I haven’t posted in few days because on Sunday morning we were hit with the now infamous Hurricane Irene. Although she has been labeled a disappointing slacker in some circles, she was no joke in our section of New Jersey: We lost power on Sunday 4am and it has yet to return. No hot water. No wifi. No fridge. No joke. As we enter into Day 3 of being off the grid, I thought I’d share a little visual diary of our last few days. The experience has been interesting. At its charming best it’s Little House on the Prairie without the calico and fiddle playing. At it’s worst it’s cold showers, feral children, and growing piles of laundry.
Above is an image from yesterday when we finally realized the fridge was no longer keeping anything cool—despite our diligence about keeping the door shut—and all of the food left inside had to be either consumed or discarded. So we binged.
Saturday night before the storm hit, we had already planned on celebrating Nichole’s birthday. On the menu were four roman pizzas with different toppings (corn, fresh tomato, margherita, and zucchini and gruyere), grated beet salad and peach lambic cocktails. I had one mini-nervous breakdown while trying to get dinner ready when I dropped the 3rd pizza(the loveliest one topped with fresh corn, lime zest and creme fraiche) on the floor on the way to the oven (Note to all cooks: wipe all olive oil from your slippery hands as you carry a sheet pan to the oven). I ended up salvaging the pizza by combining the corn with fresh tomatoes from pizza number 4 and it turned out fine. I rinsed the corn off first, I swear.
Towards the end of dinner the wind began to blow and the lights began to flicker as Nichole opened her presents and we ate a delicious plum crisp, so that’s when Belle thought it was time to put on her headlamp.
Here’s the fam camped out and reading stories downstairs on a bed of cushions. Everyone was nervous that a branch might fall on the house during the night and smote us in our sleep, so we set up sleeping quarters in the living room. It was like an all-ages show slumber party.
Next morning’s breakfast: Irene arrived and we (mostly Belle) dined on leftover pizza and cold milky coffee. Some people (Karin and Nichole, aka the coffee addicts) had the brilliance to realize that we would probably not have power by breakfast time so better to brew a big pot the night before and make iced coffee the next day. Remember this tip next time you’re in a hurricane situation.
For lunch on Sunday I started cooking all of the food of value in the fridge because I had no idea when the power would be back on. That included a london broil I had started marinating the night before— Momofuku-style—in apple juice, onions, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Something about a bloody steak in the afternoon just seemed so right. For the vegetarians there was soba noodles in vegetable broth (leftover from a red lentil soup I made earlier in the week) with scallion-ginger sauce and ponzu on the side.
The beverage was fresh lemonade (making lemonade from lemons–get it?) with a simple syrup I made that morning for the iced coffee (we have a gas stove so this is how I was able to cook without power, just lit the pilot with a propane torch), bottled water, whatever ice was not yet melted in the freezer and lots of lemons.Chalkboard creamer is from Terrain.
Irene continued to churn and pour as the afternoon wore on, so before the kids went ninja on each other, we decided to put on a movie festival using whatever power was remaining in Karin’s laptop. A big bowl of popcorn and Wall-E made things civilized once more.
For dinner the feasting continued (hurricanes make you hungry). I had to cook mostly by candle and lantern light, which was challenging but allowed me to use my instincts (I couldn’t really see when things were done, I had to smell and taste and sense they were) and also kept things loose. No measuring. No exacting. I was pretty proud of the meal and I wish I had photos of it, but it was pitch black and the flash made things look a little too Blair Witch Project. I will tell you that the standout was two chicken breasts (from Stone Barns) that I had marinated in mustard, lemon juice, chopped garlic, grapeseed oil and thyme and then cooked between a hot grill pan and a heavy cast iron pan. Sort of like the Italian dish chicken-under-a-brick, the hot pans allowed the skin to become nice and crunchy while the center remained moist. I also blanched and then sauteed some long purple beans, mixing them with pecorino and orange zest and made a big pot of Israeli couscous from the pantry.
On day 2 of no power things started to get a little unhinged. Belle was dressing herself like Mata Hari and the fridge contents were on their last legs. The only thing to do was empty the icebox, eat what we could, and scrub it all down. I made lots of sandwiches and we picked at hummus, cheese, yogurt, condiments and leftovers until we could pick no more.
It is kind of sad to have to waste so much food, especially in this day and age when you hear of local hunger as well as famine in Somalia. So we tried to salvage and consume as much as we could (because really, what else is there to do when there’s no power?) before ditching the rest. The plus side? A sparkling clean and empty refrigerator!
We still don’t have power so my posts will be scattered. Right now I’m relying on the wifi of friends and Starbucks. But the good news is that we’re fine, no big branches fell on us in our sleep, I feel very good about my chicken-between-skillets recipe and there’s always a rainbow at the end of the storm.
Hope all of you and yours are safe today (especially in the state where Tim and I went to college and that is very near to both of our hearts–Vermont) and I promise to post more once the power is restored and my fridge is full again.