When in doubt, bring food

I am old enough to remember when a friend or family member’s life-altering event – birth, illness, injury, death – meant bringing them food from your kitchen. Maybe I got this mostly from books, movies, and television, but I’m sure I remember my mom taking foil-wrapped casserole dishes (with heating instructions written on the foil) to blessed or afflicted friends and neighbours, a time or two when I was growing up.

For whatever sociological reasons, this seems to be a less common gesture these days. The drive-thru and the microwave have made every place a dining room and every hour of every day a mealtime. No chairs, no waiting. Eating has become something we do while in motion, or standing up, or while doing something else – driving, reading, watching TV – and, increasingly, something we do alone. Except for the occasional celebratory meal – holiday dinner with family, summer cookout with friends, snack-fuelled Super Bowl party – we have lost the familial and communal connection with food.

But food is important. And sharing food connects us in a way that nothing else does.

I have made food for two friends going through life-altering experiences, in the past two years. Both of them resisted, protested, assured me it wasn’t necessary, and eventually gave in because I was so insistent that it was something I wanted to do, and it was no trouble at all, and I wanted to help.”Your choice of meat pasta sauce, Texas chili, or beef stew.”

T, undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer at age 39, with a husband and two little girls (aged seven and three), chose meat pasta sauce. S, single and living alone after back surgery, chose beef stew.

When all was back to normal, both women told me what a difference my contributions to their freezers had made to their recovery.

S: “It’s nice to get flowers, of course, but food for the freezer was such a practical gift. I had to be sure to tell you that.”

T: “On the days when I was too sick to eat, let alone cook, having the spaghetti sauce in the freezer was a total godsend to [my husband]. He planned pasta meals for the days I had chemo, and was really sad when he used the last container.”

I offer a choice of meat pasta sauce, all-meat chili, or beef stew because (a) they are easy to make in volume, (b) they freeze well, and (c) they are delicious and nutritious. (If you’re vegetarian, I’m sorry, I can’t help you; I don’t know how to cook without animals!)

What about you? Have you ever taken ‘food for the freezer’ to someone who needed a little help? What did you make, and what feedback did you get?

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