Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome to the firehouse. Now make me a sangwhich! Cont.

You have to understand the math to see why a simple ingredient would be a problem. There are two kinds of firehouse where I come from. Single company, mean just that a single company (read engine) is housed there with a crew of four generally. Then we had double companies (read two firetrucks) and a crew of between 8-10.

The members of the crew operated off what was known in the vernacular as a chow fund. A chow fund was a pool of money used to buy the groceries. When you arrived at a new station there was usually a "buy in" to the chow fund, a preset dollar amount you were expected to kick in within your first few days on duty, around $20.

The buy in assured two things, first you could eat, which was welcome most days. The other thing you received in return for the buy in was the absence of grief for having not paid. Firefighters are merciless when they have something "on you". Anything to get at you, they will use. You owe money to the chow fund, you are a deadbeat and it will be mentioned with regularity until you pay.

Here's the funny thing about firemen, if you were behind on your bill for a real reason, usually divorce. All you had to do was let one guy, just one know you were hurting and it never came up again a crew would carry you for a year if they had to, without question. But once you healed up and got your shit together, hang on a bombardment was in store.

Anyway, the rest of the math. The cook for the day would buy the needed ingredients most of the time out of their own pocket (this was a way of paying your chow bill, buy the food and get credit for what you spent against your account) bring it to the station and then make the meal. Pretty simple for most, but not firemen.

New guys were the worst, they were young mostly, single but looking, hungover a lot, and clueless in a kitchen. Hell they ate out away from work and rarely had any training in meal prep. They didn't know a chef's knife from a boner (the knife) a pan from a pot, or their ass from a hole in the ground.

Depending on personality, friendliness and attitude a FNG (read f***ing new guy) might get help from a seasoned vet. A little coaching perhaps, I had the good fortune of having a mother that had taught me to cook and having worked in the food industry prior to fighting fire and saving lives.

I also had the Fishman. This man knew the price of every sale item at every grocery store in town from memory. He studied the newspaper adds like a most guys studied girlie magazines and not just for the articles. Fishman would growl I guess is the best way to put it. Too many Lucky Strikes and rounds of projectile vomiting (sorry to be gross but he did a lot of that when drinking) had changed his voice in to an unmistakable sound indigenous to him alone.

"The chicken is on sale at Kings Soopers, it's bone in but worth it. You know any chicken dishes?" "Chicken enchiladas" I answered. "You make your own green chili?" "Yeah I use my dad's recipe." "Your dad he a Mexican?" "No he's Irish." "Oh God, you don't put beans in it do you? Damn Irish and their beans and potatoes always f***ing up good food."

"No, my mother puts beans in her chili, Swedish chili we call it." "You making that shit?" He was looking at sales adds in a cloud of smoke. "No, I'm gonna make my dad's green chili." "Pretty risky, these boys like their green chili and they don't like it with beans." "No beans Fish, I promise."

"Go ahead and use beans see if I care." I didn't use any beans, the chili was accepted with fireman compliments at meal time. A fireman compliment is always stated in the negative, ie. "I guess this will ball a turd." Translation, it was good and filling. "I wouldn't feed it to my dog." Translation I'm gonna have seconds. "I'm gonna pay for eating this crap." Translation oh my God I ate too much.

Sorry to drag this out so long, more tomorrow.


1 comment:

Artful Communication - k~ said...

Guys in the kitchen can be a serious trauma to the environment ;-) Sounds like at least they had a few that knew what was going on!