Mourning the loss of friends…
I found out that a friend I met while working at the Home Depot nearly 18 years ago, has passed away.
This followed by a rash of news that flooded my inbox regarding other former co-workers that have passed away within the last year.
I am a bit heartbroken.
Although I have not been in contact with these individuals in recent months, I have always felt a special kindred relationship with them because we shared a time together, years ago when we were younger, before families, and before the responsibilities of middle-aged adults were realized.
We could be youthful in the things we shared. We would work together, socialize together, spend Superbowls together, and root each other on during our early careers.
Some have moved on to other jobs or to raise families, or to write a blog, but we all share a special bond.
I have spent the afternoon reminiscing with those friends via Instant Messaging. It has made me feel better.
Although I married the most wonderful man, that I met at that exact same workplace, I miss those wonderful people I met during my young adult life.
Sympathize With Comfort Food
So, how do I relay this back to food, during this somber time?
Research has shown, that during times of isolation, widowed, or sadness, we crave comfort food.
It reminds us of social times which makes us feel much less desperate and lonesome.
“Comfort food seems to be something people associate very significantly with close relationships,” says Jordan Troisi, an assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee, Tennessee, University of the South.
Comfort food makes us feel as if we belong.
The smell of a particular food we enjoy becomes equated with social events we share with our family, friends and loved ones.
As a result, nostalgia often centers around personal events involving people we care about, therefore, we see the evocation of nostalgia as one way people can obtain a sense of belonging even when the people they are close to are not close by.
When a friend, or loved one is gone, we feel isolation, solitude; the comfort food brings us back to a sense of belonging, family and togetherness.
Could this be why it is tradition to bring “the gift of food,” to a funeral home, or the family’s home?
We cannot take away the sorrow, but we can provide food to make things a little easier on the family during their time of intense sadness.
Tips for the Gift of Comfort Food
Frozen items are ideal – the recipient can put away for later, when she has fewer visitors. She can eat when she is trying to get back to work, or just having a bad day.
The easier the better – casseroles are perfect, they are easy, frozen and comforting. Try to proportion it according to the recipient’s needs.
Breakfast Foods are thoughtful – quick breads or muffins are great for the bereaved family to have on hand when people stop by. Some are frozen.
Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins
- 4 eggs
- 2 Cups sugar
- 2 Cups room temperature mashed sweet potatoes
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 pkg. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350º degrees.
- Peel, wash and cut sweet potatoes into diced shapes. Place sweet potatoes in a food processor and pulse 10-15 times, till potatoes resemble mashed potato consistency.
- Beat eggs, sugar, sweet potatoes and oil in a large bowl until smooth.
- In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients together.
- Gradually add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients, stirring after adding a little at a time. Stir all ingredients together till thoroughly combined.
- Fold in chocolate chips.
- Fill a muffin or cupcake tin with paper lined cups.
- Fill each cup 3/4 full.
- Bake 16-20 minutes.
- Makes 3-4 dozen muffins, depending on the size of muffins you chose.
Bell Pepper Meat Boats
- ½ lb ground pork
- ½ lb ground chuck
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 small onion chopped fine
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
- 2 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
- ½ teaspoon ground thyme
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground oregano
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ stack of crushed saltines
- FOR THE SAUCE:
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- Prepare bell peppers, by cutting them lengthwise, top to bottom to make two even halves.
- Clean out the seeds, stems and veins without breaking the skin of the peppers.
- Set on a sheet pan with cut edges upwards.
- Mix together:
- Pork, ground chuck, eggs, brown sugar, onion, ketchup, mustard, Worchestershire Sauce, and spices, in a large bowl.
- Mix all of the above very well in a large bowl.
- After mixed very well
- add ½ stack of crushed saltines
- Heat oven to 350º
- Place nonstick foil on a sheet pan.
- Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out large mounds of the meat mixture and place on the sheet pan.
- Cook the meat for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make up sauce in a small measuring cup
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- Using a fork, mix two ingredients together till brown sugar is mostly dissolved.
- Take meat mounds out of the oven.
- Place a mound inside the bell pepper boats.
- The meat mixture should be pliable enough to mold to the pepper.
- Brush each pepper meat mound with the sauce; using all the sauce.
- Place back in the oven for 25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and top with 2 Tablespoons of shredded Monterrey Jack cheese.
A retrievable dish – when dropping off your gift of food, deliver it on a beautiful dish. It provides you with a reason to go back several weeks later, retrieve your dish and spend more time visiting, when things have calmed down a bit.
Bring necessities – consider bringing paper plates, paper towels, disposable flatware or drinks. All of these items are necessary when eating the food and can help alleviate stress for the sorrow-stricken family.
Never worry about if you are taking something the grieving family might already have, or if they will have too much food. It is not about whether or not they will even eat the food, but seeing how many support them during a difficult time.
What are some of your favorite comfort foods?
I wrote this article in memory of my friends…Eric Johnson, Bill Parris, James Fox, Daryl Matheny.