Post-Sandy Lessons: Stove-Top Croutons, Pumpkin Seeds and Sour Milk

Scenes from Sag Harbor, including the Haven's Beach playground and the lot behind Main Street.

I’m writing from a makeshift post-Sandy desk outside the prep kitchen at Beacon Restaurant in Sag Harbor. (A New England version of down-and-out Hemingway outside a Paris cafe.) Chef Sam McClelland and staff are shuttling food from the freezer at Bell & Anchor–where power is out after three electrical poles went down on Long Beach– to the working refrigerators here. I’m sorry to report the food in our home fridge has already started to spoil.

Town is a mess, with the main parking lot still under water. Nearly a million LIPA customers are without power. Our local radio station, WLNG, around the corner from our house, defiantly stayed on the air until their studio took on water and their generator blew. After some historic high tides, water is moving out.

There’s no question, this was a freaky storm. Big trees are leaning against roofs and cars, not unlike the hot dogs and doughnuts that started to befall the doomed residents of Chew-and-Swallow. Our garden flooded in the end, the coastal surge pushing salt water across two streets to reach us. We lost some beets and turnips. But the water didn’t come near the house, and there is still plenty of kale to cut and turnips to pull before grocers open back up.

Looking back, our memories of Hurricane Irene seem quaint. We fussed over cold-brewed coffee not realizing it was the lack of power for our grinder that would handicap our morning java antidote for cold showers. This time around the wind was fiercer than Irene (71 mph reported on our block) and the coastal surge probably 6 feet higher. And Sandy has already kept us without power for longer and we are already out of ground coffee. The reports are just now coming in about poultry coops overturned, barn rooves breached and fields of cauliflower laid on the ground.

But cleanup has begun. And despite the chaos, Sarah even called this time “magical”–no screens, no school, the scent of candles, early bed time, nowhere to go but home. We turned an abundance of stale bread into stove-top croutons, cowboy eggs and French toast (thank goodness we had stocked up on eggs from Pantigo Farm and Marilee Foster). We put a chair against the fridge door to keep the kids out, did bedtime reading by headlamp and reminded each other about not wasting precious food and water. We stretched our coffee with slightly tangy Organic Valley milk. Last night, for supper, we dusted off the grill and crammed it full of defrosting Ludlow farm sausage and a Breadzilla pizza; some oysters from our traps (which held on in the storm); pumpkin seeds just extracted from a Jack-O-Latern; cherry tomatoes and unripe watermelon salvaged from our garden; and some buttered bread. Our candlelit dinner was a motley buffet. We picked and sampled unrushed, glad to be safe and sound.