Casserole is the key, says noted author

Another droplet of wisdom from The South

I have been watching “A Chef’s Life,” which I highly recommend. It’s a show about a woman who was sure she would leave where she grew up – eastern North Carolina, where her father had a pig farm, and never return. She went to New York and became a chef. When she and her husband, also in the restaurant business, wanted to open their own restaurant, her parents said they would help her, but only if she moved back home.

It’s a show about food and family and being a fish out of water only you know the water and maybe the water wasn’t that bad, now that you think about it.

Yesterday, I watched an episode about casseroles. Sheri Castle was the guest. She has written a cookbook called, The Southern Living community cookbook : celebrating food & fellowship in the American south, and she described casseroles thusly:

The purpose of a casserole is to feed the hungry and comfort the heartbroken.

Which means it would be the perfect companion piece to the cookbook my friend Kim sent me: The Southern Sympathy Cookbook, which has recipes for funerals. They are also appropriate for new babies.

About funeral foods. And new baby foods. You guys do that, right? If a friend is sick or suffers a loss or, happier, has a baby, you cook food for her. You do that, right?

(It goes without saying that you write a condolence note when someone dies. You write it by hand on a notecard and address an envelope and put it in the mail.

You do not, as one funeral home suggested when I called to ask if they would forward a note to a friend whose 42 year old husband had died of a heart attack overnight while he was sleeping next to her and I didn’t have her mailing address and didn’t want to bother her with such a request at such a time, just write something on the online obituary page. Right? You don’t do that?

Because – and I can say this because I know I am among friends, THAT WOULD BE TACKY.)

Anyhow. Back to baby food. My co-worker – let’s call her Clara – had a baby two weeks ago. The day after the baby was born, our boss asked me if I had organized any kind of meal train because he wanted to know when he could take something to her.

(Our boss is a lovely human being.)

I asked Clara’s best work friend, Suze, if Suze was organizing anything, and Suze told me that when she had a baby, her job sent her flowers.

Which I thought was nice but – not as useful as food.

So I ignored Suze’s advice and spent the week cooking and yesterday, I took food to Clara and her husband.

Clara has Very Strong Boundaries, which is fine, and is not a hugger, which is also fine. But when I was leaving, she said, “Give me a hug!”


And she smiled and she hugged me so I think food instead of flowers was The Right Thing To Do.

(That is not a casserole above – that is a chocolate cake I made. I couldn’t find a casserole photo. (And they tend not to photograph so well, right?))



One thought on “Casserole is the key, says noted author

  1. My office actually uses the website “Meal Train” to help organize meals for new parents! (often started by friends/family, but it’s an easy way for co-workers to participate as well). Great way to contribute. (also, when I lived in Salt Lake City, I learned about funeral potatoes. Though it should mean they’ll put you in the grave from all the butter, cheese & cream, it’s really just a fancy potato casserole people bring to funerals. And potlucks 🙂


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