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Sympathy Food

I just found out a local family in our town has lost their patriarch. To make matters worse, the eldest son was hit by a car while walking on a sidewalk 5 days before Christmas. He's in a rehab center but came to the funeral today. The church gave them dinner tonight, but we want to bring them something tomorrow. I'm thinking of fried chicken, cornbread, green bean casserole, cream cheese brownies, and some cinnamon rolls to keep for the next morning. We'll bring soda, cups and plates and plastic utensils, too.

I don't want to ask them what they need, as that seems like an imposition, but I want to bring something later in the week, too. I'm considering just some cold cuts, cheese, rolls, and condiments at lunchtime, depending on what I hear through the grapevine about what others are providing. I'd love to hear suggestions for the family, and what would you take to the son in the rehab hospital? This is a midwestern family, with a animal farming background.

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  1. When my grandfather died, we appreciated all the thoughtful food gifts, but what was one of the biggest treats for us was a wonderful fresh fruit salad. We had casseroles and other rich foods coming out our ears, and we were all so upset that the best we could do was pick at anything. So the fresh fruit was a refreshing change from the foods with all the cheese and cream as well as being a little more easy to stomach, given our collective state of mind. So I would say something refreshing and wholesome, like fresh fruit and other things they can pick and nibble on but don't necessarily have to sit down and prepare a plate of.

    1. When my mom died, we appreciated the meat and cheese platters. It was easy to assemble a sandwich and go about our business. The fresh fruit salad is a great idea too..any salad really.

      1. Soup is comfort and easy on stressed systems. I would bring a big container of fresh chicken soup.

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        1. It's winter, so I'd say something hot, filling and better the second day. Stew, chili and cottage/shepherd's pie come to mine.

          1. When I was pregnant with my youngest son, I was ordered on bed rest and could not even stand to make meals.

            What was really nice were the casseroles that were brought over to us by my husbands work friends, our neighbors and our family. We were just so blown away on how good some of these dinners were. They were all in one dish, so we just had to get a salad together to round out the meal.

            We received about 6 dinners a week, and I can't tell you how much I appreciated the work and the thoughtfulness that was put into the casseroles. We truly loved them all. Even if it was spaghetti there is just something about someone else cooking for you that makes the food taste extra good.

            What a sweet thing you will do for these people in their time of grief.....sorry to hear about their troubles, but you're the best person ever to do this for them, and it will mean a lot to them, believe me.

            1. Why not call first and get a sense of what their lives are like currently. I have had kind neighbors bring tons of food when my husband was in the hospital but in fact I was never eating at home, just at the hospital, and those casseroles to deal with just complicated my life. If family members are coming home to eat, a big pot of something they can just heat up, like chili or barbecued beef, might be welcome, or a baked ham and some sandwich rolls. Same with the boy in rehab---call him first and see what he has a taste for. You might suggest something like cookies that he can keep there, or he might want you to bring something for immediate consumption, like ice cream.

              1. In the South when a family has a death, there is usually a group of women (neighbors, close friends, church group, etc.) that takes charge of the food for the bereved family. These ladies coordinate food that is coming in from other friends to make sure that it is properly stored and that there is an adequate amount for the number of family members at the home to eat each meal. They also ensure an adequate supply of paper products, help return non-disposable dishes, etc. This "tending" to the family may go on for a week. Check to see if there is someone that is acting in a similar capacity. If so, they should be able to tell you what is needed.

                1. I'm from Michigan and went through this experience when my Mom died --- people brought over ham and scalloped potaotes, roasts, breads, whatever you can imagine.

                  Depends on your area but: Farm county; soups, stews and chiles that hold for 3 days; roasts, roast ham with vegetables, hearty food. California where I live; Vegetable trays with lunch meats of beef, porks, ham slices; soups; chili soup that last 3 days. Be aware of weather-warmer weather demands longer stable foods.

                  Many people, including me, have little appitite when grieving. I usually supply finger food to nibble and pleasant drinks like hot chocolate and coffee and tea to warm one's soul --leave a loving note with the food.

                  1. When my Dad passed, I recall several hams and mac n' cheeses. So much food at once, that we could not eat it all.

                    I recall one family bringing over a case of soft drinks, various teas and coffees which was nice, and also a few casseroles that were already frozen for later.

                    Very thoughtful of you wanting to do something for this family.

                    1. Thanks for the replies and suggestions. My mom had talked with the matriarch of the family yesterday, and she was receptive to our offer. We dropped by shortly after 5 pm this evening with fried chicken, cornbread, green bean casserole, cream cheese brownies, and a case of Coke. The youngest son came out and told us no one had yet brought them food, and he was very appreciative. I hope they will go to church tomorrow and have a meal and some fellowship afterwards. We'd thought maybe we should go lighter, but the eldest son works for the butcher, and we know they eat heartily.

                      Monday or maybe later, depending, we'll take baked beans, cold cuts, cheese, rolls, mustard, mayo, and pickles. Can anyone recommend a cold weather side dish? I'm considering chili or a roasted root vegetable and barley soup. Do you all think that would be too much with sandwich fixings and beans? I don't want to overwhelm them, but so far, it sounds they're needs aren't quite looked after as of yet. Of course, I may find out more tomorrow.

                      Thanks again. It's so important we take care of each other this way. When my grandad was passing here at home, people actually came over expecting us to feed them. No one offered us food--I found it appalling, to be quite honest. I grew up in Kentucky, and folkways were quite different there. No one would dare show face without something to offer, not even someone who doesn't cook. Even he or she would buy something, you know?

                      1. You are a great neighbor and friend - you're right, it *is* important that we take care of each other. I'm pretty shocked at the behavior of your guests when your grandfather was passing, that's surprising.

                        Anyway, everything you've mentioned sounds great - you've covered more nibbly things that they can pick up for a quick bite, and more substantial meals, plus drinks and desserts. I'm trying to think of a cold weather side dish that would be good with sandwiches... I like the barley soup idea. Along with the beans you might take mac and cheese, or even a salad or two. Simple, but fresh ingredients (as others have suggested.) Maybe a fruit salad and a super fresh cole slaw? I know when I've been grieving, mac&cheese and cole slaw are two things I eat mindlessly and they always are satisfying and comforting.

                        Again, good for you. This family needs the attention and care you're giving.

                        1. I think it is very considerate to take an attractive platter of cookies,sweets,easy to eat items for coffee or tea "go alongs"-since the family may have friends stopping by to pay their respect. Muffins,sweet rolls,jams and such for breakfasts are also nice.

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                          1. re: foodseek

                            I think it's also nice to take cereal and milk for breakfast - things you usually pop out for or need to replentish regularly. And sometimes I also bring toilet paper. Especially when they have a house-full. You just don't want to have to go to the store for toilet paper and milk.....

                          2. It is nice to hear that being "neighborly" is still being practiced in some parts of the country. I would suggest a warm German potato salad (potatoes in a vinegar dressin with bacon). That would be a nice addition.

                            1. That is very sweet of you. In the past we have brought over a dinner from Honey Baked Ham, and most recently we went to Dinner Studio and ordered a week of dinners.

                              1. I can't think of anything that's been missed. My only thought is that you may want to put together some things specifically for the freezer - soup, lasagna, casserole, pound cake, etc. Sometimes families get a rush of food brought by the house, so looking a few weeks down the road with some simple frozen dishes might be a good plan.

                                1. So thoughtful of you.
                                  May I suggest that, in addition to what you might bring for tomorrow, you bring something else already packed up for freezing (chili, lasagna, etc.) with instructions for defrosting and heating taped to the top. The family will likely receive a fair bit of food for this week, but (especially given that their son is in hospital) would probably also appreciate not having to worry about a meal sometime in the future.
                                  It's also nice to bring some desserts that freeze well (squares, for instance) so that they have something they can serve to unexpected guests. Some nice coffee and teas would be nice to serve along with the treats.
                                  As for the son in rehab, hard to say because you haven't said whether he's eating regular foods.

                                  1. When a close family friend passed away this past fall, we loaded our smoker with pork butts and made bbq. I made up my homemade sauce. We took it to the local volunteer fire department for the dinner after the funeral and then packed the leftovers in a large electric roaster and took them to the house so they could have sandwiches. They could just plug it in and put it on the warm setting before mealtimes.

                                    It's a lot easier to make sandwiches and doesn't require a lot of reheating using the oven and microwave when feeding a large crowd.

                                    1. All of the above posts are great suggestions. For the son in rehab, maybe a cache of snacks and drinks that he can dip into whenever. There are lots of small bags of flavored rice cakes, Chex mix, peanut butter/cheese crackers, flavored popcorn, plain pretzels, nuts. Also individual serving fruit, pudding and applesauce cups that can store unrefrigerated. V-8 and prune juice in six-packs. Plastic utensils and maybe sanitizing wet-wipes. Or if he's hungry for a local pizza, get a few pies, invite some of his friends/relatives, and have a get-together in his room or at a common area when it seems appropriate after the funeral.

                                      1. as even deep freezers fill up quickly, and not everyone has them...might i suggest some delivery gift certificates? Maybe at a restaurant that the family can also have the option of using the GC have a nice meal together at, once they are feeling up to it.

                                        1. With a lot of people in and out and milling around and taking care of business (sad business but still a lot of arrangements have to be made) something fast and handy might be welcome. I would make a great big pot of barbecued beef (in my crock-pot) and take it with a couple of packages of hamburger buns and along with this a big bowl of homemade coleslaw and/or potato salad.

                                          1. For the son in rehab, be aware that if you're mostly bedridden, lower calorie, easy to digest foods are better than the usual fare. Fried chicken and cinnamon rolls are out of the question IMO.

                                            1. Im sure this will get deleted, as do 98% of my posts, but just for kicks...

                                              This falls under any dramatic situation that everyone flocks together to try and fix. Take things aside from food that they will need. Garbage bags. Toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, plastic ware and cups. A box of dishtabs. Cases of pop and a box or 2 of capri suns. Good coffee and half and half. Sturdy foam cups for the coffee. A box of sweeteners. A few boxes of tea or a variety pack. These are all things that people will need, probably run out of and will not want to run out to get. On the food side of it, good fresh fruit for breakfasts. Wait a few days and bring them something that they can enjoy like warm bagels and fresh cream cheese with some good jams. Drop in a few days later with a couple big pizzas and a good salad. Sometimes, simple is better. There are only so many cold cuts and pieces of lasagna a person can take.

                                              1. I like the idea of a whole roasted chicken or two carved and then the carcass for a soup. You can pick up deli chickens for almost cheaper than it takes to cook it.

                                                1. I usually do a soup like split pea/hamhock and a couple of tins of cornbread.

                                                  I pack them in aluminum take out containers that can be reheated or frozen.

                                                  Also, the first week is overwhelming--check back in a month or so when things have settled down and reality sets in. Then the fellowship and company are SO welcome....

                                                  1. Sounds like a good plan except for the cold cuts later in the week. I'd substitute a casserole of some sort. I have no idea why, but a tamale pie came to mind. For the son in rehab, maybe cookies because they keep better than other things, and he can share them or hoard them, as he wishes. I'm sure whatever you do will be greatly appreciated. You're a very thoughtful person!

                                                    1. I am not sure this was mentioned, since it's a long thread, and over a year old. What I have found over the years dealing with the grieving of others, and my own grief, is what's really appreciated is something most people don't think of: offering condolences, visits, letters, or food some time after the onslaught of initial well-wishers. Death is such an overwhelming experience, and dealing with the amount of people who offer sympathy and food within that first week can be overwhelming, as well. An overlooked fact is that while the rest of us go on with our lives after those first few days, the bereaved are still bereft. When the casseroles are all gone, or leftovers thrown away, I think it's really nice to arrive with something then, and let the person, or family know that they are still in your thoughts.

                                                      Oh, I just saw chelleyd01 and toodie jane mentioned something similar. Very helpful posts!