AS THE HURRICANE HIT, LOCALS SOUGHT COMFORT IN FOOD


Upper West Side restaurants like Patsy’s were packed all week. Some restaurants actually had to turn people away. Photo by Avi.

By Laura B. Weiss
Author and Journalist, author, Ice Cream: A Global History (Reaktion Books)

It’s Sunday afternoon. Sandy is looming. I haul out the flashlights and batteries, consider filling up the bathtub with water. I make a mad dash to Westside Market to get a bag of chocolate chips. If the electricity holds, I’m going to bake cookies. Cooking and food are what my family turns to in crises big and small. Chocolate chip cookies seem perfect. They’re fast. They’re easy. Lots of carbs. Lots of sugar. Lots of fat. It’s what I need at times like this.

A woman on the line that snakes through the store screams at me. “Don’t cut in,” she snarls, nostrils flaring. I wasn’t, really. I was just trying to find the chocolate chips. I find them. I buy them. I walk home with my purchase. Neighbor Marlene comes over and helps me bake. Help, as in we talk while I bake.

It’s now the morning after. I venture outside. Metro Diner (at right) is mobbed. A clot of Upper West Siders, presumably driven by cabin fever as much as by hunger, forms in front of the entrance. Have you ever seen people wait in line to get into a diner? I haven’t. I come home. I down six cookies. I take another walk. I see lots of downed trees. People are snapping pictures of other people snapping pictures.

I need soy milk. I go back to Westside Market. The line has shrunk. It’s now only a single aisle long. Back home, I put the soy milk in the fridge.

I convince the hubby that we should go out to eat. We schlep up Broadway to Cafe de Soleil. It’s freezing cold. Did the hurricane bring winter? “All we have tonight is ‘Sandy’s Menu’,” the waiter informs us, then slaps a printed menu, listing a burger and some salads and a few other items, on the table. The place is packed. The couple next to us is chatting about the election. Hadn’t heard about the campaign in two days. What a relief. I eat at my salmon. Hubby eats his burger. He pays. We walk back down Broadway. Metro Diner’s still buzzy. Bright lights. Lots of people. Is this a diner or a sizzling night spot? Back home, I down four more cookies.

Since then, I’ve had no appetite. None at all. The fires in Breezy Point. The hunger and desperation in Staten Island. The hopelessness in the Rockaways. Today, no cooking. Instead, I’m bringing supplies to the JCC. Cans of beans. Water. The staff of life. The stuff of life.

Stay safe, everyone.

Follow Laura on twitter. And read about what food locals hoard in an emergency here.

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    1. Jay says:

      Beautiful bit!