By Frank E. Vaerewijck, The Firehouse Foodie
As we embark on the holiday season, we look forward to spending time with family, But who is family? What makes up family? Why is being a part of a family so important to us?
The typical definitions in the dictionary include the following: “a group or people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation: FELLOWSHIP.” Our common affiliation is cemented in our passion for the fire service and the desire to serve the citizens we protect.
For most, family is just as the primary definition dictates: It’s the basic unit in society tradionally consisting of two parents rearing their children, or any of various social units differing from and regarded as equivalent to the traditional family, such as in a single-parent household. For many of us in the fire service, family not only includes our loved ones and relatives but our brothers and sisters on the job too. We take so much from each other that we attribute to our daily lives as well as our chosen profession.
Good firefighters don’t just pay attention to their officers but listen and learn from those at or slightly higher than their level. They absorb the experiences, the knowledge, the passion of all firefighters on the job and, when the need arises, put that experience and knowledge to good use.
You can attend many great trainings and lectures on how to do this job, and as long as you keep your ears and mind open, you will take something from them, but you will get so much more from your family. Just as our parental units have shaped us during our formative years, our leaders, brothers, and sisters guide us and, since you are a product of your environment, influence us. Good or bad, the effect they have our psyche has a lot to do with who we are or what we become. So, this holiday season, make sure that every member of your family, related in blood or in just common affiliation, knows how much you appreciate them.
What better way to let your family know you appreciate them than with food and this nontraditional take on Mac & Cheese. My lieutenant likes to make a complicated layered version, but sometimes you just have to go with easy. After a few slight modifications, we came up with this scrumptious side dish, born out of the firehouse, and “That’s Bringing the Firehouse Home!”
Almost LT’s Crab Mac n’ Cheese
1 8 oz. pkg elbow pastas
1 stick butter (don’t use margarine, trust me)
2 cups milk
1 lb. block Velveeta cheese cut into 1-inch to 2-inch cubes
8 oz. claw crab meat
6-8 crumbled bacon slices, ½ bread crumbs or ½ Ritz crackers
- Boil the pasta as directed on the package.
- Drain the water but keep ¼ cup or so in the bottom of the pot.
- In a separate medium sauce pan, add 1 stick of butter, milk, and Velveeta cheese cubes.
- Heat the pot on medium until the cheese is completely melted.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
- In a glass baking dish, blend claw crab meat and cheese melt with pasta.
- Top with your choice topping–bacon, bread crumbs, or Ritz crackers, or try all three. Just make sure that you reduce your portion to cover the desired area.
- Place in oven at 350°F for 15 minutes.
- Don’t worry if it looks too gooey. It will get thicker the longer it sits. Enjoy!!
Frank E. Vaerewijck 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 Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department (yes, where the bacon comes from, THAT Smithfield). 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.