Friends and food

I have a lovely friend who's just a few centimeters away from having her first baby. She recently posted on her blog a great list of ways to assist a friend upon the arrival of their newborn, a list she was given by an equally lovely friend of ours. Many of the ideas include ways to help out by providing food, lasagne naturally being one of the suggestions.

My family and I have fond memories of lasagne. Delicious pan after pan of lasagne, provided by friends while I was in the hospital for a week nearly 20 years ago. Thank God for friends and for lasagne, as that's what my husband and daughters lived on while I was away.

My return home was met by more friends with more food. Dinner of pork tenderloins and pasta, warm and flavorful from a friend down the block. A huge sliced ham, selections of cheese, and soft sandwich rolls from the deli. And more lasagne, quite different than how I make it but all the more luscious as it was not my hands that prepared it. Again, thank God for friends and food as it's what we all lived on while I recuperated.

I know firsthand how helpful it is to provide meals and more to friends and family recovering from medical issues. Or getting used to a newborn in the home. But I also know firsthand how difficult it is to provide such things anymore. Not because of financial constraints, but because of what folks eat nowadays. Or don't eat nowadays.

Outside of my family — and to some degree, inside my family — nearly every person I know has strong preferences for the types of food they eat. Be it organic or locally grown or low-carb or low-salt or high-protein or no-fat, low-fat or only fats of a certain sort, it's mind boggling. And seemingly impossible to get the right combination for the right person.

Lasagne is no longer what it used to be. Back in the day, the basic dish had basic ingredients: noodles, sauce, cheeses, maybe meat. You couldn't go wrong. Now wrong is about all you can do when making it for someone other than those you make it for regularly. Are the noodles wheat or enriched or gluten-free? Sauce? Are the tomatoes organically grown, and what's the sodium content? Cheese? Don't even get me going on the cheesy possibilities. Or the meat ... or no meat ... or veggie options that would have been preferred over what I may have picked.

Lasagne is a fairly expensive dish to produce so I'm recently reluctant to make it for others when there's the possibility of it being poked, prodded, and questioned by a recipient, who may politely smile and offer thanks then feed it to the dog. Depending on the dog's dietary restrictions, of course.

"Make a giant pot of vegetable soup," reads another suggestion, but it's rife with the same concerns, same dilemma, because I'm pretty darn sure I'd use the wrong vegies, the wrong stock, the non-locally grown goodies that might make noses snarl and tummies roil, despite how delicious it may be. Not that my friend is a snarly kind of gal by any means; we just eat differently.

I'm known for giving food gifts at Christmas: cookies, bars, breads. I'm not tooting my own horn by saying they're all delicious, I'm simply sharing the feedback the goodies have received. I'm pretty darn sure my gifts haven't gone to the dogs ... or the garbage can. But I'm reconsidering food gifts, for holidays and definitely when it comes to helping out a friend, for food no longer feels like a gift. It feels like a landmine. With too much potential for such offerings to explode, leaving both sides with burned feelings of one degree or another.

Bottom line is that because of our vastly different dietary preferences, when it comes to helping out my friend, the new mom, you can be sure food won't be the form of assistance I offer. With food off-limits, though, the assistance suggestion I next considered was the one about buying "6 pairs of black cotton underpants (women’s size____)." But unlike food preferences, panty size is something not even the best of friends share with one another.

Which likely leaves me to opt for the suggestions that include holding the baby while Mom showers, folding laundry, and buying household staples such as toilet paper.

As long as I'm told what kind of toilet paper to purchase, that is. Because, just like lasagne, purchasing toilet paper for friends is no longer as simple as it used to be.

Photo: Flickr/VancityAllie

Today's question:

What are your favorite ingredients for lasagne?