Friday, May 1, 2009

Of Hurricanes and Fried Chicken

On Wednesday I made one of our favorite meals: fried chicken and pasta salad. This is actually our Hurricane Meal. It became our hurricane meal when we lived in Florida. Now if you live in Florida there is a period of time (June through November) where you have to be prepared for hurricanes.

I moved to Miami in 1990 to start school at the University of Miami. I had been there almost 2 years when Hurricane Andrew hit. I had been in Costa Rica the weeks beforehand and had no idea what was going on. I returned on a Saturday only to find that this huge monster storm was going to hit us. I am a California girl so I had no knowledge of hurricanes and what they could do. I knew earthquakes and fire but that's about it. So that night I remember going to the Walgreen's and stocking up on supplies because I didn't have anything in the house. The next morning on Sunday, I went out to the grocery store and got more supplies. I aways remember how beautiful that day was. It was clear and sunny and who would have thought Andrew was on its way to cause havoc in Miami.

I didn't know Tom then but he was also in Miami working at the University. He was renting a a house from a fellow professor where the epicenter of the hurricane hit. While my story was interesting, trees almost falling on the house and crushing my neighbor, being trapped in my studio apartment until the neighbor sawed me out, having to get up and hammer my landlady's door shut while she held it and the wind blew, Tom's story is even better. Suffice it to say, the roof flew off and the house fell down around him while he huddled in the bathtub with the cat. I think we both had an experience we will never forget.

So when we finally got together, we were always aware of the havoc hurricanes can cause. We found ourselves buying more supplies during summer. We always watched the news when they announced another wave coming off of the coast of Africa, etc. Luckily, when we lived in Coral Gables in his little Old Spanish house, we never had a hurricane. It wasn't until we moved to Boynton Beach where we had to live through 2 more hurricanes before we moved to Santa Fe.

Now hurricanes are bad but at least they warn you days ahead unlike those tricky earthquakes that hit usually in the middle of the night and scare the crap out you. And you can sort of judge whether or not you have to leave the house from the information you get from the news. We determined that if the hurricane was a Category 3 or less, we would stay. You can survive a 4 if your house is in good shape and you board up or shutter but it's tricky. A Category 4 or 5 is probably something to avoid. But when you live in Florida, trying to outrun that big hurricane can be a problem. There is only one way to go and when the rest of the state is doing the same thing, you can get in trouble. I had friends stuck in traffic for hours trying to get out of town.

So we usually stayed. Now there were times when we boarded up and stockpiled and the hurricane fizzled but that was okay because it's better to be safe than sorry. But the last year we were in Florida, we had Jeanne and Francis hit within weeks of each other and it wasn't pretty.

Our house in Boynton Beach was a ranch style and while we were probably no more than 2 miles from the beach, we had the intercoastal blocking us and we were pretty much inland. When Francis (I think ) was coming our way Tom boarded up all the windows and I stockpiled our stuff. We had sliding glass doors out to the screened patio and then out to the pool. Tom had to board those and it was a pain. By the time he was done, the whole house was dark. I loved it. It was like being in my own little cave but Tom and the cats didn't at all.

Well I had all my supplies ready and we had everything set for the hurricane. We had our batteries and flashlights, our canned food and water, lighter fluid and grill etc. The only thing I had forgotten hours before the hurricane hit was our dinner. I didn't plan for the dinner that night. DOH! So I had to think of something quickly. It had to be something that would keep if we lost power. So I dug around the refrigerator and found some chicken. So I remembered that fried chicken usually keeps for a few days and it is something you can eat cold. Then I rooted around the pantry and decided that pasta salad is something that can also be eaten cold. So thus, the Hurricane Meal was created.

Well, that night we had a great dinner, washed the dishes and hunkered in our guest bedroom. It's better to spend a hurricane in a room with no windows but we didn't have that. But the guest bedroom had small windows that would be safe because they were sheltered from the wind. Plus it had a large closet that we could jump into if it got really bad. We also figured that if the tree in front of the house fell toward the house the room was far back enough that we would be safe. Now Tom and Shawn slept through the whole hurricane while me and Scout watched TV and stayed awake almost all night. Hurricanes can get really scary especially when you hear the trees falling around your house.

The next day, we awoke to a complete disaster in the backyard. We found furniture in the pool, trees all over the back and front yards and our power gone. Our power was taken out by the neighbors tree that took out the power for our whole side of the street. Our neighbors across the street actually still had their power. In the ensuing days we cleaned up and had a huge pile of trash in front of the house. I am not kidding it was like 4 ft by 8 ft. After 3 days of no air conditioning and no electricity, although our neighbor Floyd ran an electrical cord from his generator to our house, we had enough. We ended up leaving the cats at the house because they were fine with no AC. And we went to sleep at the theatre where Tom worked. It wasn't too bad because the dressing room had beds and they had a shower and a laundry room there.

Let me tell you there is nothing like a shower after being sweaty and dirty and with no electricity for days. So we would sleep there. Tom was already at work so that was good for him. I had to drive out to my job and on the way there and back home I would stop by the house and feed the cats. We lost all our food and refrigerator stuff but that's what happens. Luckily the house survived and it wasn't worse.

It took 11 days to get our power back. We went home and Tom took down the boards and a week later another hurricane hit. So again it was back to boarding up the house and stockpiling. I made the Hurricane Meal again and survived another hurricane. Luckily, we didn't lose our power this time and all was well. But living through hurricanes teaches you lessons and you always have to be preapred for anything because we all saw during Katrina that the government can only do so much. Now I am sure it would have been handled differently if Bush wasn't in charge but that is a whole other rant I won't get into right now.

So I wanted to share some more food memories with my readers. But forever and ever everytime I make fried chicken and pasta salad, it will be known as the Hurricane Meal. But I guess it's a good meal for any natural disaster.
Here is a picture for your viewing pleasure. Let me tell you, I make a mean fried chicken. I wish I had a real fryer though because it would be easier. But it was damn tasty!!!


  1. Wow! I have never experienced a hurricane! I did live in South San Francisco though for 10 years, so I know about the earthquakes (I was in the 1989 one). Good job on being so prepared!

  2. i love fried chicken and being from the jersey shore, i've sat through a fair number of bad storms, too... never one that bad though!

  3. this brings to mind that if i am confined due to a pandemic flu....I'll die, cus I have no food stockpiled. I have some canned dog and cat food, 2 cans of soup and some beans.

    I lived thru a wind storm, which uprooted trees and roofs, but they said wasnt even a tornado. This scared the crap out of me. How people can weather out a hurricane is beyond me. YOu are braver than I!

  4. Wow, I can't even imagine what living like that feels like. We just get with with mountains of snow and cold every year ;)

    What a great read, and such an interesting story!


  5. Your food always looks so good! I may have to buy you a ticket to NYC LOL

  6. How scary!! Especially being a California girl previously and not experiencing those things. Although I don't like earthquakes, hurricanes scare me even more (I think). I'm so glad you were all okay, ultimately.

    Your hurricane meal looks pretty darned tasty too :)

  7. I've never been through a hurricane. Tornadoes, yes. Hurricanes, no. I am glad that you are able to find some comfort in the familiar during times of crisis, and hope you stay safe during this next season of hurricane. BTW, I stumbled this post.

  8. what an association! I don't think I've been in that bad of a hurricane, you guys did pretty good.

  9. I have a funny picture that shows a guy shoveling a whole bunch of snow and the caption says: We don't get hurricanes. We don't get hurricanes. We don't get hurricanes.
    After the 3 straight days of snow this weekend that could have been me. April? 3 days of SNOW????