Enjoy Cheesecake at Your Next Neighborhood Cook-Out

By:  Laura Weaver

Hurricane Ike made his way up to our Midwest state, wreaking havoc in our neighborhood. Strong winds damaged roofs, scattered lawn furniture, and uprooted trees. Electric power lines were ripped from the poles when broken tree limbs fell on them. Other power circuits overloaded and caused transformers to explode, leaving the area powerless. What an eerie feeling to experience total darkness in such a widespread area where streetlights, business signs, and traffic signals usually glowed. The damage caught all of us off guard and totally unprepared to deal with the lack of power, which is not expected to be restored for many days.

We dealt with this situation as best we could, using candles, flashlights, and even solar powered garden lights to illuminate our homes. We used our imaginations when it came to entertainment by playing games, working puzzles, and visiting with each other in lieu of watching television. Showering with cold water was accepted as both stimulating and invigorating. I think we did pretty well adjusting to these circumstances, but the most challenging adjustment of all was how to keep our refrigerated food from spoiling. Less vital foods were discarded to make room for those that were more important, and these were crammed into our still-cold freezers. Ice was a disappearing commodity, none of which could be found in the area with no ice scheduled to be delivered to the closed and powerless businesses which usually had ice for sale. We realized very soon that something had to be done with our thawing foods.

Our neighborhood decided to make the best of the situation by having a huge cook-out to try to salvage as many of our foods as possible before they spoiled. We used as many grills as we could find: charcoal as well as gas. An assortment of thawed meats were grilled to perfection by our skilled barbecuers. The aroma of beef, chicken, pork chops, and even turkey legs permeated the air. Along with the various meat selections, remaining refrigerator and cupboard items were used to create side dishes to accompany this impromptu neighborhood picnic. Foods such as tater tots, carrots, peppers, and onions were wrapped in foil and thrown on the grill for cooking. Other items were also creatively thrown together to make a smorgasbord of sorts.

I was very pleased to be able to contribute a delicious cheesecake, which I had been keeping inside my freezer for a special occasion. Cheesecake is a wonderful dessert option any time, but in times like these, even more so. Its characteristic flavor and texture is both satisfying and tantalizing. It makes every meal special with its smooth and creamy goodness. Since cheesecake compliments all foods, it just happens to be the perfect dessert option for our clean-out-our-freezers pot luck meal. Besides, with no one’s electric oven working, other desserts were non-existent, so I know this cheesecake would be very much appreciated.

Cheesecake comes in various flavors, so it seems to satisfy every discerning palate: tart and tangy key lime cheesecake for the person who likes less sweet dessert options; smooth and creamy rich chocolate cheesecake for the chocolate-lover; spicy pumpkin cheesecake for someone who enjoys more pungent flavors; decadent turtle cheesecake for the true dessert connoisseur; and even sugar-free cheesecake for those who have health issues. The cheesecake I had been saving was a simple New York style cheesecake, which is delicious just on its own when served plain, or it can be sweetened up with fruit toppings. In our predicament, serving it plain was just fine with all of us.

Even though cheesecake keeps well in the freezer as well as the refrigerator, it can be kept at room temperature for quite a long period of time. My cheesecake proved to be well-thawed, yet held its shape. We served it by the spoonfuls sparingly, so everyone could have a taste at the end of the meal.

Needless to say, our neighborhood cook-out was a huge success: sharing food before it spoiled, eating together and visiting, encouraging each other to keep our spirits up, offering help, and making the best of a difficult situation. As wonderful as all of the food tasted and as happy as we were not to have to throw away expensive cuts of meat because of thawing, the cheesecake I offered was a huge success, of which every bite was savored and enjoyed.

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