Good gravy!

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Gene Hawn and Bob Adams go over some last-minute details Thursday, Oct. 11 for the Port Republic Fire Company roast beef dinner this Saturday.   Photo by Laura Stetser

Secret sauce, homemade desserts are behind roast beef dinner’s success 

PORT REPUBLIC – Bob Adams says he can't remember when the local fire company started serving dinners to raise money – but it's his 57th year.

“My father, my grandfather and my great grandparents all lived in Port,” he said in an interview Thursday, Oct. 11. “The fire department was formed in 1929.”

Adams remains active at 74.

“I still go duck hunting and deer hunting,” he said.

When he joined the Port Republic Volunteer Fire Company in 1954, the dinners were different, he said.

“We had a lot of oystermen and clammers back then,” Adams said. “So we had oyster dinners. Then it was turkey dinners. Moms, and then wives, roasted the turkeys at home and brought them to the firehouse for a number of years in the early ’60s.”

He said he wasn’t sure how or when the dinner became roast beef, as it is today.

“Probably as we sold more dinners it was easier to make roast beef,” Adams said. “Germania has turkeys, and Oceanville has oysters and ham – so we have roast beef.”

Some things haven't changed, he said.

“Even now our wives make cakes and pies and donate them for desserts,” Adams said. “It gets people's attention when you have homemade pies and cakes.”

But the real secret to the dinner's success, according to dinner chairman Gene Hawn, is the gravy.

“People get takeout orders of gravy,” said Hawn, 49, who was born and raised in Port Republic. “People bring in their own quart containers and ask us to fill them.”

“There's a special ingredient – but we won't tell you,” Adams said.

“Bobby Wilson was the chief,” Hawn said. “He makes the gravy.”

According to Adams, the coleslaw is also a specialty – it is handmade at the firehouse on Blakes Lane the day before the dinner.

“On Monday and Friday we start prepping for the dinner,” Hawn said. “On Saturday morning we take the trucks out, set up the rooms and start cooking.”

Adams said the meal includes roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, coleslaw, applesauce and Italian rolls.

“There's a lot of work for the size of our membership,” he said.

The fire company has a roster of 40, with about half working on the dinner, Hawn said.

“We cook 600 pounds of roast beef and serve 98 dozen rolls,” he said. “We sell 900 dinners with at least half being takeout.”

He said that people choosing to eat at the firehouse get a better choice of desserts.

“There's Sharon Wilson's carrot cake,” he said. “People ask for hers, it's so good.”

For takeout, there is a drive up window.

“It's all about use of time,” Hawn said. “People don't want to get out of their cars.”

Kim Butler runs the kitchen. Port Republic School students get paid to work as servers. Boy Scouts help clean up after.

Adams said that members keep their same dinner duties for all their years in the fire company.

“I've been slicing meat for 35 years,” he said. “I used to slice and catch the slices. Now someone else catches. I slice pretty fast.”


If You Go

Port Republic Fire Co. Roast Beef Dinner

3:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20

Firehouse on Blakes Lane

Price is $12; $7 for children

Eat in or takeout

Dessert donations welcome

Call (609) 432-8870 or (609) 709-8812

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