Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Surviving the 2011 Snowpocalypse





The inspiration for this week's column is the worst snowstorm that I have ever witnessed. I lived through three blizzards when I was a New Yorker, but none of those prepared me for a blizzard blown by 54 mph winds over the open fields of Indiana.

The night before the storm really hit ‘Busco, my girlfriend, Nicole, and I braved rush hour traffic leaving Indianapolis in an ice storm. I thought that was the worst road trip of my life. Little did I know that it was just a warm up for what we were going to experience on the road the next night.

Work kept me until 8pm that night and the storm was in full force. Nicole was in the car with me again  as we got out on the roads – which even in the middle of Fort Wayne were treacherous. And getting home required 6 miles of driving on back roads.


As we turned off the highway the road conditions got worse in a hurry. Every time the wind gusted across the fields, the car would be enveloped in a cloud of snow – complete white-out conditions.  We just had to keep hoping that once the wind died down, we’d still be on the road.

And then – as we got further into the backwoods of Indiana – my windshield wipers froze.

I wanted to keep moving so I rolled down the driver's side window and drove about 10 mph with my head hanging out the window like the family pet (or Ace Ventura, for that matter).  I could see the road now, and although Nicole acted calm, I knew she was worried (Nicole interjects: Nicole was not worried. Nicole was scared shitless. But apparently she’s a pretty good actress.). She couldn't see anything and probably thought to herself that if we did eventually make it home, she would have to thaw my eyelids out with her hair dryer.

Then the wind picked up.

The head-out-the-window trick was working until we drove into a snowdrift that had completely covered the road. I attempted to push the car out while Nicole drove, but the car was already getting buried in snow. My uncle – who lives with my aunt about a mile away from where we were stuck – has a plow, so I called him to get us out.

While we waited, two neighbors who live nearby noticed our car stuck in the road and came to investigate. They probably wanted to meet the idiots who were trying to drive through that blizzard. I'm grateful they came to help, because we needed all of them to get the car out of the drift, even with my uncle’s truck doing the heavy-pulling.

After the car was out, we followed my uncle in the plow back to his place. The snow was so bad that along the way, he got stuck (in the plow!), then we got stuck again. But, eventually, we made it to the safety of his house.

Once we arrived (and calmed down) it was like we were joining a blizzard party. My cousin, her husband and their two-year old were also stranded there. As we hung out and swapped our stories of "that is the worst damn snow storm I've ever seen", the focus slowly became: "What are we going to eat tomorrow?"

My aunt had a pound of sausage in the freezer and two boxes of biscuit mix in her pantry. She set the sausage out to thaw and in the morning I whipped up a sausage gravy with some flour and milk. Nicole made the biscuits, and we treated the blizzard party to a stick-to-your-ribs biscuits and gravy breakfast.

Later in the day, the roads were slowly being cleared and we knew we would eventually get home, but not for awhile. Again, I went to my aunt’s pantry. I found some cans of mixed vegetables, canned chicken, chicken base and a package of egg noodles. The perfect ingredients for a huge pot of soup, which is featured in this week’s column.

Being stranded at my aunt and uncles house was actually quite fun. We had beer, a full pantry and each other. In hindsight it turned out to be great experience. (Nicole interjects again: But not so great that we’re going to drive through another blizzard anytime soon.)

THE COLUMN
Normally, if I were making this recipe for the column, I would have used fresh vegetable and chicken. I do think fresh ingredients would enhance the flavor of the soup. It was fun and easy, though, to just open some cans and throw them together in the pot.

I'm really happy with the design this week. The soup is made in four parts: creating the base, steaming the noodles, sauteing the onion and garlic and then putting everything together. The layout reflects this four-step process well and helps the piece flow together. Again, like the two previous weeks, the use of a bowl or plate with color for the final plating of the dish really provides pop for the largest piece of art in the recipe.

FINAL THOUGHT
The weather man is often wrong, but if there is even a chance of six inches of snow with 40 mph sustained winds – stay off the roads!

Until next time. Cook often and eat well...

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