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Summertime, Fun Time: Sweet Tater Salad

By Frank E. Vaerewyck, "The Firehouse Foodie"

Firefighters are a close knit group. We work together, sometimes for up to 24 hours at a time. We eat together, we watch TV together, we do chores together, and we risk our lives together. We have to depend on each other no matter what and know that deep down inside, when everything around is at its worst, we are there for each other and will work as a team. Much like a fine-tuned military unit, we each have a job we are assigned to do and task that must be accomplished. Day in and day out, when that bell rings, it's “go” time, and we must be at the top of our game, because if we're not, someone could get hurt or, even worse, not come home at all. Just as hard as we work, we like to play.

Play as we will, we have fun at the station, with jokes and gags. There is always a funny story to be told or an outlandish video to watch, but sometimes, just sometimes, we have to leave the firehouse behind and completely unwind with our crew. These are the summertime get-togethers that make being a part of this extended family so much fun. These are the events held by our local unions, stations, or fire companies that include our families and allow us to really let loose and relax. There are picnics or outings at the local park or amusement park that our spouses and children get to come to and interact. Memories are made, food is eaten, and laughs are plentiful.

My most memorable get-together was when I was with Manassas (VA) and Joe Donoghue hosted the annual family outing in his backyard, poolside. Affectionately known as Joey D, because of his Brooklyn, NY, roots, he was the life of the party. As one of the older members of the company, Joey D was a big guy who liked to eat and was as fun loving and gentle as they come. He always had a joke and was never short on stories of the old times in NYC. His father was a lifelong FDNY firefighter, and Joey D grew up in and around the fire station. This is where he developed his love for the fire service, and he has passed it down to his son Chris. Laughs filled the air that night and with a backyard full of people and a pool full of kids, we came together not only as a band of brothers and sisters, but as a family. As for laughs, well Joey D did keep saying that he was going to change out of his shorts and floral print shirt into his Speed-O and do cannonballs in the pool. What a sight that would have been. Thanks for the memories, Joey D.

Most times when we get together for these events, we do them as a potluck and everyone brings their favorite dish to share. I have so many go-to dishes that I like, it's always hard to pick just one, but my Sweet Tater Salad is a pretty good choice for any summertime get-together. It's a nice choice for the station too or even a weekly meal with the family. It's served cold and will keep in the refrigerator, so it can be made when you have time and served when you don't. Get together with family and friends, make some memories, eat some food, and laugh a lot. Now “That's Bringing the Firehouse Home!”

Sweet Tater Salad


½ bag red potatoes

1 cup whipped salad dressing

1 package (approx 1.1 oz) potato toppings

½ cup diced sweet vidalia onion

¼ cup yellow mustard

¼ cup sweet pickle relish

1 oz sweet pickle juice

1 tsp natural sea salt

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tsp. celery seed


2 eggs (hard boiled and sliced)

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. parsley flakes



  1. Boil a large pot of water.
  2. Cut red potatoes into manageable bite-size chunks and add to boiling water.
  3. Add diced sweet vidalia onion and allow to boil until potatoes are slightly soft but not mushy.
  4. Drain potatoes and onions in colander and rinse with cool water until steam is gone.
  5. Combine all ingredients in large bowl except garnish ingredients. Stir to coat potatoes and mix thoroughly. Stir with a wooden spoon; be careful not to mash the potatoes while mixing.
  6. Once mixed, level top and garnish.
  7. Chill in bowl in the refrigerator until ready to serve and Enjoy.


Frank Vaerewyck has had a passion for the fire service that has spanned 20 years. He has been a volunteer and career firefighter and is currently a firefighter/EMT with the Manassas (VA) Volunteer Fire Company. He has passed on his passion for the fire service through instruction and mentorship. That same passion he has for the fire service is shared with his love of food. In 2006, Vaerewyck won an Iron Chef-style competition sponsored by a radio station in Richmond, Virginia. That is where he also furthered his education by attending a Culinary Arts Program. As the Firehouse Foodie, he has been compiling recipes to be included in a cookbook that will give others the opportunity to see their hometown heroes not just as firefighters, but as the firehouse chefs they truly are.


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