Just a week ago I had a conversation with a couple of friends about “when in doubt, bring food.” Whenever someone has a Major Life Event, the common response (at least in my corner of the world) is to bring a meal, a casserole, a….something edible and delicious. I mentioned that I had often wondered if this “bring food” response is a Louisiana thing, or is more universal. “I think it must be universal,” said I. After all, drive-through daiquiri stands may be JUST LOUISIANA (yes, we have them) but food – well, everyone eats, right? I was told stories by the other friends that indicated that this isn’t always the case.
Huh? This was a surprise. If there were an official manual of Cajun Etiquette, page 1 would read simply this: When in doubt, bring food.
After all, it’s what we do. When someone has a baby, bring food. When someone has an operation, bring food. When someone has a surprise, a shock, an unexpected visitor, an expected visitor (or a whole houseful of them), a new house, bring food. When you have a new neighbor, bring food. When someone is packing to move out, bring food. And when someone dies, bring food. A meal, a covered dish, a casserole, a pot of gumbo…one brings food as a practical matter and as a symbol of sustenance. It’s an act of nurturing, of caring and of sharing.
I made this for your family and mine; we don’t have to eat it together to know that we’re with you in this. We symbolically share a meal, and in a part of the world where cooking is practically a religion, the offering of a meal is sacramental: An act of grace, an expression of love. I can’t take away your burden, but I can make your life a bit easier. I made you something that nourishes my family, I hope it nourishes and feeds your body and soul. Have some comfort food. Just receive; it was made with love and prayer.
If the event is a positive one, bringing food is still – always – an appropriate response. A celebration? You’ll have company, and I know you’ll want to feed them and spend time visiting, you don’t need to be in the kitchen. A new baby? Rest, Mama, all y’all have to do is heat up the gumbo, and don’t forget to eat ‘cuz you have to feed that baby. Your adult child is home from serving our country? He or she needs some real home cooking, and you need to spend time listening, not cooking. Eat.
Even if you are too numb to taste it, eat. Your body needs fuel. I thought of you and your loved ones; I prayed for you all while I chopped and cooked. Whether prayers of supplication or prayers of thanksgiving, I thought of you as I decided what to make, selected the ingredients, and cooked. My humble kitchen became a place of prayer as a meal for your family (and possibly mine, if the pot’s big enough) came together.
I made a lot, there’s plenty, don’t worry. I’m not always good at saying what I feel, but I sure can cook how I feel.
Sometimes words fail us, but food doesn’t. So when in doubt, bring food.