Passing The Taste Test

Live from Germain Arena

Answer: Corned beef hash, baked beans, ham and cheese and white bread.
Question: What are foods you won't find in The Ritz-Carlton dining room.

But you could find this delectable fare in the Red Cross food line at Germain Arena the past three days as the relief organization fed more than 5,000 people evacuating the path of Hurricane Wilma. And despite the false complaints about cold baked beans served -- I have the burn mark on my tongue to prove it -- the food passed the taste test of even the harshest food critic. Me.

Starting with dinner Sunday night, less than 12 hours before Wilma made landfall, and culminating with lunch Tuesday afternoon, I sampled the evacuation menu devised by the Red Cross and prepared by the commissary staff at Germain. And I have to say, it was A-OK.

The corned beef hash was a tad bit on the strong side, but the potatoes and vegetable mix was fine, and the apple sauce would have had my 20-month-old son crying for more -- especially after he realized I stole his stash and packed it away in my hurricane evacuation kit.

Breakfast Monday morning, served at the same time Wilma was stirring up everything in sight up and down the Gulf Coast, consisted of life's simple pleasures -- a pint of milk to go with an individual box of Froot Loops or an assortment of other Kellog's cereals, and finally, a banana.

For lunch, your choice of ham and cheese without the mayo on white bread or ham and cheese without the mayo on white bread -- and a large bag of Cheese Doodles.

I missed dinner at the shelter to head back to our newsroom in downtown Naples, where our staff fed us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I should have stayed in line at the shelter.

And finally, Tuesday afternoon amidst a much smaller crowd, I sampled those baked beans with small pieces of hot dog mixed in. A bag of Rold Gold Pretzels and another banana (this time they offered an apple as an alternative) capped off the lunch.

All in all, the Hungry Sports Writer/Food Critic gives the Red Cross and Germain Arena a rating of five stars out of a possible five. After all, any complete meal is a blessing for people without a home or power.

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