By Frank E. Vaerewyck, The Firehouse Foodie
As I walk into my station for the start of another shift, it hits me: The history of this department is everywhere. I’m not talking about the fact that the department that I work for is more than 120 years old but rather about the history in the pictures. The walls of the station are adorned with pictures of fires and the brave men and women fighting them; of the trucks and apparatus of yesteryear; and close-up head shots of members who have walked, and in some cases still do walk, these halls. These head shots are so candid, not posed or planned, just snapped by someone, somewhere when the moment struck. They show raw emotion, and these pictures, all of them, speak volumes about a department so rich in history.
Most every department or station I have ever walked into has had such pictures on the walls not just for decoration but as a way to remember where they came from, where they had been, and where they are going. From the early days of Benjamin Franklin and bucket brigades to the modern times of specialized advanced techniques and eco-friendly diesel behemoths, it is nice to know our history, to know our department, because with the knowledge of our history comes pride, pride in something more than us, pride in our fellow firefighter and pride in our communities.
The brotherhood is full of history and pride, it is a brotherhood forged by fire, and unless you have faced the dragon head on, you can’t quite grasp what it is to be part of the brotherhood, and that history and pride that go with it. We as firefighters have a way of connecting with those pictures on the wall, even if we weren’t there. We have felt the heat in similar situations, know the basic plan that laid out to tame the dragon, and know the exhausting pain staking work those individuals in the pictures were tasked with to bring things back to somewhat normal.
History has taught us many things, some good, some bad, but the main thing it has taught us is how to be firefighters. As I walk into my station for another shift it hits me: I am a firefighter.
History tells us that firefighters love spaghetti and fire stations all over the country are known for their spaghetti dinner fund raisers. It is a pretty easy meal for even the most inexperienced rookie to make. I like taking this historically known dish one step further, so I give you Baked Spaghetti. Now “that’s bringing the firehouse home!”
• 2 cups canned diced tomatoes
• 2 cups tomato sauce
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup diced onion
• 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
• 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
• 1 1/2 teaspoons House Seasoning (recipe follows)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
• 2 small bay leaves
• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
• 8 ounces uncooked angel hair pasta
• 1 cup grated cheddar
• 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350ᵒF.
2. In a stockpot, combine the tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, onions, peppers, garlic, parsley, seasoning mixtures, sugar, and bay leaves.
3. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat and let simmer, covered, for one hour.
4. Crumble the ground beef in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until fully cooked, with no pink color remaining. Drain the fat from the meat, and then add the ground beef to the stockpot. Simmer for 20 more minutes.
5. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
6. Cover the bottom of a 13- x 9- x 2-inch pan with sauce.
7. Add a layer of pasta and then a little less than 1/2 of each cheese; repeat the layers, ending with the sauce. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
8. Top the casserole with the remaining cheese, return it to the oven, and continue to cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 more minutes. Cut into squares before serving.
• 1 cup salt
• 1/4 cup black pepper
• 1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to six months.
Makes: 1 1/2 cups
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.