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Old 05-03-2011, 12:01 AM   #1
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Dining in the Dark

Subtitle: The art of eating well during a week-long power outage

Hi. Remember me? Yeah I dropped off the grid for awhile, sorry about that. Very brief "Cliff Notes" on where I've been and why I haven't been posting (I've still been lurking, tho!).

Hubby and I went on a super super strict diet back in early March because I needed to drop some weight really fast. I got a job offer and had to meet certain physical requirements because of where I'm headed, so rigorous work-out regimen and strict diet were required, and I wasn't doing much standard cooking....thus I had little to post about. Also, I was super busy....because....

I had to arrange a ton of paperwork, gather loads of data, and we had to make a trip back to the US for me to undergo a series of physical / medical evaluations in preparation for my deployment to Afghanistan for my new job (yup, that Afghanistan).

So anyway....I've been back in the US visiting with my family awaiting my deployment in a couple of weeks. And for those of you who don't know (which may be all of you) my family all lives in Alabama. Specifically, North and Central Alabama. So last Wednesday I awoke to my father shouting at me at 5:30 in the morning to come downstairs and get in the tornado shelter because a storm was headed our way. Thus began a long day that ultimately yielded the 211 separate tornadoes you guys eventually got to see on the news and which cut off our power around 5pm that day. We just got power back last night.

There I was. Stuck in a house with no power with my husband already back in the Philippines (he only stayed a week with me here), with 2 elderly parents who have many physical infirmaries. A large, cluttered house, full of tripping and fire hazards. Now loaded with candles in various make-shift candle holders. A house with 2 refrigerators and 2 freezers full of food we were desperate to save. With power out for dozens of miles. The next day I would have to strike out in my dad's Traverse on half a tank of gas driving towards Tennessee hoping I'd make it far enough to find someplace that wasn't already sold out of gas, pick up some supplies and (hopefully) find ice.

But we did it. We got through the next 5 days without power, grateful that our biggest (and really only) complaint was not having lights, hot water and spotty mobile phone coverage. I'll spare you the gory details and get to the fun stuff.....how we made the most of the food we were trying to save to have a great time dining in the dark.

Day 1:

Well we were caught unawares here, as the storm started early that morning and didn't let up all day, with the power going out at 5pm. With very little ice we had to move quickly to save the most vulnerable goods....defrosted meats, milk, mayo, the usual. So we scraped by on sandwiches that evening and wondered how long the power would be off. We got our answer on Day 2....

Day 2:

As reports came out that we would be minimum 4 days without power, possible more, we spent most of the day on the road in search of supplies. But that night we noshed on spiral-cut ham and I threw together a quick spinach salad. Not fancy but hey, it was a long day and we were improvising.

Day 3:

Breakfast. Mom and I were starting to worry about the produce languishing in the fridge that hadn't yet made it to an ice chest as we were out of space. So I snatched up the last of our green onion, a couple tomatoes, some fresh garlic, shredded cheese and half a dozen eggs. Mom started a can of sterno and we cooked up a lovely table-top omelet. Afterwards we fried a bit of bacon, then I salvaged a bit of my homemade bread and we toasted a few slices on the pan over the sterno. Mom had an old camp-pot for making coffee. I took a few oranges that were "on the verge" and made some fresh squeezed orange juice.

Lunch was grilled hot dogs, waldorf salad and baked beans. For dinner, we grilled hamburgers, and over the sterno we grilled up some mushrooms and onions topped off with the last of their Swiss cheese. For dessert, I scrounged together some fresh fruit that I was worried would spoil and made a nice fruit salad of pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwi and green apple. We were running low on candle-holders, so I opened a bottle of Malbec and once we were finished....presto, new candle holder. ;-)

Day 4:

For breakfast we used the last of the strawberries, blueberries and blackberries that hadn't gone into the fruit salad to top off our cereal and I sliced some fresh grapefruit. Another hot pot of coffee made it easy to forget the lights were off.

Lunch was tuna salad sandwiches on fire-toasted rye bread with a side of leftover potato salad. I had some hummus I'd made the week before and we had that with slices of cucumber and bell peppers for a mid-afternoon snack.

For dinner, we fished out some frozen crawfish pies and crabcakes, figured out a way to cook them on the grill along with corn on the cob. Another bottle of Malbec to wash it down and the last of the fruit salad for dessert.

The last day the power was out we spent most of it out of town again, headed down to my sister's house to wash some clothes and get a hot shower. Along the drive between north and central Alabama we passed a great deal of the tornado damage from the worst of the twisters that happened on that day. And reflecting on that, while we were happy to get our power back after midnight last night, we didn't feel at all put off by our circumstances. After all, we were fine. Not only were my parents' house and my brother's house both unscathed in Huntsville, the mile-wide EF-5 tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa and Birmingham missed my sister's house in Birmingham. Our homes are intact, we are all okay, and that's really all that matters.

So if you find yourself stuck without power for a few days and not sure how to save your food, I hope this will help!

My data services were pretty spotty but I did manage to get this one photo posted to my Facebook with the caption "Hey tornado, suck on this!!"


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Old 05-03-2011, 12:31 AM   #2
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Yay!...I'm glad you are okay! Big news with you deploying to Afghanistan. Tell us all about it when you can. You have been missed! Hugs and all that!

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein
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Old 05-03-2011, 05:13 AM   #3
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Glad to hear that you and your family are fine. You did wonderful things with the food and tools on hand, and you are an inspiration to all of us.
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Old 05-03-2011, 07:04 AM   #4
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Wow. Speaking from the parental point of view here, how fortunate that you were 'back home' in such harrowing circumstances. I have no doubt that your folks were overjoyed to have you there -- in lots of ways. Sounds like you have that "Can Do" thing down pat.
No matter how simple it seems, it's complicated.
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:13 PM   #5
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Thanks for checking in!
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:29 PM   #6
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Brava! I haven't had to do it as seriously as you, but have had to make meals when there wasn't utilities for a week or more, and you really have to have some resilience. And, yes, I have military background, which does help.

Again Bravo, Brava!
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Old 05-03-2011, 04:50 PM   #7
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welcome and what an interesting account . kudos
"life isn't about how to survive the storm but how to dance in the rain"
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Old 05-03-2011, 06:09 PM   #8
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Glad to hear everyone's okay. I bet your husband was worried. The aftermath of the tornadoes has been a horrifying tragedy to witness on TV.

We'll be waiting for you to log in from Afghanistan. Stay safe!
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Old 05-03-2011, 06:23 PM   #9
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When I worked in Iraq I eventually settled into a sort of routine where I cooked with very very limited ingredients and resources in my living trailer. As I understand it the accommodations in Afghanistan are considerably less "plush" than what we "enjoyed" in Iraq.....not sure if I'll be able to do the same there, but I will certainly try, and gladly share the results here.

One thing's for sure, when I do get to come home and enjoy an R&R, I'll be as happy to be back in the kitchen as my husband will be to have me there.
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Old 05-04-2011, 10:56 AM   #10
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Thanks for such an interesting report! I've often wondered just how people manage food in these kinds of situations. My guess would be that most folks don't come close to doing as well. You deserve a big pat on the back for being so resourceful and taking charge of the situation. I can just imagine how comforting it was for your parents to have their talented daughter with them, just when they needed you most.
It put a smile on my face thinking how proud they must be of their girl. You've been missed here at DC, and so glad you and your family are safe.
Can you tell us what you will be doing in Afghanistan?
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but rather by the moments that take our breath away.

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Old 05-05-2011, 06:12 PM   #11
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One year Hurricane Iwa came through Hawaii just before Thanksgiving. I don't remember how long we were without it, but my house was all-electric. I'd done my usual, that is to say my (military) family tradition was always to invite people who had no family near for dinner. Well, here was my 20 pound turkey thawing like crazy. I managed to contact all my guests (always, always have a corded phone; they work when nothing else does!) and said Thanksgiving dinner was on if I had to cut up the turkey and make kabobs and cook it on the hibachi. Well, the power returned in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, so it was more traditional.

One hurricane came through Florida when my husband and I were on the road in our trailer. My parents drove to New Orleans then Biloxi (where we were camped) to sit out the worst of it, then went home, us following a day later. Their home lost all utilities for over a week, but we camped nearby and had propane and battery use. So they came over every evening for a shower and I'd fix them dinner.

One time Mom lost power but had a propane fireplace. She cooked over it for the grandkids and I think everyone remembers it fondly as a fun night.

One year three hurricanes hit Florida, and everyone in my family was affected (we'd left the state by then). They were extremely grateful for their corded telephones and propane grills.

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