* DO NOT FORGET THE ICE *
No matter the crisis, New Orleanians never lose their sense of humor or their wry sense of irony; the world might end, but if possible, we plan to go out smiling.
Whether a Cat 3, Armageddon, the zombie apocalypse or New Orleans’ version of the same – a levee breach – locals know how to prepare. And until the bitter end, that preparation includes a box of chicken, a cocktail — and maybe a party.
Grocers and hardware shelves empty at an alarming pace when there’s a storm in the Gulf, and it’s a seller’s market for newbies who need plywood. (Locals have made-to-measure plywood sheets with attached hooks ready to hang long before hurricane season starts.)
After moving stubborn great-aunties to high ground (and their yappy little dogs), gassing up the cars (interminable humid lines), refilling prescriptions (hours at CVS), stocking up on medical supplies (arguing with Blue Cross) and hanging the plywood with care, we have the joy of literally racing to the nearest market.
* DO NOT FORGET THE ICE *
The SW&B still sucks
This week, that mad dash might involve oars and a flat-bottomed boat due to the cities flooded streets (kudos to the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board whose blanket kakistocracy and incompetence rivals only the government of Panama circa 1989 — but that’s another column).
The first rule of preparedness after securing the elderly, testing the flashlights and arguing with the pharmacist is a trip to Popeyes. No one forgets the chicken – locals stay on mission even if they need to employ waders and a kayak.
A few boxes of spicy fried chicken and a dozen stale greasy biscuits become a three-star Michelin meal about 24 hours after the lights go out — and maybe a few hours before. We won’t bother to discuss spicy versus mild (blasphemy) or the merits of ordering white meat versus dark. It’s Popeyes: you get what you get, and you like it.
Of course, ice is crucial for many practical and impractical reasons. But, when it comes to storm rations, the chicken should be cold, or at least as cold as possible.
* STILL: DO NOT FORGET THE ICE *
After the chicken is gone, the icebox is no longer humming, and you’re relegated to those staples that you could fit in the Igloo, then what? Tuna? Granola bars? The dreaded child favorite can of Chef Boyardee?
Do people still eat bologna and yellow mustard OPP style on white bread? That and PB&J sandwiches were classic New Orleans hurricane fare long before the city’s denizens had ever heard of Al Copeland or bartered for Cheese Tortellini MREs and baby Tabasco bottles.
The hurricane party
After you’ve prepared and decided to stay, wisely or not, what about the Hurricane Party?
Uptown hurricane party defined: a neighborhood porch gathering necessitated by a loss of power (air conditioning, WiFi, television, lights and refrigeration) consisting of conversation and shared food and drink – occasionally interrupted with the shooing away of uninvited wildlife with brooms and shovels.
In the days of old, the party started with cold chicken served next to a cardboard box of every imaginable flavor of Chek soft drinks and Dixie longnecks. One supposes that today, both have been replaced by bottled designer water and organic, locally sourced, artisan Pale Wheat Kale Ale.
But, since all warm beer tastes like swamp, true hurricane parties are reserved for wine and whiskey. Red wine trumps white because it’s served room temperature. Bourbon is the standby you can count on when you’re holding down the porch with your neighbors. The old-timer’s cigarettes used to keep the mosquitoes at bay, but no one smokes anymore, so now you have to remember to buy citronella candles or something similar.
My last hurricane party was a ritzy mix of pinot noir, bourbon, Nutella, brie, grapes, the grumpy-old-lady-nextdoor’s box of saltines (remember them?) and a charcuterie platter.
But the most popular item passed around the porch was still Popeyes — after the mass grill feast of the meat and seafood rescued from our neighbors’ freezers.
* YOU ABSOLUTELY DID NOT BUY ENOUGH ICE *
Kristine Froeba is a fourth generation Uptown girl whose varied background includes food and travel writing, celebrity ghost writing, public relations, social media management, fundraising, preservationist, reluctant tabloid hack, and litigation specialist. She describes herself as part foodie, part writer, part historian, historic renovation zealot, and full time dabbler.