Recently, a friend who had a stroke was flown to San Francisco for intensive care. His wife and children, all from out of town, rushed to the hospital to be at his bedside. Since he was in the ICU, only a limited number of people could visit.
In wondering how to show support, I decided to bake up a batch of brownies to take to the hospital for the family. It was a small thing, but I thought something home-baked might provide a measure of comfort.
It seemed to be so appreciated by the family that the next day, I pondered what else I could do. Since there were young grandchildren involved, continuing to bake more sweets didn’t seem like such a good idea. It was Saturday, so Steve and I went to the farmers’ market, where we picked out white peaches, nectarines, crisp champagne grapes and the sweetest organic strawberries. I lined a shallow Costco box with parchment and filled it with pre-washed fruits for Steve to take to the hospital, along with a paring knife and napkins.
The next day, I made a blueberry and apple cobbler baked in a disposable foil pan. The following day, I planned to send cut-up roast chicken, rice balls and cherry tomatoes – plain and simple finger food that I hoped would appeal to a Japanese-American family. Our friend died before I had a chance to make it.
We all talk about comfort food – how we crave it, how it makes us feel better when we are disappointed, hurt, stressed, frustrated or sad. After September 11, the sales of packaged comfort foods skyrocketed, as Americans tried to make sense out of the monumental tragedy, to grieve for the victims and to quell the sense of vulnerability they felt themselves.
There are communities where friends and neighbors bring a casserole to a grieving family. And I’ve heard that the Red Cross, immediately upon arriving at the scene of a disaster, provides sandwiches for the victims as an immediate expression of tangible support before providing other assistance.
But the idea of my making food to comfort the family of someone in the hospital had never occurred to me before. And had our friend not been in the ICU, with limited visitation access, I might still not have considered it.
In and of itself, something “homemade” is comfort food. The family was easily getting meals and snacks from the extensive food court at the hospital and surrounding neighborhood eateries. But there is something different about what is made at home. It is a personal connection from the giver to the recipient. It’s a way to express love through nourishment.
We’re all so busy that takeout and premade supermarket meals are part of almost everyone’s mealtime repertoire. But when it counts, think about what truly is comfort food – it’s food, no matter how simple, that you make yourself.
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