Meal Prep for the Ill-Prepped
My Dinner With Juno: Making a Not Horrible Meal in Impossible Supermarket Conditions
With whatever was left in the supermarket at midnight before the most hyped snowstorm of the year, I tried to make something that tasted fine. It did.
Even if one-in, one-out policies ruled some grocers Monday evening, as an “historic” blizzard encroached upon New York, the reports that New York City’s food stores became “nightmarish war zones” were largely exaggerated. Certainly, more people than usual stormed the city’s retailers, but the mood was orderly. There was, however, one crisis.
The masses took the kale. They took all of the kale. But they were cute about it.
The email warning mom sends regarding emergency prep is loosely accurate. This was Juno, after all—the blizzard of ’15—and the city could be crippled for days. In the shadow of Hurricane Sandy, we learned one actually does need bottled water more than salsa, frozen cranberries, and half a box of Wheat Thins.
Monday evening, as the snow began to pile up, I ran into a woman leaving a Brooklyn neighborhood grocery store with her mother. She lugged a cart absolutely full of meat and produce and sweets and other manner of food. “I’m preparing for just one day. Mom’s preparing for the end of the world,” she said.
With that Weather Event™ famine in mind, it was decided—in a panic—that I’d craft a meal with whatever shreds of groceries I could find, long after the well-equipped made their rounds. I prepared exactly zero for Juno. I have nothing more stockpiled than cookie dough. I am of the insouciant mentality that “what will be, will be (in my fridge).”
My local C-Town, near the border of Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, certainly had not been ransacked, but the kale was dwindling. I knew I had to have the kale because everyone else had the kale. There were so few of the kale left I’d be stupid not to get the kale. A guy in plaid scarf and golf cap also stared at the kale. “Motherfucker,” I thought, and then snatched the kale.
A shelf near the meat cooler had been nearly cleared of Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. On the same principle of scarcity applied to the kale, I knew this was The Good Shit. I grabbed a bottle of the mild and popped it open—sweet and herbal and spicy all at once, somewhere between chimichurri and barbecue sauce.
There wasn’t much goat meat left, but I’m not sure if there was ever a lot of goat meat at the C-Town. Regardless, at that moment, there was less goat meat than any other meat, including pig’s feet. I grabbed some packaged goat under the assumption my neighbors had done the same. It came in small, bone-in cubes of I-don’t-know-what body part. I’d never cooked goat before. But it seemed obvious I could marinate it in the jerk seasoning and then render it slowly. I grabbed a bottle of Reed’s Unfiltered ginger ale to add some moisture to my doomsday goat stew. The kale and the goat and the ginger ale and the seasoning and one sad, lonely white onion cost about $15.
I put the cubed goat and the jerk seasoning in one of the plastic grocery bags, then let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Heating a pan to smoking with some avocado oil I had on hand, I browned the goat on all sides. Then I added half the bottle of ginger ale, and reduced the heat. The onion went in and the cover went on.
In the mute-terror of a now heavy-falling snow, this concoction simmered in a pan as my rice boiled.
When I woke up a few hours later, the apartment steamed with fragrance. Nine inches had fallen outside. The goat separated easily from the bone. The meat was tender and spicy. I demoted the kale to side salad. In the self-preservation panic of being cut off from the world outside, I had the stew to last all through any flurries that might lock us in for days. My neighbors, completely absent, had shown me some new cuisine.