Covid meet-the-grandparents menu
May 29, 2020 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Best practices / menu ideas needed! I want to do this as Covid-appropriate as possible, while also getting/making food everyone loves.

A few months after our wedding, my husband found out he had a different dad from an AncestryDNA test. This relationship has overall gone great, and his father, stepmother, and half-brother are here to stay.

I'm 8 months pregnant and they need to meet my parents. This would have happened already if not for Covid (we bought a house and would have had a small family housewarming), but it's happening, we want to be careful, and it's allowed within our city and state mandates. With the individuals who are coming I have no specific reason to be concerned about exposure, and because our area has taken a more conservative approach, community spread is still declining.

So with that said, I'm trying to figure out best practices! We will essentially be having dinner at our house. We have a roof deck, furniture on the way, and plan to eat up there and spend most of our time up there (weather-permitting).

What about menu? I love to cook and normally would be serving up a feast, but between Covid and pregnancy I'm wondering if ANYTHING is even safe for me to prepare. We have plenty of restaurant takeout options, local grocery/restaurant catering, etc. I normally would be getting an appetizer spread from the local Italian store, making some stuffed mushrooms, etc. I also have been into the sourdough trend, love to bake, etc. Is any of this sort of food appropriate right now?

So I'm essentially looking for some Italian/American food that can be safely served up to a group! I'd love ideas for recipes as well as general serving advice right now. If your advice is "cater the meal, but individual-sized desserts will work well", I'd love some recipe ideas for that!

Note we don't have a grill (yet), so the meal will be prepped/reheated in our kitchen and then carried up 3 flights of stairs.
posted by Chaussette Fantoche to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have big umbrellas? I love mine for shade. The combination of a table with a hole plus a stand works. Are there mosquitoes even up there? They make big netting umbrella covers or even gazebos that work well. Outside is by far the safest, so making Outside pleasant is great. A fan might be nice as moving air is good for dispersing germs, (solar avoids messing with plugs) string lights, music. A few extra pillow in case older visitors desire extra padding. Take the grandparents up only 1 or 2 flights of stairs at a time, and prep the nearest bathroom, as stairs are work. Have a cooler full of ice and ziplock bags, so food can be put away safely.

Get Italian wine. Make a couple plates of anti-pasto, olive oil & vinegar, good crusty bread. You're pregnant or will be nursing an infant. Would it flatter the grandmothers if you asked them to bring a dish? Otherwise, I'd make broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes, as Laurie Colwin describes in Home Cooking or More Home Cooking, both of which I recommend wholeheartedly. It's a lot like broccoli, which you can substitute. Tabbouleh is fantastic in summer, if you make tons, you get to have it for lunches; it can be made the day before if you keep the tomato and cucumber separate. You could have tuna or salmon filets, or cut boneless chicken breasts into strips, season well with any grill-type mix, fry hot and fast with a small amount of oil. For dessert, make shortcakes from the recipe on the Bisquick box, strawberries, whipped cream, maybe ice cream. Or Eton Mess, which is whipped cream, broken meringue cookies, and raspberries.

Cooking is appropriate and safer than sitting near people and talking for a couple hours. 3 flights of stairs, pregnant, I feel you. Keep it easy-peasy.
posted by theora55 at 3:07 PM on May 29, 2020

To phrase this in only a directly responsive way: you are a month away from giving birth. You describe a process in which people will be exercising by walking up three flights of stairs, and this can be expected to make someone breathe heavier onto the food they're carrying. You describe a situation in which multiple individuals will be socializing, i.e., social non-distance.

The question you are posing to us is to how to do this as "COVID-appropriate" as possible. Your answer is, simply, not to do this.
posted by WCityMike at 3:14 PM on May 29, 2020 [31 favorites]

The food isn't the problem (the suggestions you have are fine and sound delicious), it's the close contact. Open air is better than indoors. But each household group really needs to keep its distance if you want to stay as safe as possible.
posted by plonkee at 3:24 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't depend on your city mandates to know what's best for you -- they are under a lot of pressure from people who aren't pregnant or elderly and who aren't very focused on long-term or even medium-term health outcomes.

I'd suggest meeting at a park, wearing masks, and staying 6' away at all times -- but over Zoom would be better. For a convivial atmosphere, send everyone some fresh fruit or some other snack, maybe some tea, and everyone dine together while online. Zoom is a miracle and I'm so, so grateful that it exists to give you the opportunity to meet without risking your lives (or the lives of the doctors who will be helping you and your child).
posted by amtho at 3:29 PM on May 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

Buffet-style anything (i.e. most catered Italian food) is decidedly not a good idea.

If you do this, prep and plate the food downstairs while masked, carry it up under cover (maybe those fancy restaurant covers if you want to be festive!), and minimize or eliminate alcohol. Safest of all is if you ask each household to bring their own food and you just provide the space. It goes against all "party host" norms, but these are not normative times.

Make sure the furniture is set up so that households are at least 6 feet away. It's farther away than you think; assuming triangle formation here (you/husband, your parents, his dad/stepmom/half-brother) we are talking a minimum of 16 sqft. Are any of the grandparents hard of hearing? Something to consider, especially with masks.
posted by basalganglia at 3:45 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

"The challenge in answering all of these questions is that we still have very little data on which we can base our answers on, said Mary Bassett, a physician and professor of public health at Harvard University, and a former New York City health commissioner." (MPR News, May 21, 2020), so I encourage you and everyone invited, particularly anyone considered to be in a high-risk group, to seek medical advice about whether and how to do this as safely as possible, and to help weigh the benefits with the potential costs. "There’s nothing in any context in any place that is risk free." (Guardian, May 28, 2020).

Recent news that hints at best practices include reports about how Coronavirus super-spreader events all have notable similarities — and they reveal the types of gatherings we should avoid for years (Business Insider / MSN, May 14, 2020), e.g. "A case study published in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described a Chicago super-spreader, known as Patient A1.1, who went to a potluck dinner in February." More recently, a spike in reported coronavirus cases in Oregon has been tied to family and social gatherings, (AP, May 25, 2020), despite Oregon's conservative approach and reported decline in overall community spread.

Similarly, an increase in coronavirus cases in Santa Cruz was linked to family gatherings, "after weeks of relatively flat growth" (SF Chron, May 23, 2020), and in Hong Kong, nine members of the same family were confirmed to have coronavirus infections after sharing a hotpot and barbecue meal. (SCMP, Feb. 9, 2020). In North Carolina, public health officials reported that a wedding, an Easter family gathering, and birthday parties, most involving groups of less than 10 people, appear to be linked to coronavirus outbreaks. (WSOCTV, Apr. 17, 2020).
posted by katra at 3:47 PM on May 29, 2020 [5 favorites]

I'm living in a place where restrictions are lifting, community transmission is fairly low, and we are starting to have gatherings of 20 total people in homes. I've been reading up the medical advice from my public health officers, but big caveat that your local situation may be different.

Quick note on how Cornonaviruses spread: it infects the respiratory tract. It travels by hitching a ride in moisture (droplets). Humans require moisture too: it keeps our lungs working. We breathe out moisture with each breath. Sometimes those droplets end up on surfaces, other people touch those surfaces and touch their face, resulting in the virus having access to moist respiratory systems. But the biggest source of transmission, we think at the moment, is breathing in other people's moisture. (I know right, humans are gross. We do this all the time, it's just that this virus is good at taking advantage of it.)

So, hosting a covid-safe gathering:

The first and biggest rule: if someone is sick they need to not attend. (Especially with you being 8 months pregnant.)

Think about physical distancing. Our state Health dude said he's not going to intrude into people's private lives and say "no hugs and kisses" but he pointed out that these are risky things at the moment and that he would refrain. Think about spacing out your chairs etc so you can not be breathing in each other's air so much.

Soap is good for handwashing. Every one should wash their hands before the meal. The people involved in the preparation of food should be careful to wash their hands and not spit on the food (obviously!)

On food: you want the least moisture crossover. So it is not the food, so much, as how much everyone else is interacting with the food of other people.

Masks, if worn and used properly, (big caveat that one- if not used properly they can make people feel safer than they actually are) can reduce droplet spread. Maybe the food preppers and carriers should wear masks.

Pregnancy food guidelines are really different to COVID-safe guidelines! That's more about the types of food you eat and the food poisoning risk. (Or like mercury levels in fish. ) Separate considerations, entirely.

I'm currently 8 months pregnant, and yeah I am pretty tired and uncomfortable, but I'm not incapacitated. I would build in escape options so you can rest if needed, though!

Finally, this is a very new virus and we don't know a lot about it yet. We do know about asymptomatic spread. There is a lot of fear that comes with the unknown, and misinformation too. I understand deeply the emotional need for this meeting, but please be careful.
posted by freethefeet at 3:47 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Honestly, at 8 months pregnant, I would not risk this. While young kids and people your age may not be at risk of severe complications or death from COVID, if you test positive for the virus during labor you may not be able to have your support system with you and you may not be able to be with your newborn for two weeks after birth. This is what our local hospitals are doing (I'm paying attention, I'm also pregnant). This would be a very difficult situation, particularly emotionally. I would not risk it at this time, but be open to doing another type of family event in several months.
posted by stripesandplaid at 2:57 PM on May 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

There is a lot of ongoing uncertainty about things like transmission (including how long someone may be capable of asymptomatically transmitting the coronavirus) and the extent of the risks. For example, there are public health experts who insist that we cannot keep ignoring the possibility of airborne transmission, which raises additional concerns about indoor gatherings and events.

One of the risks that may also be important to note in the context of this question is that young adults and children are increasingly reported to be affected by a Kawasaki-like disease linked to the coronavirus, and young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying from strokes, and "plenty of 20- and 30-somethings, and even some children, get infected and occasionally die" from COVID-19, according to Fauci, who also noted that the risk of severe complications or death is “something more than just age and underlying condition.” CDC data published in March also showed that nearly 40 percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were age 20 to 54 (NYT), and I'm offering these links because additional information about potential risks may help develop best practices for the timing and location of your event.
posted by katra at 5:26 PM on May 30, 2020

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