Well, that was something. Almost 16 years to the day I evacuated for Katrina, I was back in Columbia, Tennessee taking advantage of the incredible generosity of friends who offered to put us up for a few days. I said the same thing to him that I said the last time I was there, I hope I never have the opportunity to repay y’all for this. Because unless something terrible happens to them, I can’t.
We spent one night on the way back in Memphis and I got to visit with some college friends over pizza and wine. It was brief, because it was a weeknight and we are all old.
I’ve been home for a while now, trying to get back into the swing of things, but it’s hard to feel normal seeing all of the damage done here and in the outlying parishes that took the worst of it. I hope you all understand that given my focus on food and restaurants, I was also worried about a local industry that has had a lot to deal with already in the last year or so.
There are a lot of problems with running a restaurant in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane that knocks out power, starting with the whole “no power” thing. Sure you probably have a gas line that will power your burners, but how long will your generator keep the walk-in cooler cold? Where are you going to get perishable ingredients if the roads are closed and what will you do with them if you can’t keep them cold?
But despite those challenges, there’s been a lot done to feed people in the aftermath of the storm.
World Central Kitchen came in before the hurricane made landfall and set up a base of operations at the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute. WCK has been pumping out tens of thousands of meals a day, largely with local chefs doing the work and getting paid for it at a time when the power outages meant they had no way to make a living. (See above re: problems operating a restaurant post-Ida).
I know a number of restaurateurs who had to empty their walk-ins and were gutted by it. Some restaurants managed to give some of their produce away, and others just started cooking on the street to feed people.
Howie Kaplan, of the Howlin’ Wolf, is one of those, except as is his habit he went big, serving thousands of meals out of his music venue/club.
Howie is the sort of person that is just going to do this, and people know it. I suspect that’s why he gets donations of all sorts of things when stuff like this goes down, or it could be his charm. Probably both.
There are other folks doing stuff; too many to relate here, except I do want to mention Funds for the People of the Bayou. I would go into more detail, but there’s an excellent write up about it on Eater, by Clair Lorell.
I hope you all came through the storm without major damage to yourself or your property. I hope we’re all grateful that the levee system didn’t fail this time and I hope that all of us can get back to some actual semblance of normal soon.
I’m not holding my breath, but a man can dream.
Also, this piece will appear on my wife’s birthday. She is awesome and I am very fortunate that she loves me. Happy birthday, Ladypossum.