The Final Toll

Hurricane Sandy wreaked terrific havoc on safe, sleepy towns that had never before known the true meaning of natural disasters. The destruction that followed can be seen readily: a new landscape along the coast has emerged, deeply gauged by scars and burns that may never heal. Picking up the pieces is never easy, but the recovery process is already in full swing. Houses can be rebuilt, communities will return, the daily grind will inevitably resume. The path may be long and winding, but eventually, day by day, we will get there. However, so many questions still remain, despite optimistic forecasts projected by distant reporters. What about the lives that were demolished along with all of those homes, those safe havens for so many years? What about the dreams washed away with so many sticks of furniture, reduced to unsalvageable trash even worse than average pollution? Not everything can be repaired.

Losing electricity for a week, my household was among the lucky ones. Everything is back to some semblance of normalcy; I have a warm, bright home again, full of fresh food and easy access to more. There was absolutely no flooding in the basement, even with our typically permeable foundation. Most of all, I still have my family.

Suddenly, after the worst seemed to be over, we were dealt one final blow. It was a delayed reaction, but a very close friend of mine now has slipped away, another victim of Sandy not to be tallied in the body count, but in the hearts of hundreds. Health in a Hurry, my place of work and second home for over seven years, is gone. We are closed for business.

The food business is a tough place, harsh and hostile to newcomers. After surviving through some precarious times before, it was a lurking fear that our cozy cafe may still be in danger; when the hurricane winds came, they finally blew out the lights.

Health in a Hurry changed me, as a cook and as a person. Walking in there at 16, I didn’t know a single thing about real food prep; the most I could muster were tofu pups skewered and grilled over an open gas stove. The real value of those countless hours invested into thousands of meals were not numbers on a paycheck, but wisdom gleaned from my boss, mentor, and best friend, Sue. She continues to inspire me, taking this turn of fate as an opportunity for a new start, on to bigger and better things. I’m still trying to learn from her example, even if it won’t be in the kitchen from now on.

Sandy can wipe buildings off the face of the map, but she can’t even take away our memories. From the good times and the bad, I will never forget a moment of it. From the time I lost my grip and spilled miso soup all over the interior of a fully stocked fridge to the torture of rolling raw collard wraps well into the wee hours of the night, I have learned both patience and humility. Just as many times, hysterical laughter could be heard from across the tiny parking lot, as we fumbled and found humor in our silly errors. I will never, ever be unable to picture the exact moment when Sue, searching for her missing eyeglasses, curiously realized that they were in fact inside the oven, baking at full blast. I will proudly recall my very first wedding cake, the incredible stress that it created and the impossible success that resulted. I will miss dearly our Thanksgiving catering marathons with all hands on deck, dancing and thrashing about the miniscule kitchen as everyone churned out vast feasts for so many tables. The scent of sage and onions still lingers if I think back hard enough.

Health in a Hurry will always be a part of me, an indelible mark that will never wash away, no matter what sinister outside forces conspire against us. Saying goodbye to such a dear friend is the last thing I ever wanted to do, and so, I won’t. I’m still taking it with me in my heart.

27 thoughts on “The Final Toll

  1. I am really sorry Hannah :(. As a cook in a past life I totally understand how you put your heart and soul into your work when it comes to something as fundamental and basic as cooking for happy customers. I am sending Sue a mental hug as I type this. Sandy most probably nailed the coffin shut on a fair few businesses that were just limping along and it is inspiring to hear that Sue is already positive about something new in the pipeline. I guess it’s like breaking up with your first boyfriend…as Cat Steven’s (check “last century musicians” Hannah…sigh… ;) ) once sang “The first cut is the deepest” and it most certainly is. I can still remember my first job in a fish and chip shop and the lessons learned lasted. You are such an incredibly talented chef and photographer that you will translate into something else very smoothly but you will always remember your very first chance to discover your inner chef and make people happy with your creations :)

  2. Dearest Hannah, when I saw this news on your Facebook page, I felt a wave of sadness for your loss. It’s beautiful to read this love letter to Sue and Health in a Hurry. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Ah that’s awful. I know how much it meant to you and I’m sure to the owners. It’s always hard to say goodbye to a place that has brought you so much growth and happiness.

  4. so sorry for your loss. your posting was very moving. I am in the southern end of the state and we were so fortunate down here. our thoughts and prayers are will all of those affected by Sandy.

  5. Dear Hannah,I am so sorry to hear what happened to your place of work. You have beautiful memories of that place! I hope Sue will be able to open it again,maybe?

  6. Please keep us up to date on Sue Cadwell’s next step. I have no doubt that it will be surefooted and delicious. I know a lot of folks who will be sorry to learn that this phase for Health is over. NOBODY made veggies burgers like Sue’s and she fed my family and my book club MANY times. Sending love….

  7. Hannah I am so very very sorry for this loss and for the transition that you and your coworkers and everyone is now facing…on top of everything else. I am so sorry. I wish you strength to get through this very very hard time!

  8. What a beautiful and sad tribute to a person and place you love. The storm was a cruel reminder of how small and vulnerable we are when compared to Nature. I hope Sue finds an exciting and rewarding new challenge.

  9. Hannah, I know I don’t comment often but I always read and I just wanted to say how sorry I am to hear this news. Stay strong, you can get through anything :) Sending love and positive vibes your way xxx

  10. i am so sorry Hannah. Hang in there. i hope health in a hurry can open up again later. sending everyone affected by sandy my prayers.

  11. Gorgeous, gorgeous tribute, dear one. Just imagine what delights and adventures you and Sue will embark on in future. I, for one, can’t wait to cheer you (both) on. xo

  12. Hannah…. I’m so very sorry to read of your loss but yes you’ll always have your memories and no one can take those away from you ever. I’m again so sorry for all the devastation that still is going on and for the loss of your good friend, God be with you in your time of sadness and sorrow.

    And also what an awesome tribute you wrote, so inspiring and thotful! Sending prayers to you and everyone!

  13. Aww Hannah I am so so sorry about this :( At least you have those wonderful memories to carry with you. When we miss something, it means it is worth missing, which means it held a special place in your heart. And that’s always a nice thought :)

  14. I’m really sorry, Hannah. Rose Kennedy said, “Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?” Take some time to be kind to yourself. And maybe your beloved cafe will resurrect in a different form. xx

  15. I am so sorry, Hannah! I remember when we had a horrible flood several years ago a couple of places had to close and people lost their jobs and/or their carreer, sometimes even their future. It sucks so much.

  16. Hannah, I am so sorry to hear all you have been through this past month with recovery a terrible storm and such great personal loss. I hope you give yourself time to grieve, this kind of thing can take a while. You are in my prayers.

  17. God bless hope you will continue i enjoy getting your words they do make a nice day ok take care hope all works out Bettty

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