[Photo by Sven Scheuermeier]
“A family in my sister's neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, "Dear God, that family needs grace." She replied firmly, "That family needs casseroles," and proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this IS grace.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
Excuse me whilst I tear up for a moment, because that quote gets me every time. I think about it quite often, because to me it seems like the perfect way to show someone you care. I show my love with food. If you know me in person, I have probably foisted meals or baked goods on you at some point. I'm similarly obsessed with this article (one of the best things I've ever read on the Internet, and something that I return to often); there's no doubt that food is a big part of community, and having rebuilt a community after moving miles away from my childhood home, it strikes me as integral in keeping that community together.
I think it's pretty well documented that having a baby is one of the most stressful and difficult times in someone's life, right? It seems like it's quite a tradition in the States to bring casseroles and snacks for new parents, but not so much in the UK. But we're all guilty of letting meals slide when we're feeling overwhelmed, resorting to microwave options and takeaways more than is probably good for us, so when our close friends, who had similarly moved far away from their own support network, had a baby earlier this year, it made sense to pack their freezer full of meals.
I did my research, having never had a baby of my own before, on what would actually be useful, rather than just cluttering up space. It turns out, there's no hard and fast rules - but if you want to err on the side of caution then stick to meals that are easy to reheat, easy enough to eat with one hand (in case the baby is in the other) and include some sundries (microwave rice packets, par-baked bread etc.) to make things complete and as simple as possible. Then it's just a case of cooking it up, and portioning into freezer bags. Make sure you label the bags with the name of the dish, the date you made it and any special instructions for cooking. You can definitely spread the load, too! Get a whole bunch of you involved and you could cook up a month's worth of meals without much effort at all.
- Spinach & Lentil Curry
- Slow Cooker 3 Bean Chilli
- My Favourite Sausage Casserole
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Lasagne Pasta Bake
What else? I also threw in some pre-cut fresh fruit (good for vitamins and freshness), some nice juice (ditto) and some of my freezer cookies, because everyone needs freshly baked cookies. Oh, and pizzas. Because, obviously.
The other bit of advice I read time and again is to not crowd the new parents. Whilst baby cuddles are definitely one of the purest joys in the world (and I'll admit to sneaking one in when I dropped my parcels of food off...) - make your visit quick, tell your friends that they are heroes and expect to catch up with them for longer at a later date.