The variety of climates that we have in this great land called America presents different challenges to how we do business in the fire service. Winter weather is an incredible challenge for departments located in the Mid-West and East Coast. Freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on hose operations at a fire. High winds can drastically effect how fire will travel and spread in a structure. Icy roads present a whole different set of challenges for the apparatus and their drivers just trying to get to an alarm.
I’ve had colleagues of mine tell me stories of trying to fight fire in -30°F weather in Alaska. As soon as the water stops flowing it freezes. They have a large flatbed truck come out after the fire so they can load the hose up onto it. The water has frozen the hose into long logs!
While we don’t have to deal with temperatures quite as bad as that here in Seattle, we do often get a couple of weeks of snow each year. We rarely get more than a foot or so, but we have hills. Even though I chain up all the tires on my ladder truck, the laws of physics are unforgiving when you are trying to negotiate a 26 ton truck down a road that is covered with a few inches of snow on top of a couple of inches of ice.
My station is located on top of Queen Anne Hill in downtown Seattle and we are surrounded by steep hills. Many of them are closed to all traffic during such conditions. So we have snow routes and we operate under the realization that it is just going to take us longer to arrive than normal. The point is to actually arrive! I cannot describe the feeling I get when I’m going about 5 miles an hour down a gradual hill on our snow route, lights flashing and siren blaring. Then, for a split second I feel the wheels slip and then grab again underneath me….major pucker factor! Regardless of the conditions where you live, your fire department is doing their best to get there safely and get the job done!
Here is a great meal for one of those cold winter evenings. Served with some crusty bread you just can’t go wrong. Enjoy!
Suey’s Traditional Hungarian Chicken Soup (Tyúkhúsleves)
By Michael “Suey” Sulak, Seattle Fire Department, Station 8, Ladder 6
2 medium, fat chickens with giblets**
2 tablespoons salt
2 large carrots
2 large parsnips
1 small celery root
3 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
1 lb. very fine noodles
Put the whole chickens into a large, high sided soup pot along with the giblets. Add the salt and the peppercorns; cover the chickens with water (about 2 gallons). Bring the water to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for an hour.
Meanwhile, wash and peel the carrots, parsnips, celery root, and kohlrabi. Peel the garlic; leave whole and skewer onto a toothpick. Remove the brown outer peel of the onion. After the half hour, place the vegetables into the pot with the chicken. Adjust the flavor with more salt if necessary. Cover and simmer the soup for half an hour.
Remove from heat for several minutes to let the soup settle. Using a ladle, pass the soup through a fine strainer into a large serving tureen. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and discard the skin and carcass. Place the meat into the tureen. Julienne the cooked carrots and parsnips and also add to the tureen. Discard the celery root, kohlrabi, garlic, and onion. Boil the noodles in salted water until al dente, then strain.
Place a serving of noodles into each bowl. Ladle soup broth onto the noodles in each bowl along with some chicken and some vegetables.
Makes 8 – 10 servings.
**When I had this soup at my Aunt’s house in the village of Csolnok, Hungary, the whole chicken was used. The tureen included the chicken gizzard, liver, and heart along with the feet and head! Mind you, this guy was running around the yard earlier that morning! My aunt proceeded to dish out the feet into my bowl as they are considered a delicacy. When she tried to give me the chicken head I politely passed. I did try the feet and they were surprisingly very tasty.
*Note: The term “Beanery” is still alive and well in the Seattle Fire Department and is still the name we apply to the kitchen today. Because of low wages early in SFD’s history, the firefighters could often only afford to buy beans for their meals. Beans were cheap and provided a high source of protein. The procedure was to soak the beans overnight and simmer them all day long in the kitchen…thus the term “Beanery.”