When generosity and kindness lead you to bring food to the celebrating or the grieving, it’s easy to include some comfort food for the rest of us. It’s been a tough few days. We lost my mom 3 days ago. My sister and I must travel several hours to get to her home. One of my sons lives more than 1500 miles away. Without the time to grocery shop or cook in advance of the trip, it can be comforting to know that the community will show up to make sure the basics are covered.
Unfortunately for those of us with allergies or food intolerance, an already draining occasion like a funeral can become even more tiring when the typical comfort food casseroles begin to arrive. Many are filled with pasta, topped with breadcrumbs or thickened with flour. Others contain cheese or nuts. And we can’t tell by looking whether they’re safe for us to consume. Sometimes our only option is to cook or go to the store to make sure that when we get hungry there will be something available.
If you know that your relatives or friends have some dietary restrictions, but aren’t certain of the details, it’s still easy to provide options that are helpful and comforting. Here are a few ideas:
• Don’t just bring a casserole, include a copy of the recipe on a pretty card that can be displayed on the table by the dish as well. It’s a lovely way to share your favorite recipe and allow those with restrictions to know whether it’s appropriate for them. Just remember when you add a pinch of this or that to the dish you need to add the pinch of this or that to the ingredient list. If you use any processed items in the casserole, bullion cubes or canned soup for instance, include a combined list of any noted allergens in those ingredients at the end of the recipe. (Labels in the US must note the inclusion of the 8 top allergens: Milk, eggs, fish (bass, flounder, cod), Shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.)
• Grab a big basket. Fill it with an assortment of fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, cherries, strawberries, or blueberries. Add a variety of cheeses still in the package and perhaps some summer sausage. Throw in a box of regular crackers and a box of gluten-free crackers (Rice Thins are available in almost all grocery stores). Leaving the cheese, sausage, and crackers in the package allows the allergic to read the labels to determine what is safe to consume.
• Provide a deconstructed salad. Include some pre-washed greens – lettuce, spinach, arugula. Chop some carrots, celery, bell peppers. Dice some boiled eggs. Crumble some crisp bacon. Wash some blueberries. Scoop up some toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or slivered almonds. Get a jar of olives or peperoncini. Make sure to package each item separately. Provide full jars of dressing so that a label is available or include the recipe for your homemade dressing.
• Keep it simple. Prepare meat or vegetables seasoned with nothing but salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Perhaps throw in a few fresh herbs. You can cook a delicious beef roast, pork tenderloin, or roasted chicken seasoned with nothing but salt, pepper, and garlic. If you decide to use herbs, provide a list of those included. Steamed broccoli with baby carrots is a tasty combo as is a sauté of summer squash and zucchini or onion, red bell pepper, and shiitake mushrooms. Any of these veggie combinations and many other possibilities require nothing but a sprinkle of salt to deliver full flavor.
• If you happen to know a family well enough to know their favorite locally owned restaurant, call and see if there’s a favorite dish or to-go order they enjoy frequently. If so, have the restaurant prepare an order for you to pick up.
While all of us want to relieve the burden of the grieving or enhance a celebration with our contributions, sometimes food restrictions can leave us wondering if it’s better to just send a card. If you love to cook or share meals with your friends, perhaps these ideas will help you think of additional ways you can slightly adjust and provide comfort food for the rest of us.
We appreciate and applaud your efforts!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”