Editor, Francine Spiering, Share's her Harvey Story
Saturday August 26, 2017, I cooked up a storm and filled my fridge. Tejas Heritage Farms rabbit fricassee in my favorite eggplant-color Dutch oven; beer-braised Shiner Pork & Beef short ribs in my cherished braising pan. I was ready for Harvey.
But on Monday the nearby reservoirs pushed the Buffalo Bayou out of its banks and sent its swampy water into our streets, and into our homes. It seeped up through floors and walls before it broke through the barrier of sandbags we had built early that morning. I left in a rescue boat, along with husband, son and trembling Golden Retriever. The fridge, along with its contents, ended up bobbing in the Buffalo Bayou flood waters that rose four feet in our house, and stood stagnant for nearly two weeks.
The Cajun Navy worked overtime in our area: those volunteers who bring trucks with snorkels and trailers with skiffs and bass boats to where they are needed. These are the guys who rescue people and will wade through deep flood water doing so, fully aware of the hazards: snakes, alligators, fire ants and contaminants in the water.
It wasn’t until September 10 that the water drained in our neighborhood, and when it did it left a stomach-churning thick layer of reeking mud on toppled furniture, soiled memorabilia, broken glass and swollen books.
Back on my feet, the first thing I did was go the farmers market. It felt good to pick up the normal weekend routine and put local food treasures in my bags: artisanal cheese and breads; sausages, chicken and eggs; a new jar of raw honey; the sweet potatoes that were the only thing the farmer vendor could harvest before his fields flooded.
When Publisher Kim Korth and I designed the 2017 editorial calendar, this issue was already destined to be called Giving Back. Houston has a big reputation for having a big heart and generous hand. Little did we know giving back would take on such a scope—the community spirit that pulled Houston together in its hour of need was inspirational. Chefs banded together to bring a phenomenal food relief effort, extending to the Beaumont and Rockport areas. Local farmers and producers were involved to the same level, donating food and organizing dropoffs where food was needed. It was a bonding of the local food community that is something to be utterly and deeply thankful for.
Harvey displaced people, flooded land, drowned livestock and wildlife, ruined crops. People lost their homes, their belongings and—tragically, despite the tireless rescue efforts by first responders and volunteers alike—some lost their lives.
Putting this issue together was bittersweet. As I moved house and moved on, focused on editorial, I was painfully aware that (too) many will still be rebuilding well into 2018. Farmers are still recovering; so are businesses. Support was and is needed.
This Christmas, I will make gumbo, in honor of the Cajun Navy. The recipe I’ll use? Why, that of Chef Chris Shepherd of course! Turkey Gumbo—you’ll find it in this issue!