A Hurricane Hit Home

I was a hurricane neophyte. That’s why last Tuesday I was shopping at Home Goods on Hilton Head Island, oblivious to the reports that Hurricane Matthew was heading our way. When I called a friend from the parking lot to see if she wanted to take a walk on the beach later, the tone of her voice told me I needed to take this category-four hurricane seriously. Trying to remember what I’d read about hurricane preparations, I headed to Whole Foods for food. After all, I am a foodie.

Try to think of allergy-friendly foods you can eat that don’t need an oven, a stovetop, or a microwave. Now think of some that don’t require refrigeration. Not easy, huh? I came home with a bunch of perishables and canned goods. I forgot the water. I would have been really hungry and thirsty after a few days.

By the time I unpacked my canned tuna and apples, the South Carolina governor was ordering mandatory evacuation My husband was away on business so it was up to me to secure our outside furniture, pack our clothes and our dog Zoe’s food and toys, load up the car with our computers and important papers, and turn off the gas and water. Wanting to avoid traffic, Zoe and I left at 5 a.m. on Wednesday (evacuation was 3 p.m.). My heart raced a little when I saw how many cars were waiting in long lines at gas stations. This was the real thing.

During the five and a half hour drive to Atlanta I thought of all the things I should have packed and questioned whether I’d locked all the doors. Should I have unplugged all the appliances? I kept thinking about the rotisserie chicken I’d forgotten in the refrigerator that would spoil and smell should the power go off.  But I told myself not to worry: I was certain I’d only be gone a few days.  Hurricane Matthew  would stay off the coast and pass by our beloved island  as so many other hurricanes had over the years.

I was a hurricane neophyte.

My husband met me at a hotel in Atlanta (we couldn’t get reservations any closer). Ever the optimist, he reserved three nights.

Thinking this was an opportunity to review some Atlanta restaurants, I messaged a fellow foodie from Atlanta for some recommendations (reviews to come). Truthfully, after watching the Weather Channel 24/7 and seeing the devastation Hurricane Matthew was causing to Florida coasts, we weren’t all that hungry. I bought some peanut butter and bananas for my hotel breakfast and Zoe and I nibbled on turkey and ham throughout the day.

Our vacation home is in Sea Pines, the oldest of the Hilton Head communities founded in 1957.  Our children learned to ride bikes on the packed sand of the five-mile beach and to swim in the pools of the houses we rented. After many years of summer vacations there, we took the plunge and bought a house.  Over a year ago, with our children now adults and retirement approaching, we sold the first and bought another closer to the beach. We’d just finished remodeling and decorating and were looking forward to Colorado friends arriving on October 12 for our member-guest golf tournament. They anxiously watched the Weather Channel, too. “Hilton Head has been lucky so far,” I told them.

Sea Pines Beach: Before Hurricane Matthew

Sea Pines Beach: Before Hurricane Matthew

Our security system notified us we lost power at 4:05 a.m. on Saturday, October 8.  We learned later that morning that Hurricane Matthew, downgraded to hurricane-2, hovered over Hilton Head from about 2  a.m. to 5 a.m.  While the Weather Channel reported on Savannah and Charleston, no reporters shared news about our inaccessible island. By Saturday afternoon, folks who’d stayed hunkered down during the storm shared photos on social media of massive pines, palmettos, and live oaks crossing roadways like a child’s game of pickup sticks. Soon we’d learn Sea Pines had been hit the hardest. The worst had really happened.

Of course we were concerned about our house, but ours was newer and built to withstand a hurricane’s wrath. Ours was a second home and didn’t contain our cherished belongings or irreplaceable keepsakes (except for the preserved and mounted shark my husband and children had caught). What we did worry about was our older neighbor who had stayed in a ground-level house without a cell phone. We worried about our beloved landmarks, including the “Liberty Oak” in Harbour Town where our children heard Greg Russell sing and where the founder of Sea Pines Charles E. Fraser is buried.  The golf courses and the piers could be rebuilt, but not that tree. We worried about our friends who had to stay evacuated while we returned to our primary residence.

Live Oaks line the roads in Sea Pines

Live Oaks lining a Sea Pines road before the storm

On Saturday evening we took a direct flight back to Colorado Springs. Not knowing if it would be two days or two weeks for cleanup, we didn’t want to stay in a hotel room watching the Weather Channel any longer.

_______________

I’m posting this on Tuesday, October 11. It’s amazing what the first responders, the cleanup crews, law enforcement, the community organizations, utilities, and others have accomplished in three days. Evacuees have returned to the island. While not encouraged to go back to Sea Pines because of the safety risks, residents are now allowed back on. According to our security system texts, our power has gone on and then off again several times.  We still don’t know if we have water, nor do we  know anything about our home’s condition. What we do know is our neighbor is safe, and the Liberty Oak is standing strong among massive amounts of debris. We’ve seen heart-wrenching photos of enormous trees on roofs, of golf courses and parking lots under water, and we’ve seen the worried faces of distraught people, including a boat captain whose boat was destroyed. How will he make a living now?

We’ve been told had Hurricane Matthew stayed a category-4 our beloved island would be gone. So while we incurred massive destruction, we are fortunate to have an island to return to. My husband and I along with Zoe will return as soon as it’s safe (I’m particularly worried about the alligators and the snakes who were displaced!). While we are sometimes referred to as “part-timers” by the locals and the full-timers who have retired on Sea Pines, I have a feeling we’ll come together to restore the island we all love.

And I’ll tell you this: I’ll always pay attention during hurricane season. I am no longer a hurricane neophyte.

You may also enjoy a previous post about Hilton Head.

A Hurricane Hit Home” originally appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-eyed Peas

A Yankee-Coloradoan Dishes Out Some Lowcountry Cuisine

Hi y’all!

I’m in South Carolina perfecting my Paula Deen accent along with my Southern cooking skills.  I know, I know.  You’re asking yourself how can an allergic foodie with celiac disease even get near Southern food?  Let’s see, there’s wheat in them there fried green tomatoes, flour in both ‘em biscuits and gravy, dairy and corn in that heapin’ pile of grits, and the pecan pie has a smorgasbord of allergens that’ll send a Yankee gal like me skedaddle ling to the powder room.

Is it me, or does my Southern accent sound less like Paula Deen and more like Jed Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies?

My accent may stink, but my Southern cooking has improved—thanks in part to good friends and fellow Coloradoans, Judy and Ky, who paid George and me a Hilton Head visit last week. Judy and Ky are the kind of friends an allergic foodie really appreciates; they totally get my dining-out limitations and are more than willing to put on an apron and pick up a wheat-free spatula.

KyJudy

And they’re not afraid to try new foods!  Like Wahoo.  No, I’m not talking about a chocolate beverage. Wahoo is a firm and mild saltwater fish from the South Carolina waters.  You may have tasted it at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. It looks like this:

Wahoo, a SC saltwater fish (from Wikipedia)

Wahoo, a SC saltwater fish (from Wikipedia)

And boy is it tasty!  Especially after marinating in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil and oregano for about twenty minutes, then grilling over hot coals. Add some baby grilled romaine, chopped local tomatoes from Low Country Produce, and a bottle of St. Francis Merlot, and you’ll think your dining at one of them fancy restaurants down at Harbour Town.

View from the Harbour Town 18th hole (photo by Judy M.)

View from the Harbour Town 18th hole (photo by Judy M.)

Now, George and I have been coming to Hilton Head since he had hair and I had a waistline, but we’d never really appreciated the local fish until Judy and Ky’s visit. Years past, I’d saunter up to the seafood counter at Harris Teeter or Fresh Market and stand there perplexed, not knowing what was local and what was flown into the island from another island. Of course, coming from Colorado, one appreciates all good seafood, but it’s nice to support the local fishermen and to eat sea-to-table fish.

Hands down, George and Ky did the best “fishing.”  While Judy and I trailed the local shops for designer shoes and Spartina handbags, the guys met one of the friendly locals–there are three of them on the island–who, when asked for the best seafood market, pointed in the direction of Coligny Plaza and the Piggly Wiggly’s Fish and Tails Seafood Market.  Based on the Wahoo and the South Carolina Shrimp those two came back with, the local was tail on . . .er,  I mean spot on.

Of course, no Southern meal is complete without black-eyed peas, which are actually not a pea but a legume. True confession: my mother always served them for New Year’s Eve because they are supposed to bring luck; I found them boring and flavorless and not at all lucky.  But after Judy and I spotted them at the Sea Pines Farmers’ Market, I figured I’d give them another try.  After all, I’m not allergic to them.

After soaking the peas in water the night before, I tossed them into a crockpot before we all left to bike on the beach.  When we came home, the kitchen smelled heavenly. They tasted even better.  Paula Deen would be proud.

Black-eyed Peas

Here’s my recipe for black-eyed peas fit for an allergic foodie.  Please let me know what y’all think.

Crockpot Black-eyed Peas

1 16-ounce package dried black-eyed peas

1 medium Vidalia onion, or other sweet onion (real Vidalia onions come from Vidalia, Georgia)

1 organic red bell pepper

1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)

3 ounces of organic Andouille sausage (I used Applegate)

3 ounces diced ham (I used Hormel)

2 cups gluten-free chicken stock (I used Pacific Natural Foods)

Salt and pepper to taste

After soaking peas for 8 hours, drain and place in 5-quart crockpot along with above ingredients. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or HIGH for 5-6 hours. Be sure to check peas for doneness; you don’t want them slightly firm, not mushy.

 A Yankee-Coloradoan Dishes Out Some Lowcountry cuisine first appeared in Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.