By Frank E. Vaerewyck, The Firehouse Foodie
When most people think of the fire department and the symbols that surround this proud service, they envision the fire trucks we ride in; the gear we wear; and, more often than not, Dalmatians.
So how did that spotty black and white dog breed come to be associated with firefighting? According to historians, in the 1700s Dalmatians were used to protect horses that pulled English stagecoaches. When other dogs tried to run out and scare the horses, the Dalmatians would chase them away. Then, over the years, Dalmatians formed close bonds with the horses. During this time, horse theft was very common as well as theft in general, so Dalmatians became not only a horse’s best friend but a guard dog of sorts. They helped keep the horses calm, and there are many reports and stories of seeing a fire team rushing to the scene of a call, with a Dalmatian or two running between the horse teams. Once on the scene of the call, the Dalmatian took over as guard dog, ensuring that nothing was stolen from the apparatus. The Dalmatian is a very loyal breed to its owners and an admirable foe when challenged. It was during the era of horse-drawn fire apparatus that the Dalmatian became forever tied to the fire service.
Because of the dog/horse bond, the Dalmatian easily adapted to the firehouse in the days of horse-drawn fire wagons. Since every firehouse had a set of fast horses to pull the pumper, it became common for each group of firefighters to keep a Dalmatian to guard the firehouse and the horses. When the alarm came in, the Dalmatian led the way for the horse-drawn pumper. In this way, the Dalmatian became the firefighters’ companion and a symbol of the fire service. It was also thought they would run alongside the horses, nipping at their heels to get them to run faster and since insurance companies paid the fire company that put out the fire–the one that made it to the scene, hooked up to a hydrant, and completed the task–this might be plausible.
Today, Dalmatians are still found in many firehouses in England, Canada, and the United States. In some places, these dogs still ride the truck to protect them from any wrongdoings, and in other places they serve simply as a mascot–a symbol of our past, our traditions, and loyalty.
Just as the Dalmatian has been a symbol of the fire service, spaghetti dinners in the fire hall have, too. I would like to share a spaghetti dinner that is revered in my firehouse as well as my home. “That’s Bringing the Firehouse Home.”
Banging Firehouse Spaghetti
Feeds two adults and three hungry kids or four firefighters.
1 lb. mild sausage
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 pkg frozen peppers/onions mix
2 jars vodka sauce
1 8-ounce pkg fresh mushrooms
1 box of your favorite noodles (I like linguine)
salt and pepper
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Brown ground beef and sausage in large frying pan.
2. Slice mushrooms.
3. Boil pasta (pasta usually takes about 12 minutes). Add a little salt to your water and 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil; drain when noodles are done.
(The guys at the station and my kids like to throw a noodle against the wall. If the noodle sticks, it’s done. This is not always the case, but it’s a good reference and it’s fun.)
4. Once meat is browned, drain off grease.
5. Add frozen peppers/onions mix, mushrooms, and vodka sauce.
6. Bring to a simmer and serve over noodles. Enjoy!
7. You can serve with garlic or cheese bread.
Frank Vaerewyck has had a passion for the fire service that has spanned 20 years. He has been a volunteer and career firefighter and is currently a firefighter/EMT with the Manassas (VA) Volunteer Fire Company. He has passed on his passion for the fire service through instruction and mentorship. That same passion he has for the fire service is shared with his love of food. In 2006, Vaerewyck won an Iron Chef-style competition sponsored by a radio station in Richmond, Virginia. That is where he also furthered his education by attending a Culinary Arts Program.
As the Firehouse Foodie, he has been compiling recipes to be included in a cookbook that will give others the opportunity to see their hometown heroes not just as firefighters, but as the firehouse chefs they truly are.