By Frank E. Vaerewijck, “The Firehouse Foodie”
I recently saw a photo posted on Facebook from a friend of mine who is a captain with the Arlington County (VA) Fire Department. The photo was of a group of firefighters all working in unison to prepare for breakfast. Pictured were a white fridge to the left of the room and a stainless steel island with pots and pans hanging above, adorned with pancake mix, onions, coffee cups, and mixing bowls. A gas stove on the back wall, a sink to the right with towels, and more coffee cups filled out the photo. Five firefighters were busy in the kitchen living the fire life. The caption was, “Breakfast prep in full swing.”
One of the captain’s comments, and the most poignant, was, “The firehouse meals and always spirited table talk are about all I’m going to miss when I retire.” This is a very powerful statement. It has been said, “There is no other profession in the world where the first order of business of the work day is … breakfast, and priority two is what’s for lunch and dinner.” Though this is a tongue-in-cheek statement, there is some relevance and truth to it–that is the fire service.
If you really think about the last time you sat and listened to seasoned firefighters, really just sat there, and took in what they were saying, they talk more about the good times, the meals, and the people who made up their careers and not so much the calls that shaped their experience. They talk about the ones lost, the ones who made the most of a storied career and the most of a life given for service. Without a doubt, every single old-timer I have ever had the pleasure of sitting with talks about the firehouse meals and spirited table talk. “That’s Bringing the Firehouse Home.”
Pop’s Maple Syrup
Makes 2 Cups
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 Tsp. maple flavoring
1. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugars, bringing to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes.
2. Remove from heat, stir in maple flavoring, let cool, and serve with your favorite breakfast entrée.
Refrigerate remainder to enjoy some later.
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 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.