The Gift of a Cooked Meal

It’s 4:35 as I type this.  Most afternoons, this would be on the early side of me figuring out what should be for dinner.  Pffft.  Who am I kidding?  I don’t really start doing that until 5:30 or so.  (Alright, alright, 6 o’clock.  Sheesh.)

But tonight I’m not worried about dinner at all.  Nor was I last night.  Nor will I be tomorrow.  Don’t hate me because I know what’s for dinner.

Thanks to the generosity of a couple of friends, my family has eaten better in the past few days than we have in weeks.  After a series of frozen brown things (Tater Tots, fish sticks, breaded chicken filets, etc.), last night we ate a ham and cheese quiche with a crust that was out of this world.  Last week, we enjoyed a Shepard’s pie with cauliflower pureed into the mashed potatoes.

Um, yeah, I didn’t make either of those fine dishes.


I don’t have time right now.  Or inclination.  Most of my free time is spent at my Dad’s bedside.  Two evenings a week I cut out at dinner to see my Dad when my husband gets home from work.  Three days I week I have a sitter so I can spend a few hours with him without having to worry about a toddler’s sniffles or need to be entertained.  That allows me time to just sit and be with my dying Dad.  Time that cannot be rescheduled or pushed off to a later date that might be more convenient.

Because of that, dinner has suffered.  In the big scheme of things, that’s not a huge deal, but food is an important part of family life.  It is a common, shared experience — pretty much our only one on weekdays, so a cooked dinner has been important to us. With my Dad in medical flux since last winter, the shared meals have gotten interrupted with either visiting or my distinct lack of motivation to cook after long and sad days.  My son would have probably preferred that homework go by the wayside, but NO FREAKING WAY.

Enter my friends with their cooked meals.  Hallelujah!

There is something so simple, yet so wonderful in the gesture of cooking for someone going through a tough time.  Food can be such an expression of love and caring, which is just how I have felt serving my friends meals these past few days — loved and cared for. Never ever underestimate the power of warm food to provide comfort.

These meals, too, remind me of my last stint as a caregiver, when our little Donna was in her cancer treatment, and even after she died.  She had gone to her pre-school just five weeks before the cancer took her from us.  Five weeks at the beginning of a busy school year is not a lot of time to connect to a whole new community.  But I will never forget how so many of the classroom parents took turns cooking for us in the weeks after her death.

Each weeknight for five or six weeks, Donna’s teacher arrived at our door about 4:30 holding a meal lovingly prepared by a stranger to provide us dinner.  What a true gift during what was absolutely some of the worst days of my life.  Not having to think about food at a time of deep grief was total relief.  I didn’t care about much of anything in those early days, so the warm food nourished me in many ways.

If you’ve ever gifted a friend or family member with a cooked meal during a tough time in their life, thank you.  You rock.  For real.  What you did was a big freaking deal and you should be proud of yourself.

And if you’ve ever gifted me and my family a meal, know that this post is written to you.  That’s right, you.  Yum.  It was delicious and very appreciated.  Thank you.  Oh! And I might still have your Tupperware in my pantry.  xox

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