I love this post by my dear friend Katherine full of wonderful tips for bringing the gift of food to friends in need of a home-cooked meal. Enjoy! – Haley
I’ve been on the receiving end thrice recently: of a lasagna brought by a friend when I was laid low with morning sickness; of a half-dozen hearty Southern meals at my grandfather-in-law’s funeral; of a fill-the-freezer campaign by my parents on their last visit, in preparation for my large and unwieldy autumn.
And it means a lot, I can tell you. The lasagna sustained me through days when I was too sick to my stomach thinking about lunch on my way out the door to work, and gave us a reprieve from Trader Joe’s pre-prepared meals. The community’s generosity at my husband’s grandfather’s funeral gave the family more time to watch old home movies, catch up with one another, and mourn. And my parents’ stockpile, crammed with grilled chicken breasts and meatloaf, reminds me there is never an excuse to eat ice cream for dinner this pregnancy.
Of course, we’ve done the same, mostly for members of our growth group, who produce almost exclusively blond cherubic babies at top speed. Along the way, I’ve experimented and developed some guidelines for gifting friends with meals.
My favorite go-to recipe for these kinds of meals is Love and Olive Oil’s Vegan Refried Bean Soup. Because it’s vegan, it already heads off a lot of eating restrictions, and has served us well with vegetarian families and for kids who can’t have dairy. If the family in question is adventurous, dress it up with whatever vegetables you have in the garden and up the spices (don’t go too overboard on spicy, though, as breastmilk sometimes carries that hotness). Include jars or baggies of fixins. You could even add a little ground sausage or some chicken to up the protein for the new mama. If the timing of delivery is an issue, you can freeze the whole batch of soup before drop-off.
Side dishes can be as easy as a store-bought loaf of bread or a quick batch of cornbread. Also be sure to include some fresh fruits and vegetables, delivery permitting. Once, I even enclosed a beer for the dad and an Izzy soda for the mom, which did not go unappreciated.
Finally, I’m a young cook, and I kind of want to show off; you might, too. After all, people are going to eat your cooking without you being there to defend it or explain your choices, so why not cook something sure to impress? I’d recommend you don’t. A few pointers:
- Stick with simple recipes you know will turn out well and that people will like.
- Flexibility in serving is important. In addition to soup and chili, lasagna is an eternal favorite, since it can easily be frozen, portioned, reheated, etc.
- Emphasize ease-of-disposal in your packaging. I don’t use plastic often to keep my food at home, but when I pack a meal for others, I try to go with recyclable Tupperware, plastic bags and small jars that don’t have to be returned. It’s one less thing for the new parents to have to keep track of in the overwhelming first days with baby.
- MealBaby, a free tool for organizing meal deliveries in one location. Log-in required, but then you can use the same account to manage meals for every pregnant mama and sick or grieving family in your community.
Katherine Bowers blogs about her adventures with an outdoorsy husband and bouncy dog at shouting hallelujah and as a librarian-type at The Cardigan Librarian.
Guest Post today from the lovely Katherine Grimm Bowers! Katherine and her entire extended family of Bowerses and Grimms are favorites in the Stewart household. I begged Katherine, a fellow bookworm and a library studies expertlady, to come up with a little piece for Carrots for Michaelmas and she created something that combines some of my very favorite things: Edwardian Children’s Lit and Dame Maggie Smith. Enjoy! – Haley
I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey, lately, and I also wrote my undergrad thesis on Anne of Green Gables, so early twentieth-century children’s books hold a special place in my heart. And with Lady Violet’s sly children’s lit allusion in Series Two, quipping witheringly, “Edith, you’re a lady, not Toad of Toad Hall!” I feel all the more justified to associate the two in my mind.
The Edwardian era was a short reign that followed on the heels of the long Victorian period, lasting from 1901 to 1910, during the time the Grantham girls would have been growing up. Among children’s literature scholars (oh yes, there is such a thing!), it’s considered the Golden Age of children’s literature. These titles, on the whole, could easily have been on the sisters’ nursery shelves before the Downton Abbey story unfolds in April 1912.
Bernand Shaw claimed that Peter Pan was “really a play for grown-up people; for as you know, when we buy toys for children we take care to select the ones which amuse ourselves.” In this spirit, I offer up a few books for children most likely to amuse ourselves:
- The Wind in the Willows (1908). Well, we know at least Granny Grantham digs it. Another famous fan: C.S. Lewis, who famously turned to it whenever he caught cold. (Bonus: If you’re a fan of Narnia, you’ll definitely see influences.)
- Peter Pan (1902). If you’ve only seen the movie(s), you simply have to give this one a go. I know Haley’s particularly partial to the Jim Dale audio version.
- Anne of Green Gables (1908). A colonial interloper makes the list! OK, so I don’t know if the sisters would have had access to a Canadian novel, but I think we’ll all agree that Sybil’s optimism and idealism make her a total Anne.
- The Secret Garden (1911). Oh, man. I don’t even know if I can explain this. An ancient Yorkshire manor comes alive when impetuous Mary Lennox comes to stay. (I’m thinking we all know another quite contrary Mary, too.)
- The Railway Children (1906). E. Nesbit wrote 40 books for children in the course of the first two decades of the twentieth century. This one is a favorite of mine: a story of three children who live beside a railroad and make various friends while their father is accused of a crime he did not commit.
- Arthur Rackham’s editions of various Victorian classics. Rackham produces really lovely illustrations; the above is from his 1909 edition of the Grimms’ fairy tales.
- The Princess and the Goblin (1872). Earlier than the rest, but exemplifying the return to fairy tales and magic in Edwardian fiction. Another big influence on our main man, Mr. C.S. Lewis.
- A Little Princess (1911). If this book were by anyone but Frances Hodgson Burnett, it would make it on the list, no deliberation needed. Instead, I hesitate, because while I don’t love it like The Secret Garden, it’s completely wonderful in its own right. Virtue rewarded and a dash of magic. Sigh.
- Treasure Island (1882). Let’s not neglect boy books here. Though, like The Princess and the Goblin, another Victorian interloper, the Museum of Childhood assures me that Victorian favorites would have lived on upon the bookshelves of Edwardian children.
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), or anything Beatrix Potter, really. They celebrate the kind of country life Lord Grantham values.
Also, though it falls in roughly this time period, The Wizard of Oz (1900) is the pits. Seriously. Don’t bother.
When not musing on Edwardian children’s lit Katherine Bowers blogs about her adventures with an outdoorsy husband and bouncy dog at shouting hallelujah and as a librarian-type at The Cardigan Librarian.
Coming Up in the Liturgical Year: Candlemas, February 2nd! Get yo’ candles blessed! Check out last year’s Feast.
Listening: Gotye. You can listen to his new album Making Mirrors on NPR First Listen
Quote: “I do not want to be in a religion in which I am allowed to have a crucifix. I feel the same about the much more controversial question of the honor paid to the blessed Virgin. If people do not like that cult, they are quite right not to be Catholics. But in people who are Catholics, or call themselves Catholics, I want the idea not only liked but loved and loved ardently, and above all proudly proclaimed.” – G.K. Chesterton
Links: Bad Catholic: Why Twlight Sucks
Simcha Fisher: To the Mother with Only One Child
My post on Lovelyish about Why Downton Abbey is Better than Mad Men
A Picture Worth Sharing:
This one is going to be the venerable age of THREE in less than two weeks. Seems impossible.
I’m Excited About: Awesome guest post tomorrow by the likes of Katherine Bowers of shouting hallelujah. Get ready!