I Don’t Like Onions. Cook it Right. And Leave it on the Porch if I’m at the Mall or Something.

In April of 2007 I wrote a column about meal sign up sheets. I can’t find the actual clip but a portion of the text is below. Anyway, today I got an online sign up complete with the likes and dislikes of the recipients as well as special instructions for delivery. Yep, it’s a website designed to streamline the process so now you can feel pressured to cook for your neighbor from the privacy of your inbox.

You know you’ve thought it. You’re just too nice to say anything. This whole sign-up to take meals to a neighbor thing is getting a bit ridiculous. It seems that many of the ladies generating these forms and passing them around haphazardly are just looking for a reason to decorate a clipboard. 

Of course it’s okay to ask people to sign up and cook for the traditional reasons. You know, someone has had a baby or experienced an earth shattering, life altering event. In these cases I’m more than happy to throw together my chicken spaghetti recipe and run it right over.

But recently I’ve noticed an increase in the number of these sign-up sheets being thrown around with an alarmingly expanded list of reasons that said meals are necessary. As the modern definition of “in need” evolves at meetings across the Park Cities I have to work hard to keep myself from laughing out loud, the kind of guffaw that produces little bits of spittle and a snort.

Drawing from real experiences I have partnered with other area women in hopes of putting an end to the meal delivery madness.

If you’re remodeling your kitchen in your 1.5 million dollar home, you can go out to dinner. If you are in bed recovering from plastic surgery and can’t cook for your family, no meals for you. And if your 98 year old grandmother who lives out of state so you haven’t seen her in five years and didn’t go to her funeral dies, it’s sad but no meals for you either.

What’s next? Meals for really bad hair cut victims or unfortunate behavior while under the influence last Saturday night? After all, you can’t leave the house for a few days.

Even more shocking than the rationale behind the need for the “it takes a village to cook dinner” movement are the requests and notations listed on the actual sign-up sheet. Here are a few that have made us whistleblowers glance around a meeting searching for anyone that may be on our side:

Please remember the in-laws are in town and plan to serve two more people. Now, when extended family comes in, it’s to help out. Right? Let them cook dinner.

Don’t forget, Suzy’s parents are here and her father is a diabetic. Can’t Suzy’s mom fix something for the grandpa? I mean, I’m already feeding everyone else.

Mike won’t eat casseroles. Well, then he is getting something that calls for a can cream of mushroom soup and a sprinkle of bread crumbs on top.

Keep in mind that they are very healthy eaters and they try to avoid nitrates. I want to sign-up just so I can take a box of salt and a basket of cheese fries from Snuffers.

They have cabin fever and probably need to get out. It may be nice to buy gift certificates to nearby restaurants. You must be kidding. But you’re not. Forget it, I won’t do it.

If they are not home there will be a cooler on the porch for you to place the meals in. Wait a minute. She is okay enough to get out but needs meals delivered? Stop for Chinese on your way home, sister.

The truth is that you can’t just give the pretty sign-up to the next person without signing up. That’s like passing the offering plate at church without putting something in it. It’s too obvious.

So please, if you don’t really qualify for the meals under the historical guidelines and you have special requests, cook for yourself. If you don’t want what someone brings, throw it away and send a thank you note. And if you feel the need to organize meals for someone that doesn’t need it, stop. There are plenty of other things to decorate with ribbon and paint pens besides clipboards.

16 thoughts on “I Don’t Like Onions. Cook it Right. And Leave it on the Porch if I’m at the Mall or Something.

  • June 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm
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    I don’t have kids yet, and, luckily, I’ve not experienced an earth-shattering change that would necessitate a meal drop off. And while I’ve dropped off a meal or two for a few new parents, I’ve always remarked to my wife that I won’t really want that deed reciprocated.

    For starters, I’m fully capable of phoning in a delivery or pick up order at a speed and leisure level that I’d expect is reasonable under such circumstances. Also, I hate most everyone else’s cooking, despise casseroles, and am a generally picky eater.

    I think I could stock my pantry, fridge, and freezer with healthy foods that can be quickly cooked. Do these people not have time to make Coq Au Vin? That I’d understand. But, do they not have time to boil water, turn on an oven, or, again, use a phone and sit (or possibly send one adult to drive 10 minutes)?

    If this dropping off of meals is a ploy to just see the baby, then I understand. But I don’t generally like other people’s kids, so….

    *Oh, and single mothers or just singular people are exempt from all of the above. My rant is mainly directed at families with 2 able bodied adults who decided to procreate.*

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  • June 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm
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    Sorry. I like this custom. A few years ago I had a major surgery and my friends lined up to bring us food for 2 weeks!!! It was such a blessing and we were incredibly touched by the warmth of our community. In my case it was nice to see each of my friends for a brief hello and I will never forget any of their kindness. It was with absolute sincerity that I wrote them each a thank you note. I also enjoy bringing a meal to people as well. It feels good to help people and do something nice.

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  • June 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm
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    I remember when we had our first baby. Best/WORST dropped off meal: Cheeze Whiz casserole with pan fried burgers. Yeah..AND because people just LOOOVED that apparently, she kindly took it upon herself to include the recipe. My husband ordered pizza for us that night. I still shudder at the idea of eating a jar of cheeze whiz mixed with rice. Yeah..

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  • June 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm
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    There is a much more inclusive website for people needing help with meals, transportation etc. http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/
    This is a care community, not really geared towards new babies

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  • June 25, 2010 at 5:28 pm
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    My goodness bc, walk a mile in a mother’s moccasins before you get so righteous. What you don’t seem to get is that having a baby causes many able-bodies people to become somewhat disabled. I was on bedrest for a month before the baby was born (I wasn’t even allowed to cook), my baby didn’t sleep more than 1 1/2 hours at a stretch for weeks, I developed post-partum depression, and my husband went back to working 12-hour days so we could afford to live on one salary. Having friends to help you out is a blessing.
    The nice thing about having a schedule is that you can space the meals out and your friends can see how many times you’ve had king ranch chicken in the last two weeks.

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  • June 25, 2010 at 6:21 pm
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    It’s a gamble…maybe someone will drop off Coq Au Vin, maybe it will be (yak!) cheez whiz casserole (aka “Shut up and Eat It!”) or king ranch chicken for the 3rd night in a row.

    My favorite gift meal? Pizza gift cards and a tossed green salad.

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  • June 25, 2010 at 6:27 pm
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    @ laurie, fair enough. And was I really being “righteous?”

    Again, I’m more so referring to my friends with normal post-hospital experiences (not the bedridden ones).

    After hearing how difficult this is, I’m contemplating either not having kids or moving to one of D Magazine’s top 5 communities – where you can afford a house and a live-in nanny. I kid, I kid…

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  • June 25, 2010 at 8:56 pm
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    While I completely understand the need to erect boundaries when it comes to a real need for a dinner sign up, I am so very glad we as a community use them. I was stricken with a traumatic illness a while back and was completely bedridden and unable to function when I was upright. My dear neighbors kept my children and wide-eyed and scared husband fed for much longer than I ever thought any community would have done. We didn’t care if it was takeout from Mc D’s as long as somehow there was food. SO, while yes, there should be limits to what constitutes a need for a dinner signup, THANK GOODNESS that we have a community that cares enough to really do it when it matters!!

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  • June 25, 2010 at 9:22 pm
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    In response to bc: I thought everyone who lives in the Park Cities can afford a house and live-in nanny…you mean that’s a “bubble” myth?

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  • June 25, 2010 at 10:43 pm
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    bc, having kids is a leap of faith. Those early years were rough, but it was worth every sleepless night.

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  • June 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm
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    We recently had a baby and had 9 people bring us food. Seven on the nine brought chicken spaghetti. Extremely nice gesture, but what is it with the damn chicken spaghetti. Now we still have 3 or 4 frozen chicken spaghetti’s in the freezer. Is beef Wellington or Lobster Thermidor too much to ask for?? 😉

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  • June 26, 2010 at 8:59 am
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    @wcm – that’s awesome. My wife made chicken spaghetti for a couple friend of ours last month after they had a baby. I didn’t even know that was a dish. I swore she had made it up. Never heard of it. The fact that 9 people you know have heard of it makes me think my mother skipped some of the basics in my childhood…

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  • June 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm
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    bc-
    You Sir, have been living in a cave! How could you NOT know about chicken spaghetti and the long standing tradition of force feeding it to people when they are in a weak position and can’t refuse? Perhaps the only WORSE thing to take someone is lasagna!

    We had a situation a few years back when I was incapacitated for three months. One of my favorite meals was Snuffer’s with cheese fries! Someone else brought Al Biernat’s with all the trimmings!But, the best by far was when someone brought something home made!

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  • June 28, 2010 at 11:58 am
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    I want that chicken-spaghetti recipe!

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  • June 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm
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    I am the wife of one said “bc” and while I have to admit that I don’t exactly agree with some (well okay most of his rants). I am loving the fact that my chicken spaghetti recipe has been vindicated at last! The friends I have taken it to rave about it and have asked for the recipe – so delicious. Maybe it’s because all of our friends are first time parents and haven’t been inundated with gifted food yet.

    I am a fan of the tradition, with a few exceptions: 1. I should not be “required” to bring you food. This is something friends do out of the kindness of their heart. Making it a requirement takes all the pleasure out of it and almost always includes a side of resentment. 2. If anything you had “done” to yourself was elective – forget it! 3. I am not going to be a part of any sign up sheet, unless the condition is extremely serious (very, very sick/incapacitated). If I accidentally bring you a meal on the same day as another friend – you do have a fridge and a freezer right? Also, most people have telephones, it takes one call, to see if “today is a good day.”

    Alas, chicken spaghetti and lasagna are not meal that can be had at our house. 1.) bc is a vegan, as if you weren’t aware. and 2.) he refuses to eat casseroles (I blame this on this mother). SO when/if I have a baby please feel free to bring me any kind of casserole, and leave brad to fend/starve for himself. Note: there will be NO sign up sheet.

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  • June 28, 2010 at 4:25 pm
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    @Mrs.BC; Frankly we are all just glad to know that “bc” is married and has someone to rant to when he is not on-line. I figured him for a bathrobe-clad shut-in whose only opportunity to use his wit (which is stellar) and sarcasm (which can be biting) was on the pages of this blogs. Kudos to you.

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