Feb 24, 2009

Taking Dinner.

What do you know about taking dinner to someone? Is it always clear to you whether to cook the meal before you take it or not? Do you ever wonder if you have enough food? Do you ever wonder if your food tasted okay? No one will ever tell you if it didn't. After all these years of taking meals I always have this nagging fear that I do not really get the whole, "taking a meal to someone thing."

The first meal that was ever brought to us was when we lived in Provo in 1989. It was after Zach was born. I remember there was soup and then there was this cookie sheet with these dough colored balls sitting on it. I had NO idea what the dough colored balls were so I confess I threw them away. It was not until we were living in Kansas many years later that I figured out what those dough balls were, they were Rhodes Rolls. And most people do not throw them out they let them rise, get soft and then cook them at 350 degrees. I think people in Utah think everyone in the world knows about them and what to do with them but I grew up in Seattle and had NO idea what they were.

The first time I took a dinner, that I remember, was when we lived in Princeton, NJ. I met some very amazing women in my ward in Princeton. Women who probably have no idea how much they shaped my life. I watched them all ever so carefully. One of these women was Cindy. Now to a young mother living in Princeton University married housing, with no money, and lots of little children Cindy seemed perfect in every way. Now that I am older and have kids the same ages that she did at that time I understand that life was not perfect. But I idolized her. I learned everything I know about entertaining from her. Her hubby was a "bigwig" at Bristol Meyer Squibb and she had an AMAZING house. She was very down to earth and was always having a party or company over. She told me about the times she entertained when she did not have the ideal entertaining situation. She remembered taking a door off of it's hinges and setting the door on top of things to use it as a table. Her story gave me courage and made me realize it was not about how perfect your home was for entertaining it was about the conversation and the company.

Anyway, when something happened and their family needed meals I wanted nothing more than to take them a meal. They had done so much for my family. I agonized over every detail. I was not a good cook. (I really for all purposes still am not a good cook.) I finally decided on chicken bundles. (crescent rolls with a chicken/cream cheese mixture wrapped up inside) and I can not remember what else. I just remember the chicken bundles because after hours of agonizing I decided to cook them before I went to her house. She lived 25 minutes away and I realize now that families with older kids do not eat at 5 but I was there promptly at 5 with the already cooked chicken bundles. I am sure they were cold by the time they ate them but she was very gracious and returned all my dishes that very night with a dessert-y item in the bottom of the bag.

Taking dinner to someone is no easy task. And I know we are all grateful when we are on the receiving end of dinner. But I know that some meals that stand out in our minds and we can remember them because they were done perfectly. There are so many things to think about. Whether to take the meal already cooked or not. How much to take? And then there is that little old issue of having disposable dishes on hand. I should know better after all these years of losing my dishes across America. But I NEVER have disposable dishes on hand. I keep meaning to get some. Many people have been a little shocked when they need a paper plate when at my house and discover I do not have any. Just for the record I do have napkins and plastic spoons in the house at this moment.

Anyway, I am still looking for the perfect meal to take. And the perfect containers to take it in. And the perfect amounts. And I feel horrible about the time that Brian threw out a meal that had been brought to us and ordered pizza. I have no idea what came over him and the children but they revolted against the third night of chicken and rice mixed together in a 9x13.

I think Taking Meals 101 should be a required class. Maybe even a YW value :)


Roger said...

Great post! Funny, I wonder about the same things. I love cooking and am actually a pretty good cook. The first time I brought a dinner, I finally decided on a large turkey pot pie. It was simple, and it turned out great. I wanted comfort food but still a one dish meal. I can't tell you how many times the new mother of twins thanked me for not bringing another casserole! LOL!

BTW, I brought it cooked. That's the beauty of a pie crust; it looks great, keeps well, tastes great, and reheats easily.

CJ said...

I have taken many meals to people but never let anyone bring us a meal. I guess I always figured it was just Jason and I and we could fend for ourselves. Jason is a very picky eater and he will NOT eat casseroles and he does not like spaghetti or lasagna very much either.

He wants meat and taters and there are a lot of veggies that both of us do not like and lots of people cook with like mushrooms or tomato chunks. So I always felt like he wouldn't eat what someone delivered so I didn't want to waste their time or money in bringing something.

I always call the person and ask them if there is something special they have been wanting or what kind of food are they tired of. Then I have a couple of suggestions in mind and say how about tacos, rice and beans or how about enchiladas or cheesy chili casserole with fun shaped cheese on top, or beef stew and corn bread, or mac n cheese soup with ham and salad or even spaghetti if they like it and are not tired of it. I also ask if anyone has any food allergies? Do they have any picky eaters? etc. If they have young kids I have asked would they like me to bring a frozen pizza that they can pop in the oven for the kids or a container of mac n cheese.

I also ask what time they normally eat dinner and when would they like me to bring it. If I have my own obligations I will ask if they would rather have it delivered at 6 or at 6:30 because I will be busy from 7pm on or whatever the case might be.

I deliver the meal cooked (except for if they want a frozen pizza for the kids) and in plastic containers. To me the whole point of bringing a meal is so that the person does not have to cook it themselves.

If I was delivering tacos, rice and beans I would have a container of cooked taco meat (I would put one cup of meat per person unless they are babies), one container or bag of shredded taco cheese, container or bag of shredded lettuce, container or small jar of salsa instead of diced tomatoes cause well I hate tomatoes.... and don't want to mess with them. You can add a small container of sour cream if you like. Then a container of beans, not still in the can... but opened up and heated and add a couple spoonfuls of water to thin them down so they are smoother and not pastey and add some pepper, little taco sauce and some cheese on top. Then a container of cooked mexican rice. Toss in a bag of tortilla chips if you like and then they can put together the tacos so they don't get soggy. Also the taco meat, rice and beans is easy to nuke and really the only items needed to be in a disposable container if you just give them the whole bag of cheese and lettuce and jar of salsa.

Beef Stew works well too because you can make a huge pot so you have some for yourself too and it taste good reheated. I would still deliver it warm and in one of the taller disposable containers or one of the taller bowls. Then the corn bread is easy to wrap up in foil or on a paper plate with plastic wrap or even inside a big ziploc bag. It also does not have any cheese, milk or nuts in it and often people will have nut or dairy allergies. Plus it has meat in it and fills you up and even picky people like my hubby will eat it often.

One time in the summer I just didn't feel like cooking and wasn't going to have a lot of time that day either. So the day before I went to the store and got some deli ham, cheese, sub rolls, bag of ruffles, bag of baby carrots, chopped up celery sticks and mixed up ranch dip in the sour cream container and some macaroni salad (potato or pasta salad would work too)and had that ready to be delivered.

Good Luck! Let us know what you decide to make.

CJ said...

Good Grief I typed a bunch!
I forgot to add Tacos shells... I would allow 3-4 taco shells per adult or older child, always better to have extra then not enough.

Mama Parker said...

I've only taken one meal to a friend in all of my 30 years! I knew ahead of time what time they ate and how big their family was and decided to make something I knew how to do well. Chicken Enchiladas, Rice, Beans, Guacamole and Salsa. I made it in disposable plastic dishes and cooked it before taking it over. I suppose I could have prepped it in advance and brought it over earlier with heating instructions, but I didn't know what to do!

Is there a book? Maybe you should teach a class!! :)

Kristy said...

Jen, you are a great cook. I am certain I would love whatever you brought to my house!

Having been the recipient of many meals lately, I have to say that at least one of us has liked at least one item with every meal. Food seems to taste better when someone else cooks it, you know?

And really, just the warm fuzzy feeling that come from someone bringing dinner to you is usually more important than the food itself. Or the dishes. Or the timing.

Kristy said...

p.s. I love chicken bundles and have received them four times. I have also heard them called "chicken pillows" and, my lesser favorite, "chicken balls."

Brianne said...

The dinner you brought us after Holly was born was very good! You made us those chicken bundles too...very yummy! I think you do a great job in the taking dinner department.

And you are a good cook...I've never had anything that you've made that wasn't delicious!