Hurricane Irene was coming, and we didn’t have any food. Correction – there might have been an old can of soup in the cupboard somewhere, but it was probably past its expiration date.
My wife and I are a busy, high-tech, do-it-all couple. Well, we do it all except cooking. We live moment-to-moment when it comes to food. There are some staples we always have around – like Grape Nuts, oatmeal, flaxseed, fruit and yogurt – so we’re usually covered when it comes to breakfast…and breakfast for dinner.
For our other meals, we either eat out or do “just-in-time” shopping. Instead of stocking up for a week, we buy just enough food for one meal. Even so, we’ve found a way to make healthy choices. Most of the time, we choose prepared foods from the grocery store that aren’t high in calories, like single chicken breasts, grilled vegetables and quinoa salad. We have to pay a little more for this convenience, but it’s a pretty good system for having fresh, healthful food in spite of our busy schedules.
Enter Hurricane Irene. By all accounts, the storm was going to be bad, and we needed to put everything else aside to stock up on food and secure our house. We started by sitting down together and making a list of what we needed. My wife’s college roommate and her two kids live at the edge of an evacuation zone in New York City, so they were invited to ride out the storm with us in New Jersey.
The impending storm forced us to slow down and focus on the most immediate tasks. We were busy, of course. But instead of dividing and conquering, we used the opportunity to work together. For instance, it took both of us to figure out how to move two very large potted plants from our back porch. Good communication and instruction were key to getting us working together in the same way to lift each pot, position it on a dolly and move it into the garage.
At the grocery store, we noticed that much of what was on our list was comfort food, and we didn’t even wait until we got home to dig in. On the ride back, we shared part of a fresh baguette that was still hot. There’s nothing like a hot baguette, is there? Comfort food seemed to be a priority for others as well. One lady we spoke with was going home to make macaroni and cheese. Three people in a row ordered hot chocolate with whipped cream at Starbucks even though it was a warm day.
Our guests didn’t end up coming, so we had way too much food in the house. It was strange to open the refrigerator and see so many choices – not just milk and orange juice. We ended up making omelets for dinner, which is one of my favorite comfort foods. To me, comfort food is usually a pretty simple food…something I had when I was young, before there were fancy sauces and attempts to impress with something more delicate.
And hey…we actually had all the ingredients for omelets! I chopped some onions and red peppers and sautéed them with shitake mushrooms. Then, I beat the eggs, put them in a pan and added the veggies with a little bit of cheese. It was a meal-in-one. Warm, tasty, simple and comforting.
In the days after Irene, there were many news stories about how the storm brought neighbors together, and our neighborhood was no different. One of our neighbors lost power, and her basement flooded because her sump pump couldn’t operate. Another neighbor came to her rescue with a portable generator that helped power the pumping of the water out of her basement. We were grateful that we came through it all safely and with no damage to our home. The day after the storm, we drove around our little town and saw another reason to be grateful – a perfect rainbow.