The picture in the mind’s eye of consumers dashing through the supermarket, tearing things at random off the shelves and tossing them into a cart, and then running to stand in long checkout lines may be the fate of many shoppers, but it need not be yours.
Yes, it’s good to stock up on some things, if you can do it without being engulfed in a scene of mass hysteria, such as has been reported by 1010 WINS news in various places in New Jersey.
Remember, even the smallest bodega sells staples, and staples are what you should concentrate on. Here is some advice. Plan on being prepared to weather the storm and its aftermath for, say, three or four days. Anything longer and helicopters will be dropping loads of free food.
1. Canned goods are durable and tasty. Pick up a can or three of tuna — it’s more versatile than you think. And get tuna in oil instead of tuna in water, since you can dump it on boiled pasta. The oil provides sensational lube, and this simple dish is totally soul-satisfying. If you’re a foodie, go to a specialty market like Chelsea’s Buon Italia, and pick up some really, really good tuna, and pasta in an interesting shape. I guarantee there will be no long lines of disaster shoppers there.
2. Don’t neglect the canned veggies and fruits. Asparagus is one thing that tastes good right out of the can (white asparagus for the well-heeled foodie). Applesauce is tolerable, too, especially with a piece of good cheese (see below). But the queen of canned vegetable matter is stuffed grape leaves — a meal in themselves, pulled directly from the tin.
3. If, as our editor points out (he suffered a 12-day hurricane disaster in Broward County, with no water or electricity for the duration), the worst occurs, one of your biggest needs will be drinking water. You could boil water you get from the street outside and drink it, but only if you still had electricity and gas. Accordingly, as the storm begins, stop up the drain and fill your bathtub with water. In a pinch, this can be used for drinking and cooking water, and even to flush the toilet. But only if you have a bathtub.
4. Dried sausages like soppressatta and other dry salamis keep very well unrefrigerated. Don’t buy perishable cold cuts such as boiled ham, turkey salami, or olive-and-pimento loaf. Find a dry place to store these sausages and other dry- or salt-cured meats. A hunk of Virginia ham or prosciutto — don’t have it pre-sliced, slice it yourself as you eat it, but be very careful doing so — will do very well.
5. The same goes for cheeses. Select the drier cheeses that can survive without refrigeration. That means yes to sharp cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano, no to brie and taleggio. Velveeta? Maybe. Pretty sure that can’t go bad.
6. Stay away from bread, which is prone to get moldy under damp atmospheric conditions. Do buy crackers to go with your cured meats and cheeses. Buy crackers that are less salty, since salty ones force you to drink more water out of the bathtub (and pee more into the disgusting toilet). If you have a source of Swedish hardtack, or English zwieback, or hard Sicilian ship’s biscuits, snap them up.
7. Buy fruits and pre-wash them, or select fruits like bananas and oranges that don’t need washing. Remember, drinking-grade water may be precious for a period. If you don’t have to have star fruit or dinosaur plums, you can buy rudimentary fruits like Red Delicious apples, oranges, and bananas at the bodega. If you can find a hard pear, it will go very well with your cheese.
8. When the storm hits, assuming you don’t run right to a restaurant to hang with your buds, begin eating the most perishable (or valuable) stuff in the refrigerator, in case power goes down. Save your stash of imperishable foodstuffs as long as possible.
If, as I suspect, the brunt of the storm misses us, throw a party with all the food you hoarded — it should be a hilarious collection. And leave the water in the bathtub to show your friends.