Arbitrary Food

Behind the Assignment: Fire station BBQ for the Edmonton Journal

The Kozoway Burger, as recreated on an electric grill in the NEAROF! test kitchen. Yum!

When working on a story, there’s a whole lot of stuff that never makes it into the paper. There’s only so much room, and sometimes things just don’t fit.

While writing about the curious love/hate relationship firefighters have with barbecues, I got a sense of how important the gas grill is to fire station food culture. According to one of the fire captains, they probably grill about four nights a week in the summer months. They take turns cooking, and there’s no shortage of prep cooks to help chop veggies or whip up a marinade.

I had the chance to sit down with the fire crew over fresh-from-the-grill burgers and a spinach and strawberry salad. It was a whole lot of fun, and the food was delicious.

Some of the curious things I learned at the fire hall that didn’t make it into the Journal story:

  • There really is a great feeling of camaraderie at the fire station. I heard stories about the pranks they play on each other, many of which involve large amounts of water. I witnessed a bit of water-related merrymaking, too.
  • When there’s a fire call, all the lights in the station come on. This has been known the scare the bejesus out of the people who are watching a movie in the common room.
  • Do NOT stand next to the loudspeaker by the barbecue. (Ouch!)
  • The lid from a peanut butter jar can, in a pinch, be used to press burger patties. Just, you know, wash it up before putting it back on the jar.
  • A lot of barbecue fires are reported not by the person doing the cooking on a grill that’s fully engulfed, but by concerned onlookers.
  • Cellphone photos exist of a mythical culinary creation known as a meat log, though there’s much debate over its recipe. Did it contain one or two packs of bacon?
  • The fire station grill was paid for out of the coffee and tea collection, just like the cable TV and newspaper subscription. They pay for the privilege of barbecue cookery.

All in all, I had a great time on the assignment. A super big thanks to everyone at Edmonton Fire Station No. 3.

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