EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re sorry to say we profited by chef Krista Kern Desjarlais’ misfortune. Her new restaurant, The Purple House in North Yarmouth, which opened on Dec. 28, lost power soon after. Not good. We asked her to write about the experience. Since writing this column, Desjarlais tells us that though she increased her bagel production by 50 bagels per day this past weekend, she still sold out by 9 a.m. Saturday and 9:40 a.m. on Sunday, so she’s planning to go up again. Desjarlais also owns the seasonal Bresca & the Honey Bee in New Gloucester. Bread & Butter is an occasional chef-written series that runs in Food & Dining.

One step forward, two steps back.

“I can’t believe you’re out of bagels before 10:30 a.m.!!” These are words I never expected to hear on day two, ringing out like a gong and sending waves of anxiety through my body. I smiled – at that customer and everyone else who showed up over the next two hours – as I explained again and again that the 200 bagels we’d made had sold out in just two hours.

As that crazy shift came to a close, I decided we’d close for the next day, Friday, in order to try to catch up. We’d make Friday a prep day, tripling our par for Saturday, restaurantspeak for increasing the number of items to be produced per shift. I vowed to myself that when the weekend came, we would be ready.

What we couldn’t prepare for, it turned out, was Mother Nature’s wrath upon the region on Dec. 29-30. The events that unfolded that night would culminate in multiple trash bins filled with a majority of our prep.

COLD AND (STOMACH) FLU

Buzz buzz… buzz buzz… I can see a flash of light from the flip side of my phone while I’m lying in bed. I pick up the phone and stare at the screen. It’s a text from my security company. They’ve detected a power outage at The Purple House as of Friday, 3:18 a.m. I take in the information, then roll over and go back to sleep. The power will come back on soon, I tell myself, so don’t stress out.

When I do get up, the world outside my bedroom window is awash in a frozen, glistening white wave of snow. The storm passed in the night. It’s beautiful, but I don’t let myself linger. I need to get out the door and begin work. I quickly check the Central Maine Power (CMP) website for outage information and learn that all of North Yarmouth is without electricity. I am supposed to meet my staff at 9 a.m. It has now been five hours since that security company text. I’m starting to worry, but I’m determined to get to The Purple House – I live in New Gloucester, exactly 17 minutes’ drive away – and fix any problems as soon as I shovel out my car. All will be well.

I never make it to the bakery, let alone to my driveway. Instead, I lie down on my daughter’s bed (she’s already gone to school) in the warm morning sun, curled up on my side and battling a sinking feeling that on top of the power outage, I am coming down with the dreaded stomach virus that is surging through schools and the neighborhood. I text my staff to delay our prep since we don’t have power. I also delay deliveries. I console myself that the food and doughs will be fine as the coolers run very cold and that without power, the room they are in will stay cold, too. Thankfully, I’ve got power at home, so I linger in my daughter’s ever sunny bed, comfortable and warm, while my health sinks steadily downward – like the temperature at The Purple House.

At noon, I check the CMP website again. Still no power.

Normally, I would make myself get up and drive to the bakery, and I’d push all our fish and meat into the snowbanks, if that’s what it takes. But I can tell that today is not going to be a normal day for me. By 1 p.m., the virus has overtaken me.

FEELING POWERLESS

Meanwhile – and I know I sound like a broken record – there is still no power at The Purple House. By 3 p.m., I’ve canceled prep day. The power is still out, and the sun is starting to sink on the horizon, dragging temperatures into the teens and soon presenting yet another flurry of things to worry about.

Buzz, buzz… buzz, buzz… Oh god, why is everyone texting me today while all I want to do is lie here and try to survive this virus? It’s Derek, the coffee roaster I work with from Massachusetts. He’s seen my Instagram post from that morning about losing power, and is concerned, very concerned, that the drip coffeemaker tank (price tag: roughly $1,200) will freeze and crack in a frigid, unheated room overnight. He’s worried the espresso machine tank (price tag: roughly $7,500) will suffer the same fate.

I tell him I am too ill to drive. I further tell him that if the power isn’t restored soon, I will find, I will have to find, a way to get to the cafe. Unless I drain the tanks and water lines, I risk facing huge and expensive plumbing and equipment repairs. Derek tells me to hold tight. Maybe it isn’t absolutely necessary yet – I can put it off until later tonight. He rings off. I refresh the CMP website: still no power in North Yarmouth. I sink deeper into my pillow, hoping later doesn’t come too soon.

6 p.m. I’m in full viral meltdown with simultaneous upheaval, a 102 fever and chills and shakes. Thoughts of losing the food and the equipment have melted into a hazy dream that I’ll revisit once I can actually see and think clearly. The phone buzzes – again – and I’m gently reminded by Derek that we are approaching “DEFCON 1” time. To save the equipment I’ll need not only to get out of bed and drive to North Yarmouth but somehow to pull myself together to be a capable plumber. I obsessively check CMP again. No power. It has been 15 hours and even though it’s cold outside, our fish and meat are goners. I am looking at a major loss at this point. (Insurance won’t cover them until I hit my deductible.)

I stay where I am and drag a blanket up over my head.

Time flies when it feels like your guts are spilling out all over the bathroom floor. Not a pretty picture. But by 11:20 p.m., I can finally keep down ginger ale and catch my breath. I refresh CMP, and while The Purple House doesn’t yet have power, a message now appears next to the address. It reads: “11:30 p.m. December 29, power to be restored.” This is clearly the wrong date, but I take it as a good omen and proceed to do the only thing I can manage: I pass out for the night.

When I awake Saturday morning, I am still sick, but the power at The Purple House has been restored. I am exhausted and have a low-grade fever, so I’m not driving anywhere anytime soon. Fortunately, my husband Erik is able to help out today, and he drives over to The Purple House to check on things. The heat is on! So though the food is history, the equipment is saved.

HITTING RESTART

The virus lasts the weekend. By Sunday night, I feel well enough to eat again – also to dread what I will find at the bakery on Monday.

When coolers go down and time has passed, sorting through their contents feels like a forensic exercise. You remove everything, unwrap it and assess. What survived? What did not? Some things are obvious, like wilted herbs or sliced vegetables. Proteins – meat and fish – are too risky to keep. These go straight into the trash, no questions asked. It turns out that the rest, like hard cheeses and such high-acid preparations as pickles and preserved lemons, have survived the outage; luckily, my coolers never warmed up that much, and there are no signs of warmed-then-cooled-again food, which is highly unsafe.

But we have lost daily preparations, like chopped chicken liver, hummus and a few soft cheeses as well as all of our gravlax, smoked salmon, smoked hake and fish roes. My doughs from Thursday are also a loss and must be started all over again. I pause to tend to my sourdough starter, which has sat unhappily for four days waiting to be fed. And I make a list of all we have lost and all we need to prep before we can open later in the week.

Barely a week ago, we opened our doors at Purple House for the very first time. Just like then, we begin anew.

NEW START JUICE

“This kept me alive once I could stomach more than ginger ale,” chef Krista Kern Desjarlais said after suffering a terrible stomach bug. Use all organic ingredients if possible. “You may have survived this terrible stomach virus like I did and now your body and soul are fully cleansed to start the new year, so why ingest a bunch of pesticides?”

Serves 1

2 cups chopped kale

1 cup chopped green cabbage

1 piece apple, quartered, seeds removed

1 piece carrot, chopped

1/2-inch piece ginger root, peeled

1 cup chopped spinach

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Add all the ingredients to the jar of a powerful blender. Pour in ice-cold spring water until it reaches the top of the vegetables and fruit. Blend until the mixture is completely liquified. Do not strain. Drink immediately and feel good about doing something good for your body.