Oh, you guys. What a marvellous, terrible week. Terrible for all the obvious reasons. Buried cars, the least of it, really. People going days without power and heat and food. Nurses working 50-hour shifts. Local businesses forced to shut, people going without pay, pedestrians leaping into snowbanks to avoid getting hit by cars, dogs leaping off snow mountains over fences and getting lost. We’re all coming out of this week a little weirder, and some of us a little sadder than when we went in.
But the SNOW FORTS. And the kind neighbours and taxi drivers. People organizing to shovel out cars and homes and knocking on doors to make sure families had enough to eat. Restaurants cooking thousands of free meals for the military and first responders and others in need. The organized and polite chaos of the grocery stores opening after four days with people handing each other two-litres of milk, passed from one hand to the next until they reached the hands of the people who couldn’t get near the cooler. And the quiet, carless streets that we could let our kid run down the middle of (hopefully not messing up the road safety rules I’ve been screaming at him for almost four years). The best thing about this week is that I could make a much longer list of good stuff than bad. And I guess that’s the reason why we’re insane enough to live here.
Our place got off easy (not our car, oh sweet honourable, not our car). We lost internet and cable for a while, but miraculously kept our power in 145-kilometre winds, so we were a little scared, but safe and warm and had hot food. And the rest of the week? Man, I won’t lie, it was a braless, wondrous haze of caffeine and Pinot Grigio…not too much of course, I do have a kid. Justin and I basically took turns imbibing in case one of us had to slap on snowshoes and cart Jude on our backs to the Janeway, head split open or something from jumping off the couch the one time we really needed him not to. But listen, if I didn’t have a human to look after I’d be in a coma by now.
I loved the week. I loved it. We started calling it Second Christmas. We started gaining Second Christmas weight. I can’t even abide stretchy jeggings anymore, it’s leggings or pyjama pants or track pants or get the hell out of my face. The three of us had to stay in or around our home, no one was allowed to go to work, and the kid had two parents home with him with no strings attached. He was feral and delirious and maybe the happiest I’ve ever seen him. There were too many treats, too many late bedtimes, too much television. But wow, the lazy mornings with endless cartoons and coffee were fun. We made jetpacks out of perrier bottles, jigged cod from the living room sofa, climbed snow hills like Spiderman. Jude’s always had a great imagination, but he upped his game so hard this week that at one point he passed me an empty box and said, “I’m a delivery man! I have a box of wine for you!” My heart near burst with pride.
I want the city to shut down (with pay and food and heat for everyone, obviously) for a week every January. Ban the cars from downtown and we’ll have a carnival in the streets with snowshoes and snowboards and boil-ups and twinkling lights.
I’ve probably cooked and baked more this week than I did at Christmas (to reiterate, we were so lucky and didn’t lose power). I have a mother-in-law with a vicious talent for finding specials, so we have a well-stocked deepfreeze, and cooking a lot at home means our basic pantry is pretty good. But I learned enough about food security this week to now know without a doubt that:
1 – you always need more milk, eggs and butter than you think
2 – everyone should own a bread maker
3 – a tin of Carnation makes the best homemade mac and cheese
4 – the leftover milk from your kid’s bowl of multi-grain cheerios makes a deadly cappuccino
I used my last cup of red wine to make a cake, thinking the liquor stores would open when the food stores did, but boy was that a mistake. I scrounged around in the basement when things became desperate and found some store-bought berry wines that someone had given us for Christmas. And like, not knocking berry wine or anything, I enjoy it out in the woods around a fire but not necessarily for hours on end during a state of emergency/Netflix binge. Some knowledgable friends who are basically NLC librarians suggested sangria, if I had apples and citrus. We eventually managed to get ourselves sorted and our regular wine supply replenished, so I decided on a second cake. Because we ate the first one that we were supposed to share with friends and neighbours. We ate the whole thing, two pieces each after supper every night, like we’d never see cake again. We even let Jude have a small piece or two, even though it’s red wine cake. But the baking burns off the alcohol. I think. I’m not sure. He’s sure been sleeping like a champ this week, though.
Storm Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
(Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, icing from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)
For the cake:
1/2 cup salted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher or fine grain sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 cup Newfoundland berry wine, homemade or store-bought. I used Auk Island Winery’s 3 Sheets to the Wind (hahahaha)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease one 9-inch round cake pan. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together sugar, egg, melted butter in a large bowl until pale and creamy, then whisk in cup of wine and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and whisk to combine. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Let cake cool completely before icing.
For the icing:
1 250g package of cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp salted butter
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
In a medium bowl, beat the softened cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and beat well. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy.
A batch of this icing will generously frost two of these cakes; the first one I made I did the sides as well, but for the second I just dolloped it on top. Still though, yum! Who needs icing on the sides?! (I do. I want the icing everywhere, at all times. I just went a little too nuts with the first one.) This is the easiest cake you will ever make. And if you plan far enough in advance for the next storm, you’ll be able to have your wine and eat it too.
Stay safe, stay warm, happy cooking and careful walking, chickens. xo