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Cheese and Onion Sandwiches

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The topic of pole drops and looking through my visit to LFB photos, has reminded me of something which I was always curious about within LFB, and that was Cheese and Onion Sandwiches. 

I remember once being told that this was a tradition many stations still continued with, whereby in the afternoons the watches would eat Cheese and Onions sandwiches. 

Tell me I am not dreaming here. Does this still go on, and is there any history behind it?

@Steve @Messyshaw @Aspire to name a few ?

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Can’t comment on the LFB aspect, but when I joined for at least the first ten years sandwich time at 10.30 was only thick edge bread, cheese with either onion or pickle, non of this fancy tuna stuff. History, that's the way it’s always been.

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A very well known tradition in LFB, although seen a lot less now, its probably spoken about more than its actually actioned.

It used to be an absolute ritual, that seems to have disappeared and been replaced with the new age avocado type fillings, haha.

Unfortunately, I cant tell you the origins as that was well before my time...

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This was a Brigade Order I think - but I might be wrong ;)

Definitely not in the afternoon, but the 11am stand-easy always involved huge doorstep grated cheese and raw onion sandwiches. Two each was mandatory. (There were exclusions for Sundays when rolls, baguettes or sliced bread maybe substituted) 

All stations held gallons of brown sauce to help the rather dry snack down and posher stations even had Branson pickle. It all started to go downhill when exotic condiments such as piccalilli were served up.  

Don't forget, this was followed at 13:00 (two hours later) by a cooked lunch with at least 2 courses, and maybe cakes in the afternoon at some places. 

It was a good job that we didn't have multi gyms back then as we were too knackered after all that food to exercise 


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I knew I hadn't dreamt it. Most of our stations go down the eggs on toast route in the mornings. The odd one will have Avocado, which I tried once, but it was like eating a crayon, so I stuck with the eggs. 

Im still curious as to when it all became a tradition though, someone must have started it 😂

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Some stations here do Tea and toast at 11 ( earlier if there was a rumoured exercise pre covid ) My first watch were absolute sticklers for it. If we had a job getting back at 12, toast with eggs would be served up, even though lunchtime was only an hour away

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Generally a few rounds of toast with strong tea is served at 11. However, it’s gone from proper full fat butter & jam to olive oil  based spreads with butter of the peanut variety. Apparently, t’s healthier. 

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I have made enquiries with some former LFB types including ex mess managers and it just seems that cheese and onion was cheap, tasty - and combined with thick chunks of uncut white bread, would successfully satisfy the appetite of hungriest fat barsteward on the watch.

Cheese could be bought in bulk and frozen, likewise onions have a long shelf life and bought by the sack load, are economical 

Sadly this tradition, unlike watches, log books and the mess, has nothing to do with the fire services naval heritage. That is except if you believe an army (or navy!) marches on its stomach- as keeping a watch full and happy was the origin of cheese doorsteps. 

How disappointing 🙄

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It's true. Cheese and onion wedge sandwiches where a staple when I started. Always in the morning at 11.00, if you were exotic, you had branston, if you were cultured, you toasted them under the grill. The tradition mostly died out out but was resurrected by nostalgic mess managers who'd run out of ideas.

As an aside, the standard of food when I left was far superior to when I started. The regular MM at my first station had the most expensive but worst quality food I ever suffered. The last 3 at my last station did astonishing grub.

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Our senior bloke still does them at least once when he is in the mess. Although as said, the level of messing is pretty good these days on most stations, but a cheese and onion sandwich always goes down a treat 

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  • 1 year later...
On 29/08/2020 at 14:12, Carl said:

I knew I hadn't dreamt it. Most of our stations go down the eggs on toast route in the mornings. 

Prior to starting my Fire and Rescue Service career I had never had, nor would I ever have had a cheese and onion sandwich at approx 11am.

The C&O sandwich is definitely a LFB/Middlesex/Surrey tradition although I thought it must be one of the many ‘old daft Fire Brigade traditions’ and was replicated everywhere. When I transferred in 2018 it was at first a surprise to see a more normal morning offer of eggs on toast being the norm.

Looking back, it was a funny old tradition… if today my missus asked would I like something to eat, pretty much time as of now, and brought me a grated cheese sandwich with plenty raw onion on it I would have her sectioned 😂

… on Surrey Fire Stations though I expect they are cutting the 🧅 🔪 🍞 🧈 🤷🏻‍♂️😂

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Can't believe I missed this at the time. Morning 'Standeasy' for many years of my career was religiously, as messy said, fresh crusty bread & grated cheese, the loaf cut into thick slices and a handful of grated cheese plonked in between two slices and placed into a covered sandwich tray with a bowl of onion on the side. I loved them and still do, If I'm at home alone, I'll often make myself a cheese and onion roll late morning. I also remember the beauty of an ever so slightly hardened bread int he afternoon and the cheese now slightly sweaty being a greta treat after an afternoon shout or visit... one or two left over, get in while you can. 😀

It wasn't long into my career when I was at poplar someone took the mess over who was a fantastic mess manger, especially on nights when the '1000 recipes of mince' book got binned. He also started doing a choice if Tuna Mayo, Egg mayo or Cheese.... It still went 50% cheese with just a handful option for the other choices.

When I was still watch based, occasionally we'd have the C&O special, but Sausage and Onion baguettes, a full English with no lunch, or other variations would be offered.

Latterly, I'd still occasionally come across a cheese and onion sandwich on my rounds but all of you delicate, healthy, perfect looking examples of Firefighters today are not the 'people of iron & steel' were once were, so I understand and accept all of the beautiful healthy calorie counted well presented brunches that you have today. 

Bless you. 🥰

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