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Dining During Disasters August 4, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Nature, Vegetarian Recipes.

Wikipedia ~ Tropical Cyclone (in Public Domain)

Until this summer, I’d never given much thought to fixing real meals during a disaster.

When hurricane season blows in, we stock up on peanut butter, crackers, nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, boxed juices, and water.

Lots and lots of water.

And a little extra water . . . just in case.

If we lost electricity and running water due to a natural or man-made disaster, I expect we’d adopt a subsistence existence for the duration of the emergency.

Pass the GORP, please!

Except when camping, we’ve never been without electricity and running water for longer than a few hours.  Fixing meals without running water to wash hands, rinse or wash ingredients, and clean up sticky utensils is a pain.  Fixing nutritious meals without electricity is challenging.

Cooking without both for an extended period of time would get old fast.

Of course, if the electricity goes out during the sultry summer months, we’re apt to be too busy melting from lack of air conditioning to notice anything else.


This week, fueled by curiosity, we traveled over the river and through Palmetto to attend Dining During A Disaster at the Manatee County Extension Office.

After discussing what we should include in our Hurricane Disaster Kits, while a thunderstorm raged outside, Samantha fixed 3 recipes:

* Potato Salad Dijonaise:  1 can diced potatoes, 4 Tbsp. minced onion, 1 Tbsp. imitation bacon bits, 1 tsp. dried parsley, dressing (4 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard).  Add salt, pepper, and chopped chives.

* Lemony Bean Salad:  green beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, wax beans, cannellini beans, minced onion, dressing (1/4 c. olive oil, 1/4 c. lemon juice, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper).

* Crab Salad:  8-oz. can crab, 4 Tbsp. chopped bell pepper, 4 Tbsp. chopped onion, 1/2 cup mayonnaise.

All three dishes tasted OK but would have benefited from being chilled before serving.  Something that is not apt to be an option during a power outage.

Pass the ice, please.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Curious about Disaster Meal Planning?

The Healthy Hurricane / Disaster Cookbook gave me a few ideas to try during the next power failure (assuming we haven’t melted from lack of A/C).

The nutrient dense recipes rely on canned beans (black, kidney, red, white, garbanzo), canned fruit and vegetables, and canned seafood (tuna, shrimp, salmon, mackerel, crab, sardines).

More ideas:  Get Ready ~ Emergency Stockpile Recipe Contest * Apocalypse Chow! by Jon Robertson


1. Pix Under the Oaks - August 4, 2013

The potato salad sounds pretty good! I don’t know about all those beans.. 🙂 Crab would work but I would like it fried as crab cakes! Not a choice I guess during a disaster. Hoping of course you don’t have to deal with hurricanes this season!

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

Me too! Thanks, Pix. I think I could deal with a power outage if we had A/C, cold drinks, and running water. But no A/C and no water for showers (or ice for drinks) in the 95 degree heat would make for LONG days and SLEEPLESS nights.

If a storm heads this way, we’ll probably leave the area and hope for the best when we return. We leave in a Level “A” evacuation zone ~ mandatory evacuation when wind velocity reaches 74-95 mph or storm surge expected to be 6 feet or more.

2. Don - August 4, 2013

We have electricity outages on a regular basis. Very challenging. After the first five or so you actually surprise yourself by your ingenuity and versatility. But, hurricanes and no running water – now there’s a challenge. Not sure how I’d react.

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

When we lived in Maryland, we had frequent electric outages. If we lost electricity, we lost water because the well pump wouldn’t work. The same was true in New Jersey at my parents’ house.

My parents had a gas stove and a gas grill so cooking wasn’t a problem. They’d set up the kitchen with camping supplies and coolers for food and ice. But I don’t ever remember being without power for more than a day or so. Either there or in MD.

With a direct hit, power would be out for weeks here. Given the heat during the summer months, I expect we’d be smart just to grab the GORP and head for the hills.

But for short power outages, there are some interesting ideas in the linked recipe collections ~ if you enjoy beans & tinned seafood. 😉

Don - August 4, 2013

Hell Nancy, you sound like a real veteran when it comes to power outages. You’d have no problem living in South Africa

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

Thanks, Don . . . that’s good to know if we ever decide to relocate from here to there.

3. Grannymar - August 4, 2013

During they years of ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, power cuts were a regular occurrence and there have been times when we had no running water either. These outages occurred without warning and at the whim of some political activist. No power meant no hot water, cooking facility or central heating, since the boiler needed electricity to work the pump. I did have an open fire and it was well used. I had a small camping stove and one pot meals were made on it and water boiled for coffee.

I kept a stock of tinned fish and veg and made pancakes and omelettes on the pan. Fast food came to the fore:> bananas, apples and any fruit I could peel if there was no water to wash it. Vegetable batons with hummus or a dip.

If we had no water, sure we could always drink the Black stuff, that was a meal in itself!!

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

With an open fire, I’d invest some time in learning hearth cooking ~ we had a fantastic meal at Randall’s Ordinary in New England a few years ago. All of it cooked over the open hearth.

When we camped, we had a small propane grill, and we also cooked on and in the campfire ~ baked potatoes, roasted veggies, S’Mores. We don’t have anything to cook on here. But since the air temps are so high during the summer, I’d be more interested in COOL meals to enjoy until the A/C is restored.

I did get some instant coffee which I hope will dissolve in bottled water. Perhaps it will taste like warm Guinness. 😉

Grannymar - August 4, 2013

The open fireplace is modern and not suitable for cooking on, bar toasting bread or marshmallows. I suppose I could have wrapped potatoes in foil and baked them, but I never thought of that until now. Do you have a BBQ, why do I think everyone on your side of the pond does? I drink plenty of boiled water -off the boil – so I fill flasks and keep a supply going through the day. I cannot drink very cold liquids at any time, they cool my body from the inside and send the heart into spasm. I prefer hot water to bad coffee.

As for warm Guinness 😛

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

We don’t have a BBQ at the moment. The last one died before we moved to Florida and we didn’t replace it because we no longer eat (or grill) meat and there are so many good ways to fix veggies.

When I started our Hurricane planning, we considered getting a one-burner camp stove. But the idea of being without A/C and water in the summer makes me think we’d do better to just “hit the road” rather than “hunkering down.” Hopefully, we won’t have to do either.

I need to try the instant coffee (with flavored creamer that doesn’t need refrigeration) BEFORE the power goes out to see what I think. It’s apt to be a rather tepid drink ~ in terms of temperature and taste. 😛

4. Judson - August 4, 2013

I managed to cook a pretty darn good Christmas dinner (Turkey and all the fixins) on the gas grill outside when a massive ice storm knocked out our power for two days several years ago. Luckily, our house has gas hot water and a set of gas logs in the fire place so we had showers and heat so I can’t say we suffered too badly, but still … 🙂

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

That is impressive, Judson. I can’t imagine cooking a turkey dinner in the middle of an ice storm. Go you!

Gas hot water and a gas fireplace helps . . . especially after you come inside from basting the turkey!

We lost power in the WINTER in Maryland and almost froze. The temperature dropped to about 45 degrees inside before the power was restored. Brrr . . . .

When I told my dad, he wasn’t impressed. He grew up in VT and slept in an unheated bedroom where the water in his drinking cup FROZE every night when the temp dropped below freezing.

5. colonialist - August 4, 2013

‘That’s the Joneses’ house flattened!’
‘Oh, really? Pass the sauce, please.’

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

My thought exactly. I cannot imagine wanting to spend time cooking in the kitchen with a storm and its aftermath raging around me ~ I’ll probably stick with our ready-to-eat meals from power out to power restored.

6. Tammy - August 4, 2013

Great post – both the disaster element and the extension service element. They’re such a treasure that we often forget about. I grew up close to one and knew everyone there by name. You’ve inspired me again. (had to get up and watch Janie sing again first thing this morning).

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

Yay! We’ve attended several programs by the Extension Service ~ from green cleaners to energy saving to disaster dining. They are a well balanced resource.

Glad you enjoyed Janie again. I’ve watched that clip a few times myself. It makes me smile.

7. Naomi Estment (@naomiestment) - August 4, 2013

OMG Nancy, I’ve never given any thought to dining during disasters and am freshly grateful for our weather. I hope that yours treats you kindly! Camping out in the African bush can have its challenges but fortunately hurricanes don’t feature!

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

Thanks, Naomi. There hasn’t been a direct hit here for 60+ years. I take some comfort from that. We’ve been very lucky in the four years we’ve been here ~ heavy rains and wind but nothing catastrophic.

Camping out in the African bush would present an entirely new set of challenges. Here, when camping, we need to hang trees out of reach of bears. In Africa, bush campers must avoid getting in the way of stampeding wildebeests and hungry lions.

8. diannegray - August 4, 2013

This is ideal for me, Nancy, living in the tropics where cyclones are prevalent. My M-I-L spends a lot of time cooking if there is a storm coming (I think it’s probably her way of trying to keep calm). We fill the bath with water and have a generator just in case we lose power (which is usually the case) 😉

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

I’ve been fairly lackadaisical about Hurricane Preparation since moving here four years ago. This year, for some reason, I’m taking the potential threat more seriously ~ maybe watching The Impossible hit home for me.

At the moment, I’m putting together a hurricane notebook to review each year, with lists of things to take if we evacuate, lists of things to keep on hand during hurricane season, and the address and phone numbers of pet friendly hotels and shelters.

Here’s hoping that NONE of the information is needed in 2013.

One of our neighbors has a generator, but I’m leaning toward “hitting the highway” rather than “hunkering down” here. In fact, one section of the notebook will be The Escape Hatch . . . with a two week pet-friendly vacation plan. 😎

diannegray - August 4, 2013

The Escape Hatch sounds like a great plan, Nancy. Hurricanes are very scary indeed 😯

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

I’m trying to remember the advice from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy . . . DON’T PANIC. 😯

9. Eric Tonningsen - August 4, 2013

A fan of fresh seafood, I’ve actually found, used, and enjoyed several different canned varieties.

A conscious choice to live in a part of the world rarely prone to natural disasters (excepting the 100 year thunderstorm/deluge which just recently presented) helps to defer serious thinking about being prepared. And alas, long passed are my Boy Scout days and ways of thinking.

I do periodically contemplate the eventual “water wars” but why taint a sunny summer day? 🙂

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

I think I’ve always just “hoped for the best” without bothering to “plan for the worst.” This year I decided to be a bit more serious about the motto “Be Prepared.”

I know what you mean about “water wars” (as well as “global terror threats” and “frankenfood” and other things that are apt to bite us all in the butt down the road) . . . but I try to keep my imagination in check with “Are you OK right now? Then you’re OK.” 😉

Eric Tonningsen - August 4, 2013

Being right now. I’m all over that . 🙂

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

I thought you might be. If we try to live too far in the future, we really do start tilting at windmills.

10. kateshrewsday - August 4, 2013

Wow! It’s not the sort of thing I have ever thought of before, Nancy! Great recipes. And worth having a little emergency pack, wherever one is in the world!

nrhatch - August 4, 2013

Even now that the Cold War is over, it’s not a bad idea to have a week’s worth of non-perishable food and water “in residence” as preparation for random floods, hailstorms, power outages, terror attacks, plagues, rat infestations, and other gnarly bits. 😛

Of course, we need to cycle through our “disaster supplies” to make sure they’re still edible if ever needed. I wonder how many bomb shelters are populated with 50 year old rations?

11. shreejacob - August 5, 2013

Wow…that’s really quite inventive and helpful…having those Dining during disasters program you went for!
Over here we are blessed that we don’t have natural disasters, just man made ones which really is very sad 😦

It’s like instead of seeing the wonderful and beautiful land that we have been given all they want to do is rip it, gut it and build build build wanting to cover every inch of the land..

nrhatch - August 5, 2013

Perhaps the only people who don’t experience power outages from time to time are those who aren’t on the grid ~ campers, backpackers, indigenous folks living in the outback, and people with their own solar and wind farms. 😎

As for the other . . . humans are great at carving up the pie without regard for the pie’s continued ability to sustain us.

12. sufilight - August 5, 2013

We are not prepared here for a hurricane. When have had a blackout now and then it affects our water supply because we use water from the well which is powered by an electrical pump. It’s not comfortable, but thankfully it has lasted for about three hours or so.

nrhatch - August 5, 2013

Yes. There have been plenty of times through the years when we have been without water and electricity, but never for long. The idea of being without both for weeks is a scary proposition.

As much as I love to eat, stifling heat without A/C and showers would be harder to bear. Fingers crossed that this year is not the “Big One.”

13. William D'Andrea - August 5, 2013

I’ve already written much about my experiences during and after Hurricane Sandy struck Long Island last year. When it comes to dining during that time, here is an excerpt from what I wrote, and is now posted in webook.com:

“Everything that happened wasn’t bad. At 4:30 on Thursday evening, a guy from my Church showed up at my door. He and his wife invited me to dinner at their house. They were using a generator. So I had my first hot meal since Monday night. They also invited me over the following night.

“His mother-in-law prepared the dinner. We had a shrimp cocktail appetizer. For dinner we had meat loaf, broccoli, string beans, baked potatoes and yams. For dessert we had cake and ice cream. Then when he drove me back to my house, the lights were on.”

nrhatch - August 5, 2013

Having a back up generator is one way to enjoy Dining During Disasters. Glad they invited you to join them for that sumptuous repast. And how nice that the lights came back on by the time you returned home.

William D'Andrea - August 5, 2013

This Saturday was my 68th Birthday, and the same people took me out to dinner at a local Italian Restaurant, where I dined on Veal Parmagiana. It’s wonderful to have friends like them.

nrhatch - August 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, William! Glad that you enjoyed a delicious dinner with friends.

14. Food Choices | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat - August 5, 2013

[…] Weinstein on how to make a grilled cheese sandwich in a foreign hotel and another by Nancy from Spirit Lights the Way on disaster […]

15. jannatwrites - August 6, 2013

I prefer salads chilled, too, so I think I’d rather stick to the peanut butter and crackers 🙂 I did notice that they potato salad didn’t have mayo – good call, during a power outage.

nrhatch - August 6, 2013

She did put mayo in the crab salad and it’s in a lot of other recipes in the handout. Maybe once the power’s been out for a while, you’re supposed to use those little squeeze packets of mayo that are “stolen” from fast food restaurants? 😛

I’ve got an idea, let’s write . . . “101 Ways to Enjoy Peanut Butter When the Lights are Out!”

Oh, wait, that doesn’t sound like a cookbook, does it? 😉

16. Booksphotographsandartwork - August 6, 2013

I’m never left to forget that during Hurricane Hugo I left my husband to deal and went to my grandmothers! I can’t do no ac. And no plumbing just about does me in.

These are certainly things we need to think about and plan for. I think I have gotten behind in my planning. I need to find a camping stove at Goodwill. And stock up on the charcol. You gave us some good tips, thanks Nancy.

nrhatch - August 6, 2013

Good luck finding the supplies you need. I don’t blame you for leaving.

17. Three Well Beings - August 6, 2013

This is a subject near and dear…we have earthquake emergency supplies, but I think we have planned for not much more than survival! I think I’m so sure I’d be distressed I can’t see myself eating anything more than subsistence foods. But we have had lengthy power outages and other not quite so distressing emergencies and it could be nice to have a few standbys that are a little more enjoyable. I am sure it was an interesting workshop. At least you’re thinking about it!

nrhatch - August 6, 2013

I feel the same. I can’t imagine cooking during or just after a catastrophic weather event. But there are less serious power outages from time to time. And it might be fun to play around with these recipes then.

18. CMSmith - August 7, 2013

And don’t forget to pack your hand-held manual can-opener.
Canned fish and meat. . .yum. But I guess it beats a blank. If I were you I would seriously consider sticking with the peanut butter.

nrhatch - August 7, 2013

That’s the plan ~ peanut butter will be the mainstay of our life without electricity. Plus almonds, raisins, apples, granola bars, pudding cups, cheese, crackers. Easy. No fuss. No muss.

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