The text message flashed up on the screen and took my breath away.
My precious friend, a mom of two little girls about the same age as my kids, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
First, I hit my knees. I pleaded with God to flood her body with healing and for the peace that passes understanding to flood their house.
Then, I hit the kitchen. Hands flying, pots and pans clattering. Chopping, stirring, sauteeing on pure instinct. I felt powerless to help her, but people have to eat, and food is something I could do for her family.
It’s a rhythm I learned from my mom: when the going gets tough, we get to cooking.
Growing up, I used to assume that everyone thought their mom was the best cook ever. It turns out; everyone actually thought my mom was the best cook ever.
Her food is detailed and delicious, but not fussy. Her table is always beautiful, but unpretentious. She is pure hospitality, making you feel warm and welcome. You leave her home so much more full than when you walked in—both in spirit and in stomach. I have yet to see anyone better than my mom at taking her special brand of gracious hospitality, warmth, and comfort to the people in her life who are experiencing a moment of need.
Over the years she has perfected and streamlined her methods, so she doesn’t even need much notice to get food to people. Someone can share their news with her, bad or good, and she can turn around and bless them with a meal in a matter of hours.
In those first moments, when the world has turned upside down, but people still need to eat, my mom slips in quietly, the hands and feet of Jesus, feeding His sheep with home cooking and grace.
She has passed on some of her tricks to me and, while I’ve nowhere near achieved her Maestro of Meal Delivery status, I have managed to get from bad news text message to delivered meal in a matter of hours a few times. Here are a few of the best practices I’ve gleaned from my mom that allow for the quick and easy sharing of meals with people in their moment of need:
Have a go-to recipe. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, I just pick something for which I generally have the ingredients on hand and that I’m confident fixing. Bonus points if it will freeze and reheat easily, just in case they don’t get to eat it right away. My mom frequently makes something called “Drunk Chicken” that has six ingredients: Chicken, onion, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, white wine, and rice. I’ll often make my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce which calls for ground beef, onion, and canned everything else.
Pro tip: When possible, ask about dietary preferences and restrictions. Burritos are a fairly easy thing to modify for various dietary needs; tortillas can be gluten free, dairy can be omitted, beans can be substituted for meat, etc.
Freeze some baked goods ahead of time. My mom will freeze batches of brownies, lemon bars, or cherry cheesecake bars and when she decides she’s taking dinner to someone, she will pull them out of the freezer as she begins cooking. By the time the food is delivered and eaten, the dessert has thawed. She will do the same with rolls and bread. (We both have bread machines, can I get an Amen?) This allows her to send the coziness of home-baked goodies without having to worry about the actual baking in the “heat of the moment.”
Pro tip: Each time you bake brownies or cookies, bake a double batch and freeze one batch. You’ll have a stash going before you know it.
Send disposable everything. We are Oregonians and, as such, “reduce, reuse, recycle” is woven into our very DNA. However, when we take a meal to someone in crisis, the last thing we want them worrying about is returning containers to us and washing dishes. We both keep a supply on hand of tin foil pans such as these, along with plastic utensils, paper napkins (colored ones from the dollar store are one of my mom’s special touches), disposable plastic food storage containers, various sizes of Ziploc bags, etc.
Pro tip: My mom collects flat boxes, like the ones they sometimes have at Costco or Sam’s Club, to transport all of the food for delivery.
Deliver with serving and reheating instructions—and grace. Sometimes people are chomping at the bit for a meal right when it’s delivered, but life is happening in a big way for the recipients of the meal, and it may not get eaten right away. We always include a note that tells them all of what is there, how to serve it, labels for each piece, and adds, “This can be refrigerated or frozen if it doesn’t get eaten right away, here are reheating instructions.”
Pro tip: Sometimes, just dropping the meal on the doorstep and sending a quick text to let them know it’s been left is the most considerate way to go, particularly in a moment of crisis.
Simple sides are the way to go. Frozen corn, bagged salad from the grocery store, cut up melon, veggies, and dip—whatever you’ve got on hand or can pick up quickly is fine. Grabbing a loaf of french bread from the grocery store bakery on the way to drop off the meal is a good idea as well—remember, this isn’t Top Chef, nobody is assessing your cooking, and quick and easy is the goal when time is of the essence.
Pro tip: Crockpot beans or potato casserole are things that can be made ahead and frozen in single meal-sized portions to have on hand and defrosted in time for delivery.
The trademark of my mother’s brand of hospitality, whether in her home or on the go, is that she is out to bless, not impress. It’s never about what others will think of her or her cooking; it’s all about how she can make others feel—warmed, loved, taken care of, and with one less worry on their plate. My dearest hope is that I can approach the hospitality I offer to others with the same attitude of mind and heart, and in doing so, that I can serve up to them an extra helping of grace when it’s needed most.
**Recipes for Families, the newest free e-book from Kindred Mom, is full of meal ideas and practical kitchen wisdom from over 20 moms! Click the image below and subscribe to our mailing list and get your own free copy!
Tori Rask is a writer, wife, and mom living in the Pacific Northwest. She loves Jesus, music, reading, watching sports (but not playing them), drinking Jasmine tea, and connecting with other moms any chance she gets. Tori writes about life, faith, family, and friendship at her blog and is a staff writer and the Community Coordinator for Project Mother. You can connect with Tori on Instagram.