One of the subjects that seems to interest people most about Firehouse living is how we feed ourselves. Common questions include: Who cooks? What kind of food do you eat? Does the City pay for your food? How come I see your guys in the grocery store? What happens if you get called out while you’re eating?
I have learned to understand that these things may not be obvious to a lot of folks and now appreciate the fact that they are interested in how we do things.
Here is how it works:
Bowling Green Firefighters work 24 hour shifts starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 7 a.m. the next day. They have to eat during that time so each shift includes two meals, lunch and dinner or “supper” depending on where you’re from.
Who cooks? Firefighters take turns cooking. Sometimes for a two week period or it may be day to day. It depends on the schedule. Sooner or later everyone has to cook. Some Firefighters are pretty good cooks…others, not so much. During my career I have worked with Firefighters who had been to French cooking schools and with others who could not boil water (at least when they first started). Most Firefighters fall somewhere in between. If you are willing to learn, there is usually a lot of interest in helping the cook, after all, everyone is stuck eating the result.
What kind of food do you eat? The food has changed a lot over the years. 25 years ago you would find a five gallon bucket of lard next to the stove. Just about EVERY DAY included beans and cornbread. Fried food ruled! The food was good but maybe not so good for you. Over time, Firefighters became more interested in healthy cooking. Today the grill gets used a lot and salads are the norm. During the winter, chili, soups, and large casserole type dishes are common table fare. Learning how to make the right amount for 10 to 12 hungry people is one of the most important things to learn. Tradition says the cook goes through the line last. You learn not to come up short.
What about shopping for groceries? That’s right; the cook is responsible for procuring the day’s food. Most of the time, the crew goes to the store with the assigned cook. The cook is in charge of deciding what to cook and how much money to spend on it. They have a budget to follow.
Does the City buy your food? No. All Firefighters chip in to finance the food. On average it will cost about $100.00 per month for each person. So in a typical year, Bowling Green Firefighters spend about $133,000 buying groceries. That ain’t chump change!!
What happens if you get an emergency call while you’re eating? This happens a lot. We go. It does not matter what you are doing when a call comes in – you have one minute to be on the truck ready to go. Mealtime is no different. It is the cook’s job to turn of the stove and secure the kitchen. Sometimes you get back in time to finish the meal, sometimes not. It’s just part of the job.
One thing you learn is to not complain about the cooking unless you are willing to help. I once overheard a guy complain about too much cheese in the lasagna. Guess what? Extra cheese went in immediately. Another complained about too much chicken to suit him. Guess what? Chicken every meal for two months. Firehouse etiquette, you learn quick.
Thanks for your interest, Chief Johnson