Hurricane Rations, Or How I Survived Ike, Part One
The electricity went out around 9 o’clock, hours before Hurricane Ike was even supposed to hit the area.
I had begun thawing a turkey earlier in the day. It was expected of me, of course (see “Cooking Up A Storm”). I also had some chicken and other random pieces of meat in the fridge, and had planned to cook everything before we lost power. Neighbors came over for a “pre-storm” dinner, and amidst all the anticipatory reveling, I didn’t get enough done before the power went out.
Thus, faced with a rapidly-thawing, 19-pound bird in the fridge, I had little choice but to cook it on the grill the next day. Not a bad idea, I thought.
That night, lying awake in the warm, still air, the optimist in me conjured up visions of fabulous ways to prepare the turkey. I mulled over different spice and herb combinations. I considered what acids and oils to rub over the bird. I finally came up with what was sure to be a tantalizing, yet cleverly frugal “hurricane” blend, utilizing celery, carrots and the lone lemon I remembered rolling around in the back of the crisper drawer. I would add fresh garlic and shallots from the bowl on the counter. My precious Black Currant Dijon Mustard, facing certain disposal now in the refrigerator door, would complete the masterful concoction. I was thrilled it would not go to waste after all!
The next day was an overcast blur, bathed in shadow and hot, damp air. Sweaty and tired, I still couldn’t wait to cook my turkey. I cleared enough debris off of the patio to wheel out the grill. I prepared it for indirect heat and nestled my well-seasoned bird on a rack. Neighbors were invited to enjoy what was sure to be a memorable post-Ike feast.
I should have known things weren’t quite right when I had to light the coals not once, not twice, but FOUR times. I don’t know if the coals had become damp in the weather, but they were quite stubborn. I started the turkey an hour later than planned, and even though we were in crisis mode, we had guests to feed and a reputation to uphold! The chips, salsa and nuts would hold out only so long.
An hour went by, then two. I offered more wine, vodka and by this time, candles. I decided to check the temperature of the bird. I lifted the lid of the grill. I could barely detect the glowing coals on either side of the hulking piece of meat. Holding a flashlight under my chin, I stuck the thermometer in the thigh. 100…110…111. That was it. I held my hand over each pile of coals. One…two…three…four…five…. By the time I counted to fifteen, I knew I was in trouble. There wasn’t enough charcoal.
Another hour went by and I resigned myself to the fact that my beautiful turkey had now become a cesspool of bacteria, festering out on the grill.
Frustrated, hot and hungry, I poured more booze and tossed Spam, Vienna Sausage, and beef jerky in front of my starving guests.
“Dinner’s ready!” I exclaimed. It’s amazing how good something can taste when eaten in the dark.