Thursday night, the 9th, around about 5 pm, a storm raced through western Connecticut, initiated by a massive blast or blasts of wind, whipping trees, I’m told, near horizontal, with cloud to ground lightening strikes, followed by rain, heavy hail, and then heavy rain. I can attest to the heavy hail and the heavy rain, as I was close enough to home by then, but fortunate enough not to be on the tree-lined back roads during the first of the matter. Those back roads were like those old computer games, where you got your token to drive down labyrinth alleys without bumping into walls. In this case, fallen branches, fallen limbs, fallen trees. The roads I traveled to get home were also fortunate in that, except for one detour, none were completely occluded. The hail was a bit frightening, and I wondered how my own home was faring.
I was lucky. My house is intact, and nothing had impacted my own power line from the street to the house. I lost three trees, and probably a few saplings buried under that, and I had no electrical power, but in comparison to, say, northern Japan, Joplin Missouri, or even Springfield Massachusetts, it’s merely a trivial inconvenience, a blip in time.
Of Goats and Greens was offline for 35 hours until power was restored early this morning, around 4 am. I think there are parts of my town still offline. Certainly, there are still blocked roads. I know a neighboring town has set up an emergency shelter, perhaps for the elderly who might require A/C, or perhaps for those whose homes did get smashed by flying trees.
Being a camping hobbyist, I certainly have enough camping equipment to keep me going off the grid for a few days. I own a lantern bright enough to read by if the print isn’t too small. I even own a solar shower, though I’ve yet to use it. (We have showers at work… opt for the easiest option when one can…) The only concern was the possible length of this power outage: I have a freezer compartment in my fridge and a small stand-alone downstairs. They are both definitely over half full but would this be enough, in summer?
Well, both were fine after 35 hours. I’m not having to spend the next couple days cooking everything once in the freezers, and then re-freezing it. I did need ice for my fridge, but the veggies could have lasted a couple more days on their own except the lettuce which was at the end of its lifespan anyway.
Okay, it turns out my primary needs were for ice, and for gloves. Yes, gloves, unless I wanted to charcoal-cook water every time I washed my hands after handling, say, chicken. Which would become my dinner Friday night, on the grill. It wasn’t going to last another full day of power failure in the fridge, if that was what we were due for. And, Saturday for lunch I was due to go to a pot luck for which I’d already planned a cooling cucumber salad — I am SOOooooo not going to prep food I share with others without massive hand washings or the equivalent!
Anyhow: for Emergency Power Loss Grilling: Kick back, and just do.
Keep your charcoal out of the way of 90-degree wind rainstorms.
Get the charcoal grill going. Or whatever you’re using.
Prep veggies. In this case, the rest of the asparagus from an earlier post. Break off base of stems, rinse with water, and dribble with a little extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
Prep meats. Use gloves especially with chickens, or prepare to cleanse with various agents warmed to useful temperatures. Switch when you need to. I soaked them (chicken drumsticks) in a marinate of balsamic vinegar, a touch of ground cumin and a little bit of red pepper flakes while I went about other things. These drumsticks, residents of my refrigerator, definitely needed to be cooked.
Soak some hickory chips. I didn’t use many.
Get your coals nice and white, as described in a recent post, using your charcoal chimney and some DRY newspaper you’ve scrounged up from inside the house. (Did I note that the newspaper left outside in the usually-dry corner of the porch… wasn’t?)
Lay down the charcoal, lay down the hickory chips (these both in a pile), put on the cooking grill surface, add the chicken over the coals, cover grill and allow to cook.
(At this point, I got an automated phone call from our local police reminding us, among other things, not to bring grills indoors to cook over. As if anyone would, considering it was a lot cooler outdoors than indoors, if for no other reason. And in that safety-conscious mode, I’d say don’t wear any plastic gloves while handling hot surfaces or pouring coals or anything. Remove and get your grill mitt on.)
Flip in approximately 15-20 minutes (watch them), and cook for another ten. About 5 minutes before ready, add asparagus, carefully assuring (as I did not, I lost two stalks) that they don’t fall between the cracks. Flip chicken again, testing for doneness, as not all grills will cook to the same degree of heat. Grilling is a matter of trial and test.
The outer surface looks burnt, but I assure you, it did not taste burnt.
Remain outdoors, sit back with a sip of good wine, kick off your shoes, and enjoy. Your electrical power may be down, but you’re a survivor, at least short-term.
But then again, as you chew into the savory meat and asparagus, reflect. It’s been barely over a century since we as a species have known and used electricity. What was our life, back then, when you couldn’t modulate your environmental temperature, your food wasn’t frozen except in winter, and something as wonderful and apparently simple as e-mail hadn’t been invented?
It’s how we once lived.