Friday, November 16, 2012

A Storm Diary, In Food

 New York City: Hurricane Sandy

Breakfast: Sky is eerily quiet but somehow foreboding.  (Or am I just feeling that way because of all the doom and gloom warnings on CNN?)  I make my usual 7-grain hot cereal with raisins and maple syrup.  
Coconut-Salted Caramel Cookies

Lunch: It started to rain a bit on my walk to the gym- perhaps the only place in Manhattan that is packed with people today.  Realized lunch will have to be at home.  Even though it is barely drizzling every restaurant is closed.  Even Starbucks.  Reheat curried butternut squash soup and toast a slice of Amy’s Bread's Tangy Sourdough.  Spent afternoon baking cookies to pass time with the little I could scrounge up in the pantry.  Came up with some rather delicious coconut-salted caramel thumbprint cookies.

Dinner: It’s here.  The power is out.  The wind is wild.  Something hit my window not long ago.  I know I’m not supposed to be near the windows but peaked out anyway.  My window planter is broken.  Probably just as well as not much more than moss has grown there in the last 12 months.  Not sure how long the power will be out but figure I should start eating the most perishable items.  I don a headlamp, light the gas on my stove with matches, and sear a small piece of skirt steak.  I slice the steak and eat it in front of the fireplace with tortillas and salsa verde. Beer is thankfully cold.

Breakfast: Woke up to a chilly apartment. It is still windy but doesn’t appear to be raining. Still no electricity.  Should probably get started on those farm eggs.  Fry an egg and have it on the last of the sourdough with some Vermont salted butter.

Lunch: What comes between lunch and dinner? Linner? Dunch?  Anyway, I didn’t eat until 4.  Getting stir crazy, I packed a backpack and hiked the 2.25 miles to the closest gym with power.  Worked out, showered, recharged.  On the hike home, like a bright shining light from heaven, I spotted a sushi restaurant with power!  Two rolls and a Sapporo later I was feeling more like a human being. 

Dinner: Started to think about the perishables.  Boiled the rest of the eggs. Moved the cheese and the rest of the beer to the freezer (very important).  Reheated the last of some cheese and chicken enchiladas from a few nights earlier.

Breakfast: Poppy seed bread, a gift from John’s mom, was starting to defrost so I pulled it out.  Will be munching on this for days, I think.

Lunch: Long walk, over 3 miles, to meet my cousin for ramen in midtown. It is a different world up there in the electricity zone.  Tourists shopping, suits lunching.  Very different from vacant downtown. It was worth every step for spicy ramen with extra pork and scallions at Hide-Chan.

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach and Peas
Dinner: Made it back home just as the sun was setting.  With no streetlights probably safest to get home before dark.  It is Halloween.  Weird mix of people out on the dark streets: kids in costumes holding parent’s hands; gay couples, hands entwined dipping into the few open, candlelit bars; refugees, suitcases trailing, headed uptown to escape powerless, waterless apartments.  I lit the stove and fried up chickpeas with onions, garlic, curry, spinach, peas (last two salvaged from the leaking, defrosting freezer). Steamed rice, just enough for one.  Felt luxuriously homemade, eating by candle and firelight.

Urban Camping Food- Tuna + Hardboiled Egg

Breakfast: More poppy seed bread and cheese (staying somewhat cool in the freezer).  Sadly tossed out two duck carcasses I had been saving to make stock.
Lunch: Hardboiled egg, tuna, rosemary crackers.  This scavenging thing is getting old.
Dinner: The hike uptown today was not so bad as the trains are now partially working.  Had a burger and sweet potato fries at PJ Clarke’s.  The staff could not have been kinder finding me a table with an outlet to charge both my phone and computer. 

Carolyn's Poppy Seed Bread and Ossau-Iraty Cheese
Breakfast: The last of the poppy seed bread and some more cheese.  As of today, I am over this urban camping thing. Think I will spend most of the day uptown. 

Lunch: Found a nice quiet table in the atrium for ticket sales at Lincoln Center.  Hot green tea, Wi-Fi, lots of other refugees graciously sharing outlets. Met friends at Landmarc in Columbus Circle and spent a sum of money I will later want to forget.  But the braised lamb sandwich with butter pickles will surely standout as one of the most comforting meals of the week. 

Dinner: Lunch kind of ran into dinner and migrated to a friend’s corporate apartment.  We reheated my leftover sandwich and some pizza. We passed pieces around while watching the Hurricane Sandy telethon.  Too many bottles of wine consumed to count.  Disobeyed my own rules, walking home in the dark, only my headlamp and some traffic guards to guide me.

Friends celebrating the return of power at A Casa Fox
Breakfast: Let there be light!  Fired up the stove the old fashioned way to make seven grain hot cereal.  Still no hot water or heat. But electricity!  Sweet electricity.  Didn’t realize how much I needed you.

Lunch: Neighborhood is still scarily quiet.  Everyone just got power back so most restaurants are closed.  Walk for 20 minutes determining what is open.  End up at Bill’s Burger.  Getting tired of burgers and sandwiches but desperate times…. 

Dinner:  At A Casa Fox on the Lower East Side it is back to business.  A random mix of people- new friends, old, friends of friends stranded in Manhattan post-marathon cancellation.  We drink cocktails and pass plates of calamari and rice, empanadas, beef tacos.  We talk of waterless toilet strategies, the beauty of headlamps, the generosity of neighbors and gyms, the disappointment of marathons un-run, the many people less fortunate than us still waiting for help. We tie our bandana napkins in funny ways making neckerchiefs and silly hats.  We take pictures.  A snapshot of a time that none of us will soon forget. 

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell

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