Saying I Love You with Food
In this day and age of fast food restaurants and convenience food, we tend to think that most people, when going through a hard time, don’t need a meal or a jar of soup brought to them.
Many years ago, before there were stores or fast food restaurants on every corner or microwaves in every kitchen, a neighbor bringing in a meal was sometimes a matter of physical survival. That isn’t usually the case these days.
Even so, I hate to see bringing a meal to someone who is sick, has just had a baby or has lost a love one fall by the wayside. We often think the person or family can just pick something up or cook something easy in the microwave. They probably can but there are a couple of reasons why it is still nice to bring someone a meal.
Usually at these stressful times people are exhausted, both physically and emotionally. When this happens it is so hard to think and make decisions. Just ask anyone who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Trying to decide what to cook or buy for a meal can be very overwhelming. It’s often the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Having someone call and say, "I’m bringing a meal for you tonight," can help so much to ease a persons mind, which is probably overloaded with other things. It is just one less decision to make.
Bringing food is a way of saying, "I love you," or, "I care." Food is comforting to most people. (I’m not talking about people overeating to comfort themselves so please don’t comment on that). Being a grandma, the minute I know the grandkids are coming, I get out the cookies and candy and, when friends arrive, the first thing I do is bring out a plate of cookies or put on the kettle.
Taking a plate of cookies to a new neighbor says, "Welcome! We are glad to have you!" Taking a meal to someone who is sick says, "I care." Let’s not let another way of saying, "I care," fall by the wayside.
I will try to share more ideas on this subject in a future post but, for now, here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Make things as easy as possible for the person you are helping. Send napkins, plastic forks and spoons.
Start looking now for inexpensive bowls, platters and dishes at garage sales. You can leave these dishes when you take food to people so they don’t have to worry about returning the dishes. When you can, try to use disposable pans and dishes so the people who are already overwhelmed don’t have to wash dishes.
There is a time and place to save the environment and this is not it. I save and wash most of the containers that I get when I buy things at the bakery or the grocery store and reuse them at these times. You would be surprised how many containers you get every day that would work great if you remove the labels and wash them.
Always have everything prepared so the receiver has little to do but warm it or stir it.
Keep the food simple. Now is not the time to pull out your French Cookbook, pull out Dining on A Dime instead. Things like turkey, celery and carrot sticks, fruit salads and desserts like a simple chocolate cake work well and often can be used for a couple of meals. By keeping it simple, you can be pretty sure the average person will like what you bring.
Keep in mind who you are bringing food to. If there are children in the family, a pretty red Jello will probably be more appreciated than a Hazelnut coffee mousse. When you talk to the person, listen and think about special needs.
Ask if they have any food allergies. If you are on the receiving end, don’t get too picky, giving a list of five rare items you want that must be organic and come from one certain food store. It is very rare that someone can’t eat something like turkey, carrot and celery sticks and some fruit so be reasonable.
Always bring extra food. Throw in a loaf of bread or some rolls so they can use the leftover meat for sandwiches for the next day’s lunch and leftover veggies to go with it.
Don’t forget breakfast. One of the nicest meals we received was when the woman brought not only our dinner but included a pan of cinnamon rolls for breakfast and a container of frozen slushy mix to keep in the freezer and dip out when we wanted to make slushies at a later time.
Think outside of the box. Don’t always send just the usual generic casserole and, whatever you do, DO NOT just send a sack of groceries unless the situation specifically calls for them.
Be thoughtful. Agree to a time when you will bring the food and be sure you stick to that time. If you can’t be precisely on time, it is better to bring it early than late. There is nothing worse than to tell the already hungry children that the food will be here soon and then have it arrive an hour late. (ask us how we know :-)
There are times too when a meal would be appreciated at a later time. For example instead of bringing a meal to a widower the day or week of the funeral you might wait and bring one a couple of weeks later. Often in a case like this people will bring in meals for that first week so it might be nice to bring something when the first influx of meals has stopped.
Don’t overstay your welcome. Use sound judgment. If the people are going through trying times or are not well, too much conversation can make things more difficult for them.
I have so much more I can add but I will have to leave it for another time. Hopefully, this will get you started and help to decide whether or not you should take a meal and, if if you do, what it would be most helpful to bring.
Photo By: Lucas Everidge