The kindness of strangers

By Mir
January 28, 2007

I had about a million things to get done this weekend, and almost none of them did. How unusual.

I did manage, however, to get to the supermarket this afternoon. I spent most of my time there shaking my fist at the $9 gallon jugs of orange juice and crying heavenward “IT IS NOT ALLOWED TO SNOW IN CALIFORNIA EVER AGAIN.” I love orange juice as much as the next person (though perhaps not as much as Otto, because his relationship to orange juice frankly concerns me a little), but I can buy wine for that kind of money. And then I don’t have to share it with the kids.

The groceries are now half put away (the other half sitting around the kitchen floor, spilling out of bags) and I swear I will get to the rest of them after dinner tomorrow.

The reason I had to get to the store (other than the usual reasons: out of milk, out of bread, hey kids—how about a nice hunk of cheese for lunch?) was that I am cooking dinner for some people tomorrow night.

There’s a gigantic pot of (homemade) chicken soup resting out in my garage, now, and tomorrow I’ll finish it off with some noodles and deliver it to a family in our church. I don’t know them—they’re relatively new to the congregation—but they have small children and the wife had some unexpected (and serious) surgery, and the church is trying to help out.

[I love contributing to this sort of thing, mostly because I can’t think of anything I’d like more, myself, in a time of trouble than for people to show up at my house with food. In lieu of a sack full of cash or a magic wand, food is the universal panacea, so far as I’m concerned.]

I had most of the soup fixings at home, already, but I did my normal grocery shopping for the week and added in what I’d need to make it a suitable meal. A bag of salad. A whole-grain baguette. Some pumpkin cake concoction that was on sale at the bakery. Soup and salad and bread; the ultimate winter comfort meal!

While talking to Otto on the phone tonight, I was telling him about making the soup and why.

Me: It’s one of the things I really like about this church, you know? At my old church… well… I delivered two babies while I was there. No one cooked for us.
Otto: No?
Me: I’m trying to remember, but I don’t think so. This church is really good about this stuff, though.
Otto: That’s good.
Me: Yeah, it really is. This is a great church. And now I’m going to leave it, and have to find another church.
Otto: *laughs* Well, I think you should base it on which church will provide the best food if you have a medical emergency.
Me: Good idea. “Hi, I’m looking for a new church home. Let’s say I have to have brain surgery… what sort of casserole will you bring to my house?”
Otto: Yeah.
Me: I think we’re on to something.
Otto: Of course, you understand that down here you’re not going to be getting chicken soup and multigrain baguettes and salad.
Me: No?
Otto: Nah, down here if someone cooks for you it’s gonna be a slab of ribs, and hush puppies, and green beans cooked in bacon.
Me: Dude. I am SO IN.
Otto: *silently fleeing back to the relative sanity of his orange juice*

(The rest of the conversation is kind of a blur after that. I never really got past “bacon.”)

So, he’s telling me that even though I have to give up my beloved congregation up here, I’m moving to a place where people bring you barbecue and pork fat in times of crisis.

And all this time, Otto has been telling me that he lives in Georgia. I see now that he truly lives in Utopia.


  1. MMM

    MMMM. Pork fat.

    I sympathise with you on the OJ thing. I couldn’t find any here for under $3, and I refused to pay that. I was already getting 3 gallons of milk, and you KNOW how much that stuff is! I completely forgot about the citrus being ruined out in CA. Well, at least I know what to expect for a while :^(

  2. Busy Mom

    Potato Salad. Trust me, potato salad is the official food of illness and death in the family.

  3. CharlestonGirl

    Any excuse to bring a covered dish and we are all about it here in the SOUTH. :) Here in Charleston, you are liable to get a ham, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, green bean salad, fried chicken, biscuits, beef stew, ribs, creamed corn and deviled eggs, in any combination! More likely all will show up at your doorstep for most any occasion good or bad and certainly anything that requires a hospital visit. :) Food is indeed the great panacea…mmm deviled eggs…great, now I am hungry at 12:26am…thanks Mir! :)

  4. The Babe

    I’m moving to Charleston and throw myself down some steps, pronto…

  5. Edna B

    And I thought orange juice was expensive in Australia! Ouch. I love the tradition of bringing food to people in times of crisis – it doesn’t happen a lot here in this increasingly secular world. Mind you, considering I find it difficult to whip up yumminess for my own family, third parties are seriously going to get a raw deal. I’m coming to Charlestown too……

  6. Rachel May

    How totally awesome of you for signing up to help out, Mir. Bringing food to someone like that is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a food of love thing. :) Our church does the same thing. In fact, my dad calls us “The Church of the Well-Fed” due to the insane amount of food brought to our house when I was sick after having Jet. That, and the groaning of the tables at any given potluck.

  7. Sara

    Cooking for people when they are in a time of crisis is something I love to do. I know how it was for us when people brought us food after having (and sadly, losing) babies. It was a wonderful blessing to have tasty, nourishing food, but not have to think about how to get it or fix it myself. I have never made it to take to someone, but we ALWAYS received green bean casserole when people brought us meals. (probably why I never make it.) It got to be a running joke.
    But bacon? I need to go change my shirt because I just drooled all over it….

  8. Lady M

    Mmmm, soup. You should have church auditions after you move.

  9. Brigitte

    BACON BACON BACON guess I should go eat my healthy multigrain oatmeal now (wah) BACON!!

  10. Judy

    Fried chicken is definitely the meat of choice in my neck of the woods. Potato salad, baked beans, ham, cole slaw… and desserts galore. Gallons of sweet tea. Mmmmmm…. I’m hungry.

  11. chris

    So if I come to visit you and fall down the stairs and break my leg, would they bring me some bacon?

  12. Melanie

    You know, maybe atheism was the wrong choice for me. Maybe if I had known that church equaled bacon, I would have signed on long ago. Or maybe that’s just really petty. Either way, I need to find an organization that will bring me food when I am low – preferably before I’m 85 and stuck with Meals on Wheels.

  13. Ben

    Lisa: No, I can’t! I can’t eat any of them!
    Homer: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Lisa, honey, are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
    Lisa: No.
    Homer: Ham?
    Lisa: No.
    Homer: Pork chops?
    Lisa: Dad! Those all come from the same animal!
    Homer: [chuckles] Yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.

  14. Sophie

    Ask Otto for me: where is that church exactly? Because I want to go there! At my church, we are big on lasagna and other noodley, pasta-saucy casseroles.

    Funny that you should be posting about this. I had a request for food this morning, and I was balking at doing anything. But you are right; it is wonderful to be a recipient of such love. OK, I’m fitting a lentil casserole into my schedule.

  15. jenn

    Oh, we do love to show up with food down here in the South! I just wanted to chime in with my favorite comfort food for bringing to a house where there is sickness or bereavement. (I’m in SC, near Charlotte.) My best friend from high school’s beloved daddy up and died from a heart attack last week, and I took a chicken tetrazzini casserole. We are now calling it “Fried Butter” because it had two sticks of butter in it, as well as a quart of half and half and about 3 cups of parmesan cheese and a bunch of ritz crackers on top. The chicken and noodles are really just there to hold the fat and dairy products together. Oh, and I also made a pound cake from scratch… three more sticks of butter and a half pound of cream cheese in that. (I like to take pound cakes because visitors to the house can just cut off a hunk and stand there and eat it… no need for a plate or even a fork.)

    It just occurred to me that these were not the most heart-healthy ingredients to be using for a family who’s just lost a loved one to heart disease… but oh well. I am a firm believer that butter is good for you when you’re bereaved or sick. I think most Southerners would agree. Ask Joss!

  16. LadyBug Crossing

    There is nothing better than southern cooking! yummmmmm


  17. Susan

    ooohhh baaaaaaconnnnn . . .

  18. Juliness

    Ah hah! So it’s not really all about Otto after all, is it? You are just moving FOR THE FOOD.


  19. Heather

    In Alabama, it is common when someone moves in for all the neighbors to bring over fried chicken, potato salad, slaw, some sort of dried bean (that has fat back for flavoring), a pie, or HOMEMADE banana pudding. I think it is a law

  20. emery jo

    I think Jesus himself would bring nothing less than ribs and hushpuppies in times of trial and tribulation.

  21. Liise

    Did someone say bacon?

  22. bon

    De-lurking to say, DUDE! If “compassion food” is what you look for in a congregation… go Mormon. The fun never ends, and neither does the food, just make sure you leave some room for the jello salad!

  23. Mocha

    I think I see a future where I could possibly live and teach in Georgia. Seriously. That food would make me very, very happy.

  24. PJ

    The Mormons. Mormons are oh so good at bringing in food when you are sick, had a baby, having surgery, just moved it, or moving out. Seriously.

  25. Ben

    We eat very, very well here at funerals. Probably better than at weddings. Isn’t that backward?

  26. Nothing But Bonfires

    Dude, I bet you get a TON of deviled eggs, too. If it’s brain surgery, they’ll even be the fancy kind, with the paprika.

  27. andi

    Last week our church had a funeral for two little boys. About 300 people were expected at the funeral. Everyone pitched in and cooked up enough food to feed the 500+ people that attended plus had a ton of leftover food. Talk about the fish & loaves story…

  28. Katherine

    MMM, bacon! :)

  29. CharlestonGirl

    Wow, if you all are coming to Charleston to fall down the stairs….guess my husband and I better get that new house built PRONTO! :)

    MMMMmmmmmmmm Bacon!

  30. Mom2One

    I see now that he truly lives in Utopia.

    I think so. Lucky you. :)

  31. Ei

    I’m forwarding this link to my church’s care committee…you know…just in case…

  32. Dianne

    If you haven’t seen it yet, go find this book and study up before you move: Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral, by Gayden Metcalf and Charlotte Hays. Oh the recipes. Oh the funny stories. Oh how you will love this book. Wait ’till you try “Liketa Died Potatoes.”

  33. David

    “Dude, I am SO IN.” Man, that had me in stitches. I’d forgotten how you and the kids are about bacon, not that I blame you there. Yum.

  34. carson

    I will bring you pork chop casserole. It contains all of the neccessary ingredients for a shared meal: french fried onions, pork, potatoes and the topper? Cream of mushroom soup. (I don’t actually use the french fried onions, though. One must draw limits somewhere, and I prefer dessert to french fried onions.)

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