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After the Storm

August 29, 2011

While the hurricane cum tropical storm did not quite arrive with the full fury some might have been expecting, it has done its fair share of damage, taken a few lives, and there is more to come.

In Miami the dangers after a hurricane were in the downed electrical lines, overtired people and amateurs wielding chain saws, and people putting themselves in other precarious positions while making repairs. But in Albany, we are in a river valley. Make that two river valleys, the Hudson and the Mohawk. And all of that rain that Irene dumped throughout the region is all coming back to us, and it’s no laughing matter. Evacuations were called for last night, and until I check the news later this morning, I’ll have no idea how bad it is.

We got off easy. While Little Miss Fussy was nonplussed that she couldn’t watch her regular morning dose of Word World without electricity, we only had to suffer without power for less than four hours. And fortunately coffee was made before the lights went out.

Still, there’s nothing quite like losing power to realize how much we take it for granted.

I suspected at the very least the storm would knock out power, so I tried to make appropriate arrangements. We have a small refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen and a chest freezer in the garage. Our oven and stove are also electric, but if we ever remodel our kitchen, I’m putting in a gas line. Count on it.

When the power is out a refrigerator and freezer will still keep food cold for a long time. That’s provided you don’t go and open it up.

So we made sure all of the stuff we wanted to keep cold for as long as possible was in the chest freezer in the garage. That included several pounds of Berkshire pork belly. Some of Albany Jane’s amazing Berkshire bacon. A few braces of happy chicken carcasses destined for the stockpot. There were also a few pints of Ben & Jerry’s.

In the refrigerator, we took as many raw ingredients as we could and converted them into edible form the night before the storm. That meant taking the roasted eggplant intended for baingan bharta and turning it into a Moroccan eggplant spread that could be eaten cold out of the fridge on bread or crackers. The dozen happy eggs got hard boiled, since it would be difficult to cook these eggs without power, and they could last a while boiled even if the fridge weren’t super cold.

The kale never got turned into kale chips; there just wasn’t time. And despite what my twitter feed might indicate, I do actually sleep. But before bed, I did dig into one of the pints of Ben & Jerry’s, but I did not put it back in the chest freezer. It stayed in the kitchen.

As expected the power went out.

National Grid did a stunning job getting the lights turned back on as a tropical storm was passing through the region. But we had no idea how long we would be without power. My instinct was to plan for the worst and try to preserve our food for as long as possible. That meant opening the refrigerator only as a last resort.

Little Miss Fussy wanted milk in the morning, but naturally I didn’t want to open the refrigerator. So instead we feasted on a pint of ice cream. Yep. Ice cream for breakfast. It was the only thing in the kitchen freezer, and I knew it would likely melt before too long. Plus now we’ll have a wonderful lingering memory of the storm.

As lunch time rolled around, I was calculating which foods in the fridge would go bad first, and wondering about how to structure the next several meals just in case we needed to attempt to eat it all. I abhor waste like nature abhors a vacuum.

I was prepared to eat more than my share of a quart of plain yogurt if needed.

Mrs. Fussy pulled four hard-boiled eggs, a mostly empty bottle of juice, and the container of eggplant dip quickly from the fridge. We all had a lovely and filling lunch that also included bread and crackers. But fortunately as we were eating the lights came back on. Our grand adventure was over.

Besides getting to recharge the diminishing power supplies of our portable electronic devices, it was a huge relief to get our food cold again. It was a reminder that we are lucky to live in a country where a continuous and reliable supply of electricity is taken entirely for granted. And that’s no small thing.

Some people still don’t have power. And for others the hardest part of the storm is just beginning. I feel very lucky. Today I’m thrilled our house doesn’t have a basement. Maybe I’ll be less thrilled when it comes time to sell the damned thing. And I’m glad we don’t live closer to any of the rivers.

I’ve never been through floods before, so I don’t know what to expect in the upcoming days. Luckily I don’t have to be anywhere until Saturday. But if I don’t get out of the house and eat something soon, this is going to become a really dull food blog in short order.

If you are in the region, be careful out there.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. RealFoodMom permalink
    August 29, 2011 11:08 am

    During the storm and now in its aftermath, I thought often of our beloved Roxbury Farm, and of all the farmers up and down the whole region effected by the storm. Roxbury just posted its weekly newsletter and photos, and reading it left me in tears. So much damage, and so much hard work and wonderful vegetables drowned. My heart is with you, Farmer Jean-Paul and staff.

  2. August 29, 2011 11:49 am

    I have a feeling this Sunday’s greenmarket in Schenectady is going to be a bittersweet affair, but I will be there to support the local farmers. Such devastation. It makes me angry to hear about the people saying it was so “hyped.” Come visit us up the Hudson Valley and into Vermont.

  3. Judy K. permalink
    August 31, 2011 10:07 am

    We were without power for 3 days. Amazing how well a chest freezer holds the cold when it’s full of big chunks of meat and things – we have some large venison roasts in there. I pulled out a whole chicken to thaw on Saturday thinking it would be good to make soup on Sunday, then realized that the frozen chicken would better serve me as a giant ice cube in the freezer. Back it went. We have a gas stove, so I could still cook, so yesterday’s breakfast was blueberry pancakes with melted ice cream instead of syrup!

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