Thursday, September 18, 2008

More hurricane thoughts

This is a supplement to my last post about Hurricane Ike.

-Brennan's. After my last post, I learned that Brennan's GM and its sommelier and his daughter were severely injured in the fire. That is the real tragedy of Brennan's. Several restaurants will have benefits to assist them. If you have details, please post them in a comment. I will do my best to spread the word.

Jenny says that "catalan will be offering a $65 [edit: $60] tasting menu starting tonight of which $10 will be donated to the fund for brennan's sommelier james and his daughter katherine."

-Open restaurants. I'mneverfull has a list of restaurants now open.

-Birds. This week has been surreal, but nothing has been stranger than the disappearance of birds. I have only seen or heard a few live birds in southwest Houston this week. The ones I saw were pigeons who probably survived under freeway underpasses. In the Kroger parking lot on Buffalo Speedway, I saw hundreds of small bird bodies. As I walked neighborhood streets after the storm, everywhere I saw and smelled dead birds.

Fortunately, Jay Lee found and photographed some birds who made it through the storm.

-Kids. For the neighborhood kids, this has been a great week -- no school and little to do but play. Several days ago, I found my wife supervising a clean-up crew of 10 kids aged 5 to 12. They swept up our street's debris. My wife paid them a total of $40 -- a pretty steep rate even for illegal child labor.

-Lines. For those of us whose houses remained intact, the biggest annoyances of the week were the lack of power and the lines. Lines at gas stations. Lines for ice. Lines for cash. Lines at the PODs. Lines behind the dead lights at intersections. When I needed to drive east to Beaumont on Monday, I could not find a gas station with a line shorter than an hour. I first had to drive west past Katy to Brookshire, just to find gas without long lines.

Even today, one week later, at 2:00 p.m., there was a line of over 20 cars in line at the drive through for Whataburger. Our perspective has changed. We now are so desparate that we will wait an hour for a Whataburger.

-Ice. Without electricity, the single most important commodity is ice. Ice keeps you cold. Ice preserves food. Ice becomes cold drinking water. Finding ice was the first goal at the beginning of each day. Gas and food came later. Kudos to Central Market for shipping in a lot of ice. Still, it wasn't enough. Now, I finally appreciate the old Texas tradition of the ice house. The appeal wasn't just beer. It was the coolness provided by ice.

-Himalaya. Jenny organized a Chowhound group to have lunch at Himalaya. Unlike Whataburger, Himalaya had no wait. This Indian/Pakistani restaurant had been flooded, so they did not have a full menu. The kitchen was offering a tasty sampler lunch plate with chicken tika masala, karahi gosht (minced goat), chapli kabob (ground beef formed into a hamburger patty, spiced with corriander seeds and pomegranate seeds), rice, and mint yogurt. Under the circumstances, it was an impressive effort. I am looking forward to trying this restaurant with a full menu.

-The non-viability of life in Houston and the Texas coast. I have to wonder whether people were meant to live here. Before "civilization" -- that is, before shipping ports and oil -- very few Native Americans lived along the Southeast Texas coast. There are few native foods in this region. Without air conditioning, the weather is miserable. And a giant wall of water sweeps away life on the coast at least once a century.

Houston was lucky that the hurricane veered east, and that the wind was not more severe. Yet our civilization has been turned upside down for a week.

I am a sixth-generation East Texan. I love this city. Yet, I question whether it makes any sense for our city to be here.

8 comments:

Food Princess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Food Princess said...

Well, some people never get any credit!!! LOL I organized the lunch to mark the end of my "Hurication" and Ms. Jenny suggested the place. Meanwhile I just found out that am due back at work on Monday so thanks for coming out and joining me. It was fun.

John said...

It makes as much sense for Houston to be here as it does for a city to be at the Golden Gate, waiting for earthquake destruction. Or to be where Seattle is, with an earthquake plus tsunami combination. Or at the Massachusetts Bay, with rocky soil and frigid winters. Or... well, you get my point.

The kind of comfy life we enjoy is made possible by technology. But remember that people lived here long before the first Europeans came across the ocean to see what was going on.

Remember also that we are 21st century people, and thus we live with the illusion that nature can be managed. For most of human history natural disasters like Ike were just an ordinary part of life; periodically a big storm drowned your village, and earthquake crushed your family, a plague wiped out half your neighbors, and so on. And that was just part of life on this earth. We control so much of our environment that we forget that this is frighteningly normal. And we forget that as hard as times like this are, compared to our ancestors, we have it easy; we have early warnings and more ways to cope.

neverfull said...

i believe karahi gosht is goat. and thanks to joanne for organizing (and getting kaiser's personal phonenumber!).

and my bad, the catalan tasting menu is $60. the price is wrong on alison cook's blog where i initially got the info.

del frisco's will also be hosting a fundraiser on sunday, sept 28. $50 per person for light bites and wines from silver oaks, far niente, cakebread and pommery. 100% of proceeds will go to the koonce family relief fund.

lastly, gravitas is hosting a wine tasting on monday, sept 22 from 1:30 to 4 and all proceeds are also going to the koonces.

for more info on any of these events, check out cleverley's blog: http://blog.cleverley.com/

sheeats said...

Heh. The Karankawa Indians seemed to make a good enough go of it here until we wiped them out in the 1860s. And they had plenty of food, to boot! Of course, they also ran around covered in shark liver oil to ward off the mosquitos...but overall, they had it pretty good. :)

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Chris said...

My understanding is that Houston has a great climate (sub-tropical) for growing a lot of vegetables year-round, which is sad considering we're so far behind on the farmer's market trend.

anonymouseater said...

A number of modern cities are in poor locations. Most of those cities are new.

In contrast, most old cities (1000+ years old) are in locations that don't have hurricanes, tidal waves, and major earthquakes.

As Sheats correctly points out, our area did have the Karankawa Indians. They were plagued by storms. They remained hunter gatherers (and canibals). They never developed any agriculture or any sort of permanent civilization.

My main point is that, unlike Houston, most of the world's cities that have lasted a long time were not subject to frequent, catastrophic, natural disasters.