So this first tip is loosely related to something every single one of us already knows, even if we casually ignore it.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been guilty of trying out a new recipe for company, as the person typing these words *raises every available appendage and sheepishly grins*.
Why oh why do we disregard the Cooking 101 Cardinal Rule that says to try out new recipes *before* you serve them to people outside your immediate family?
That brings me to the number one tip/request if you are making or baking anything “homemade” to deliver to a friend as a way to bless them during a rough season.
Please oh please taste it first.
One of the many meals we were so grateful to receive came with an aluminum foil sheet pan of brownies, and boy was the Boy Child eager to get his little paws into them.
After those who delivered it left, he looked up at me hopefully, eyes all Puss in Boots a la Antonio Banderas from Shrek and I was like, “What the hay. We’re in a whackadoodle season of life already. Is there ever going to be a better time than this to eat dessert first?”
So I gave him the nod, and with a hearty “Yea-heh!” he dug in, grabbing a perfect looking corner piece (if you don’t understand the glorious combination of crispy edges with chewy centers I cannot relate to you).
I then turned to attend to the main entree and sides, removing food covers and plunging serving utensils into the various dishes littered across our island.
*Various gag noises ensue with a mad dash to the kitchen trash bin.*
“Mommmmmm. Throw them out. I’m serious. Throw them out now.“
These words from the child who follows his doughnuts with a chocolate milk chaser.
It was then that I remembered the mom saying something about how her daughter and a friend had baked the brownies. Did they leave out the sugar? Or lace it with something a la Shaggy from Scooby Doo? Unlikely but I’d be lying to say the thought didn’t cross my mind.
How on earth do you screw up a brownie recipe?!
Anywho, word to the would-be thoughtful, bearing homemade baked goods or any homemade dish. Please do the old fashioned and very compassionate taste test first.
Secondly, whether you’re bringing something made with love from your own kitchen or somebody else’s, please make sure the recipient actually has room for it.
One day (maybe/hopefully), I’ll have a deep freeze and/or at least a second fridge (or a better one than what we bought in desperation when we first moved here and couldn’t take another day eating out, so brought home the only option our local Best Buy had in stock). But for now, I don’t have any of these things, and cramming lots of unexpected food into the fridge we have is akin to playing Tetris at Level 20.
Inevitably many somethings will be wasted, and then I’m stressed because I have to:
a.) throw it out and
b.) lie to you about it in the thank you note I will eventually write (eventually).
Doing away with the expected “thank you note” is another blog topic for another day. Can we please let go of that implied, silent expectation when someone is sick or nursing a life tragedy? Like writing a thank you note should be anywhere near their top priorities.
Two other “nice to knows” I’ll share on the “take them a meal” note.
My precious friend Jennifer gave me not only the gift of a home cooked meal, but also the normalcy of hanging out with a girlfriend. This rock star literally crossed the metroplex, making an hour’s drive to come spend an hour or so with me while she prepared the best dad gum chicken dish I’ve ever tasted, Chicken Spiedini. Apparently it’s quite the go-to dish in her hometown of St. Louis. My persnickety family scarfed it down in seconds and thirds, and it’s now part of our regular supper rotation.
Doing something like this depends on the type of relationship you have with the person. We are close enough that it was completely natural for her to show up and make herself at home in my kitchen, dicing, prepping, and loading up the baking sheet before popping this deliciousness in my oven. And her brownies (scratch made) were the stuff of chewy chocolate Heaven.
That example bears mention here because fellowship is so important. People tend to keep their distance, for all sorts of easy to understand reasons. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt though, and she gave me so much normal that I badly needed at the time. I will always remember that, and plan to pay it forward as I have the chance to with others in my circle.
The last little “nice to know” is this (and it relates to ways you can care for a friend going through cancer). I wish someone had thought to ask us what some of our favorite family recipes are, and then offer to make them for us.
Your digestion habits get used to whatever you normally eat, and days upon end of other people’s cooking can really mess with that. Plus, there is a reason the term “comfort food” exists. When I was too sick to make any of our family’s favorites, it would have been such a blessing and a much needed sliver of normal to have someone make them for my people.
I’ve since offered to do that for others, and will continue to, because I know how much it would have meant to me.