I think popcorn and marshmallows are magical foods. There, I said it. It may sound like the palate of a 4-year-old, but it’s true. They are tasty, have fascinating textures, and I love both of them although I’m not a huge fan of ice cream.
Our palates change as we get older. I’m still not fond of really spicy foods, but I love vegetables now in a way that would freak my 12-year-old self out. I’m more adventurous now than I ever was when I was younger, but there are always some comfort foods that still warm my heart.
Grilled cheese sandwiches with chocolate milk, macaroni and cheese with anything, and something called Hamburger Casserole that my mom used to make when I was little. I can’t explain it. It’s very basic: ground chuck, rice, canned soup. But it never fails to warm my heart, and we still always have it the first night Madi is home from college.
I recently had one of the best meals ever. Debbie, my sister-in-law in New Hampshire, knew we were coming to visit, and she cooked a flank steak in a pot of homemade ragu for two days. Two days! It literally melted in your mouth.
She topped the meal off with a homemade apple pie that defied the laws of gravity. It was a mile high of perfectly cut and stacked apple slices that were sandwiched between crusts so flaky my eyes teared up. It was a more holy experience than many of the church services I’ve sat through.
I can cook, but I will never be of chef quality. I follow a recipe; I don’t create. I will never be able to duplicate my sister-in-law’s meal, but because of HGTV there’s a lot of pressure to cook like a chef or to be a foodie. It’s just not who I am, and I’m ok with that. And here’s partly why.
A couple of days ago a really dear friend of mine was handed a horrifying diagnosis. The kind that stops you in your tracks and makes you count the days in your future.
My first reaction was to pray. My second reaction was to make a casserole for her. It’s not like bad news makes anyone hungry. In fact, it’s usually the opposite, and yet our first reaction is always to take some food. In the South that would mean a casserole.
When my dad passed away a woman from church, who is widely acknowledged as the best cook around, showed up at our front door, her arms laden with food. Paul jokingly threatened to tell her of some family tragedy each and every week just to get another meal.
In the face of grief, as bystanders we feel helpless. We want more than anything to bring comfort, ease burdens, and show our love, and that seems to be most evident in a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish. The food doesn't solve anything; it won't fix what's wrong, but it does say, "Someone cares. Someone loves you; someone is pulling for you and praying for you."
People say we don’t see what’s in front of us; we see what we look for. That may very well be true, and if it is, then I’m pretty sure you can see God in a casserole.