What to eat when you can’t cook

Sometimes when bad weather hits things happen that we can’t stop or control. Usually that means finding an air conditioned space (or at least shade) when it’s oppressively hot outside, or a heated space indoors (shelter from the cold in the winter).

Hurricanes, however, are not everyday disruptions of our lives. The best we can do when Mother Nature takes charge is deal with it.

When a really bad hurricane makes landfall, there isn’t much we can do except try to take care of ourselves and each other.

Hurricane Hugo came ashore at Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina (just north of Charleston) in mid-September 1989. We read in the newspapers in Columbus about the storm surge at Charleston, the evacuation of Sullivan’s Island and the other islands close to Charleston, and how the situation inland included strong winds and swarms of tornadoes. When I caught up with my cousins Charlie and Kathy, whose home is on Sullivan’s Island, he told me that after the storm the island was uninhabitable for a week. There was wildlife (including snakes) everywhere, occupying high ground while the water slowly receded. When they were allowed back on their island, they arrived home to find someone’s large boat in their front yard. They’d ridden out the storm in his mom’s house several miles inland, and had to shelter in an interior closet to escape tornadoes that they could hear clearly as they passed.

I remember as a child living in Massachusetts when hurricanes Carol and Edith came roaring up the east coast a month apart. They were both fierce storms that followed the same track a month apart, coming ashore in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, then turning inland. Giant oaks were toppled like matchsticks across the roads. There was nothing to do once they made landfall but stay in interior rooms and wait it out.

We all know about Hurricane Katrina and what happened from central Florida westward to Texas — particularly New Orleans, Louisiana, as it came onshore in 2005. The televised images were horrifying as we saw the water from Lake Pontchartrain keep rising until it flooded the ninth ward area of New Orleans and covered rooftops one by one. The image of a crowd of people trapped on a highway bridge in downtown New Orleans will stay with me forever.

Thanks to earlier warnings of severe weather, there will not be another storm that takes us by surprise as did the Galveston, Texas Hurricane of 1900. It is still the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, having killed 6,000 people. Galveston, which is located on a giant sandbar, was rebuilt, and a 17-foot-high concave seawall built to repel large masses of water.

In the aftermath of natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which is presently creating havoc across east Texas, Louisiana and points east, there are always those who head toward the worst of the devastation. They bring help to people and animals who need rescued. They help to restore electricity, transport food, water and clothing to those who have lost all they had. Thank God for people helping people.

Regardless of what’s going on around you, you have to eat and drink to maintain life and health. One thing I remember about getting along during and in the days after a major hurricane is the things we ate that didn’t have to be cooked. I have a fondness still for scooping peanut butter onto celery sticks for a high protein, high fiber snack.

Here’s a recipe that can occupy your hands and the hands and minds of little ones for a short while, no matter what else is going on. Who ever said you have to cook to eat?


3 tablespoons vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 ears fresh corn

2 cups red or orange grape tomatoes, halved

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt and some pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream, to make a smooth dressing.

Cut off the corn kernels with a sharp knife over a medium bowl. You should have about 4 cups. Toss in the tomatoes, mozzarella and scallions. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Cover and let stand for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. Before serving, tear the basil over the salad and stir.

Makes seven to eight cups.

Also consider adding chopped cucumbers, raw squash and ripe olives especially if the electricity’s off and you have to use good food fast.

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Linda Conway Eriksson

Contributing Columnist

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at lindaconwayeriksson@gmail.com.