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The Best Of 2008

Cuisine by Candlelight...Maybe I Could Cater
By Jim Whitaker -- Staff Writer [Email This Story]

Not since the Great Ice Storm of  . . .  no, that year was the Great Cake Icing  . . .  whenever that storm struck was the last time the power was out for any perturbing amount of time. The electricity and the lines normally carrying it were down for four nights and three days. We were swathed in every quilt, comforter and horse blanket we could uncover, huddled with the cats around a kerosene heater, warming chicken soup on its top, the cats doing the stirring.

Our rural electric company is excellent at responding whenever show-off Nature decides its power deserves more attention than any of that puny human-generated kilowatt crap. Of course, we do usually get fair warning of an impending outage by way of flickering lights, a blinking television and the howl of "Oh, son-of-a-bitch," from whoever happens to be on the computer at the time.

So the other night -- a dark and stormy night, yes, really it was -- the power went out. It went out at 8:45. It went out at 8:46. It went out at 8:48. Then it just went out.

At the first flicker, it's my job to gather candles left over from Christmases and weddings and birthdays.

At the second flicker, I set up candles, one in the living room, one in the kitchen on the stovetop (I'm glad I didn't use them all up during my semi-annual stress therapy and combination séance -- no, I don't really hold séances; the last person I want to contact when the lights are out is someone whose lights are out).

At the third flicker, it's my job to say something helpful like "Uh-oh, the lights might go out." Good prediction. The lights are out and I'm lighting candles in the lightlessness.

A little later . . . 

Standing at our electric stovetop with the candle burning, my wife declared a need for scrambled eggs, a comfort-food diversion from the discomforting mega-scuttle outside of which my wife is deathly afraid in the first place.

She aerosol-ed a pan with canola oil and set it on a burner. She opened the refrigerator -- hey, so the light does go off when you open the door -- and retrieved eggs. She cracked them open into a bowl. She opened the refrigerator and retrieved the fake butter -- yes, I really can believe it's not butter -- and plopped a spoonful into the pan.

Now, I don't know why a husband asks dumb questions of his wife, especially when the woman is already disconcerted over something else -- like ravaging weather and resultant no electricity to cook her raw scrambled eggs that would help re-concert her if she just had some way to cook them.

"How are you cooking those eggs without electricity?" I asked from the relative obscurity of shadows.

She turned toward me. Even with her face in total darkness, her silhouette backlit by the candle on the unresponsive stovetop, I knew how she was looking at me. "I'm  . . .  waiting for  . . .  the electricity  . . .  to come back on."

"Why not cook them over the candle?" My suggestion was only half in jest. I thought it actually possessed some primal technological merit. She didn't.

A little later . . . 

With my wife having retreated to the living room couch, I thought I'd try candlelight culinary.

I held the pan over the candle.

Strange. I couldn't see what was going on in the pan.

I held the pan down beside the candle. Ah! The fake butter was melting.

I held the pan over the candle.

Strange. I couldn't see what was going on in the pan.

I held the pan down beside the candle. Ah!

Hey, wait a minute.

I held the pan over the candle.

I held the pan down beside the candle.

I held the pan over the candle.

Well, this wasn't going to work. Why didn't somebody at the electric company inform me?

So, now how could I hold a flashlight so it would shine into the pan and still scramble the eggs into an edible state? I thought about it while the fake butter sizzled.

If I held the flashlight between my teeth, it would shake as I stirred the eggs with the spatula and throw the desired light several different errant directions. If I held the spatula in my teeth and stirred the eggs, I would pass out from dizziness and lack of the oxygen being sucked up by the nearby candle.

Candle, that's it. Get a second candle, light it and hold it above the frying pan with the frying pan hovering over the first candle. Somehow that didn't sound any more prudent than the flashlight scenario.

Then it dawned on me. She was  . . .  waiting for  . . .  the electricity  . . .  to come back on.

And it did.

My wife got her scrambled eggs.

I suggested to her that maybe for next time the power goes out she should pre-scramble some eggs and freeze them. She could always warm them with the candle.

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