On kindness and casseroles

Hubbs always tells me I give too much away. And he’s probably right.

I do. I can’t help it, that’s how I was raised, it’s what was modeled for me from my earliest days.

When someone’s hurting, you help. When someone’s sick, you help. When someone’s struggling, you help.

The thing is, he loved that quality about me, when we met.

Nowadays, I am not so sure.

Yes, he’ll take the accolades that come our way when I do what I do … for others.  But I think that, sometimes, he wonders what’s left in there for him. He has a point, and I get what he saying:   Save some of you …  for me.

But the thing is, it’s not that complicated, convoluted, or otherwise.

It’s actually very simple:

I do what I do because that’s how I cope.

That’s how I cope when I get the news that someone I love is dying, when someone I love is trying to survive divorce, when someone I love needs a reminder that there’s still good in the world. That there are still people who will do for others … if they can.

Cooking up something comforting and lovely allows me to do something when circumstances dictate there’s nothing that can be done.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not unfeeling.

He’s just never cooked a casserole. 🙂

He’s never experienced another telling him how much they enjoyed what his hands created.  How wonderful it was to have home-made loveliness to wake up to. How nice it was to not worry about cooking a meal.

He’s never had someone tell him how they tucked away the last piece of cheese ball to savor late at night after the chemo and through the tears when they could nibble and cry without someone there watching them.

He’s never seen the smiles Heath Bar brownies can bring to a new mother smiling through gritted teeth as a new baby wails in the background.

He’s never known it. Never done it.  How could he know?

I can’t blame him,  because if you’ve never done it, you couldn’t  possibly know that all casseroles call for one  readily-available ingredient:  kindness.

# # #

chicken spaghetti;

I made 2 pans of chicken spaghetti last night .. recipe on my blog 🙂

How do you cope when people you love are hurting? Do you cook, clean, putter in the workshop, drink, smoke, walk, what?

Categories: Faith, Family, Food, Home, Life, Men, Personal, Recipes, Thoughts, Traditions, Uncategorized, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

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36 thoughts on “On kindness and casseroles

  1. Great question. I will call/e-mail/text them just to let them know they were on my heart..and when it works out, I will hang out with them..not do a lot of talking, but if they start talking, I am great with asking open ended questions and listening. A few years back we found ourselves in the funeral home receiving line, 3 times within a matter of just a month or so..(my grandma, my wife’s dad and a third person I can’t remember) Anyway, what meant the most to me was when some friends came and just hung out @ the funeral home..I just remember them sitting on a couch, didn’t feel the pressure to talk or entertain…just their presence meant so much. so that memory fuels my motivation when I’m @ a loss for how to reach out…

    • I think you have some great thoughts on the topic — just being there and not saying much can say A LOT!

      when I’m stressed I like to walk, be alone, think, etc. When I get it back together I turn up the tunes and cook 🙂


  2. I wrote a short story called “Casserole Platelets” based on the idea that a wound to someone in our community is like a wound to the body, and people with food and casseroles rush to the wound site to help with the healing just like platelets and white blood cells rush to a physical wound. It’s true, and casseroles – and the people carrying them – do help.

    • What a perfect analogy!

    • What a great analogy 🙂 MJ

      PS I didn’t really get it till my Dad died. I’d arrived home, late at night, and the next morning watched a sea of grey haired ladies come to the house, single file, with pots and pots of food. Pies. Casseroles. Lasagna. Fresh Bread. A baked chicken. Coffee & paper products. A case of beer. Money. More pies.

      I didn’t think I’d want to eat, we were so grief-struck, but some of those middle-of-the-night moments over pie and casseroles remain my fondest memories from that sad, sad time.


  3. I still have your “Salsa” recipe that can feed an army. You are generous when you bring out the vault. I thank you and my family thanks you for that one.

    • Oh you are very welcome, that Salsa recipe is a good one, and I am just making another round of it tomorrow .. this time, for me!


  4. MJ, I’m also a feeder. I attended a writer’s WordShop last night and one of the women wants to write a cook book. She said many times “we love with food”. So true for many of us. I also try to listen to others that are going through problems. Many people are uncomfortable listening. I learn so much when I do.

    • I can tell you are a great listener, Sandi. I think we learn so much more from listening than from talking. Sometimes I am a nervous talker, though, and have to tell myself to shut it!
      🙂 MJ

  5. Having just gotten some bad news over the weekend, my first impulse is to hug and hang on for life. (Note to self–check stalker laws) I don’t know if I do it to soothe them or me. Maybe both. My mother was the consummate casserole cooker. Actually she usually delivered strudel rather than a casserole. Most of my friends are on stupid diets that interfere with my need to feed them but I do let them talk and try not to give any advice. Sometimes I long for the good old days when a good chocolate cake was used instead of Prozac.

    • I think it probably soothes you and them equally. Isn’t that the truth about the stupid diets?
      Funny thing is that I took 3 lbs of home-made chicken salad to a friend last Sunday, and both she and her husband have commented on “it’s not on the diet but man we are LOVING it!” She’s battling cancer, and the news isn’t at all positive. We sat together, laughed, cried, drank a beer and told old stories. What else can you do?

      I agree, cake (or pie) beats Prozac!

  6. II’m pretty sure you add another important ingredient, MJ: love.
    Since my cooking skills aren’t the best, I usually send a handmade card…and visit or make a phone call.
    I’m sure your friends are so blessed to have you in their corner.

    • I think whatever someone can do to cope – and to comfort — is all done out of love. I’d love one of your handmade cards!

      Thanks for your kind words, you are always so lovely, and I appreciate that.

  7. And that casserole looks so amazingly delicious! I was lucky to have a wonderful neighbor bring me a bunch of goodies the other week, when I first broke my foot. She make me soup, and added a carton of fresh eggs from her chickens, some honey, and rose tea. I need to write her a proper thank you note! And yes, when there is nothing you can do to help, a casserole is perfect.

    • I will tell you this (and I am not really a casserole lover), that one is great. It’s warm and creamy, cheesy and delicious. It’s soul-filling.

      That is a good friend who brought you what you did – yum!

      Hope the healing is coming along .. MJ

  8. I understand exactly where you’re coming from. It has never been easy for me to verbally express my love and appreciation, my sympathy and sadness, and so I do what I’ve always done–I cook, which seems to comfort me as much as the receiver. Nice post.

    • Yep, I stumble through the worlds and try to choke them out. They come out better if I’m armed with a box of food.

  9. Depending on the situation I might show up at the funeral home, unexpected, and just be with the person. Other times it’ll be a gift card to a restaurant or ice cream parlor. Other times it’ll be one of my “top ten lists” specifically for that person that will make them laugh (it’s a very selective process). In a nutshell…let ’em know that I care. I also pray and workout.

    • All great ideas, thank you, RR. As you know .. just showing up is HUGE for people who are stressed, sick, or mourning.

      And prayers are always good 🙂

  10. I’m the same way. I give a lot to others, especially emotionally, when I should take more care of myself sometimes. Oh well, it’s in our nature. By the way, I love that chicken spaghetti recipe!

    • Leah, we are kindred spirits in that respect! Hubbs always says I give it away, and he’s right. But I have learned to be more discerning with who is benefiting from it. That recipe is the bomb~! MJ

  11. What a dear friend you are, MJ! I make handmade cards, hospital visits, whatever. Sometimes I get the feeling my hubby feels slighted, too.

    • I love that you can make handmade cards, what a creative way of expressing yourself. And I can see why they feel slighted but he’s had to learn its not ALWAYS about him 🙂

  12. “Distaste roles” is what a character in a book I’ve forgotten called them. Perfect!

  13. I always admired people like you who are quick to offer a gesture of kindness and love. I know that for those who are hurting, no matter what the kindness, it’s comforting just to know that someone is thinking of them.

    • It’s what was modeled for me, hands down. Mom and my Grandma + all the Aunties were all that way — and you’re right, no matter what the gesture, THE gesture is what matters. It also helps me cope. It’s much more productive to use my hands to make something than to just sit there and wring them raw!
      Thanks Terri 🙂 MJ

  14. Very lovely of you to cook for those who are hurting. My mom made great chocolate pies. I have to resort to cards, calls and being there if needed.

  15. If you are taking casseroles to friends and neighbors, I think you must have a southerner’s heart. We often joke that we have a ‘casserole cure’ for whatever ails you. A church ladies casserole recipe is five cans of whatever is in the pantry with enough velveeta cheese to hold it together. I’m not surprised at your kindness. It shows through your words even when we can’t belly up to your table.

    • 5 cans of whatever & velveeta? Yep – I’m in. I think us Midwestern gals could be southerner’s in that same way — a Church Ladies Casserole can be a dream or a disaster, but the heart of the Church Lady is always right there in the mix. I wish you could belly up to my table, Renee. Wouldn’t that be fun?

  16. Yum, this is one of my favorite comfort food dishes. And yes, I’ve done a lot of these (or other recipes) over the years. I understand what you’re talking about. Funny, I get some of the same comments from my husband. Sometimes I’m not sure if sharing food comforts others or comforts me. Maybe both. Maybe it’s just good all round! ~ Sheila

    • I think you’re right, it’s just “good all around!”

      Funny that you get some of the same comments … hmm!

  17. You are so sweet and kind MJ….I do understand as I was raised that way too…it is a lost art these days as life seems too hurried and people have lost touch with their communities and neighbors. I know what you mean as when we grow up in the country, we learn more about those close relationships…the importance of our presence and making dinner for someone we love and care about is part of who we are. We just do that kind of thing as our Mom’s did and do and so did our Grandmothers…it is a heritage and passed on to us…and from what I have seen over the years of living yet in the country where I grew up, life has even changed out here as the younger generation does not know how to do this…it is too much work and they are too busy…but the older ones like me and you still know that even if we are busy we do this…we reach out and help:) Its the country girl way and a simple part of our humanity…of who we are:) I love your blog and how you share your heart…God Bless You:) Hugs:)

    • You are right, it is a simple part of our humanity. It’s how we show our love, our despair, our need to help. I also agree that there are some in the younger generation who don’t know (want?) to do this. There are others who surprise me, like oldest son, who cooked for friends not long ago. I couldn’t have been prouder of him!

      Bests to you, HRCG, and thanks for “getting me.”


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