped pieces into their places, state by state. Vermont and New Hampshire, small puzzle pieces, fit together and both bordered Canada in the north and Massachusetts on the south. I recently got out the big road atlas and was reminded that we kids called Vermont, "the little triangle that’s wider at the top." I located Burlington, which is not far south of the Canadian boundary line.
On Monday, March 5, Walt, Mary and her son Tim headed to the Northeast toward heavy snow and blizzard conditions. I kept the big road map open, and the satellite tuned to the National Weather Channel.
Missouri’s weather was typical for March, but Vermont was having a record-breaking ice and snowstorm.
"Sixteen inches on the ground and snowing hard ... all schools closed."
Tim’s class work at the Culinary Institute was to begin Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday, Vermont state government offices were closed to reduce traffic to a minimum, out of the way of snow removal machinery.
"Eighteen wheelers are banned ... twelve more inches of snow tonight ... high winds."
Walt called me twice a day, and I reported on weather conditions ahead - temperature, wind chill and amounts of snow predicted. The road conditions were certainly not good for the "rig" they were driving.
Their "rig" was their new Chevrolet motor home pulling a trailer on which they were hauling Tim’s car. I feared that they’d be banned. Walt called on their cell phone. I heard the motor noise and knew they were still moving.
"Uncle Jim suggested that you go up to Canada at Detroit and across to Montreal then south to Burlington..."
He interrupted me, "We’re in Canada now. We’ll check with traffic control for the best route after we see Niagara. The New York Freeway was passable all of the way across the state to Albany."
It seemed as if Mother Nature helped get Tim to that school. The temperature stayed near the freezing mark and machines were able to keep the highways usable. They stopped Tuesday night within easy driving distance to the institute.
Tim and six others, with one teacher, are working as a team in a fine hotel where guests pay $275 for rooms. The trainees live in a dorm in Essex, a suburb of Burlington; they get up at 4 a.m. and a bus takes them to the hotel to prepare food for breakfast. Other teams of seven are working on other shifts or in a tiptop restaurant. The teams will rotate.
After 6 months the trainees will go to other locations in the U.S. According to this Granny, it would be difficult to improve on that salad he made at age 12.