Cooking in Self Defense

My mom was an excellent cook, and so was my grandma, so there was little incentive to learn to cook . . . until I got to the fire department. A combination of factors forced me to become the Firehouse Cook, and I still do it. One, the other guys couldn’t cook to save their souls. I could see that I was soon going to starve if I depended on the other guys. Two, I’d had enough institutional cooking in the Navy, where green eggs, blue milk, and iridescent ham were the order of the day. The slice of bread they gave me I always wet with water and used to jam my tray onto the table so it didn’t slide around when the ship rocked and rolled. Three, the lady in my life can’t cook, either. She has set the kitchen on fire more than once. She can’t boil water. She makes One-Pot Gronowski look like an amateur, but that’s another story for later on. And four, I found out that the cook at the firehouse didn’t have to do dishes. I made them dirty, they made them clean.

Thirty years ago, I started writing The Firehouse Cook, and when I retired it became The Retired Firehouse Cook. I wrote a weekly column for a daily newspaper and for two weekly newspapers. Through all those papers’ ups and downs I persevered and became the most popular columnist, if I do say so myself. Little old ladies stopped me in the grocery store with comments on the recipes. Men stopped me with comments on the gossip portion of the column. The weekly papers were sold a few times and there were dozens of staff changes, but through it all I hung on. Then came the Carpetbaggers from Tracy. They bought the paper and canned everyone and brought their own people in. When they canned me, they lost half their subscribers. I decided to really retire.

But I’m writing again, a once-a-month column for a weekly newspaper. Once again little old ladies are stopping me in the grocery store and men stop me, mostly to ask about my beard and my Land Rover, but there we are.

Trying to organize this web page, I’ve decided to make an ongoing list of recipes first and then run the reprints of the columns with the recipes after that. If you have a better idea, you can be the webmaster because I live by the adage, “The first one to complain is the next one in charge.” That’s another reason I became the Firehouse Cook and has to do with the story of Moose Turd Pie.

Click here to see my recipes and stories, or all the recipes from the stories listed alphabetically.

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