Friday, January 28, 2011

Paying it forward, casserole style

We all know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what happens when you miss an apple?
The answer: casseroles.
They say that time heals all wounds, but what gets you through before time comes?
You guessed it: casseroles.
The word “casserole” according to Web sources is derived from the Old French word “casse” and the Latin word “cattia,” both referring to a frying pan or sauce pan. We know it as a one-pot meal, baked in none other than a casserole dish, a name that surely had great influence on what we call the food inside.
However, I beg to disagree. I’m pretty sure it comes from an Old French word “casse” meaning “make you” and “role” meaning “feel better.” Because there has never been so much love and usually cheese in one portable baking dish. The best part about it is that the casserole delivers love not only to those who eat it, but also to the ones who make and deliver it. I now know this to be true.
I admit spending the majority of my life living in a place where the sharing of meals was not an ordinary thing. I cannot remember a single time in my childhood that someone actually made a dinner, packaged it up, and delivered it to my family. Even in the worst of circumstances, my mother was a pro at digging through the freezer and whipping up a four course meal, or at the very least a Steak-Um sandwich. So you could imagine my surprise when I became an adult and moved into a new community and suddenly, so suddenly, there was food!
Real food. Hot food. Food delivered right to my door in my hour of need! When my children were born, there was food. When my family moved, there was food. When I recently endured the super jolly good time that is an adult tonsillectomy, there was food. Lots of food. Friends came from everywhere delivering meals for my family (and popsicles for me) while I lay in bed with my neck and face covered in ice packs. (It’s hard to cook covered in ice packs, or at least I’m assuming that because I didn’t have the energy to get up and try.)
My family dined on fabulous foods, including more than just casseroles, all handmade by my dear friends who stepped in for me. They filled my fridge with their specialties and filled my heart with joy.
I couldn’t have been happier.
But I have figured out exactly why they did it. I think it’s a gut instinct that truly good people have, to take care of the ones they care about. And what better way than to do it through the gift of a full belly? For every pot of chicken soup I’ve made for a sickly husband or every glass of ginger ale I’ve poured for an ailing child, I know precisely what was going through their heads when they were stirring and baking and packaging.
It all just makes me want to rush out and stock up on aluminum baking dishes and gather up a few good casserole recipes because sooner or later, I want to pay back and pay forward the gift of a warm meal upon a friend’s table.
Said author Norman Kolpas, “Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort.”
Said author Karrie McAllister, ”Show me a good friend, and I’ll show you a person who rings your doorbell with her nose because her arms are holding a 9x13 dish of chicken and rice and plate of chocolate chip cookies balanced on her head.”
Thanks, Friends.

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