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The canary prepares for a blizzard

Blizzard warning.

Not a rarity here in Siberia With a View, but ominous nonetheless.

A series of three Pacific storms — two already past, leaving stacks of snow everywhere.

Now, say the forecasters, No. 3, Big Daddy, is roaring down the track with a full head of steam, packed with moisture, wind-wild cold and bearing all the nastiness that spells a sure arctic nightmare.

So, what do you do in order to prepare for the worst? Worst as in a potential couple feet of new snow, power outages, impassable roads, collapsed roofs, cabin fever and associated mayhem, etc.?


Winter wear at the ready.

Snow shovels in position.

Emergency kits placed in vehicles.

Candles at hand, matches dry, flashlights equipped with fresh batteries.

Cell phones fully charged.

Stocks of Cialis, Prilosec and prescription pain killers topped off.

Food and wine.

Ah, yes, food and wine — the most important elements in my blizzard package.

So important, in fact, that I tend to ignore the other items on the checklist.

What types of foods and wines are most appropriate for the max winter event in Siberia With a View?

Big carbs. Hefty flesh, of course. Root vegetables. Max dairy. Hearty ingredients for use in recipes that require long stays in the company of heat, thus lending humid ambiance to the quintessential indoor experience. I like to create a comfortable kitchen atmosphere so Kathy is able to warm up, enveloped in delightful aromas, after she finishes shoveling snow from the driveway and roof.

Though I haven’t asked, I’m sure she appreciates my efforts.

So, what to cook over a two- to three-day period when you are likely to be trapped indoors? (Unless, of course, you are Kathy, and there is shoveling to be done.)

Stews, braises, slow-cooker extravaganzas, things baked for extended periods of time.

I hear of the latest blizzard warning as I sit at my desk at work, in my little cubicle at the back of the newsroom, right under the heating system air intakes — the place where every bad odor travels before it is sent through the building.

I don’t need the official warning: I know when vicious weather is on the way. The clouds have a certain look to them as they appear on the horizon; the air has a particular smell. When the snow starts to fall, it has a troublesome character — as in big, wet flakes. And, when there is wind … there is meteorological mayhem a-comin’. Mine is a sensibility that comes from a lifetime spent suffering under the hammer of Colorado’s winter weather; I’m the proverbial canary in the coal mine. I go to the front of the building and gaze out the window.

Big, wet flakes. Wind.

It’s time for a plan, time for action.

So, when I leave work (the storm is upon us with near whiteout conditions) and make my way up the highway in my rattletrap, rusting truck with the nearly bald tires, I decide to stop at the market and procure supplies that will last at least three days (these in addition to the stuff in the pantry, kept there in preparation for a major disaster). Thank goodness the market is located next to a liquor store.

I fishtail into the parking lot and hustle to the grocery. The joint is swarming with like-minded folks, all feverishly piling supplies into carts, many of the moms accompanied by a clot of heavily-clad, yowling, snot-slicked young ’uns.

Imagine you are in Prague and word is out the Russian army is fast approaching the city. Such is the scene in our market prior to the Big One.

I head immediately to the produce section and the staples. I buy six large russet potatoes, a knob of fresh ginger, 12 pounds of dried Anasazi beans, a pack of baby romaine and two large white onions. I pop a couple heads of garlic in my basket.

From there, it’s a short jaunt to the cheese section for a round of Asadero.

Heading to the back of the store, I snatch a loaf of bread then waddle over to the flesh cases. A lump of 85/15 ground turkey will do, as will a small pork tenderloin and a pack of beef stew meat. Ordinarily, I would purchase a hunk o’ chuck and cut my own stew meat, but the case is nearly bare. I’ll make do with the scraps.

I hang a hard left and head down the canned food aisle where I procure a large can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes and a carton of chicken broth.

I zip up the frozen food aisle and find a tub of chopped, roasted green chile (hot).

I careen over to the “ethnic foods” section and cop a can of unsweetened coconut milk, a pack of wide egg noodles and a package of perciatelli.

To the back of the store I go for a carton of eggs.

My work at the market is done.

My more important job remains, at the liquor store.

The forecast calls for something robust, winewise — none of that namby-pamby white stuff.

Nope, the wine has to be big. Not overwrought, mega-alcohol California cab big, but “big,” with a certain amount of finesse.

Thus, a Rhone blend and an Argentine Malbec should do the trick.

Supplies in hand, I slide my way home, barely making it through the berm in front of the cul-de-sac and the foot and half of snow in my driveway.

The meals?

Blizzard Night One: Curried turkey meatballs served with buttered egg noodles. I have a jar of Patak’s hot curry paste on hand. I grate some ginger and finely mince white onion, adding it to the ground turkey with crushed garlic, a beaten egg, salt, pepper, chopped parsley, some ground cumin and panko bread crumbs. I sauté meatballs in neutral oil until browned then remove them to a warm plate. I add a bit of oil to the pan and, over medium heat, cook sliced white onion until soft. I toss in some finely minced ginger and mushed garlic and cook a minute or two longer. Then I add a healthy wad of the paste and cook it until it releases its oil and the room smells like a Mumbai street vendor’s stall. In goes a half cup or so of the fire-roasted tomatoes, half a stick of cinnamon, a bit of ground cumin and ground coriander seed, and a cup or so of chicken broth. I cook the mess until it reduces, then add a can of coconut milk and the meatballs. This I cook until it reaches the right consistency. As in thick.

Mighty fine over the noodles, with a dollop of a mix of Greek yogurt, chopped cucumber and finely minced onion on the side

Blizzard Night Two: A simple beef braise — stew meat, onion, carrot, turnip, garlic, tomato, wine, herbes de Provence and a bit of–water, fortified with veal demi-glace I find tucked away in the fridge. As an afterthought, canned white beans, hurled in about a half hour before dinner. The delightful mess served with a baked potato rendered all creamy good with plenty of butter and some grated Havarti. Garlic toasts seem like a fine idea. Along with a simple salad, the baby romaine dressed with a fundamental vinaigrette — extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, mushed garlic, country Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and a smidge of dried tarragon.

Blizzard Night Three: Green chile slopped over burritos made with the Anasazi beans, asadero and tortillas (always in stock at our house). I take a tip from Ivy regarding the beans: soak them overnight, rinse, cook all day on low in a broth/water mix with a half onion and a head of garlic, the top of which has been sliced off to expose the cloves. When the beans are done after eight hours or so, discard the garlic and onion and season. I have a block of lard in the refrigerator — might as well do some refries. Nothing beats a dose of lard when the weather is rough. Pig fat is good for body and soul.

Just in case the weather situation stays at Code Blue, I’ll make sure I cook enough of the beans to backstop another two meals. There’s plenty of bread, cheese, potatoes, eggs, and leftovers from the previous three nights.

And enough wine to fuel the Donner Party for a week.

The possible problem?

What if the power goes out?

In that case, we’re down to bread, cheese, beans and anything edible in the fridge or freezer (as things begin to thaw).

Of course, we will have to wait for daylight hours to forage for the eats, since in my haste to assemble the blizzard foodstuffs, I forgot to deal with the emergency checklist. No batteries, no candles, etc.

Thank goodness I have the painkillers. Always good when the hammer falls.