23 June 2011

Feed my family

There's bread rising on my kitchen counter, and I'm about to start boiling some pasta for tonight's Tuna Casserole dinner. I'm back in the kitchen, and it feels good.

About a month ago I came down with some very strange virus that started with a swollen knee and terribly painful muscles and joints. I couldn't grip a toothbrush much less a chef's knife. I couldn't lift my 7 month old from the crib nor a pot of water to boil, and my hands cringed with pain when I'd wring out a wet washcloth to wipe down the table. The muscle and joint pain was followed by intense fatigue until finally one day I just couldn't make it all the way up the stairs. A trip to the emergency room turned into a three-night stay in the hospital where doctors performed dozens of tests on me, many of which were uncomfortable and some quite painful. When I returned home, I began to get my strength back but still had a few days of shuffling around as I healed from a procedure done to fix my spinal headache.

The entire ordeal was about three weeks. It was very scary not only for me, but for my family, friends, and, I'm sure, my 2-year-old. Thankfully, they found nothing terribly wrong with me. Just an exhausted, dehydrated, sleep-deprived mama who got whacked by a strange bug.

While I was down, though, my friends and family were there to help. My mom came to help with kids, laundry and generally keeping my house running without me. My dad and, later, my sister-in-law came to play with the kiddos. And my friends and neighbors kept us all fed. It's truly an amazing gift to know you are so loved that someone will take time in their day to roast chicken for you, bake cookies or cook a casserole. Odds are that most of us know someone or will know someone who needs a few meals or treats delivered to them. I've written about the power of cooking for others here and here, but in an era where we feel connected to people a gazillion miles away through Facebook and email, I welcome the reminder that nothing replaces family in your home and friendly neighbors at the ready.

Because I'm always looking for good ideas for meals to deliver to friends, I thought I'd offer up a list of a few I received. Offering a meal that can go straight to the freezer is another good idea. And if you don't have the time or desire to cook, a gift certificate to a local pizza joint or another restaurant with take out or delivery service is a way to help without cooking.

Here are a few of the meals and food gifts we received, and all of these are meal ideas I'll keep in my rotation to send to friends!
  • Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna
  • Roasted Chicken Thighs and Veggies
  • Homemade Mac 'n' Cheese
  • Chicken Curry and Basmati Rice
  • Minestrone Soup and Beer Bread
  • Quiche and Green Salad
  • Jars of Homemade Red Sauce and uncooked Spaghetti noodles
  • Chicken Enchiladas, prepared and ready for the oven
  • Spanakopita
  • Black Bean Hand Pies, unbaked and ready for the oven or freezer
  • Grilled Chicken and Asparagus Couscous
  • Tamale Casserole
  • Borscht, frozen in individual portions for a quick meal later
  • Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
If you're looking for a great way to coordinate meal delivery for a friend, the web site Take Them a Meal is very helpful for scheduling.