A Casserole Week
It’s been a long week, friends, and I’ve been cooking. But not the “writing like crazy” kind of cooking. The “dirty dishes and grocery shopping” kind.
A few days ago, one of my friends had her daughter — two months early, but doing well for a preemie. My next-door neighbor died in an accident the same day.
A long week.
I may have mentioned before that I worked in churches long enough to qualify as a Professional Church Lady. One of the quirks of Church Ladies is that, when faced with great celebration or great tragedy, our response is universally the same: Casseroles.
To the Church Lady, there is something almost holy about the combination of pasta, meat, cheese, and vegetables, a deep ritual in the preparation of meatloaves and lasagnas. The mixing of salt and pepper, chopped onions and garlic brings a calm, taking over the hands with sacred routine, like speaking the Lord’s Prayer, or the Twenty-Third Psalm.
A casserole takes work, but it’s a very forgiving dish. If you mix too hard, angry at the chance that took away a friend, or cry with joy at the thought of a new life, a new baby — the casserole will come out pretty much the same. And if you really goof up, you can always grate cheese on the top, even add some crumbled Ritz crackers if you want to get fancy. Nobody will notice the tumbled layers underneath.
So many times in life, I don’t know what to say to mark the great events that occur, to comfort, or cheer. But thanks to all those years in church, I know exactly what to do: brown the meat, cook the pasta, stir the sauce, mix it together, grate the cheese, and pray for one hour at 350 degrees.