Ghosts: Savory Chopped Kale Salad

By Frank E. Vaerewijck, “The Firehouse Foodie”

“How was your shift, honey?”

“Same old, same old. It’s all good.”

“That’s good, Sweetie. Glad you’re home,” and she walks away with a smile and a little grin.

I’m one of the lucky ones. When I met my wife and we were doing the awkward, get-to-know-you interview, she was not impressed that I was a firefighter or an EMT. She told me in the sweetest way, “That’s great; it doesn’t impress me,” and she has reminded me of this ever since. Don’t get me wrong–she admires what we do and is thankful that there are people like us out there, but she, unlike many others, didn’t get all “rock star giggly” when she found out I was one of the few.

Before I had the pleasure of meeting her, when I was dating and the question came up, “So what do you do?” my answer was somewhat standard and not given to score points or elicit previously mentioned rock star status. “I’m in the fire service.”

“Like a firefighter or something?”

Boy, am I glad I started dating more mature women. “Yes, like something” followed by a big grin and a slight laugh, followed by “Awesome! What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”

My first thought was, “OK, I see where this is going.” In my head I’m thinking, “You really don’t want me to answer that. You don’t want to hear about the truck driver who was ejected through his windshield late at night on the interstate. You don’t want to hear about the man who burned to death after falling asleep with a lit cigarette on his couch. You really don’t want to hear about the screams that haunt me, of the mother whose baby we rushed to the ambulance, franticly performing CPR and rescue breaths.” TV and movies do a great job of glorifying the job, but no amount of cinematic glory can even come close to actually witnessing one of your fellow firefighters fall through the floor right next to you and disappear into an inferno.

Maybe it’s a good thing my wife is not impressed with the job and is just happy I’m home and safe. This month was heavy but true. The catch-22 is keeping this all bottled up–even if you talk about this stuff with those you work over a recipe you can share, it’s always a good thing. A healthy heart is fed by healthy food, and this month a savory chopped kale salad is what’s being served, and “That’s Bringing the Firehouse Home!”

Savory Chopped Kale Salad


2 bunches kale leaves, finely chopped (the finer the leaves, the more dressing the kale will absorb and the tastier it will be)

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup fat-free buttermilk

1 tsp chili powder

1 bunch chives, fresh

½ tsp sea salt

¼ cup slivered almonds



1. Combine kale and dried cranberries in a large mixing bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk extra virgin olive oil, buttermilk, chili powder, chives, and salt.

3. Pour the dressing on top and toss until mixed thoroughly; top with nuts and serve.


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.

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