I was bustling around the kitchen. Rice about finished in the rice cooker. Banana bread cooling on the counter. Meatloaf in the oven. Salad being tossed. What else do I need? Oh yes, a bottle of wine. And what’s for dessert?
My kids asked if I was making dinner early. After all, it was only 2pm. No, baby, we are taking food to Mr. and Mrs. X.
Children, if you learn one thing from me, let it be this: If you know someone who is rejoicing or mourning, show up with food.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
My friend, who we call The Kitchen Madonna, says, “Feed the people. Ask questions later.”
Truth be told, I have found it a bit dismaying to see this civility become a lost art in our culture. In the last few years I have attended my share of funerals and been at the bedside of several loved ones who were making that journey between this life and the Next. I am also a doula and have been there with many women as they bring new life into the world. In both those cases I have seen people come visit to say their good-byes or their hellos and bring nothing. There have been time that there were no covered dishes, no cookies, not even take-out pizza.
The one birthing or dying or their intimate loved ones have been distracted, saying, “Can I get you something to eat?” Wait a second! Who should be feeding whom? Oh dear. What has happened to our society.
Can we revive this lost art? Will you join me?
Hear some news that your neighbor had a baby? Show up with a casserole.
Mommy in your church have a houseful of children with the chicken pox? Some homemade biscotti and a box of special tea will be perfect!
A co-worker out with the flu? Homemade chicken soup does the trick every single time.
Your great aunt passed away? Take your uncle a meatloaf and mashed potatoes, portioned out so that he doesn’t have to worry about meals for a few days.
Think of the immense good, the eternal value that exists in a basket of muffins, a pot of tea, a macaroni-and-cheese with smoked bacon.
“There are times when the food we share is a sign of connection and acceptance, times such as weddings, funerals, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, family reunions, and religious professions. At these events food is a sign of unity and singleness of purpose. In Latin, the word companion literally means to ‘break bread’ together. No wonder the Eucharist has such power. It is founded in our food experience, and our earliest experience of that is associated with warmth and touching. Food is powerful. It says ‘You belong here.’ It comforts.” (Radical Hospitality, St. Benedict’s Way of Love by Homan and Pratt)
Perhaps you don’t know where to start or you feel awkward about walking across the street with a jello-mold. You don’t live in Mayberry.
It really is easier than you think and I guarantee no one will turn you away.
- If you can, let the recipient know the food is on the way. I don’t usually ask; I tell. The giving and receiving of food is such a lost art that people will often say no simply because they haven’t learned to receive. So, I usually say something like, “I have made you a casserole. Is 4pm a good time to drop it off?”
- If you don’t have time to make a full meal, do not worry. A plate of brownies, a basket of fruit, some delicious sandwiches, etc. will convey your heart just the same!
- If you do have time to make a full meal, try to include those little extras that make it special. Don’t stop at the main course. Include the salad, dressing, dessert, after dinner mints, and a bottle of wine or sparkling cider.
- Take your offering in a container that you don’t need returned. Whether they are rejoicing or weeping one thing you don’t want to do is burden them with a dish that you’d be sad if they lost or broke. Make sure you express to them that you want them to keep the containers.
- If you don’t know them well, try to stay away from common allergens such as nuts and shellfish. Or else call ahead and ask if they have any food aversions.
- Also, try to stay away from things people commonly dislike. Oh, foodies like us can forget that not everyone rejoices over a jar of pâté. Spicy foods, organ meats, fishy fish, etc. In cases like this, the point of the food is to convey love, support, comfort, and rejoicing–not to be a lesson in nutrition.
- If you are taking your food to a hospital, nursing home, or anywhere away from their actual home, provide the forks, napkins and plates so that they can partake immediately.
- If I’m bringing over multiple containers of food, I usually include a note with the menu listed and explained.
- If you are accustomed to stocking your freezer with prepared meals, it can be a lovely gift to give someone a complete meal that they can enjoy now or keep in their freezer for a day they really need it. Having those prepared meals on hand makes doing this very easy.
Two years ago when my dear grandfather passed away, I showed up at my parents house (which is where he lived) and I started cooking. Relatives from all over began to arrive. Arrive and eat. Nothing like sitting down over roast chicken and homemade bread and reminiscing about the past. In preparation for the funeral I began to prepare antipasti, garlic bread, layered salads, baked ziti, cheesecakes. Ladies from my parents’ church helped with prep and made dozens of cookies. Some well-meaning relatives asked why I was doing so much and suggested that I just go to Costco and purchase some deli trays. I smiled kindly and said, “Because that’s not how I roll.”
It was an act of love for my Grandpa whom I love and miss dearly (he loved to eat), for my Grandma, and for my Mom. And, to be honest, it was something I did for myself. I needed some good comfort food and cooking is therapeutic for me. Not that it would be wrong to purchase food. But, just imagine if we didn’t have to. Imagine if people came together and shared food again.
When you take someone food–especially food you prepared yourself–you are sharing yourself with them. Food has a way of bringing people together. Diners let their guards down over the appetizer. Over the main course cares ease and the mind starts to be refreshed. Over dessert and coffee people bond and heal and share their lives. Sometimes it feels as if one had the right menu we could reconcile the world.
“I sometimes think the chef end of cooking is not the real end of cooking. Cooking is all about homes and gardens, it doesn’t happen in restaurants.” –Delia Smith
(Linked to Fantastic Thursday 49 and Fantastic Thursday 50, Tasty Traditions, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Bloom Designs, Hearts For Home Hop, A Lovely Blog Hop, Think Tank Thursday, Foodie Friends Friday, One Sharendipity Place, From The Farm, Pin It Monday, Making Your Home Sing, Motivation Monday, Mostly Homemade Monday, Creative HomeAcre Hop, You’re Gonna Love It! and Tasty Traditions)