Care & Feeding of SCRAMP volunteers: Breakfast Surprise-A-Pie

More than a dozen years ago, a firefighter friend of mine gave me free tickets to see the Superbike  Race at Laguna Seca. Who am I to turn down a freebie? Now, I’m not the world’s biggest race fan, but all the hullaballoo and excitement is infectious, plus there were displays of vintage motorcycles which is one of my personal interests.

It was my first introduction to SCRAMP, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula. I joined a year later, and have been volunteering since 1998, proudly wearing the requisite blue shirt and patiently explaining over and over what a “SCRAMP Official” is, as it’s emblazoned on the back of the shirt in two-inch letters.

Many folks are not aware that Laguna Seca is a nonprofit race track, the only track of its size and quality in the whole world that is a nonprofit. SCRAMP is completely made up of volunteers. Along with a paid staff of 35 that’s there all year round, SCRAMP’s 200 or so members put on five races each year. During each race, there are more than 2000 volunteers from around 75 community groups who do various jobs around the track – direct traffic, sell tickets and programs, staff the souvenir store, act as security guards and more. Students from DLI, the Naval Postgraduate School, and various local high schools also fulfill their community service requirements at Laguna Seca.

Pacific Grove firefighters, for example, send a group out to “guard” the media center. Whether that’s to keep the public away from the media or vice versa we haven’t decided.

At the end of each race season, we tally up the money, subtract out costs, and the remainder is given back to those various community groups who volunteered. SCRAMP has given away millions of dollars over its 50-year existence, not to mention the economic benefits of thousands of tourists who converge on the Peninsula for each event. I read somewhere that Moto GP brings more people than the AT&T golf tournament and that hotels are booked all the way to San Francisco in one direction and Paso Robles in the other. Don’t quote me on that, but I do know that some of my fellow SCRAMP volunteers, who come from Mariposa, Palos Verdes, Ukiah, San Diego, Manteca and various other far-away places, have a hard time getting a reasonably priced hotel room during some events. The result is that local SCRAMP volunteers, including Yours Truly, wind up with a houseful of people in blue shirts on those five weekends each year.
Kind of only seems fair, when they’re volunteering their time in the hot sun, that they shouldn’t have to pay $200 for a hotel room.

SCRAMP graciously gives us a $5 voucher each day for lunch and there’s a secret place in the race paddock where we can actually get a decent lunch for that amount. But that leaves 200 people needing breakfast and dinner as well.
Being an old hand at feeding big groups of tired, hungry people for not much money, I put on quite a spread for my guests so there’s a waiting list of SCRAMP volunteers lined up to sleep on my living room floor in PG. We carpool to the track and they can get an extra half hour of sleep before a hot day of herding race fans around.

I make my guests breakfast if we didn’t stay up too late the night before. This recipe is one I perfected on Sunday mornings at the firehouse. We didn’t always do breakfast, but on Sundays we didn’t have to go do inspections, flow hydrants, or otherwise harass the citizenry so there was time for brunch. I call it “Surprise-A Pie” because I never knew what would be left in the refrigerator for me to use in it. I’m just going to list basic ingredients and instructions, but not proportions; you have to do that yourself depending on how many you have to feed and what’s left in the refrigerator. It’s basically a large omelet.

This recipe is along the lines of Refrigerator Soup. Once a week we emptied the refrigerator at the firehouse and scrubbed it out with soap and water. Anything usable went into the soup pot for lunch that day. This made for some interesting concoctions.

I recommend that if you’re going to want to use raw meats or any ingredients that take a while to cook, like celery, potatoes, and onions, you need to precook them. That’s why cleaning out the refrigerator works so well.

Surprise-A Pie
Eggs (2 per person)
Milk (enough to scramble the eggs)
Seasonings (salt, pepper, Mayacamas Chicken BBQ seasoning, lemon pepper, your favorite)
Cheese (Shredded is best because it melts and mixes easily, but you can use slices too. I like to cover the top with a layer of sliced cheddar or American cheese or shredded cheddar or jack. Cottage cheese, ricotta or feta are possibilities. If you made friends with Ruben, the goatherd up on Highway 68, you could even consider chevre.)
Meat (Crumbled cooked sausage, bacon, ground beef from last night’s tacos or whatever)
Veggies (Chopped celery, onions, zucchini, potatoes, bell pepper, jalapeno, pasilla, you name it)

Here’s how I’d do it for six people:
I use a 9×13 greased Pyrex baking dish.
In a big frying pan, sauté all the things that need to be precooked and season them. We’ll end up with about a cup of cooked meat, 2 cups of cooked vegetables, and your favorite seasonings to taste.
Artfully arrange a layer of the cooked meats and veggies in the bottom of the pan. I say this tongue-in-cheek; no one at the firehouse ever cared what it looked like, as long as it tasted good! Scramble a dozen eggs with a cup of milk and pour carefully over the other ingredients. Sprinkle the cheese on top. If you’re using chunks of cheese, you might want to put them in at the same time as the meats and veggies.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until the old toothpick-comes-out-clean trick works. I cut it into rectangles and serve it with a spatula.
You could also fry up last night’s baked potatoes or some hash browns to serve on the side if you really have to stretch the leftovers, and serve a bowl of fruit. If the firehouse budget was in good shape, I might serve it with warm tortillas. Get someone else to be in charge of making toast and setting the table so you can keep your eye on the pie.
I’ve also made it on camping trips in a large cast iron skillet, but if you do it that way, you have to be very careful not to burn the bottom. Once you get it down, let me know and I’ll send some SCRAMP volunteers your way.

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