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Veteran Dave Rogers’ debut ‘Cooking with a Veteran’

By DAWN HANKINS - dhankins@t-g.com
Posted 12/31/21

U.S. Army Veteran Dave Rogers hails from big ole New York City, New York. But, since moving to Shelbyville about two months ago, he and his service dog, “Grunt” are finding their new home pretty peaceful.  

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Veteran Dave Rogers’ debut ‘Cooking with a Veteran’

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U.S. Army Veteran Dave Rogers hails from big ole New York City, New York. But, since moving to Shelbyville about two months ago, he and his service dog, “Grunt” are finding their new home pretty peaceful.  

The two have already become acquainted with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Murfreesboro. “I know lots of veterans down here in Tennessee.”  

Since getting moved in, he’s moved his online cooking segment, “Cooking With a Veteran” to the city with him. He began the Facebook segment—posted once a week now—during the start of the pandemic.  

“I found out that, there were a lot of World War II and Korean War veterans who weren’t getting hot meals. They were getting food, but weren’t getting hot meals anymore.” He said that is a problem when most veterans aren’t able to stand at the kitchen and cook.  

“I started cooking for home-bound veterans. They liked my food . . . wanted me to share what I put into it.”  

He admits 2020-2021 was a bit of “drop and go,” system, due to COVID-19.  

“I started putting together videos of what I was cooking . . . hoping to encourage other veterans to learn things/skills about what they can do with cooking.”  

Now he’s doing videos while preparing such dishes as Chicken Cordon Bleu and Blueberry Pie, Grunt Style.  

His cooking mentor? This military veteran with 14 years service says simply, that would be his grandmother. Mainly, she stepped in, he says, because his mother’s cooking was well . . . . “She could burn Cheerios.”  

So granny taught him how to cook. “She took me into the kitchen and showed me some things. That was my beginning . . . inspiration.”  

As an adult, he joined the U.S. Army and traveled the world. “I wasn’t afraid to try something.”  

In addition to his service to his country, Rogers says he had the opportunity to sample a lot of international cuisine. “There’s not much I want eat or try to eat.”  

A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, he’s been to the Middle East and even to Asia, which is where he discovered a whole new world of produce and seasonings.  

“Growing up, paprika was something they put on potato salad in the deli.” Now, he’s experimenting in the kitchen with sweet and smoked paprika.  

He did not cook in Army, but he’s participated in food fundraisers over the years. He has no formal chef training. It’s just a love of being at the stove, trying new recipes.  

Biggest part of the picture, he’s trying to keep veteran needs in the spotlight. He knows from experience how big a struggle it can be re-adapting to civilian from years of military life.  

“When I got out, I wasn’t told where to go or what to do. I got a medical discharge. I broke my neck. One day I was in the Army. Then I’m sitting at home, get a letter, saying: ‘You’re no longer in the Army, go to the VA.’ I didn’t know what that meant. There was no real guidance what to do.”  

That was back in 2005. He says many things have since changed for the better regarding veteran services.  

“My unit was deployed to Iraq and they said ‘go to the VA.’ I was angry and screaming . . . . There was a guy from the VFW who helped me get my benefits. That’s why I joined the VFW—to give back to veterans.”  

Rogers said through his involvement with the veteran organization, he’s begun several programs. One of those, he calls, “Coffee with a Veteran.”  

“The idea behind it was to have veterans sit with civilians and tell their stories. It doesn’t have to be war stories.” Rogers says truthfully, most veterans get more therapy telling funny war stories.  

“Those kind of stories are more healing. You can tell the silly stuff that happened while you were in.”  

During the pandemic, he took “Coffee with a Veteran” to daily Zoom conferencing. This opened more doors to work with veteran needs, he says.  

Rogers tells of a middle school in Queens, New York, which opened up to its first veteran visits.  

“This gave us the opportunity to bring in veterans, not just local veterans; we were able to bring veterans from nine different states into this middle school to talk about their experiences . . . .”  

With a laugh, Rogers says he wasn’t bored during the pandemic.  

“For me it was important, because when I got out, I self isolated.” He said when people talk about quarantines and isolation, he tells them what it’s like to be a veteran following service and about that feeling of isolation.  

“I tell people you don’t know what it’s like to be a veteran and self-isolate. You question everything you’ve done and why you did it. You’re just at home; you don’t want to be around anybody.”  

The Army veteran says he never compares one veteran of military service over another or one war above another. He’s had his own degrading experiences.  

“I’ve been spit on. I’ve been called a ‘baby killer.’ I’ve had people question why I’ve served.”  

He said in uniform, a soldier has a greater understanding of his or her mission. But eventually, they have to get out into the civilian life.  

For Rogers, he didn’t fair well in his first job, due to a lack of moral aptitude within employees in the business in which he was hired.  

Rogers said in the military, there’s no ‘I don’t feel like working’ comments ever made. “I couldn’t adapt to that lifestyle.” 

 It was a hard adjustment, so he strives to help other veterans through those difficult times of transition these days. One being that’s helping him through each day of civilian life is his black lab/ service dog, “Grunt.”  

“Truthfully, without Grunt, I wouldn’t do a lot of things I do today. I’m more sociable, because of Grunt. At the same time, it’s difficult having a service dog. People are jerks . . . I’ve had people grab him, yell at him, throw food at him. I’ve had businesses try to deny me service, because of him. People get angry when I say, you can’t play with my dog. Part of that is because there are so many fakes out there.”  

The two of them now are “trying to enjoy retirement.” Rogers jokes that more people remember “Grunt” than “Dave.”  

Rogers has his own view on military service among Americans.  

“Honestly, I’m one of those, I believe everyone should serve two years. I believe there should be mandatory service, because you have an appreciation and better understanding for what it’s all about.”  

“Cooking with a Veteran”  

Chicken and Dumplings  

By Dave Rogers, 14-Year Combat Army Veteran  

This is a dish that is easy to make and can be made in a couple of different ways. While I tend to be more on the traditional style of Chicken and Dumplings, those that don’t have time to make dumplings or not sure about making a broth can cheat a little and use cream of mushroom and Pillsbury grands cut in chunks for dumplings, but if you want the more traditional this is the way.  

The ingredients you will need for this meal include:  

6 Tbsp. butter  

1 C. chopped yellow onion  

1 C. matchstick carrots  

1 C. diced celery  

4 cloves garlic, minced  

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour  

12 oz. (1 can) evaporated milk  

32 oz. (1 quart) chicken stock  

4 C. shredded cooked chicken (you can buy this, but if you are going to make it I suggest a mixture of breast and thighs)  

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)  

2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper (or to taste)  

1 tsp. of white pepper salt, to taste  

Homemade Dumplings:  

2 C. all-purpose flour  

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder 

1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper  

1 tsp. salt  

1Tbsp. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)  

3/4 C. (6 oz.) whole milk  

4 Tbsp. butter, melted  

As always, I start by brining my chicken, by adding pepper, white pepper, adobo, and kosher salt. I place it in the fridge for 2-3 hours.  

Place the chicken in a preheated pan for three minutes on each side, cover with chicken stock and let cook for another 7-10 minutes.  

Shred the chicken and place to the side. I prefer more of a chunk, but you can shred the chicken smaller if you like.  

I have always been a big fan of Chicken and dumplings and while many places make it, very few still do drop dumplings. Places like Cracker Barrel will do what is known as a rolled dumpling where they make the dough and flatten with a roller, but to me that takes the flavor out.  

So for this I am going to stick with what made me love the dish to begin with “Dropped Dumplings”. Before I make the soup, I want to prep by making the dumplings.  

In a bowl place your ingredients for the homemade dumplings (flour, baking powder, black pepper, salt, and thyme) and mix them together. Add your milk and melted butter and mix until a soft dough.  

In a heated pot (I recommend a Lodge Dutch Oven) melt in your butter, and add your garlic, onion, carrots, and celery sautéing them.  

Add ¼ cup of flour, to help thicken and stir.  

Add your evaporated milk and chicken stock (I am adding the chicken stock from the cooked chicken as well).  

If you are like me and like a thicker gravy I add a little more flour, some corn starch and heavy cream.  

Bring to a boil and drop in your chicken. Stir and let cook for 5 min. 

Once the soup base is ready, take your dumplings, roll them into little balls (not too hard, you want them to be fluffy) and drop them in the soup.  

Lower to a simmer, cover and let cook for 15 minutes.  

You can watch this episode of “Cooking with a Veteran” on Facebook at https://www.facebook. com/CMDRDaveRogers/ videos/333203865050077.  

Don’t forget to like and share the page with others, Dave says. If there is a dish you would like to see Dave make, or want to find out more about the show and the project, you can email Dave at dave-rogers1969@ live.com.  

Dave is also looking for guests to come on the show, so if you are a veteran or help veterans and would like to share your love for cooking feel free to email Dave. 

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