Con Edison shut off my building’s gas two days before Thanksgiving. Those of us hosting holiday dinners were especially rattled, but we soon understood that cooking was the least of our problems. As we suffered through cold nights without heat or hot water, I learned lessons that will sustain me in future crises of this type:
• I need to be better prepared. My disaster-readiness plan took into account calamities caused by weather and war, but not those that could result from the collision of incomplete renovation drawings, Con Edison, and the Department of Buildings. When the gas comes back on, an electric kettle and a hot plate will be added to the disaster supplies in my storage room – flashlights, water, canned soup, chocolate, and wine.
• Nothing stops my sister. When I told her we had no stove to cook Thanksgiving supper and no heat or hot water, she drove in from the Midwest anyway – with two electric hot plates, extra sweaters, and assurances that she could go three days without a shower.
• Nothing stops my friends. In mid-December, houseguests from Massachusetts arrived with an induction hot plate and instructions for perfect microwave poached eggs.
• Poached eggs are combustible. It is possible to make perfect poached eggs in a microwave, but most of the time they explode.
• Control settings can be quirky. Regardless of what the settings say, hot plates are either “off” or on “high.”
• You must cook innovatively. Oven-cooked frittatas are the new omelet, and it is possible to make risotto, spaghetti, and soup in an electric oven.
• In a crisis, neighbors can be be helpful. Most of my neighbors, even we crankier ones, are full of common sense. After the initial roar of complaints, we began cooperating, providing support, advice, and a sense of perspective.
My perspective certainly changed, starting with a bit of mail. Soon after our gas was shut off, I received a holiday card from a friend in California. Surprisingly, he did not mention the safety of his family or home during autumn’s wildfires. Instead, he wrote that the state of the world was crushing his creativity so, re-using an old pun, he wished me “Pizza on Earth.” (It may be cheesy, but I feel grate.)
His flippant attitude helped me put matters in perspective. Sure, it was difficult to be without gas, but things could always be worse. Unlike my friend, the shareholders in my lower Manhattan co-op were in danger of nothing worse than extreme inconvenience. I thought of my friend’s holiday pun, and I smiled. Sometimes, I reflected, pizza on Earth – especially a hot, crispy, extra-cheesy slice – is exactly what you need. Try it. Yule be glad you did.