Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cooking Up a Storm

Put a plate of home-made pasta in front me and I’m back in my mother’s kitchen. I can see her roll out a mixture of flour and eggs, flatten the dough through one side of her pasta maker , and  cut it into strands on the other. Then she’d hang the soft noodles on a tabletop wooden tree to dry ( just a bit ) before boiling  them ( just a bit ) al dente.
Up to about a week ago, Mom’s homemade pasta fit my narrow notion of comfort food: hearty helpings of homemade favorites that bring back the past. This week, through the arrival and departure of Hurricane Sandy, my notion of food as nurturer expanded. 
I wasn’t cooking up old family recipes as round-the-clock updates on Hurricane Sandy played on my small kitchen TV. I was cooking up a storm, trying to make perishables more edible, before the likelihood of losing power. Exactly a year ago I was one of 850,000 Connecticut households without electricity and heat for over a week, due to storm Alfred. I can't remember ever having gone more than a day or so without power before then. I was completely unprepared for the storm shutdown.
This year, I expected the worst. So, as Sandy moved up the coast toward New Jersey, I kept my kitchen in New England humming. By early afternoon I had roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed butternut squash, and steamed carrots. While the aroma of onions and garlic (being roasted with the sprouts) permeated the house, I mixed a batch of cornbread and, as if to challenge Sandy’s “slow-moving” system, put a small rack of spare ribs in the slow cooker – on high. I didn't want to get too cocky. Yet, what did I have to lose? If the power went, I’d at least have real food to warm on the outdoor  grill and share with whomever needed sharing.

The cooking kept me busy. Focusing on preparing the meals kept me calm.  I was prepared for just about any inland havoc the windy side of a hurricane could wield. That was a big difference from last year's storm.

Fortunately for me, northern Connecticut was spared. My lights never even flickered. Not so on the coasts of Connecticut, NYC, and New Jersey, all of which Sandy ferociously huffed, puffed and blew boats to land and houses and boardwalks into the ocean. There has been devastating life and property loss.

When there was no word from my cousins in Staten Island - an area being reported as the most severely hit, I feared the worst - until yesterday. That's when I saw the photo below posted on Facebook with the status: Cooking for Staten Island. The picture of my cousin's busy kitchen told me all was as well as it could be. It looks as if fresh clams are about to be shucked by the younger generation of cousins. One of the girls is peeling a potato.

Cooking for Staten Island

I'm guessing a generator powered the cook-in. The boys own a gas station!

 That said, the Island still requires a continued rescue and recovery effort, along with the hardest hit areas of NY, NJ, and CT. A dear friend of mine in NJ posted a much less comforting  status this morning:

I don't think anyone outside the area really gets how bad it is around here. And it's ongoing, with food shortages, gas rationing, thousands, maybe tens of thousands, people thrown out of work.

She urges those who want to help to DONATE TO THE RED CROSS.


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