SALT LAKE CITY — I've always gotten a great deal of satisfaction from having a bunch of casseroles in my freezer.
I attribute this to my Latter-day Saint heritage. I spring from a culture of capable women who know the value of a homemade meal, made ahead and ready to bake on a night when the children are behaving like rodeo clowns and mom's sanity has gone walkabout.
A casserole isn't haute cuisine. It's wonderfully lowbrow, and usually contains lots of cheese. It's the quintessential comfort food, which is exactly why it does the trick when life takes a trip down the toilet.
I'll often double certain recipes when I cook because they freeze beautifully. I mean it, they are so lovely. Look up gorgeous in Merriam-Webster and you'll see pics of my red pepper chicken enchiladas and my Bolognese pasta sauce, lying in cool repose in the deep freeze.
They're beautiful not because they are fancy, but because they are ready when we need them. Good, nourishing food in 30 minutes at 350 degrees; covered.
Often we don't know what to say or do when something difficult happens, but we know that everybody needs to eat. The dish in our hands allows us to reach out as we give it to a neighbor, a friend.
I have been brought up and nourished by people who use food as a symbol for empathy and friendship. Often we don't know what to say or do when something difficult happens, but we know that everybody needs to eat. The dish in our hands allows us to reach out as we give it to a neighbor, a friend.
Several years back I spent three solid days with our behavior therapist in the guest bathroom while potty training my special-needs son, then age 5 1/2. It was the most exacting job I've ever attempted, second only to giving birth. By the end of the first day, I actually felt that I might die of weariness. The half-bath off the kitchen was shaping up to be my tomb.
That's when my friend Tobi knocked on the door and handed me a bubbling lasagna.
See what I mean people? Casseroles: dinner brought to you by genuine caring.
Food nourishes in more ways than one. And incidentally, there is more than one way to nourish.
While culturally we are well-versed in the "foodways" of grief and celebration, there is another timeless way of showing support. Sometimes in the midst of a challenge, people just need someone to be with them.
One of my son's early intervention therapists told me about the time she spent in the hospital with her sick little boy before he passed away. She said that during many of those painful, uncertain days while she watched over her son, she wasn't alone. Her aunt would visit and sit with her in the hospital room for hours at a time.
Honestly, at the tenderest times words aren't sufficient to express our feelings anyway. ... There can be solidarity in silence. It's not awkward when there is a palpable sense of love.
She said they really didn't talk. Her aunt was simply there. Her presence was a balm against the solitude.
I like this concept of simply being with someone. It's nice to think that when words are inadequate, we don't need to say anything.
We can just be.
Honestly, at the tenderest times words aren't sufficient to express our feelings anyway. Trying to find the positives in the midst of someone's trial can seem to cheapen a hardship.
There can be solidarity in silence. It's not awkward when there is a palpable sense of love.
Frankly, it's the evidence-based solution to one of my son's meltdowns. We are well-practiced at quietly waiting with him as the sadness and the fury pass.
The adage says that much of success in life is just showing up.
The challenges of parenthood have taught me that when someone in our lives is suffering, it is important to show up. It's also effective to bring a casserole and stay awhile.
Megan Goates is a Westminster College and USU alumnus, a mother, and a blogger at herestooursurvival.blogspot.com.