I love a good ice storm, I recognize that I might be alone in this, or nearly alone. A few parameters, so we understand each other: I do not love
I love a good ice storm, I recognize that I might be alone in this, or nearly alone. A few parameters, so we understand each other: I do not love that they’re truly dangerous, to motorists and homebound folks alike. I am not a person fond of property damage. I’m a big tree guy, a big big-tree guy, even, and so the space I’m carving out here is maybe one that’s a little theoretical, a little fantastical — maybe like the way we’re able to enjoy major college football or chicken pot pie, two things that are demonstrably not great for us but that bring joy anyhow. Or maybe I’m just a romantic who likes it when the power goes out.
I get to be, though: There are no big trees that could damage my house in any catastrophic way. I have a gas water heater. I have a woodstove in my writing shed. I have a drawer full of batteries and LED lights that I keep stocked and ready from tornado season to thunderstorm season to hurricane season and on into winter storm season — around all of which there is a cottage industry of possibly credentialed Internet meteorologists whom I am absolutely enabling. I check the local weather, and the national weather, and then I go to these Facebook persons who are, yes, a little shouty and perhaps a little unhinged. But they are also frequently enough correct about very specific long-range mid-Atlantic worst-case scenarios that I almost always have on hand, days before said worst cases, all of the pantry items one might need to ride out a brief apocalypse.
Which is to say that I have a plan for what to do if my neighbor Miss Becky, who’s keeping last Thanksgiving’s unneeded turkey (she went, last-minute, with ham) in my downstairs chest freezer, finds herself with a refrigeration-based emergency. I have a bag of on-brand stuffing and a carton of chicken stock and a couple of cans of cranberry sauce, and I have charcoal for days. I’ll buy 10 pounds of sweet potatoes a week before the storm, when it’s still sunny and 55. We’ll feed the neighborhood.
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Day 1 is always the same. I’ve got a huge soup pot that conveyed with my marriage, and into that goes an entire chicken and water and salt and a couple of onions and some beat-up celery and carrots — you’ll need to save better celery and carrots for later — and a head or two of garlic. Do that in the morning, on the grill if your range is electric, while you’re sneaking a quick peek into the chest freezer to figure out what to do with a can of orange juice concentrate, a huge package of frozen spinach, and two pork loins. (Hint: That’s what you’re doing. Again, charcoal. You can’t live in North Carolina and not own a proper grill.) Once you’ve got cooked chicken and a pot of stock, pull everything out, shred the bird, and make chicken noodle soup around sunset. Egg noodles are the only way to fly here. Plus, they’ll keep until the actual apocalypse. Go ahead and buy those now. Put them with the cranberries.
Day 2 might be the turkey, but if it’s not thawed yet, let’s go with boxed mac ’n’ cheese for lunch (expiry date: October 2024!) and maybe the glazed pork. We’ve got wild rice, and we can find spices by candlelight, and we’ll pull some plums out of the cooler on the front porch. Butter’s out there, too, and syrup, and everything else that’ll fit from the fridge that isn’t expired salad dressing. Pancakes for breakfast. Buy a good dry mix. You’ll also want excellent snacks, the kind you only buy yourself twice a year — once at the beach, and then again when the TarheelWxNOW guy on Facebook, who’s got special profile pictures that he puts up for the biggest storms, says that if everything comes together just right, and the dry slot turns this into a Miller B, then buckle up, Carolina.
Milk will keep out there until the roads are passable, so stock up. The kids will want some kind of special soda. Day 3 can be whatever else is thawing; Day 3 is when you call your neighbors and improvise out on the front walk, potluck-style. If it’s snow, hopefully there’s still sledding. If it’s snow, though, and not ice, the power’s probably already back on. I was barely out of grad school for the Greensboro Ice Storm of 2002, and while I could get to the store after Day 3, our neighborhood power did not come on for many days. I was renting a tiny century-old converted stone garage then, with a tiny fireplace, and so I spent my days grilling and chopping wood and generally enjoying a time of no electronic anything. I sipped things by the fire. I stayed quiet, and warm.
The trick is to embrace it, if you can. My brother lives on a farm, and his well pump is electric, so he’s a little less enthusiastic about all this. But because a North Carolina winter is unlikely to do me immediate damage, I get to shop. To buy an extra bag of dog food — though, in a pinch, she could eat rice and that salmon I found in the back of the upstairs icebox. But there is no pinch, and there won’t be. I’ll be ready. My tinfoil-hat weather conspiracy theorists had me ready for last week’s storm that never came, and then for this one, which actually did.
So let’s watch the forecast until we lose power, and then watch it on the phone until the battery dies. And then? Maybe hang up a blanket in the doorway of the room with the fireplace. Make sure the boys have flashlights and hats. Take in the stillness, hope for the best, suit up and go out and help folks with downed limbs, and then come back home to a well-stocked larder. We’ll have choices. Maybe we’ll open some tomato soup. Maybe we’ll light some candles. Maybe we’ll make grilled cheese sandwiches — on the grill.