Stormy weather can’t keep you from eating well if you’re prepared

Published 3:51 pm Monday, September 18, 2017

Disasters, like this week’s storm, have a way of bringing out our best — and worst — qualities. Throughout Sumter and Schley communities, I have witnessed grace on many fronts: people feeding one another, housing one another, checking on one another, connecting in ways they probably wouldn’t during fair weather and routine living. I also witnessed greed and selfishness, as people, in their fear and discomfort, criticized or complained when their basic needs were threatened. Mostly, though, I’ve witnessed — and benefited from — tremendous kindness.
In the South, when there is pain and suffering — or great joy — this kindness is usually expressed, in one way or another, with food. In crises or in celebrations, there is always a concern for food: a need to “stock up” before a storm, a need to “feed people” whether they’re sick or sad or celebrating, an inclination to gather around a table in one form another. So many of us did that this week; we rushed to the stores buying more food than we could eat or save when the winds took our electricity. My oldest daughter (more worldly and conscientious than the rest of us) looked in our refrigerator late Sunday, the night before Irma arrived, and declared, “Wow!  Talk about ‘white privilege!’” Indeed. I was, and continue to be, ashamed of the abundance of the food we possessed. And how well we ate, in spite of losing power for … going on four days as I write this.
As we look to our south and west, at real victims of storms, I hope we can remember those who struggle to find good food to eat. I hope we can appreciate the food that, even in the face of a major hurricane, we find in abundance here, and the hands that grow, harvest, and prepare it.
Thanks to farmers and fishermen, grocers and cashiers who sometimes had to endure the “worst” in us, and the work and love of my husband, daughter, mother, brother, and sister-in-law, we lived and ate very well this week. What follows is a concise list — and concise recipes — of the bounty we enjoyed, with only a gas stove top and a smoker for cooking.
• Barbecued pork and turkey. My husband, Marshall, smoked a Boston butt over a turkey breast, so that we enjoyed an evening of pork with pan-roasted vegetables. For several lunches, we had barbecue sandwiches and turkey sandwiches. After setting the coals, the meat cooked in the smoker at 250 degrees F. for 6 hours (the turkey came off after 4 hours).
• Seared tuna and shrimp scampi. This meal was really rich, but with the freezer fading fast, we had to cook the seafood or throw it out. The tuna came from Food Lion, frozen in individual packs. It’s amazingly good. The shrimp came from my brother Wes and his wife Elizabeth, who evacuated from Savannah. The tuna was merely seared in olive oil, topped with salt, pepper, dill, and lemon juice. My daughter Lane makes a wonderful peppercorn dip with ranch dressing, peppercorns, and dill. The shrimp were peeled and sautéed in butter and garlic. My mother made a simple salad and pan seared slices of Lee Harris’s focaccia bread. Yum.
• Fruit and cheese. When my brother and his wife come from Savannah, they always bring an array of cheeses — stilton, Gouda, Port Salut, brie. Add fresh fruit, nuts, some crusty bread — and wine — for a pretty substantial meal.
• Tacos. We have this meal once a week, at least, so we didn’t let this storm stop us. I’ve learned a great deal about good tacos from eating at Taqueria La Pasada, on Tripp Street in Americus. Simple sautéed beef, topped with chopped red onions, cilantro, green salsa, lime and Valentina hot sauce on a warmed corn tortilla is the only way to go. You can eat several — they’re low fat and delicious. Add an ice cold beverage and a couple of slices of avocado and your meal is made!
So, as you can see, the Woolfs and Wootens ate quite well this week, in spite of having no electricity. We are indeed privileged. We have a roof over our heads, running water, jobs, and most importantly, each other. We are surrounded by kind people in our various communities. I hope all of us who are so fortunate can look to those who are not, especially in the wake of the storms, and give, one way or another.

Carey Wooten, a daughter of Joni Woolf, is a great cook in her own right. She lives in Schley County with her family.