There’s lots of love in a casserole

February 16, 2019


All the ingredients for a pan full of love.

We consider taking food to people the equivalent of a Southern culinary hug. Because we tote food around so much, we learned to recycle before it was trendy by saving big jars, plastic whipped cream bowls and disposable metal pans because we knew they were the perfect way to transport goodies without making the recipient wash and return grandmother’s Pink Daisy Pyrex. 

I like to give homemade soup and if I really love you, I’ll bake you a pineapple upside down cake in my grandmother’s big cast iron skillet. The recipe has extra butter and I add little cherries inside the pineapple rings to make it look like Betty Crocker herself whipped it up. 

We know how to cook the food, package the food and deliver the food, but rarely are we instructed on how to receive the food. 

Of course, we know to send a thank you note. Even on our deathbed, we drag out our stationery, and scribble how much we appreciate the food, because after all, it isn’t really a mushroom and pork casserole they delivered, but is instead a mixture of cheer, kindness, thoughtfulness and love, sprinkled with cheese and mixed with a can of cream-of-yuck soup. We don’t care how it tastes. Someone thought of us and we were loved. What more could we want in life?

At least that’s the way it should be. 

My darling cousin Rosie Belle ran through a storm to buy fresh tortillas to add to her famous King Ranch Casserole. She thinks it’s an exotic authentic Mexican recipe, and along with Mrs. Crowder’s Asian slaw, it’s always the featured dish during the World Missions Month dinner in the Fellowship Hall. Of course, like any good Southern woman, she already had all the other ingredients on hand – canned soup, homegrown peppers, frozen chicken and a can of Ro*Tel, which is very fancy and foreign because it has a “*” in the name. 

After she’d thawed the chicken and preheated the oven, the phone rang and it was the wife of the man, who had just had surgery. Rosie Belle’s heart broke for them and she knew the wife would be so distraught and busy caring for her husband she’d appreciate a good hot supper. But instead, the wife was calling to say, “I just wanted to let you know we don’t want anything with chicken in it.” “Oh dear, I didn’t know you had a poultry allergy.” my cousin said. “No, we’re just tired of people bringing us chicken” said the ungrateful woman. 

“Honey, if I’m ever laid-up, you can bring me chicken cooked 400 different ways and I’ll eat it” sputtered Rosie Belle. My flustered cousin said she went ahead and made a double recipe of the casserole and served half to her family and carried the rest over to the new family in the neighborhood as a little “welcome to town” gift. The convalescing man and his wife received delicious sandwiches from Subway. 

Poking past the wilted celery to find thoughtfulness and looking past the overdone edges to find care, ignoring the broccoli smell that makes you gag and instead, smelling the aroma of the beautiful effort someone took to bring you a meal is the only way to receive the Southern gift of food. You can enjoy a stomach full of food and a heart full of love, or otherwise, you’ll get a big bag of friendly sandwiches. 

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