It's been a long while, but the Random Lunch is BACK on Scary-Crayon! It's not a feature I've ever stopped doing on my own, really -- a good percentage of the dishes I make qualify as random, even when I do have a game plan of sorts -- but I got kinda tired of photographing every aspect of my "cooking" process and ultimately found it difficult to keep up with what I did photograph. (Remember the Lost Lunches piece I did back in 2007? I could probably post dozens of them.) However, while I've apparently been able to ignore the feature for half a decade, this particular lunch just needed to be on the site. I had no say in the matter.
So, backstory. Last Friday (June 29), our area was hit by a pretty nasty storm -- the worst I've ever been in town for. (I'm sure MD's seen worse in my lifetime, but I've had the good fortune of being away at school or on vacation during the other times Mother Nature's had to deal with ingrown hairs in her mhmmm yeah okay.) Apparently a derecho swept through the neighborhood, and when I woke up that morning I was greeted by a whole bunch o' devastation in the 'hood: streetlamps had been snapped in half; chimneys had been blown off of roofs; aluminum siding had been ripped off of homes; trees had been split and partially uprooted; and roads had been blocked and cars had been smashed as a result of the falling timber and derecho-blown debris. But in this age of technological dependence, the most devastating blow dealt by the storm was the one to our power grid. We lost power sometime before 11pm on Friday, and it wasn't restored until Monday afternoon.
How long can food survive in a refrigerator without electricity -- and in 90-plus-degree temps? I know what the government sites will tell you (toss stuff that's been unrefrigerated for more than two hours; toss freezer food after 48 hours, assuming the freezer was full and hasn't been opened; don't even taste food to see if it's gone bad), but I also know that government writers have no interest in being sued by a food-poisoned public. It's a perfectly understandable response rationale, and I don't fault them for that one bit. But I don't listen to the "safe" advice given by people primarily interested in covering their own asses. I take my chances and learn from experience.
So while I tossed most of the stuff in the freezer on account of the melted bag of ice making it unpalatably soggy, I kept some things. (And while I guess that stuff should have been worse off, I kept everything in the fridge. Cheese sits out while they're aging it, so what's a few days without refrigeration going to do to cheddar?) Most importantly for today's Random Lunch, I kept the Hot Pockets. Unlike my poor sodden tater crowns and hush puppies, Hot Pockets are boxed and individually wrapped -- so they stayed completely dry. And I figured they're loaded up with preservatives that should extend their shelf life beyond that of normal poultry products. Yep.
After baking the thing up extra crispy in the toaster oven (in the hopes that the extra cooking time would help to roast any harmful bacteria) and mashing it up atop a bed of mashed and seasoned avocado for no particular reason (except that the avocado had also been sitting around too long and needed to be used), I was ready with The Potentially Spoiled Hot Pocket Guacamole Iron Stomach Challenge.
I didn't die -- or spend the remainder of the day/night puking my guts out -- so I guess that makes it a success? Really, it was fine. The Hot Pocket did taste a very tiny bit off, but that could just as easily have been my imagination... or the guacamole, since Hot Pockets don't usually have mashed avocado with liberal amounts of hot sauce and cayenne pepper and lemon juice seeping into cheesy gashes in their sides. More important than the taste of the dish, however, is what we've learned: for Hot Pockets, refrigeration/freezing is optional. If you lose electricity in your home for whatever reason, know that your Hot Pockets will remain safe to eat no matter how long it takes to restore it.
That said, please note that I am not a government official and make no guarantees whatsoever that your Hot Pockets will not leave you projectile vomiting and spasming on the floor -- so don't bother suing me if you get sick following my advice. A judge will take one look at the name of the website from which you took serious advice that could actually affect your health -- really, Scary-Crayon?!? -- and laugh you right out of court.-- Wes --