My friends recently had their second child. I am very excited for them, but I will not be buying that baby any adorable clothes or toys. OK, fine, I lied. I will be buying an unreasonable amount of gifts because I have a grandmotherly desire to give all children toys and chocolate. And a pinch on the cheek. But that is not what my friends really need. What they really need is food.
I know this from experience. When I went from zero to one child, attempts were made to maintain some semblance of a normal life. When our second child arrived, things completely unraveled. Planning and preparing nutritious, tasty meals suddenly took a backseat to nursing, napping and making sure my older child was not keeping a notebook of things to tell her future therapist about my parenting. We began subsisting on string cheese and Pirate’s Booty. When a friend sent a delivery from the kosher deli, I clung to those bagels like life preservers.
But this is not news to Jews. For over 5,000 years, food has been the answer to everything. Happy? Have something to eat. Sad? Have something to eat. Dead? That’s too bad, you missed quite a spread at the shiva. If someone you know is having their second child, don’t waste your money on a designer onesie. That kid has already been condemned to a life of hand-me-downs; gender and stains be damned! The best gift you can give a crazed parent is the gift of not having to think about what to put in their food hole.
Not only is food a practical gift, it is also a gift from the heart. Generations of Jewish mothers and grandmothers have felt compelled to show how much they care by force-feeding their family. When my sister had her second child, I too became possessed by the ancient urge to cram the people I love full of home-cooked meals. This was a no-brainer! I was going to be the hero who brought food to the poor souls run over by the Baby Bus! But what to make? After a prolonged search through various cookbooks, I settled on a handful of recipes that called out to me. Something about them just seemed right for the occasion. I eagerly made buckets of butternut squash soup, plates of pasta with sweet potatoes and carafes of curried lentils. Proudly, I schlepped the meals over to my sister’s place and prepared to bask in her praise and appreciation. Unfortunately, it turns out that the special je ne se quois that my subconscious had recognized about these dinners was that they all bore a striking resemblance to frothy, orange newborn baby poop. Let’s just say that my efforts were not well received.
If you don’t think you can swing a whole dinner, there is something to be said for the giving of sweet treats. While they may not provide vital nutrients, chocolate rugelach can give anyone the will to go on. A momentous occasion like giving birth to a new human definitely deserves a celebratory dessert; however, like my dinner disaster, there are pitfalls to avoid. I encourage you to choose wisely. My personal recommendation is a Fudgy the Whale ice cream cake from Carvel. If you can avoid writing “To a Whale of a Mom” on it, you should be golden. (Say no to Cookie Puss.) And, unless specifically requested, do not get a “birth cake.” For those who may not be familiar, these are cakes that look like a vagina with a baby’s head emerging from it. (This is not my fault. I did not invent this.) Some people are into this and will have cakes custom-made to predict or recreate their “crowning achievement.” In my brief research online, I observed that chocolate shavings make the most realistic pubic hair. I guess the rainbow sprinkles get saved for clown births.
Luckily for my friends, I have learned my lessons. There will be no evocative entrees or provocative pastries. This time, when communing with my nana from the netherworld, she told me to stop being such a schlemiel. Instead of slaving over a hot stove, I would do better to send an online gift card. Delivery services like Seamless and Grubhub offer emailable gift cards and provide a variety of cuisines to choose from. Let the breeders in your life decide whether they are in the mood for sushi, shakshuka or a protein-rich slurry that can be consumed standing up while holding a crying infant.
The only downside is that these delivery services operate primarily in the city, but there are plenty of restaurants that offer gift cards and take-out in the ‘burbs. I was able to determine that my friends frequently ordered from Bareburger after searching through their garbage cans at night like a racoon. Just kidding, I sent a text and asked what they wanted. (The garbage thing was just for fun.) It was my pleasure to help out during their time of need and I was gratified to receive a note in the mail a few days later. You guys are so welcome. And yes, I will come by later to clean up the trash I left on your driveway.