Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ashes and bread

Firefighters care about food a lot, and by that I mean we're sort of obsessed with it. At the helibase, it doesn't take much coaxing to get someone to fire up the barbecue (found at the dump and hauled back to the station by the crew). Any cookies that appear get a lot of attention. We stuff food in our packs, trying to gauge what 36 hours without resupply might look like. My former crew was overjoyed when they discovered Spam with bacon in it. Yes, that really exists.
When I first started fighting fire, we had the dreaded Meals Ready to Eat. No, not the ones they have now, with the heaters in them, which actually resemble real food. These didn't have burritos or tortellini or anything all that edible in them. Tabasco sauce, applied liberally, was a necessity. Caterers on fires back then had never met a vegetable they liked. I lived on other people's Snickers bars, potato chips, and bread from the ubiquitous ham sandwiches, after throwing away the ham. "Score!" we'd say, after scouring a helispot and finding some left-behind smokejumper food.
Smokejumpers get good food. They also get a beer named after them.

 Over the years, the food has gotten a lot better. Because of wars, we now get better MREs, ones that we can actually heat up. There are vegetarian lunches, although some caterers seem confused about what a vegetarian really is (tuna in a veggie lunch? really?). Fruit and salads are no longer endangered species at fire camp. Locals appear out of nowhere with baked goods. It's possible to actually gain weight on a fire assignment, instead of going to bed hungry chewing on your own regret and sadness.

Still, crazily enough, I sometimes miss the old days, before bottled water, flying crews in from the fireline for showers, and work/rest guidelines. Although we were constantly hungry, tired, and covered in dirt, there was something about being out there in a place where not everyone could make it. We were just a little closer to the edge back then. Those of us who are still around remember that. We keep looking for that place. Only with better food.


  1. Spam with bacon? Really? Two healthy items in one can! And the beer is named for firefighters but the brewing company is named after me (left hand! :-). Loved the post.

  2. Spam is the state food of Hawaii, did you know that? But with bacon? Arggh! There's a writer for a nearby newspaper who ranks restaurants for the quality and quantity of bacon in its offerings.


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