Please tell me that I’m not the only one here in Knoxville that gets panicky now whenever a thunderstorm heads our way? My childhood fears have crept back recently and I find myself getting anxious whenever there are storms. But luckily, I think I’ve found the charm that seems to warn them off. Gin. I’m in the process of testing this theory but anecedotal proof is conclusive in my book. So much so that I now store a bottle of gin in the cellar so that I can do my part to warn off the ugliness. You’re welcome Knoxville.
So, I have a bit of a severe thunderstorm/tornado phobia. When I was very young, a tornado took part of the roof of our house off when we lived in Nashville. Then I had a babysitter who would freak the heck out whenever there was a storm and she transferred her irrational fear to me. My mom couldn’t understand why I started running around, acting like Chicken Little every time there was a storm. Then she found out that my babysitter would have a panic attack anytime a storm approached. She’d also tape the shades to the windows because….well, I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was an ancient Southern ritual that was supposed to charm away storms? Or she was crazypants. Babysitters of the world? Please don’t do this. You’ll make the eccentric little knee biters in your care even weirder than they already were. So this is where my unhealthy fear of thunderstorms first appeared.
Then we moved to Wisconsin where one of the main pastimes is obsessing about the weather. And then recounting any disastrous weather events in explicit detail, ad nauseum. I lived outside of Milwaukee for seven years and while I still don’t know where the town of Barneveld is, to this day, I can still tell the tale of the killer tornado that destroyed the town.
But when I moved to East Tennessee, I was given a little bit of breathing room. Knoxville is protected by what my husband and I refer to as “The Forcefield of the Awesomeness That is Knox Vegas”. I’m sure there’s a technical term for it but ours is snazzier. Think of it as kind of like that forcefield that protected the Death Star, just without all the peskiness of those annoying Rebel Alliance people trying to destroy it. Horrible storms that pummel the Cumberland Plateau strangely break up before they hit our fair city and for someone that turns into a quivering mass of jelly before a severe thunderstorm or tornado threat, I’m grateful for that. Sure, every once in a while a nasty storm hits us but we usually get fair warning.
Until this spring. Two days before killer storms ripped across Alabama, on a Monday, a storm blew out of nowhere in Knoxville. One minute it was your typical thunderstorm, the next minute you couldn’t see five feet in front of you and my husband was yelling “Get into the cellar now!” This storm involved several microbursts that took out trees all over Knoxville, and many old ones in our neighborhood. We lost several large limbs off the beautiful old maple in our front yard. A large patch of shingles were ripped off of our roof. We discovered this hole in the roof when our bedroom light fixture filled with water and poured it all over the floor. Two windows were smashed out and water was forced through the front door and all the windows on two sides of our house. The storm hit at 5pm, we had a roofer on the phone by 6pm and the next day our roof was fixed just as our power was restored.
This was just in the knick of time because that Wednesday we were hit again. Unfortunately, we knew they were going to be bad because of the news coming out of Alabama about the tornadoes. Between waves of storms, we ran out to Chandlers and picked up fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and fried okra. Right before the more severe storms rolled in, I asked my husband to check the weather radar again. I must have sounded a bit tense (or the fact that I was almost levitating off the couch while I chewed my nails down to stubs) because he turned to me and said “I’ll be glad to. Let me get your a drink first.”
Yes, at one point to be on the safe side, we did go down to the the cellar when a torndado warning hit a little too close to home. But aside from the rattle of hail on the outside cellar door, we emerged remarkable unscathed. And I shakily emerged from the cellar with a death grip on my empty drink glass.
Late June, we had another series of severe storms roll in. I was watching my sister while my parents vacationed in Prague when the first one hit on Tuesday. What started out as a remarkably unassuming storm, quickly developed into another storm where we could barely see past our front porch. A large crashing boom sounded and I shoved my sister into our inner bathroom as she asked me over and over again “Sissy, are we going to die?”. We emerged after this storm to find one of the two trees that shade us from the afternoon sun, lying on the ground after having taken out another tree on the way down. I did not have gin in my hand when this storm hit so I’m pretty sure I caused our tree’s death. That’s a lot of guilt to deal with so I’ve been trying to make sure gin is always close at hand. You know, because I want to keep the trees safe.
Now I have no problem with swigging gin out of the bottle but I understand that some of you aren’t as refined as I am. For all you dainty people, I give you the Watermelon Gin Fizz.
I had a watermelon that went a little past its prime. It still tasted great but the texture got a little grainy. I pushed it through a seive and saved the juice. This was the delicious result.
Watermelon Gin Fizz
Juice of one lime
2 tsp sugar
1 oz gin
1/2 cup watermelon juice
1/2 cup tonic or soda water
Mix together. Serve over ice. At first sign of storm, drink one and wait 30 minutes. If the storm doesn’t go away, drink another.