Sunday Dinner: Hansen’s High Throttle Whiting
A Nebraska train conductor cooks locomotively, all the way from Alliance to Ravenna. It's simple (just steer clear of Ziploc bags).
Eugene Hansen works two jobs. Heï¿½s a 60-hour-per-week locksmith in Alliance, Nebraska, who also drives trains for the Burlington, Northern, & Santa Fe between Alliance and Ravenna ï¿½ for 60 hours more. So where could he possibly fit preparing Sunday dinner?
Easy, says Hansen. You just plop it in a Jerky bag or wrap it in tin foil, tuck it into any number of ï¿½Sweet Spotsï¿½ on your locomotive, and get on down the line. Find your stove ï¿½on the water tank small door, on the compartment near the shutters, on the manifold, on top of the cylinders, in front of the turbocharger, on top of the turbocharger,ï¿½ …also next to the headlight (presuming the headlightï¿½s on) and ï¿½in the ï¿½Barbieï¿½ (not what it sounds like).
Gene has put his ï¿½Manifold Menus ï¿½ online for all hungry travelers. ï¿½Anything you can heat up in a microwave can be heated up on the motor," he declares. "Time and distance vary from type of food and location placed and position of throttle, also if under load or dynamic braking.ï¿½ For non-engineers, he patiently translated that: ï¿½The harder the motor works, the hotter it gets.ï¿½
But, Gene, doesnï¿½t engine-cooked food come out tasting like diesel fumes? ï¿½Does your pan affect the flavor of the food?ï¿½ he fires back. Well, now that you mention it, maybe not. His instructions are pretty clear about what kinds of containers NOT to use (Have Ziploc/Will Melt). Hansen also seems to have gotten crosswise once with his spouse after taking her Tupperware onboard. With these few provisos, he bascially makes it look like a cinch: a very big, very loud, mobile version of crock-pot cooking. ï¿½I made a pot roast on the way home,ï¿½ Gene says nonchalantly, three and a half hours last night, in a baggie with some mushrooms and carrots.
Hansen, age 47, and his wife have two grown children. Their daughter, a member of the Army Reserves in Fort Carson, Colorado, completed one tour of duty in Iraq and is preparing to leave for a second.
In thirty years of cooking on engines, mostly on his 268 mile route between Alliance and Ravenna, Nebraska, Hansen has experienced a few mishaps in the locomotive kitchen. ï¿½Iï¿½ve lost two steaks. They vibrated off," he says. Moving parts in train motors, ï¿½donï¿½t have internal oil." Rather thereï¿½s an underpan and ï¿½sludge pumpï¿½ underneath. ï¿½If anything falls in there, itï¿½s sunk,ï¿½ he warns. Frozen personal-pan pizzas are especially susceptible to vibration; Gene now knows to secure them to his cooking machinery with magnets.
Manifold Menus, with desserts and even salads, often gives cooking directions in distances as well as time. For example, to prepare a meal of whiting fish, he suggests: ï¿½(Ravenna to Linscott) 2 hours, medium to high throttle.ï¿½
A busy man, Hansen said it took him about a year to compile all the recipes and photos for his first cookbook, with everything from Cornish hens to burritos. But Gene isnï¿½t done yet. ï¿½Be watching for Part Two!ï¿½ he proclaims.