There’s lots of love in a casserole

February 16, 2019

14  comments

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. 

  • My girlfriends and I tease our husbands that if we go first, they’ll wind up with the first woman who shows up on the doorstep with a casserole. Otherwise, they will be found starved to death in dirty clothes!

  • Nothing like a good friends and neighbors and church members being there when you are in need. Or, celebrating a wonderful occasion like the birth of a child. You always leave me with good feeling reading your stories Leslie Anne. That piece of cake looks delicious by the way!

    • I need to do a story about that cake. It’s one my grandmother made but I’ve found a company that makes them now. I’m missing half of the recipe, so I buy them. Good point about the celebrations!

  • Love this!

    My second child was born in a state that is not in the South (bless her heart, we moved back home as soon as we could!), and only one person brought us dinner. We were active members of a church, volunteered at the local elementary and had an older child in youth soccer.; we knew lots of folks. But, it just wasn’t the custom there to take a meal and help out a new Mom. And by the way, Ro*Tel cost twice as much in this not Southern place; it was considered an imported food!

    Now after my husband died, we had food brought in for weeks! Most of it very good and all of it properly received and thank you notes written. However, my kids won’t ever eat chicken spaghetti again, because we ate so very much of it during those days following the funeral!

    • Chicken spaghetti is one of my favorites. I’m sure your children never let on they were full of it! Isn’t it strange how customs vary from region to region? I think thats what keeps America flavorful and interesting. I’m glad we aren’t all alike. But I’m glad I live here!

  • PERFECT description of how we are taught to do things in the south…and how to appreciate all the thoughts behind those kind actions. And things with cream of yuck soup in it!!! Thanks for the chuckles!

  • My husband and I were so blessed to be the recipient of a Meal Train when I broke my dang arm and leg during the eclipse. Because I couldn’t walk for 4 months, we literally would have starved without those kind souls. Chicken in any form was gratefully welcomed! It was very humbling to me that people were willing to take time out of their own lives to cook, visit, and pray for me. And even though every single person said “do not send me a thank you”, I did write because I could feel Mama looking down on me and saying “that is not how I raised you”. Casseroles…Another one of the many reasons I’m proud to be a Southerner.

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