I was flipping through a book I keep for various notes, etc. and I ran across an account I wrote back in 2003. I was devoid of a computer because I was also devoid of electricity! In July, 2003, a very
severe storm blew through the Memphis, TN area, knocking out power not only all over the Memphis metro area but down into north Mississippi, as well. The ubiquitous "they"
said it wasn't a tornado but you could have fooled me
because I heard the sucker!
Anyway, I was without electricity for a week; a lot of people suffered much longer. Thus I was faced with how to keep/hold what food I had in the freezer & fridge and also how to creatively cook it before it went bad. The only grill I have is a 22" round Weber kettle. I was fortunate to have a charcoal grill because, as you can imagine, there was a run
on propane tanks. I already had a lot of lump charcoal in my storage room. I'm also fortunate in that I have a lot of cast iron cookware!
I was working at the time but the office shut down; only the emergency generators were running. Luckily, the breakrooms were hooked up to the generators (for reasons unbeknownst to me) but this is where I got my ice for the cooler. While other folks were running around trying to find bags of ice in stores, I simply took a bunch of plastic shopping bags to the office and filled up from the ice machine
I ran into the Director of I.T. while I was doing this and he literally slapped his head and said, "Why didn't I
think of that?! I stood in line at Kroger for 2 hours yesterday!" Guess that's why they pay you the big bucks, Steve!
On my several trips back to the office to see if they were open (my phone was knocked out, too, and I didn't have a cell phone - although later I was told there was a lot of cell interruption as well) I availed myself of the microwave in the breakroom to reheat some things I'd cooked to have for lunch.
So the first day I wrapped three baking potatoes in foil, added a pat of butter, salt & pepper and put them on the grill. When they were done, I cut a head of cabbage into quarters and put the wedges on the grill. A ribeye and a lamb loin chop had thawed completely, so I grilled those as well. NOTE: Grilled cabbage is wonderful! It carmelizes and tastes nicely sweet!
Anyway, that was the first day of cooking; leftovers were well-wrapped in foil and placed on top of the ice in the cooler to be carefully reheated on the grill or in the office microwave.
The next morning I grilled a package of bacon on the cast iron griddle, being careful to drain and reserve the drippings. I fried some eggs on the griddle, which still had a residue of bacon fat. I also took one of the baked potatoes from the day before, diced it up, added some chopped onion, salt & pepper and made "home fries". Yum! Great breakfast!
You can see where this is going, I'm sure. I was always confident in my ability to survive "Y2K" (what a joke that
was!) but this just proved my point.
One day I used the rest of the cooked bacon and made a pot of bean soup. I'd soaked the dried Great Northern Beans overnight. Got my trusty cast iron dutch oven (not the footed kind for going over a campfire). Added about 6 cups of water and a can of chicken broth, the last of the onion (chopped), some garlic (the jarred stuff in water) the leftover cooked bacon, pepper and a bay leaf. Covered and cooked until the beans were tender, a couple of hours.
On one of the days (I can't remember which) I took my large enamelled cast iron covered pan (sort of like Le Crueset, but not). I brought 1 cup of rice, 3 cups water with salt, pepper and butter to boil over ashy coals. I put the lid on the pan, then put heavy-duty foil over the rack so I could simmer the rice. When the rice was almost done (I couldn't believe how simple it was!) I added 3 diced tomatoes and some herbs which I don't recall now. I had some smoked polish-style sausage in the cooler. I cut it into slices and added it to the rice. The result was rather like a jambalaya and quite tasty. At some point I baked cornbread in my trusty 8" cast iron skillet (I had to use up the eggs and milk! - a cooler with ice can only do so much). I remember eating this mock jambalaya with cornbread and butter.
Oh, and I have a butter-bell so the addition of cold water from the melting ice in the cooler kept the butter nice and cool, yet still soft, right on the counter-top in the apartment. No need to chill it. My cooler was large but space was still at a premium
Some of the bags of ice I'd gotten at the office went into my regular freezer. Not opening the door maintained the ice for the most part.
I always have plenty of batteries on hand for flashlights but I also have oil lamps and lamp oil. I have one large table-lamp which I can use to read by and a couple of smaller ones with finger-hooks for maneuvering my way around the place. Luckily during this ordeal I never lost water. Sure, I had to bathe in cold water but we're talking July in west Tennessee! It was hot so the cold water felt good!
It was an adventure, folks. Not one I'd care to be forced to repeat but at least I know I can be creative with it! Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention!