Fire Life

What’s in a Name? Island Angel Food Cake

By Frank E. Vaerewyck FF/EMT, The Firehouse Foodie

It recently dawned on me just how long I have worked with some people, and although I have gotten to know them well, I really only know them by their last name. The fire service is a paramilitary organization, and much like the armed forces, we have a rank structure that is followed and a chain of command and adapt to many of the same practices used in the military.

Similar to the way military uniforms only have a service members’ last name on them, so do ours. Our turnout coats only have our last name on the bottom in bold letters. Our duty rosters and status boards may contain our first initial but always have our last names, and it always seems like when the officer needs you for whatever reason, that’s the only part of your name he remembers. Come to think of it, much like in the military, this is a better way to do things, because how many Johns or Toms or Bobs are there in the world? Usually there is only one Vaerewyck, or Donoghue, or Jones in the station at any given time.

Sometimes you get a nickname, and it maybe something you’ve been given; or, worst yet, you do something really dumb and you earn that name. In my case, people look at my name and figure it’s as hard to say as it is to spell and they shorten it to Vic. This doesn’t bother me one bit, because growing up, my stepfather, who I’ve always called Dad, his last name was Vick. For a long time when I was younger, I was known as Frank Vick, or Mike’s kid, depending what I was getting into.

In a recent episode of the popular NBC show “Chicago Fire,” one of the characters, Mouch, was unhappy with his nickname and as the conversation with his fellow firefighters went on, the origin of his nickname came out. Mouch is a combination of the words “man” and “couch.” Once again, something given to him by his friends and co-workers because when he’s not on the rig, you can find him in the day room holding down the couch. The firehouse chef might be known as Cookie, and the ever so popular nickname we all have shared, Rookie or Probie. These are the terms we affectionately call the new guy or the guy on probation.

Our name is our identity and what we are known for. A name can bring joy to others or make them cringe. It may make you laugh when you hear a nickname, but you always remember who it is when you hear that name, and that’s what makes it so special. Something else you tend to remember is a good dessert. This week I’m giving you a real easy dessert you can make at the station, at home for a sweet treat, or any occasion. My Island Angel Food Cake is sure to be a hit on any table, and “That’s Bringing the Firehouse Home!”

Island Angel Food Cake



1 box angel food cake

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple

½ cup creme of coconut

1 8-oz container whipped topping

1 7-oz bag coconut flakes


  1. Empty contents of angel food cake box in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add crushed pineapples with juice and creme of coconut to bowl and mix thoroughly (use only the food cake mix; do not add any ingredients from the box, trust me).
  3. Grease 9×13 glass cooking dish with olive oil spray to prevent sticking and pour batter into baking dish.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (use a toothpick to check the cake to make sure it’s done; if not, cook another 5 minutes).
  5. Remove from oven and let cool. After cake is cool, spread whipped topping evenly over top of cake and dust with coconut flakes (typically 1/3 to ½ a bag).
  6. Place in fridge for 1 hour to help the cake set up. (The cake will be so soft you may need a real sharp knife to cut it; a butter knife tends to tear it.) Enoy.


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.