Cooking For Comfort

Yesterday I received the news that a lovely man, the husband of a dear friend, passed away suddenly from a heart attack. They were high school sweethearts, married in their early twenties, and had forty-seven years together in a marriage filled with a generosity of spirit and mutual admiration. Both worked hard their entire lives. Just turned seventy, he was still at his job as an engineer, she a teacher. Last year they had finally managed to take a vacation together. They were looking forward to more. As you know, I am a person who looks for the good, for that sliver of positive to build on. But I don’t see the world through rose-colored glasses. I don’t look at tragedies like this and say “it’s for the best” or “it’s God’s will.” (Let’s not get into a religious discussion here, and leave it at that.) Although I know her well enough to know that she will forge a good life from here on in, at this moment, there is cause for deep sadness.

I can’t change what happened. Words fail. In time, I will do what friends do, keep her part of our lives and provide companionship when she needs it. But today I will cook. She has a house full of family, bereft children and boisterous grandchildren. It is part of the tradition that I grew up in that one doesn’t become immobilized by sorrow, but that one reaches out and does something concrete to help others.

I have a menu in mind: chicken breasts baked with preserved lemon and pesto, brown rice pilaf, salad, popovers and peach crumble. A lasagna to put in the freezer.

What would you cook?


  1. First let me just say I am so sorry for the loss you are experiencing right now. It is always hard to understand the whys of our journey and the huge bumps along the way. Like you, cooking is always a great distraction. I had a friend who was quite ill with breast cancer and I always took food over to her and the family. I would make vegetable soup and store in separate containers so it could be frozen and used as needed. But in this case you mentioned grandchildren (young people) and brownies would be one thing and fresh fruit. These are easy for the children to eat and everyone loves chocolate. My prayers and thoughts out to all involved.

  2. Finally, a bit off topic but I must say discovering your Hen Cam page has been life changing for me. It has reinforced that concept and need that I still have many things left to do in this life even at 59. I have worked years in the law firm environment and have a master’s in law studies but know now is the time to make a difference doing the things I want to do before it is too late. Animal rescue has always been my passion and making a difference in the lives of companion animals. I am in the process of exploring my options on where this passion will take me. Thank you so much for helping me make this decision. Plus I have decided perhaps it is time for some chickens. I live on three acres in rural North Carolina and certainly have space for such an endeavor. Will keep you in the loop.

  3. I’m sure the family will appreciate anything that you bring over. I’d recommend chicken and dumplings, a comfort food that most likely everyone will enjoy.

  4. I am so sorry for your family’s loss. You are a good friend to cook for them in their time of need. Your dish sounds amazing. I have always made a big pot of soup for these occasions. Especially in New England winters.

  5. Terry, I’m sorry for your loss. I, too, find that cooking helps in times of stress. I usually make pies or cookies. However, I had a friend who made shepherds pie in different sized disposable loaf pans and kept them in the freezer. She always had something ready to bring. And — the appropriate size. From individual sized to family sized. I thought it was a great idea.

  6. Bringing food to the grieving family is one of those old as time traditions that really make sense. How heart-warming to have friends and neighbours show their love and support in your time of need in such a thoughtful way. It is busy work preparing a meal….helpful to the person making it as well. It always feels good to be able to help at a time we all feel so otherwise helpless and at a loss as what we can do to lessen their burden. Your dear friend will be happy to see your lovely smile when you arrive, most of all.

    • I forgot to say what I would make……A large platter of sandwiches…very handy when you have lots of family at home.

  7. Dear Terry, so very sorry for your loss. They had 47 wonderful years together and she will know you will be there for her when needed. Some people need time and space, others need a smile and a kind word, you will know what to do. Can you remember something you have eaten together that would bring back memories. Anything you cook will be welcomed with open arms and a hug I am sure. All the best, thinking of you. lol

  8. You’re right – words fail at a time of loss. She and her family are fortunate to be surrounded by good friends such as yourself.
    If I were cooking for someone in your friend’s situation, I would probably make some Tuna Mornay and/or Chili Con Carne. Both are fairly quick to make and freeze well.
    Something to consider as well is that at times like this, those who are grieving their loved one’s passing often get dehydrated. Hot beverages such as hot apple cider or herbal infusions or good old traditional tea provide comfort as well as hydration. And Lesley S is right: your friend will be happy that you are there for her, most of all.

  9. So sorry to hear about your loss. Praying for your friend who has lost her partner of so many years! My Mom misses my Dad so much! They were together 65 yr.!
    A warm egg custard pie is an awesome comfort food! A pot of chili?
    Your menu covers it all though!

  10. Hugs to you my dear friend! I almost wish I could join that family to taste some of your delights! I would make spaghetti with homemade meatballs. I am not a bit Italian, but I make a mean meatball!

  11. fork tender pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, glazed carrots and chocolate cake…that’s my loss menu but also have taken maple glazed meatloaf, roasted potatoes, salad and a pan of gooey bars….always some chocolate.
    Wonderful to know that compassion is a coast to coast thing. :)

  12. Many years ago after my stay in the hospital a friend brought over a pot of hot crowder peas and cornbread just out of the oven. It tasted so delicious. I’ve never forgotten. My condolences for your friend’s loss. At times like these I usually bring chicken and rice along with half the other ladies in the church! Acts of kindness are the best nourishment of all.

  13. I’d probably make a big kettle of vegetable chowder, potato soup, or vegetarian chili, and a Texas sheet cake. That latter recipe was made for us when my FIL died, and has become a go-to recipe for potlucks and other large crowds.

  14. When my father passed away in 2000, a kind lady brought us a meal and I can honestly say I don’t remember the food other than the salad and the bottle of dressing. Now every time I see that dressing “Toasted Sesame Soy&Ginger” I think of her kindness. I guess I would make lasagna, a salad and make sure there is a bottle of dressing too.

  15. So sorry for your loss. Many {{{HUGS}}} to you.

    Since many people cook and unless the crowd is small or I’m requested a specific item (usually my cookies) I am usually the paper bringer. Paper towels, paper plates and bowls, cups, utensils, and garbage bags, with plenty of extra for after all the people leave.

  16. I am sorry for your friend’s loss. Loss is never easy, but how wonderful to have a friend like you.
    As for what I would cook. You have to ask? Peanut Butter cookies, of course! :)

  17. Terry, it is always good to have friends like you in times like this…..your thoughtfulness will be remembered…..I have taken rolls and sliced meats, so they can make a quick sandwich on the run….hugs from Washington Sate….

  18. I am so sorry for your and your friends loss. Cookies or brownies that freeze well and a new box of calming tea are always welcome.

  19. I am very sorry for your loss. My deepest sympathies. Coming from CA, enchiladas are comfort food and easy to freeze for later.

  20. Your menu sounds perfect! I would bring several loaves of fresh-baked bread.

    Terry, thank you for sharing this lovely post—and all of your posts, for that matter—with us out here in cyberspace. I hope you realize that you have created a wonderful community—an extended family, really—for yourself and all of us. There is probably a better word than mensch, but that’s the only one I know.

  21. Sorry for your loss. I like to bake a pie or cake but the brownie suggestion is good. I am sure they will appreciate whatever you bring to them. I know I would. I had surgery a few years ago and will never forgot my friend brought over dinner and something for lunch the next day in a nice basket, so my husband had one less thing to worry about.

  22. From a southern family…so fried chicken, scalloped potatoes, green beans, cornbread and a chess or buttermilk lemon pie. So sorry for the loss. Sometimes a meal prepared after all the family has settled down and your friend is on her own is so greatly appreciated. Just keep the friend close in your circle and in your prayers.

  23. I’m so sorry for your loss Terry, and for your friend and her family as well. When my Dad died suddenly of a heart attack five years ago, the shock was devastating to our family. It happened early in the morning while Mom was still asleep, and he had gone out to get the paper. A jogger found him in the driveway. My Mom was woken up by a kind neighbor who then called me to meet them at the hospital. The only consolation is that I know that my Dad wouldn’t have wanted to have been ill or infirmed for any length of time. He had put his affairs in order, and he even made a little notebook with instructions for the tv, website passwords and bank log-ins. He was 75 and his father had died exactly the same way at the age of 73. Although the shock is a horrible thing to go through, there is that feeling that your loved one didn’t suffer a long and painful illness. My Mom truly appreciated the food that friends and neighbors brought, and they continue to help her out with getting her driveway plowed etc. Its the little things that can mean so much.

  24. With a death close by, my concern is always for the survivor in the weeks and months after the house empties of well wishers, when the clock ticks a bit too loudly in an otherwise empty house, when others have resumed their regular lives and the survivor is still adjusting to the loss. So my gift would be a dinner invitation a month for a year, to provide a continuous sounding board for the widow, widower, parent, etc. I’d also prepare anything that can be frozen in single servings, with reheating instructions and a personal note affixed to each container, with words of encouragement, a funny memory or some other validation of the deceased person’s value that I know personally. Weekly phone calls, a pot of budding bulbs in chilly March– all these things help. I recall asking a grief stricken friend to join me at a movie, as I felt it was about all she could manage. Throughout the movie, during which we said almost nothing, I linked my arm through hers in our seats, something I would never do normally. She told me years later that just that companionable, platonic contact brought her such comfort. Sometimes just being present is all you need to do. You’re a good woman, Terry.

  25. When I lost my son dishes kept arriving from friends and neighbors. We also had lots of children. What I remember most was the bowl of homemade apple sauce and the huge pot of beef stew and homemade bread. Even the most picky child enjoyed the apple sauce. Strange, I can’t tell you who was there at any given time but I remember sitting down with many and the comfortable feeling of knowing they all came to my table.

  26. I am not confident in my hot dishes, enough to bring as a gift, but I would make a good macaroni salad with lots of hard-boiled, chopped eggs. As a child, when my family was distraught with troubles and deaths, our neighbor brought over a casserole of baked rigatoni. She was Italian. I never fogot that dish. I was hungry, as there was little food in the house. I adored Italian food. But most of all, as you write about, her food meant COMFORT. It was comforting that someone cared.