Food for thought

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Gently tapping on the door so as not to disturb my new neighbor’s sleeping husband, I was briefly taken aback by the woman’s disheveled appearance at such a late hour of the morning.  “They must have had a rough night,” I thought.  Apologizing profusely for her appearance but obviously hungry for company, she invited me to come in and sit for a bit.

I sat and listened. My neighbor’s husband is slowly dying from an incurable disease. As she talked about how she was coping with the situation I had no real words of wisdom — only a listening ear. The truth of the matter is sometimes heartaches are beyond mere words. The only thing I knew to offer was a smile or a touch or as cheesy as it may sound…a casserole.

So today is casserole day. After digging through a large pile of cookbooks, I decided on what sounded like a delicious recipe. Wouldn’t you know it? I needed a couple of items from “Wally World” in order to complete it. I sure was hoping to have everything I needed without a trip across town. Realizing just a few short weeks ago I would have needed to travel 30 miles round trip from my country home caused me to grin at myself for becoming so quickly spoiled!

If only I could be like one of the glamorous gals on a TV cooking show who whizzes through the kitchen pulling items from a sensationally stocked pantry. Before I can say “Now what was that spice again?” she has the entire dinner completed and looking delectable as her guests arrive.

Do I sound a bit envious? Well…just a bit, but I dutifully trudged off to pick up the items I needed thinking I would be back in plenty of time to have a great dinner for my sweet neighbor and my own little family to enjoy. Only problem is it took a little longer to find the items on my list than I anticipated. Not to be deterred, I practically jumped from my car, rushed into the kitchen and quickly began putting my casserole together while talking on speakerphone to one of the children.

My hands were gunky with ingredients as I tried to listen to my son while measuring and stirring. Cutting my conversation shorter than I would have liked since my kids are always at the top of my list made my preparations move a little faster. Measuring the last bit of sour cream into the cream of mushroom soup and giving it a quick stir, I exhaled and felt my body begin to relax thinking I had finished more quickly than expected.

My relief was short lived when my eyes fell upon the hand written recipe. Right there in black and white I read the words “bake for one hour to one hour and thirty minutes.” When I had skimmed over it earlier my eyes only caught the 30 minutes part, so now I am an hour behind schedule.

Thankfully, Mike is easy to please and will be delighted to get a home cooked meal whenever it is ready. I have no idea if my new neighbor will like what I have baked or what time they eat, but they can always keep it for later. If, by some chance, my casserole is really yucky, I happen to know they have a small pet that will probably make short work of it. I only hope that when I offer my small gift my neighbor will hear what my words could not say.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at