Call to Duty: Food for thoughtWritten by Michael Nicely Tom Bartley | | Duty@toledofreepress.com
Often, when we are shopping for meals, citizens will jokingly ask what we are having tonight. Upon hearing the evening menu, they usually reply, “That sounds great. What time?” We are amazed that some citizens assume we receive a daily stipend from the city for our meals.
Each morning all firefighters on duty will throw in about $10 of their own money for the day. The amount varies depending on the eating habits at that station. That money gets you two or three meals with any money carried over for future meals.
Additionally, every payday, firefighters pay into a house fund averaging $10. House fund is set by a vote at each station and is used to buy food items like coffee, station furnishings like chairs, and pays for bills like the phone. The city only provides a station, rigs and their equipment, a stove, a refrigerator and general maintenance. Everything else has been brought in or purchased by firefighters. This system of necessity allows us to buy the things we need and prefer.
Basically, the station is like any other household in that we have a budget and try to live within it. If guys want Starbucks coffee instead of Maxwell House, we have to increase the house fund or they have to buy it themselves. The same holds true for daily food budgets. Crews must spend their money wisely to build funds for special occasions or holiday meals.
We understand some people get frustrated when they see us at the store buying steaks when they may be buying hamburger that day. It seems that is when we hear from them, “I’m sure glad my tax dollars are going to buy you guys steaks tonight.” What they didn’t see was all the sloppy joes and mac and cheese eaten to build that surplus to afford fine meats.
All firefighters must cook. Some cook more, some cook less. It behooves one to know at least two or three meals. The cook pockets the money collected along with any money left in the clutch. We do this so we are ready to go to the store on the way home from a run or when we return from fueling up. There is no certainty we will get to the store; we are not put out of service to shop.
Once we are at the store, we may or may not complete our shopping. Crews shop in district whenever possible and respond to emergency calls received by radio. This is why you occasionally see firefighters running from the grocery store to the farthest parking spot in the lot. Due to citizen concerns, one of the great ironies of the Toledo fire service is that fire rigs cannot park in the fire lane.
Once we get the food to the station, the trick is to prepare the meal. Slow-cooked meals and meats cooked on the grill seem to work well. Due to run volume, it could take several attempts to complete of food prep. Some stations have the luxury of having multiple rigs assigned. This occasionally allows for cooking duties to be assumed by another. This is great most times.
One time a firefighter was preparing a tuna casserole when a run came in. The run was for the life squad and not for the engine. A member of the engine crew assumed food preparation duties. His interpretation of the instructions passed on to him was not quite right. The dish was renamed tuna casserole without the “c” because of the odd taste and texture.
Another time we had some burgers on the grill. We got a chest pain run and we just turned the grill off and left them in there.
Upon our return an hour later, the attempt to re-light the grill found several mice gorging themselves. Needless to say, it was pizza that night.
Sometimes, no matter your best plans, runs will interrupt to the point where a vote is made to scrap the meal until next workday, put it in the refrigerator, and order Chinese. Clichés have an element of truth. Getting a run just as you’re sitting down to eat happens.
If it’s a major fire, you’re not coming back for hours.
We understand many of us look like we haven’t missed too many meals, but please, rest assured; no response to your emergency has ever been delayed because we are eating, and you have never spent a dime to feed us.
Here are two of our favorite firehouse recipes.
Here is a recipe for grilled salmon that is easy and pretty much foolproof. Some people do not like their fish to taste too fishy and this little trick helps. Soak the salmon fillets in ginger ale for about four hours in the refrigerator. To prepare the glaze, take a half can of frozen orange juice concentrate, 3 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon chopped ginger and bring to a boil. Let the glaze cool. When ready, heat the grill to medium and place the fillets skin side down. Close the lid and do not open.
After 10 minutes open lid and spread glaze over the fish. Do not flip fish just close the lid for another five minutes. Cooking times will vary depending on the size the fillets have been cut to. The times used here reflect 6-8 ounce portions. The fish is done when it flakes with a fork. When removing the fish use a metal spatula and separate the meat from the skin. The skin can be left on the grill to burn off.
Crockpotted roast beast
4-pound boneless chuck roast
Lawry’s seasoned salt or dry steak rub
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup sliced onions
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Several bay leaves
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can vegetable broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups of carrots, coarse cut
Heat oil in large skillet. Rub roast with chosen dry seasoning. Brown the roast, being sure to sear all sides of it. Put the roast in a slow cooker. Throw in bouillon cubes, onions, garlic and bay leaves. Pour in mushroom soup, Worcestershire sauce and a can of vegetable broth over the roast. Cook at high for several (five to six) hours, then turn to low, adding some carrots about two hours before planning to eat. Good with mashed potatoes or rice.
Michael Nicely has been a firefighter for 18 years. He is a paramedic and certified in confined-space rescue. Tom Bartley has been a firefighter for 10 years. He is an EMT, registered nurse, rescue diver and is certified in confined space rescue.
Tags: Call to Duty