by M. Regina Cram
For daybreak coffee roasters
Once every decade or so, New England gets clobbered by one of those wild storms that knocks out power for days. During such outages, what is it that you miss the most?
Correct. You miss coffee.
A few years ago, New England was pummeled by a freak October blizzard that erupted onto a Halloween landscape. Transformers exploded. Trees crashed. Electrical wires dangled precariously.
My husband Peter and I had just settled in for a quiet Saturday evening when the lights flickered. And then it was dark. One hundred percent of our town was without power. We had no Internet access, no electricity, no heat and no water. I don’t mean that we had no hot water. We have a well so we had no water at all. For a week.
Sunday and Monday, we worked to clear debris. By Tuesday, the inside of our house was so cold that we could see our breath. I did look rather fetching wearing a balaclava to bed.
By Wednesday, everything in the refrigerator and freezer had spoiled. FEMA was distributing MREs – military precooked rations that taste even worse than people say. The high school had been converted into an emergency shelter. Lines for gasoline stretched city blocks.
I functioned reasonably well with the cold, the grime and the darkness. What pushed me over the edge, however, was life without coffee.
So on Wednesday morning, I grabbed a backpack, tossed in money and water, strapped it on my back and walked two miles to the closest market. Fortunately, the store had a generator.
I strode to the back of the store, grabbed a pint of half and half, paid for it, placed it in my backpack, then hiked the two miles back to my home. By this point I had walked four miles with nothing to show for it but a small carton of half and half.
This is where I got creative. I retrieved charcoal from our garage and set up our dilapidated charcoal grill on the frigid back deck. When the coals were hot, I filled a small saucepan with water and placed it on the grate until it boiled. Then I poured the boiling water over coffee grounds and a filter, and into my waiting mug. After adding half and half, I found myself in possession of what was possibly the best cup of coffee ever brewed by humanity. If you have ever given up coffee for Lent, you understand what I mean. My coffee did taste vaguely smoky, but that added to its appeal.
Energized by my coffee, I was able to face the rest of the week. By Thursday, there was a party-like atmosphere wherever people gathered. Residents exchanged stories and offered advice. Neighbor pitched in to help neighbor, checking on the elderly and homebound.
It sounds more charming than it was. There is nothing romantic about being cold, or hungry, or afraid. Peter and I had it better than most because we had each other. And, unlike many in the world who lack food and water, we knew our hardship would end. We had hope.
When power was finally restored after a week, people felt a new appreciation for electricity and hot water. Not me. I appreciated having hope. No matter how cold I had been, I knew with certainty that clean water and a warm home would return. It was hope that carried me through the storm.
Hope, and one really good cup of coffee.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.