So who cheated?
It’s a fair question to ask a group who’s just undergone a challenge, especially in the case of one as trying as the strict 28-day vegetable-only diet members of the A-shift of Bethesda Fire Station 6 endured last month — a challenge sure to produce a culprit or two.
Circled around a varnished table with the station’s insignia emblazoned on its center, three firefighters of the team appear reluctant to answer it though, scratching their heads, exchanging quick glances and shifting uneasily.
Finally, Troy Jones breaks the ice and gestures towards his captain, Stephen Snyder.
Leroy Isreal follows suit, also pointing to his superior.
Shaking his head as one does after a perceived betrayal, the accused lets out a sharp guffaw.
“I wanted some eggs, dude,” Snyder says, shaking his head. “Ah, he threw me under the bus. I didn’t try to coerce them into eating with me.”
Considerations of loyalty aside, Leroy stands guilty as charged: eggs are off-limits in the vegan diet the firefighters followed last month.
The shift adopted the book "The Engine 2 Diet," designed by a Texas colleague’s intent on helping his fellows shed a few pounds.
Sponsored by the Friendship Heights Whole Foods, the firefighters made Thursday stops to the health-focused grocery store to scour the aisles in search of the right ingredients for the diet book’s recipes.
They decided to go on the diet because all of them agreed “a little more healthy eating; we can all use that,” Snyder said.
But that wasn’t the only reason, the three said: Whole Foods was ready to foot the bill. The grocery store paid for all the food they needed on each of their 24-hour shifts.
“That was an extra kicker, added bonus,” Snyder said as his two subordinates chuckled.
But the free chow the station 6 A-shift fighters got their hands on wasn’t the stuff they usually mow through during their three mostly sleepless on-duty nights every week — free meals in this case meant coping with unfamiliar flavors and exotic recipes.
One of the weirdest of the meals they fixed up, after all, does diverge far from its inspiration, seeming to compromise the very essence of it altogether: cheese-less pizza.
Other times, as in the case with pasta, they said, dairy-avoidance restricted the range of flavor.
“It all kind of tastes the same,” Isreal said, noting primavera, whether served as stroganoff or lasagna has almost an identical impact on one’s palette.
Still, they said, overall the recipes turned out mostly tolerable, sometimes even tasty in their own right. And the benefits the altered diet brought with it far outweighed any flavor issues.
All said they lost weight, cut their cholesterol, and enjoyed an energy boost because of the diet.
Said Captain Snyder, who shed five pounds: “I have an issue of just eating a whole bunch of stuff. I’d feel full, but I didn’t feel like a blob; I didn’t feel bloated.”