Food for the bereaved?
October 19, 2008 9:30 AM   Subscribe

What is the etiquette on bringing food for the bereaved?

I found out yesterday that my neighbour passed away over a week ago after a battle with cancer.

I was thinking of bringing food for his wife. Before I do that, I have some questions:

1. Is there a statute of limitations on bringing food? If it's 2 weeks after death, should we skip it and go with a card?
2. Is it appropriate to bring frozen leftovers? (Note, it's not like this is a dish with 2 pieces cut out, it's a hearty chicken and eggplant dish that looks like a stew/sauce).
3. Is it appropriate to bring a dish to be served over pasta? Can you expect the bereaved to boil their own noodles?
4. If a dish should be served over pasta, do we have to bring a box of noodes?
5. How many servings should we bring? We have 2 packs of about 3 adult servings. Our neighbour now lives alone but she frequently has her adult children and grandchildren over. Should we bring a smaller dish instead?
posted by crazycanuck to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're overthinking this. Any generous contact like bringing food will be welcome. Two weeks is fine. It'd be a bit nicer to bring something fresh than frozen, but if you'd happily eat it yourself then go ahead and bring it. It'd also be nice to bring some pasta, but don't dwell on whether the widow is so distraught she can't cook pasta for herself. Several servings is fine, assuming she has room in her fridge.

Just be there and be generous.
posted by Nelson at 9:40 AM on October 19, 2008

Good answer Nelson.
posted by genefinder at 9:41 AM on October 19, 2008

It's the contact bit that's important here.
posted by mandal at 9:51 AM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: Yes, Nelson has it. I would add one thing, though, and that's to make it clear when you give it to her or add a little note about what the food is (and what is in it) in case she has allergies. So, not: "this is some stew" but "this is some chicken and eggplant stew with pine nuts." This is something I started doing after I almost gave banana walnut bread to someone with a nut allergy.
posted by phunniemee at 9:56 AM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

When my mom died, the last thing I wanted to do was cook. I could barely think straight. Neighbors brought food up to a month afterward, and I was very grateful. Nelson is right on about everything.

Your thoughtfulness will be greatly appreciated.
posted by cachondeo45 at 9:57 AM on October 19, 2008

Frozen food is a great idea because in a week or two, when the turmoil has died down, she'll be glad to be able to pop it into the micro or oven and have a meal. My mum was glad to have frozen cabbage rolls because everybody in town knew my Dad and she couldn't go to the grocery store without meeting a half dozen people who wanted to give their condolences. The sauce and noodles is a great idea too. Throw in the extra noodles-they keep.

Too many catered sandwich/olive/sliced meat trays is a hassle, taking them apart and fitting them in the fridge.

Food is WAY BETTER than card.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:08 AM on October 19, 2008

Frozen dish is fine, so long as no freezer burn or other signs of abandonment. For the pasta dish, I would put in the box of noodles. Definitely include instructions/descriptions on an index card or paper taped to the dish. After my father died it was difficult for any of us to think clearly for a while, and it was useful to have even really "duh" information written out.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2008

Oh, and my mother was obsessed about making sure plates and caserole dishes went back to their owners. So if you use a "real" dish rather than disposable, maybe write your name on it.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:38 AM on October 19, 2008

If you're in the upper midwest, it's almost taboo to not bring food.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2008

Anything food is great even months and months later.
A family member is going through this right now, and the plates that show up really make her feel better (and its been months) .

Frozen food is great, soup is great, fruit is great. Anything really. She did get a little cookie/caked out, but even then those were great for helpers and family members who came by to help with things.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2008

What everyone above wrote plus one small tip: put the food into disposable containers (foil, gladware, whatever) or label the plates you want returned with waterproof labels.

Yes, yes, yes! I have friends who are very generous and brought food after I had a baby...and I still have a bunch of their containers 3 months later. Please use containers you don't want back (even if it's old yogurt containers or something).
posted by leahwrenn at 11:27 AM on October 19, 2008

Response by poster: OK, frozen food + box of noodles taken over to neighbour's house, which was received with great appreciation. You're all right, I overthought this plate of beans. Thanks
posted by crazycanuck at 12:51 PM on October 19, 2008

One of my parents died last year. Many people said, "let me know if you need anything at all." It's nice to offer that but how can I impose if I do think of something?? What I thought was the coolest was when people went ahead and shared some baked thing or brought over something they cooked up. I guess it was the automatic we-are-here-to-help-and-keeping-you-from-thinking-is-part-of-it response that I liked the best and it didn't require me to come up with how I could "use" them. Focusing on some delicious cookies was a nice way to "distract" you from the loss. They went ahead and exercised their time and skill to share a little gift.

As an aside, George Carlin made fun of that "anything at all" offer with the retort, "sure, why don't you come over next week and paint my garage!" or something to that effect. Really, there's no way to respond to those "anything" offers.

BTW, I also appreciated the most when people would give me anecdotes about the dead parent. "We miss X" is all fine and good, but the real-world morsel of how that parent had an effect on another person, in a way I had not known, was the best. And it could often be something funny so it was nice to hear something cheerful and real instead of waves of depressing "so sorry about your loss" lines.
posted by umlaut at 11:51 PM on October 25, 2008

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