By Frank E. Vaerewyck, “The Firehouse Foodie”
The fire service is steeped in tradition. You may ask the questions “Why is a fire truck red?” “Why do we use the Maltese Cross and the Star of Life as our symbols?” “Why are Dalmatians synonymous with the fire service?” “Why are shamrocks associated with truck companies?” To know the answers to these questions is to be learned in our trade, to have studied our traditions, and to know where we came from.
Cooking is the same way, believe it or not. Cooking is a way to connect with family, learn from our elders, and gain knowledge from the heritage of each other. Making pasta from scratch is a time-honored tradition passed down from one generation to the next, just like making that perfect fried chicken.
Study the traditions of things that make you happy and learn the “why and what for?” Answer the questions that arise, and practice those traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. The American expatriate writer Henry James once said, “It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.”
This recipe comes from my wife Rebecca, and it has been passed down from generation to generation. Her grandmother “Pippi” (Betty Ridgewell Wahab) made a breakfast treat that is still cherished to this day. The recipe was passed down to Rebecca’s mother, then to her brother and her. And, as tradition calls, we will pass it down to our children who we hope will carry it to theirs.
12 oz. creamed chipped beef (in the jar if you can find it; if the measurement is not right on it, just try and keep it close–you will see why)
16 grade A large eggs
1 pound sliced portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 cluster green spring onions
8 oz. package shredded cheddar cheese
½ pint heavy cream
½ stick butter
salt and pepper
1. Slice spring onions to about 2 inches from the top.
2. Sauté the mushrooms and sliced green onions in butter in a skillet and set aside.
3. Whip eggs with electric mixer and approximately 1 teaspoon salt and pepper.
4. In a big skillet, scramble eggs only slightly, but leave runny.
5. Layer half the eggs into glass baking dish greased with butter.
6. Layer in half the mushrooms and onions, then half the chipped beef, then half the cheese.
7. Pour in half the cream, and then repeat layers with other half of ingredients.
8. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour.
9. Top with parsley for color after baking and serve the dish like lasagna.
Slow cooking is the key. Pippi always said, “No hotter than that; you want to slow cook the flavors together.” This no-fail recipe is great to make the night before and let sit in the fridge overnight. Rebecca’s mom Jane says, “The great thing about tradition is to add whatever tickles your fancy and start your own tradition because that’s what it’s all about.” Now that’s bringing the firehouse home.
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.