What to Eat When the Power’s Out

Don’t be alarmed
, everyone’s OK! You’re looking at one small part of the neighborhood wreckage left in the wake of last Friday’s Nor’easter and the reason why we’ve been living out of our suitcases for the past five days. We are doing fine. We shacked up with my sister and my parents’ over the weekend and then checked into a hotel close to school. A quick scan through my emails and texts reminds me how lucky I am to have such generous neighbors and friends. Stay in our extra room. Come for dinner. Call me if you want me to do your laundry. What can I do? How can we help? Uggghhhhh that sucks!  The older I get, the more I realize these gestures are everything. (And always trigger a deep ruminating session over all the times I should’ve been a better neighbor…followed by a pledge to do better.)  Anyway, if we are to believe Con Edison, we should be up and running later today, just in time for a second storm to come rolling in. Yippee.

I have to say, the only part that made me really angry was cleaning out the refrigerator. As bad luck would have it, I had just done a pretty substantial grocery shop on Thursday, so the fridge was packed with all kinds of perishable items. Yesterday, while the kids were in school, I swung by my 45-degree house to assess and it wasn’t pretty. I had to throw away two boxes of Applegate breakfast sausages, a package of lukewarm organic chicken thighs, a room temperature ball of mozzarella, six or seven yogurts, and way way more that I don’t feel like typing because putting that kind of waste into words makes me feel kind of sick.

The vegetable drawer was a different situation. There was a head of red cabbage (seriously, a small tight head seems indestructible to me) baby cucumbers, a half bag of baby spinach, and a bunch of half-wilted cilantro. So I boiled four pots of water over four burners (we have a gas stovetop) to warm up my space, strategically perched my iPhone flashlight to illuminate the counter, and then got chopping. The pantry was unharmed, so I took an almost-empty jar of Grey Poupon from the sad fridge, added some rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, grapeseed oil, hot sauce, and shook it mightily. I packed up everything, swung by the grocery store for a rotisserie chicken, which I shredded into the salad with my fingers in the hotel room.

Later that night we sat on the floor around the hotel room’s coffee table and ate our dinner. Maybe it was because we had been relying on takeout for so many of our meals and I can only do that for so long before a little piece of me dies, or maybe it was because at one point Abby said, “You know, this is kind of fun…” but either way, it was a good dinner.

Chicken & Cabbage Salad
This is basically a poor man’s version of what a lot of you know as my “Redemption Salad,” pictured above from 2012, when it was prepared in a properly stocked and illuminated kitchen.


1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce
lime juice from half a lime
1 drop of hot sauce or Sriracha
1/3 cup grapeseed oil


2 to 3 large handfuls of shredded cabbage (savoy or red or both)
half a handful of shredded baby spinach
1 handful of shredded carrots (if you have, I didn’t)
2 tablespoons finely minced sliced red onion
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
sesame seeds (if you have)

In a large bowl whisk together all the dressing ingredients. To the same bowl, add all salad ingredients and toss until combined.

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Julie Carlson

Hope you get home soon. Thanks for sharing, even in your inconvenient situation.

Pat McCorkle

It’s great that your house stayed above freezing! Kudos for your resilience. In such situations, I find seemingly endless repetitions of ‘Breathe. Relax.’ quite helpful.


You are as resilient as Ma Ingalls! And that quote from Abby was heart melting.


No finer compliment than that. Thank you Catherine and other well-wishers. I really appreciate it.


When my family lost power and stayed with friends, I emptied the fridge of meat and some parishables and brought them with me. My friends were happy to have the extra food on hand and it was fun cooking together. A win-win for everyone.


That was smart of you. My problem was I was sure the power was coming back imminently. Sometimes it does not pay to be an optimist.


I can relate to your exact feeling of no more takeout. My version of this was a rotisserie chicken shredded into a chopped salad kit from a grocery store across the street from my 92 year old Grandmother’s apt where we (me, husband and 3 kids camped out for days). Also re: optimist…this was my husband. FINALLY after 3 days of belief that the power was about to come back on… I convinced him to take our non-ruined food to DeCicco’s in Larchmont (did you hear they were taking food and freezing or chilling for free just to be a good neighbor, it really was such a generous act). We didn’t open our fridge or our freezer once after the power was lost – so by day 3…I thought it would ALL be a gonner. Including lots of pints of McConnels ice cream. What can I say – just had my 3rd baby and needed a deep freeze full of ice cream. But, so much food was still ok. And the ice cream was still frozen (WHAT?) My husband (optimist) hauled it all in giant boxes to the grocery store. And then would not agree for us to pick it back up until after the second storm passed (which was a good call bc we lost our power again only 15 hours after getting it back). With the next storm approaching, I keep looking at all my food (esp those ice cream pints) and thinking how resilient so much of it has been…hope you have a good (and powered) snow day tomorrow.