I recently posted a collection of summer recipes. Around the 3rd week of August. That also happens to be the beginning of hurricane season here in the south. Fast forward almost a month – “Ida posted sooner but…” Hurricane Ida decided to come for a visit and she stayed a little longer than a good house guest should.
I moved to South Louisiana just in time for Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Ida was Katrina 16 years later. To the day! Comparisons coming below…. but first, let me say how incredible grateful I am that Mr. Winston and I made it safely through another major event unscathed. Pictures of the only damage to my property below.
One of the biggest casualties I’ve seen since the storm are the number of suburban trampolines that did not survive. The carcasses are literally piled up on nearly every curb in my neighborhood. No worries neighbors! We now have a balance beam….
Fortunately this little situation isn’t threatening anyone’s home and will probably just scare the tar out of me once it decides to fall (which of course will be in the middle of the night).
Unfortunately the rest of this tree fell directly on my bird feeder set up and destroyed the whole thing. I took all my feeders down before I evacuated which hurt my heart, but at least they were unharmed and quickly went back up wherever I could place them after the storm.
I evacuated to a hotel just a few miles from my home for the night of Hurricane Ida. My house doesn’t have a history of flooding, but I do live very close to highly flood prone areas. Since this was going to be “The Big One” I decided not to chance it.
I packed my laptop and had good intentions of posting some “evacuation cuisine”. I knew I’d be stuck in a hotel room for 24 hours and would need something to tear me away from the live play by play on t.v.
Turns out sitting through a Cat 5 alone with your dog, watching the weather get progressively worse from the 4th story of a hotel room with a not-so-secure plate glass window takes the majority of your energy. Mr. Winston, bless his heart, slept through most of it.
Hurricane Ida took her good old time moving through. The weather was dicey for nearly a full 24 hours. It made landfall around 11am on Sunday at the coast but the winds had been pretty intense since 9am. It was 9am Monday before it was safe to go outside. 24 hours is a really really long time to endure 70mph+ winds.
Below is a video of a small hospital in South Louisiana that was in the direct path of the eye. I’ve been here many times and it is a wonderful facility in a community that serves the oil, gas and commercial fishing industries.
I’m happy to report no patients or staff were injured, but this is a microcosm of how a community is impacted from a storm like this. Several hospitals, including one of ours, had to be evacuated. The 911 service went down in 4 separate parishes. It was every man for himself.
I barely slept at all Sunday night, and of course by daylight I was extremely anxious to know how my home did. My next door neighbors had stayed, but we lost all contact at 930pm on Sunday night as the worst of it was just approaching our area. So Mr. Winston and I hit the road early to see if we could make it within walking distance of our house.
I tried to stay on main roads knowing the smaller roads would likely be impassible. Turns out the major roads were mostly impassible as well. Had to stop 3 times to shift downed power lines out of the way or move debris. Got to the center of town and the road was flooded over. Turned around and tried an alternate way. Backed down many side streets once I got to places where large pines or power poles were blocking forward progress.
Over a period of about 45 minutes I slowly worked my way through backroads. Louisianans are incredibly resourceful people, and even though Hurricane Ida was only about 1 hour from being “over”, citizens were out in force with chainsaws clearing where they could. I finally made it within a mile of my house but there was no way to go further by car. So we set out on foot (and paw).
Love At First Sight
It may have been the most difficult mile I have ever walked.
Not to mention Mr. Winston is an 18 year old mostly blind, slow moving dog. So I had to carry him.
We had to get on our hands and knees to crawl under massive pines more than once, we had to walk through ankle deep water and we cut through someone’s yard so I could toss the dog over a chain link fence and then climb it. I didn’t see any other humans except a guy that lived a little further than me (in an area I already knew was flooded – but he didn’t) who was also picking his way along on foot.
I should have been able to see my house when I was about 1/4 mile away. But I still couldn’t. There wasn’t a single power pole still standing. The components that attach power lines to the poles were in a tangle everywhere on the ground. I know the road by heart because I run it everyday, but suddenly it was unrecognizable. I wasn’t sure if I was even still on the road. The houses along that road are set back from the street and in most cases I could not even make them out.
And then it was love at first sight. I felt the tears well up (like they are doing now as I revisit that moment). There she was, standing tall and blessedly intact. The last 20 yds were clear and I could see that I had not flooded, and I ran. And then I cried with relief.
The Dark Ages
Relief and gratitude. Big gratitude. I still had a home.
But I had been through this before. It looked a lot like Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in terms of infrastructure (or lack thereof). I knew I’d be living in the Dark Ages for a while. Ice ice baby. Try to save the fridge. Time to hunt for a generator and some box fans. Days on end of chasing gas to keep it filled. Changing the oil every 2 days. 95 degrees, 95% humidity.
I will say this now and forever – I can live without electricity. NO problem. As long as I have running water. And thank the lord I had running water, which was not the case for many. After long days of cleanup and moving at a snail’s pace to do anything, a cold shower is heaven.
Katrina or Ida – Which Was Worse?
Hands down Katrina was worse. Massive loss of life. Unprecedented event that no one was ready for. I couldn’t even get out of my neighborhood for almost 4 days after Katrina. I had no power for 3 weeks in the middle of summer.
Consider this – when Katrina hit there were no smart phones. Texting was a new thing. This time the communications came back up almost immediately. Even though we had almost no time to prepare, thousands chose to evacuate which saved lives and reduced demand on what little we had immediately following. And I was already an expert on changing oil in my generator.
Time to get back to our primary topic on FrittataBlog – FOOD!
I work for a hospital system. As if we were not already totally underwater having just barely passed peak 4 of COVID, now we add to our staffing shortage woes with Hurricane Ida. It was basically all hands on deck. Jump in anywhere you can. So guess where I went? Yep, straight for the hospital kitchen.
The hospital could not get some of the normal product that an industrial kitchen uses so we were forced to buy what we could get. Which actually meant real eggs instead of egg product. Some fantastic Italian sausage from a local grocer. And we were not only feeding patients 3 meals a day, we were feeding the entire staff since there was no way for most people to get food. Dijon marinated panko crusted chicken breast (I hand breaded all 500). We had to get creative to stretch what we had. It wasn’t a horrible time to be a hospital patient at our facility y’all!
Highlight? Blond with a blowtorch. Made ‘Smores using sugar cookies instead of graham crackers, torched the marshmallows, sandwiched with chocolate ice cream. Side note – someone needs to call Keebler and tell them they need to find better packaging for their graham crackers – we opened a case and not a single cracker was unbroken.) Also got to make plantain chips when we realized that case of bananas wasn’t bananas after all.
The Silver Linings
Hurricane Ida was a devastating storm. I wonder now when I travel and I tell people I’m from New Orleans if they will say, “wow, how’s the city doing since Ida?”. It took YEARS after Katrina for that not to be the first thing people asked me.
As with any great tragedy, there are often multiple silver linings.
The most obvious and uplifting part of a natural disaster is how people come together.
We forgot about COVID (we were hoping Ida would take ‘Rona with her when she left). We forgot about our differences, ourselves. We helped our neighbor. We gave without thought, and we accepted help without pride. And so the healing began as soon as the wound was inflicted.
A second silver lining was that the storm came before hummingbird migration started. I came home to find dozens of ruby throated hummingbirds eagerly awaiting some fresh sugar water. If a storm hits late in hurricane season when hummingbirds are migrating, it can be devastating to their populations.
The First Meal
By 6pm Monday after being up all night with Hurricane Ida, I was beyond exhausted. I wanted a fabulous meal and a cold glass of wine (and a cold shower).
Silver Lining #3 – my arugula plants and my basil plant survived the storm. It was a true miracle considering they are in raised beds and got wind-whipped for 24 hours.
There was no way I was wasting any precious perishables that had survived thus far. I made my recently posted Grilled Mango and Avocado Salad with Burrata. Had a half bottle of this Colome Estate Torrontes that I had opened during the storm to eat with an exceptional aged Gouda (spoiler for my next post – we will be discussing the proper way to evacuate without sacrificing the quality of your meals!)
I used peaches instead of mango, and topped it with shredded basil. The wine was ICE cold from being in my cooler all day.
One bite and one long sip and I knew everything was going to be ok.
Keep Following Frittata
It has been 20 days since Hurricane Ida.
I have power. My lawn got cut today. I went to the local farmer’s market this morning and was able to buy local milk, goat cheese, fennel and a guinea fowl. Yesterday I played hooky and got a manicure and pedicure with my best friend. Then we met for dinner and drank a bottle of great wine, shared a Mediterranean salad and some seared scallops.
I remember saying to myself as I picked my way toward my home that morning after the storm…”this too shall pass” and my other favorite for hard times “if there were no winter, spring wouldn’t be so sweet”.
Today I woke up feeling like I could look forward to something for the first time in a while, and that was to share my story with you. If you haven’t already subscribed, sign up below. I’ll be back to posting recipes soon!