Holidays. Family reunions. Office potlucks. Church socials. Guests in town. Friends in need. There are so many reasons we make recipes for a crowd. Sometimes we can plan for these events, and other times they sneak up on us. Either way, we all wind up at some point needing recipes that will feed more than just our own family.
Recently, a tragedy struck our community. In the military in particular, we are very good at picking up the pieces and holding people close, taking care of our own in the short- and long-terms. While the details of this particular situation aren’t important, what IS important is that we all rallied around the family in question to make sure that they had anything and everything that they needed, even if they couldn’t think far enough ahead to anticipate or plan for their own needs. And no matter where we each come from, food is one common denominator that resonates with everyone wanting to provide comfort and support.
We all have crises befall us at some point in our lives. And the common thing that we all need, regardless of the situation, is sustenance. It’s a natural reaction to want to feed oneself and others when faced with life’s challenges. But when we are in the midst of chaos, we need others to help us do that. And what better way than having prepared meals stacked up on your front stoop?
Being from the Midwest, this means that my first inclination is to rush to the kitchen and make a casserole. Any casserole. For as many people as I can. I think it’s in my DNA or something. This particular situation was no different. As the troops rallied to coordinate everything from child care to transportation to just having someone on hand for a hug, the food schedule was organized in no time flat. I offered to help with breakfasts, as the family was expecting visitors from around the country to converge upon the house. And let’s face it–even in Texas you can only send out for breakfast tacos so often.
I immediately took stock of what I had in my pantry and freezer (bread, eggs, milk) and made up the rest with a quick trip the grocery store. After a swift run through the aisle with plates, napkins and flatware, I grabbed aluminum pans that were heavy enough to hold the breakfast meals I had in mind, but easy enough to dispose of when the food was gone and the crowds had dissipated.
To the kitchen!
I decided on one dish that was savory, and one that was a bit more sweet–when feeding a crowd you never know what individual preferences or tastes may be, so a little variety where possible is helpful. Leek & Cheddar Strata Casserole and Baked French Toast Casserole were the dishes I decided on.
As I prepared the casseroles, I kept the family and their friends in mind, hoping that my otherwise small contribution to the effort of support for them would bring a hearty start on those mornings when making a decision about what was for breakfast seemed too overwhelming. When the many well-wishers and family members gathered around a table to gain sustenance for another difficult day, or seek a warm meal to comfort them from within, I hope that these tokens of support helped sustain them as they went through the motions of grief and began to move forward.
Trust me, I am not so naive to think that a measly little breakfast dish could actually do all of that. But when we don’t know what to say, or what to do to help, food is the comfort for those in crisis as well as those wanting to help. In the end, I hope these helped ease some of the stress, even just a smidge.
I realize that this is not the most upbeat post. It’s hard to hear about the suffering of others. But I know that we can all relate to these situations, and hope that these hearty and delicious casseroles will make an appearance in your kitchen for happier reasons. I am certain that whether in crisis or in celebration, those you serve them to will feel satisfied long beyond breakfast time.