I thought I’d better get this post out to you before we lose electricity. (If you just want to read about food, scroll down quite a bit. First, a digression.)
Remember two years ago, when Santa Rosa was burning? Well, the same weather conditions are on tap for both today and tomorrow, and to make sure that a repeat of that distaster doesn’t happen this year, our power company is shutting down the grid. There’s a lot to say about our power company, and the fact that our infrastructure is in miserable condition and hasn’t been properly repaired, but I’ll leave that for someone else to discuss. I’m more interested in the conditions that cause these kind of fire events and how we can better prepare for them.
Our particular climate here in California is summer-dry; that is, we receive no significant precipitation from about April until November. This is not new, this is the way our state has always been. It has to do with the currents in the Pacific, the mountains and valleys, the way California sits on the west coast of the United States. The local plants and animals have adapted to this climate. It’s the addition of humans that makes the equation difficult.
Picture, if you will, hills and valleys. California is covered with them. That’s because we are a state formed by volcanoes and earthquakes. Fill those hills with oaks, bays, pines. Let them cook in the summer dry heat for six months out of the year, and deluge them with water for about 3-4 months. The hills are green and lush in winter, brown and bone-dry in summer. Now picture a beautiful ocean or bay view. Those same hills are prime real estate. In order to preserve the views, roads are one lane. They twist and turn around the ancient oaks and pines. More and more and more houses go in, jam packed on these tiny roads, surrounded by dry vegetation. October arrives and with it, the Diablo winds. These winds come from the Great Basin, a desert region with exceedingly hot dry temperatures. Those are regions of high pressure which force those hot, dry temps to a region of low pressure, the Bay Area, in the form of very strong winds. They tunnel over the Sierra and through the valley to the bay, carrying very dry air. The combination of strong dry hot winds and the extremely dry vegetation in the hills (which are all throughout the area) can cause extreme fire danger.
As we saw with Santa Rosa, and with Paradise last year, a faulty power line can spark a fire with terrible consequences. (Or a car backfiring, or a smoldering cigarette butt, or lightning, or just about anything.) So, the power company figures it’ll just shut off the power and that will at least mitigate the chance of those wires starting a firestorm. But imagine being a business owner with no power. Or a school. Major commuting roadways and tunnels are affected. The trains are affected. And the power company is saying that, before they can turn the power back on, they have to check every single line. Power may not come on for many days. It’s a real problem for everyone. And as our summers get drier and hotter (this July had the hottest global land and ocean temps on record) , this is going to happen more often. As Bill McKibben says, “If climate change is shutting down the wealthiest corner of the wealthiest country for five days, imagine what it’s doing to, say, Bangladesh.”
Ok. I’ll leave that there for you to muse about, and get on with recipes.
We’re slowly eating our way through the pile of winter squash that is adorning our piano. Since most of it is delicata squash, I wanted to find old standard recipes that used pumpkin or butternut and adapt them for delicata. The first I tried was a sort of oatmeal pumpkin bake, a healthy breakfast alternative. I saw this recipe on a YouTube channel I occasionally watch, Off Grid with Doug & Stacy. Stacy used her own canned pureed pumpkin, but I wanted to try with roasted delicata. I think it turned out great, but would absolutely be bettered with the addition of nuts for crunch.
We have been enjoying this for breakfast. It is extremely filling and keeps you satisfied for hours.
While I was roasting delicata for the above recipe, I also roasted some for a soup. I love butternut soup, and wanted to see if the lighter, more delicate flavor of the delicata squash would translate. Luckily I found a recipe from Grant Achatz at Food & Wine magazine. We thought this was a delicious dinner and also made delicious leftovers.
OK! Got this done before the power was shut off, yay. Hope you’re enjoying the fruits of your harvest, too. If you have any squash recipes to share, I’d love it!