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Jan 8 2013

In Praise of the Meal Train

By at 4:08 pm

I’ve never once been told not to eat when it came to my Jewish family. In fact, the opposite holds true. I’m usually not eating enough.

Have some more matzah balls.

Did you try the stuffed cabbage yet?

Here, take a little bit more tzimmes.

There’s never enough food. The food itself: warm, rich, and soul-satisfying made me feel loved and taken care of, just like I felt about the women and men who prepared it all for me growing up. I’ve taken many of the food-focused life lessons I learned in my Jewish household and have continued to practice them in my adult life.

I absolutely love to host dinner parties, and of course I always cook way more than needed… just in case. My go to cold remedy is homemade chicken soup and matzah balls. And, whenever anyone is in need, one of my first thoughts is, can I help by making dinner?

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that I’ve totally gotten into the whole “meal train” trend that is happening all over, especially when it comes to families welcoming new babies. Meal trains–when somebody organizes a month or two worth of meals to be delivered to a family–isn’t anything new. Generations before us have participated in similar things, they just didn’t have the snappy name, email sign-ups, or virtual calendars keeping track of everything. Instead, the it-takes-a-village mentality was in full swing and people would drop food off with their neighbors.

Today, in an age where we’re more spread out and isolated and where intentional village-creating takes a little more effort, meal trains are a fabulous way to establish those connections, and with food–so everybody wins.

We had moved to our current community only a few months before my son was born. When he finally arrived, we had made less than a handful of friends, and we could feel that lack of community. While we certainly appreciated the friends who traveled far distances to visit and meet our new son, and of course our families who came up, especially my mother who came to stay for a bit (and cook and clean…my own postpartum doula!), there was still something missing.

It wasn’t until we had established ourselves in the community and had built up a core group of close friends, that I understood. At some point, one of our friends had a second child and I was introduced to the concept of a meal train. We set it up so the family would not have to worry about food (or laundry or play dates, depending on what folks signed up for) for two months. Two whole months without wondering if you used up the last of the frozen casserole stash. Two whole months of nourishing, lovingly-prepared, delicious food. Two whole months to allow the family to focus on each other rather than what was for dinner that night.

I loved the concept and each time a friend gave birth I rushed to sign up to prepare them a meal. I found myself putting more time and effort into these special, postpartum meals then most of my own dinners. I felt my mother and bubbe over my shoulder, reminding me to infuse each meal with love in the traditions I had grown up with.

Only two weeks ago I hauled out my big soup pot and started the base for what would be a kale and white bean minestrone. It cooked low and slow and my entire house smelled divine. I rolled my sleeves up and formed some dough for the fresh bread that would accompany it. I ended up wrapping up some mint chocolate chip cookies in waxed paper. After making our way through the freshly fallen snow to our friends house, we were welcomed with open arms and huge smiles. My friend’s son was acting silly on the couch and her new daughter was sleeping snugly in a sling strapped to her mama. Our food delivered, we also provided some conversation and playtime–much needed for both mama and older brother, it seemed.

While we didn’t overstay our welcome, I left knowing that not only would they be enjoying my soup later that night, but that two days later somebody else would be at their stoop, providing another delicious meal and perhaps offering to fold some laundry or share some conversation over tea. Community in small doses–enough to be enjoyed but not overwhelmed.

Now, I wait, wondering which friend will give birth next so I can access my own roots to help nourish both belly and soul.

For some recommended recipes for your next meal train, check out our recipes to bring to new moms. Besides Mealtrain.com we also recommend Take Them a Meal, Care Calendar, LotsaHelpingHands, Food Tidings, and MealBaby.


Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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