I realize what is missing in our life during our present health related calamity: casseroles. When I was a child, deep in the swamps of Texas, whenever hard times struck, all the Ladies who knew the unfortunate object would rally round with casseroles. And Jello salads. But mostly casseroles.
During the dreadful, dreadful days after my little brother died, I remember a non-stop stream of pyrex serving dishes and bowls appearing in our kitchen, filled with mysterious gloppy deliciousness. All with the name of the Lady who had prepared them written on a piece of masking tape on the bottom so you’d know whom to return it to.
It’s all too easy to roll my eyes at most of my mother and her suburban sisters shenanigans, but I have to hand it to them, those gals knew how to whip up big tubs of comfort food during times of stress. Usually involving hamburger and noodles and cream-of-something soup, they could pull a family through just about anything and spare the befrazzled mommy from a trip to the store followed by a stint in the kitchen.
All of those women had a series of recipes at their fingertips suitable for sickrooms, trauma and funerals. In fact, I remember most of these dishes being called “funeral food.” And, of course, all of them had a ratings criteria for what emergency called for what dish. There were the standards that were good enough for not too close friends, the better ones a step up for family and people richer than you, and emergency ones that could be pulled together from ingredients at hand in the pantry (cue the Jello/fruit cocktail/Miracle Whip salad.) You know whole reputations were built on someone’s Tomato Fandango Surprise. And pity poor Velma and her universally despised Whole Wheat Mock Stroganoff.
So now when our friends ask us, with suitably solemn faces, “What can we DO for you?” I know they’re sincere, admirably so, and genuinely would run just about any errand or, even better, listen to me bitch and moan until their cell phone battery died, but what I really want is a Frito Tamale Pie. It’s just a shame those gloppy days are gone.