Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Cook's Tale: Firehouse Dinner with Crash Truck

This first person account of a woman's experiences around cooking dinner for a bunch of firemen in Santa Barbara was sent to me via email by Jennie Cesario* -the narrator and writer of the story. Jennie is a trained chef and an emergency services worker describes some of her experiences while on duty at the Zaca Fire in Santa Barbara. As of today, the fire has burned over 127,ooo acres, injured 27 people and, thankfully, killed no one.

I've edited this a bit, but not much for fear that my intrinsically dour nature would sully its gleeful tone.

Last Sunday our shelter team was sitting around with absolutely nothing to do. Apparently, nobody in the Santa Barbara area actually NEEDS to be in a shelter right now, so that left us with a LOT of free time on our hands. I decided to go to the Starbuck's close to
our dorm building to start my day and ran smack-dab into a fire Captain from local firehouse no. 8 (above left) who was handing out updates for the local Zaca fire to anybody who wanted them.

Since I didn't have any fires to fight I decided to chat him up and ask him how it was going. While we were talking Frances, our shelter manager and the world's greatest wingman, came by and told Captain P. that I have a standing deal with any firehouse that if they let me
ride on a fire engine (with lights & siren on) for two whole blocks I'd make them a prime rib dinner. The Captain agreed to the deal and asked me to show up at the firehouse by 3 p.m. to begin making dinner!!

Now there just so happens to be a Farmer's Market going on right outside of this Starbucks, so I begin gathering some mighty-fine produce, local olive oil and artisinal butter, for this meal I'm going to put on the firehouse table. Then it's one additional stop at a local Gelson's and my menu is complete.

I arrive on time at the firehouse and begin the evening's meal. On the menu for a grand total of 3 firefighters is:

  • Prime rib with homemade horseradish sauce and Cabernet/veal sauce.
  • Roasted Vegetables Provencal
  • Roasted herbed Yukon Gold and Baby Red Potatoes with shallot butter
  • Fresh French bread w/shallot butter
  • Dessert of Puff Pastry Tart with locally grown Pluots, Raspberries, and Blackberries and freshly made whipped cream.

Now, while all this is in the oven cooking, I get to go out and play!

Ya see, this firehouse turns out to be at the Santa Barbara airport, and I not only get to ride on a fire engine - I get to take a ride on a real CRASH TRUCK!! A crash truck is roughly twice the size of a local, in-town, structure protection type fire engine. So up we go into this firefighting behemoth (with an equally big firefighter named Jerome) and we proceed to tour the airport.

And then it got fun!!

Jerome was kind enough to allow us the privilege of using the water cannons on the crash truck. These water guns put out about 500 gallons of water in about two minutes. With a couple of
joysticks to control it all we shot water all over the distant part of the airport (I've got the pictures to prove it!)

Back we came for our dinner together, which was crowned with some of the funniest conversation I have had in a very long while. Firefighters have some GREAT stories to tell. A great time was had by all.....but WAIT, there's MORE!

I asked if I could get one more picture of the crash trucks before we left. The answer was yes, but wouldn't you much rather like to dress up in the turnouts instead?

So off we trundled loaded into a full set of airport crash team turnouts, complete with helmet, and breathing apparatus ! I looked RIDICULOUS!!

Though I could barely hear what was happening around me, I still managed to hear 5 people literally howling with laughter as they watched me try to walk! I toddled down the length of the fire truck all the while hearing things like, "JEN - HURRY UP, THERE ARE PEOPLE ON FIRE, YOU'RE LOSING THE BUILDING, HURRY!!"

While I did my level best to move faster than a tenth of a mile an hour!! I gave it my valiant best to try to get my foot up to the first step to get into the crash truck but fell short by about, oh - 18 inches or so!!!! I gave up and tried some action poses instead!

For all my trouble they gave me a Santa Barbara City Fire t-shirt (the same that the guys themselves wear) that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I had a GREAT time and made 3 new friends that I love dearly.

Best of luck to you guys - Junior, Jerome, and Paul (from Station1)! Good luck Jerome for your two weeks up at the Zaca fire - I'll be thinking about you! Stay safe, Captain Pitney! You guys will never know how grateful I am that you let me see what its like to be you guys for just a little while. My respect for what you guys do and the conditions you do it under has DOUBLED.

Hope to see the guys at Station 8, Santa Barbara airport some day soon and have another dinner with them!

*Jennie Cesario is a Disaster (Action) Team Leader, Public Information Officer(Media Relations/Public Affairs), Sub-Chair for Mass Care/Mass Feeding operations, and Chef for Special Events at the San Gabriel Pomona Valley American Red Cross Chapter in Pasadena, California.


CarolinaGirl said...

Love it when you share the stories of other chefs. It reminds little students like me that the sky is the limit. I won't let the word are a really good guy!

Raoul Duke said...

I'm East (12 miles)of Paso Robles and North (80 miles as the crow flies)of the Zaca fire. We are up in the am before sunrise, before a breeze starts, and the smoke plume has spread across the horizon. Pretty dramatic but scary at the same time.