Sandy has come and gone (at least in my part of the country- last I heard she was still making her presence felt somewhere in the middle of the country), but for me (and many fellow New Jerseyans) power has gone and not yet come back. I weathered the storm in my apartment near school, and stayed there for the following day. When word came that my school would be closed for the entire week (the associated hospitals have remained open throughout), I decided to pack up my freezer and head back to my parents’ place (also without power) where there was storm damage that needed to be handled.
All things considered, my family and I were very fortunate with this storm. We are not on the coast and as such were spared the coastal flooding that has damaged so much of our Jersey Shore. We faired much worse with Irene last year, where flooding led to serious damage at our house and at our farm. While Irene brought us water, Sandy brought us wind. The majority of the damage after this storm (at least in our area) is due to downed trees or direct wind.
Of course, with downed trees come downed power wires. As I write this, we approach 100 hours without power*. At my apartment, while I lacked power, I had water (and while it lasted, the bit of hot water that remained in the tank). My parents’ old farmhouse is on a well, and as such lacks running water when the power goes out. Luckily there is a stream that can be accessed for water to flush the toilets and we stockpile water in tanks for occasions such as this. We have lots of firewood stashed (and a good old wood-burning stove), so while the temperatures continue to drop we are able to keep ourselves warm the old fashioned way. The biggest concern with extended power cuts (for us at least) is the risk of our 2 big freezers defrosting. With hundreds of pounds of beef, lamb, pork, and fish (not to mention veggies and berries), an extended outage gets a bit concerning. Fortunately we have very generous neighbors who have a generator, and after a couple days without power they bring their generator over so we can plug in and recharge our freezers for a bit (as I write this, we’re on round 2 of recharging- so far so good).
At times such as this there are a number of things for which I’m very grateful .
1- Health. If you aren’t physically well and physically able this manner of glorified camping could turn into hell.
2- A gas stove. Seriously. The power may go out, but at least I can still cook. What do people with electric stoves do?
3- Firewood. And after this storm we’ll be set with firewood for many more years to come
4- Friends with generators (who not only recharge out freezers, but also offer warm showers… saints!)
5- Merino clothing. Cozy and stink free… need I say more?
With a limited water supply and a desire to keep dirty dishes to a minimum, I keep my cooking simple. Dinners have been big one-pot numbers (I cooked up a good beef shin bone 2 nights ago and I have lamb shanks on the go at the moment), and breakfasts have been soft-boiled eggs.
“Eggs and soldiers” (soft-boiled eggs served with slivers of toast for dipping) was a regular breakfast when I was a child. While I haven’t had toast in years, soft-boiled eggs remain a regular part of my diet. They’re quick, they’re easy, they require no preparation or clean up, and despite this I’m not sure I’ve ever met another American that eats them (my parents are English). Soft-boiled eggs seem to be quite popular in Europe. Not only are they part of English culinary history (Go to work on an egg), but I’ve seen them at a number of breakfast buffets while traveling in Germany.
I have no intention of writing a food blog. There are much more capable chefs (with much fancier cameras) who cook and write about delicious and nutritious healthful food (here’s a good example), but I’ll take this opportunity to introduce this tasty treat to my readers (and if I’m completely wrong and Americans are eating soft-boiled eggs like mad, please let me know!).
If you can boil water, you can boil an egg. The difficulty with making soft-boil eggs is getting the timing right. I’ve sometimes heard soft-boiled eggs referred to as “4-minute” eggs, as 4 minutes is about as long as it takes to cook. Some variables interfere, such as altitude, size of the egg and freshness of the egg (there’s nothing worse than overcooking a beautiful fresh egg still warm from the chicken!), but 4 minutes is a good estimate.
I’ll admit I almost never time my eggs. I invested in one of these gadgets a few years ago, and can’t recommend them highly enough. If you’re lazy like me and sometimes cook tons of eggs at a time, this little device can tell you when they’ll all be done better than any timer. Worth every penny (I get no kickbacks, I assure you)!
Once your egg is cooked you can stick it in cold water to stop it from cooking too much or just eat it right away. Soft-boiled eggs are best enjoyed warm and are most easily eaten using an eggcup. Here’s my favorite:
This was the eggcup my Nan would give me as a child when I visited her in England. I reminisced about it and she kindly gave it to me!
The next step is cracking the egg. This too, is easily done!
Once whacked, you can get to work and open up the egg. If all went according to plan, you’ll have a perfect soft yolk!
I like mine with a bit of salt (and sometimes some pepper).
It seems as though Brits are pretty keen on soft-boiled eggs (or at least they have been in the past). Maybe it’s because soft-boiled eggs are delicious, or maybe it’s because eggcups are kind of fun. There are lots of options, from cute little pants sets to fine silver.
Soft-boiled eggs are not only quick to cook with minimal cleanup (usually just a spoon) but they’re also excellent emergency food. They’re very nutritious, and they can be cooked in water that wouldn’t otherwise be potable (love that shell!). I remember my good friend Jamie Scott making that point when he wrote about his experience with the earthquakes of Christchurch.
In college I toured Iceland, including a visit to the geysers. I remember hearing that you could cook a soft-boiled egg in the sulfurous hot springs if you were so inclined (talk about Waste not, want not!), and I tracked down a video of some guys doing just that. The kitchen method might be easier- no hot spring required!
(As the pictures might suggest, I am going a but stir-crazy, though I have to admit that life without power is not without its charms. I’ve read a big book of EKG interpretation cover-to-cover, dismembered a fallen old maple, fixed a chicken house, and taken the dog for a number of walks over the last few days. I’m also rather enjoying the darkness-imposed early bedtimes (now that it no longer sounds like the wind will rip the roof off from over me!) More science to come- I do plan to get back to liver and lipids shortly!)
*This post is up courtesy of the photons and electrons of a local coffee spot… Thanks Riverside Coffee!