So it's raining and the gusts are picking up a little outside my window here in the Nation's Capital, but you'd think the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were about to arrive. I don't want to underplay the hurricane ("The worst of it is coming at 4 p.m. ... no, 8 p.m. ... no, we mean tomorrow morning!!!") but for some reason overplaying it bothers me more.
We've endured numerous power shortages, ice storms, 9/11, Snowpocalypse I and II in the 16 years we've lived in Washington -- even a full-on hurricane (Isabel, 2003) that killed power for a week, and brought the neighbour's tree down conveniently in our backyard pool. The day after Isabel, we'd been scheduled to host a cocktail party for friends who were returning to Washington after a few years abroad. I wasn't sure what to do: canceling was the obvious choice -- but what would that amount to, aside from our family sitting grimly in the dark alone complaining about the outages? I figured everybody else was in the same situation, so what the heck: we'd bought the booze already. We went ahead with the party. It was mid-September, the storm had passed, and we could hold the party outside beside the lagoony wreck of the pool (which weirdly looked quite magical, with massive branches cascading over the water -- add a few floating candles and bingo, instant atmosphere). The caterers -- who still had power -- gamely ensured the show would go on and brought along copious supplies of ice along with the passed food (the BBQ still worked). We offered a signature cocktail -- a Hurricane, of course. We had a massive turnout of relief seekers -- and it remains one of the best parties in memory. In short, when life serves you a hurricane, serve Hurricanes:
My husband and I in front of the downed tree, ready for guests!
I understand that simply in having written the above paragraph, the last laugh is now going to be on me. Perhaps Sandy WILL be worse than Isabel, Snowpocalypse and the actual Apocalypse combined, in which case I invite you all to jeer me when our house has fallen down and our entire family, clutching sticks of furniture, is swept away in the ensuing street tsunamis towards certain watery death in the Potomac. That still doesn't mean I'm going to fill up pots of water. Or place flashlights around the house (there's an app for that). Or even, as some Facebook friends are suggesting, fill our bathtubs with water in case the toilets don't flush (I'm not sure how that works exactly? How does a full bathtub ensure a working toilet? Or are you supposed to use the bathtub for ...? Gross. NOT going there.)
But short of the house falling down (or something falling on the house) I think there are ways to survive these disasters in a more civilized fashion -- without panicking, and dare I say, with style? Thus, as a Hurricane Survivor, I offer you the following tips on how to turn an epic disaster into a party.
First off, I'm assuming you've taken whatever precautions are necessary given your proximity to the storm. The house or apartment is sealed up, you've got the water and extra batteries and okay, fine, you've filled up your bathtub. Stop worrying about that tree next door. If it's going to fall, it's going to fall and there ain't nothing you can do about it. You may as well go down having fun.
Second, I've assumed you've also laid in plenty of booze. Remember, red wine and spirits such as Scotch don't require chilling and can be drunk straight up; no need for ice. Good long-term strategy should the power be out for more than a day or two. You can also pour ice cubes (while you have them) in that full bathtub and use it to chill white wine, beer, vodka, gin, and mixers. That'll work for 24 hours.
I hope you didn't just buy safety candles, but also votive candles. Like, a ton of them. This way when the power shuts down you not only have light, but a romantic atmosphere in which to enjoy your aforementioned booze. If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace, make sure you've moved in firewood. Now you have heat AND a super romantic atmosphere in which to enjoy your glass of wine.
You're probably wondering about food, right? Bar snacks -- chips, pretzels, nuts -- last for ages, but you don't want to have to sustain yourself on these for long, unless you're a frat boy. If you have a BBQ you've already pulled it as close to the house as is safely possible, right? As the first option is grilling up all those frozen burgers that are now defrosting in your powerless freezer.
HOWEVER, if you have a gas stove then, my friend, you know you can survive for months. I'm assuming you've also taken the precaution of pre-charging all your 3 and 4G devices, so you can access online recipes (Epicurious is my favorite site; foodnetwork.com is excellent as well). Pasta is a no-brainer of course, but you can do way better than that. Google anything that is pan-roasted. Or stewed. Or seared. Remember there is all that meat to get rid of, and cooked food will last longer than raw. A soup or stew is especially good, as you can just keep reheating it every day to keep it from spoiling (don't haul me to the FDA for this advice; it's been done for centuries by peasants everywhere). Indeed just keep adding to it: vegetables, dried beans, lentils, rice.
If you only have an electric stove then you will have to fall back on the neighbourly rules during states of emergencies: which is, whoever has power and/or a gas stove is the de facto hurricane party host. Pack up your booze, thawing meat, and children if you have them, and get over to their house.
Or come over to mine. We'll have the fire going, candles lit, wine poured, steaming bowls of beef stew, and Netflix on the iPad.