For the last couple days I have been carefully cataloging and boxing the wonderful books everyone has been sending since the flood. I’m going to write about everything that everyone has sent, which may take me a while since there are so many! It’s taking me a long time because I keep stopping to look through them and get side-tracked. I want to cook everything!
Looking at all the books and recipes took me back to the first few days of the flood when the house was nothing but devastation, mud, sadness, tiredness to the bone, and hunger. We would forget to eat or would be too tired to eat, plus we had no gas to cook. And no cookbooks. But now I have a few hundred and it keeps growing.
Here is what it reminded me of more than anything. The food people brought in during that time. Those caring, loving, incredible friends, and the ladies from church. What would we have done without them? Our church has a program called Meal Train where meals are made by a group of volunteers and taken to those in need, whether it be illness, death in the family, or a new baby. When I received a call from one of our members, Jeris, who is a wonder, she asked how we were doing and wanted to know why I hadn’t signed up for the Meal Train. I found that kind of funny because I am one of the volunteers on the Meal Train and it never occurred to me to sign up myself! I told Jeris that we were not sick, no one died, and we would be okay. No, she said, you need this. We went back and forth a few times and I finally said okay because Jeris was very adamant that we needed it. It turned out to be a lifesaver for us. Wise and caring Jeris was right. There were days we probably would not have eaten at all if not for the Meal Train.
First to show up from the Meal Train was Jan, a bundle of energy that most people half her age couldn’t keep up with. She walked in with cherries, watermelon, lemonade, egg salad, croissants, crackers and cheese, zucchini bread, and a gift certificate to a local restaurant! Not only that, since the doors were always open with the workers taking things out to the dumpster in the driveway, mosquitoes were relentless. Jan brought along mosquito repellant! Next she asked, “Where’s the dirty laundry?” I told her that our clothes were filthy, sweaty, and mud-covered and she definitely did not have to do our laundry. Jan replied, “I grew up on a farm, I know mud!” And off she went with yucky clothes in a big garbage bag. I also remembered after she left that I couldn’t have done laundry anyway. My dryer is a gas dryer.
Next came Terry and Kathie who brought a delicious baked mahi-mahi with a crumb topping, a marinated bean salad, and a mixed salad and dressing. As we were showing them the destruction, Kathie spotted a pile of recipes that were still damp that I actually didn’t have the heart to even look at because there were a lot of my grandmother’s and mother-in-law’s recipes and I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. “I can try and save those,” Kathie said. She gently picked them up and off they went. Almost every single one came back, a little wrinkled here and there, but legible and useable. Don’t you know I shed a few tears over that..
The gratefulness continued with Lorie who brought a delicious mac and cheese casserole with chicken and broccoli, french bread, and a chocolate pie. The next day it was Sue and John bringing Salisbury steak with gravy and mashed potatoes, a spinach and fresh fruit salad, asparagus, and cookies. Jeris tried to get to us with her delicious pulled pork sliders but couldn’t make it through some of road closings on her way over because of flooding elsewhere in the area. She called another volunteer, Gladys, who managed to meet her partway and gave Gladys the dinner to deliver to us.
As you see, people went to great effort to feed and take care of our spirits and it was appreciated more than they will ever know. A few days later my friend Mary came with soup. My friend Barb came by and picked up some cookbooks to help dry out and try to save. Barb also brought along a purse-sized container of Maldon salt which I loved. You never know when eating out that something might need a touch of salt! Another friend, Bonnie, who used to own a kitchen store in downtown Libertyville walked in with a Williams-Sonoma bag in hand. Inside was a gift box of Meyer lemon products – hand soap, countertop spray, and dish soap. I can’t tell how good that aroma was when all we were used to inhaling was musty, moldy air. Then came Lyn. I did not even want to tell my friend of over thirty years, who had just lost her mother, about the flood, so I purposely did not call her when it happened. That’s because Lyn is the kind of person who always thinks of others first and herself later. I knew if I told her, she would want to help, and she didn’t need anything else to do at that moment but grieve over the loss of her mom. But she called me and specifically asked the question, did we get any flooding from the storm. I’m not good at lying so I told her about the basement but that we would be okay and not to worry. Next thing I knew, there was Lyn at the door with flowers in her hand and then she walked right into the kitchen where she saw Kristina washing muddy dishes and cookie cutters that survived. Lyn immediately started helping her. That’s Lyn. The best person and friend anyone could ask for.
All of the food and caring from these marvelous people really did feed our souls and got us through the first challenging days. I know it seems like the planet has gone mad lately with so much anger and turmoil presented to us practically minute-by-minute on the news, but never forget the wonderful people of this world. They are the ones we need to remember and be grateful that they are here.