Last Wednesday evening, during a rather nasty snowstorm we lost power when a tree fell over the power line outside our house. That meant, if we wanted to cook, creativity was required.
We’ve had power outages before, mostly for a couple of hours or overnight. But occasionally the power outage lasts longer and unfortunately this was one of those times. I had two houseguests at the time – friends from Boston, who are hearty souls and great company. They could not believe how Washington DC ground to a halt during the storm and seemed unable to recover from what they considered a minor snow event that hardly qualified as a storm.
Dinner on Wednesday evening was no problem. We were in the midst of cooking spaghetti and meatballs when the power went out. The burners were on as the lights went out. We hardly skipped a beat. We lit a few candles, found a few flashlights and turned a humdrum dinner into a candlelit repast. Of course, it probably helped that we had already poured a little wine into the spaghetti sauce (secret ingredient for great sauce!) and poured ourselves nice, full glasses.
But Thursday morning was another matter entirely. We woke up cold and crabby, unable to use our coffee maker or taster oven. And even worse, I couldn’t use the microwave to make foamed milk for my morning latte. Plus, our cook top has an electronic ignition, so the burners wouldn’t light without a match.
To top it off, in a power outage, you should not open your refrigerator or freezer if you want the food inside to stay cool (and edible.) That meant we had access only to the food in the cupboard (unrefrigerated) or the milk that we had taken out from the refrigerator just after the power went out and left in a cooler in the unheated (and very cold) garage. What to do?
When my kids were in middle school I declared the house a “No Whining Zone.” My pronouncement worked reasonably well on them, so I decided to try it on myself. Forbidden by my own decree from complaining, and being too hungry to go without breakfast, I set to work. Now I’ll admit that I’m not much of a survivalist and wouldn’t be able to teach anyone how to start a fire with a cell phone, a brillo pad and a piece of tinder, but I should be able to surmount this challenge.
I grabbed an old Melitta drip coffee pot and used the leftover ground coffee in the grinder to make fresh coffee. Then I got out the container of oatmeal for my friends, a lighter we use for the outdoor bar-b-que and proceeded to cook them hot cereal.
My friend Carol, determined to light burner for oatmeal and coffe
I hate oatmeal (or any hot cereal for that matter) because I think it tastes like wallpaper paste. So I grabbed a frying pan, turned a burner on and made toast for myself the old fashioned way, letting the bread heat slowly in the pan until it turned crusty and a lovely shade of brown.
Cooking toast the old fashioned way – on the stove
With jam from the pantry, it wasn’t half bad.
Toast – tartines as the French say (sounds so much better in French!)
Instead of foamed milk for coffee, I slowly warmed some milk in a small pot until it simmered with bubbles around the edges of the pot – steamed milk that would make a Starbucks barrista proud.
As I pulled the various elements of breakfast together, my friend Carol kept our spirits up with funny stories and great commentary on my rather impromtu cooking techniques. And as we sat down to our breakfast, she pointed out that we were not just making do – I had made tartines and café au lait!