Monday, April 12, 2010

A Full Pantry?

I never really kept a full pantry in Miami. Having experienced several hurricanes, some quite devastating, it made no sense to keep too much food in the house. Of course, one needs to be prepared with an abundance of non-perishable food, but in Florida without air conditioning everything is perishable.

Once I would hear that a hurricane was imminent I would stop buying food that needed refrigeration. Everything in the freezer needed to be consumed, not just because it would spoil when the electricity went out (notice I said when not if), but to make room to make ice. Any plastic container would do: tupperware, empty soda jugs, juice jugs, even styrofoam cups. Important things needed to be taken care of: getting business deadlines done, boarding up the house, filling the gas tank, getting cash out of the bank/ATM, standing in line at the grocery stores to get as many gallons of drinking water, loaves of bread and bags of ice you could get your hands on, filling the bathtub in case the water went, etc.

Then the frenzy would begin in the kitchen, trying to beat the clock. What time is it supposed to hit? Four? Five hours?  Into the oven went whatever roast or chicken had been in the freezer.  Prepare meatloaf with the ground beef.  Into the oven. Those eggs will spoil. Boil them.  Sandwich meats: stick them in the freezer they'll be thawed by tomorrow. What about the milk, the cheeses, the mayo, the orange juice? Eat it. Drink it. Deal with it. All of this was done in vain knowing that it could not all be consumed in the next 24-36 hours before all the ice had melted and the food started to rot in the Florida heat.  Of course, the beer could not go to waste; my husband took care of that.

Once the perishables were disposed of the "fun" would begin.  In Florida the majority of homes have electric ranges which, of course, are useless without electricity.  We had a charcoal grill, (and even the charcoal becomes scarce). So, what to make with just canned food and dry goods?  It takes a really long time to boil a pot of water with just a little bit of charcoal, but I have patience. In went the spaghetti noodles. Open a can of spaghetti sauce and one of canned ham, I think there's some onion and garlic that's still good. A little red wine will make everything better. Above a sterno flame I prepared the sauce, and eventually the noodles gave in and went limp. That night, eleven of us ate spaghetti by candlelight in the back yard among the debris of fallen trees, demolished fences and scattered sheds, roof tiles at our feet.

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