Three days after I had my son, 6 years ago (6 and two thirds years ago, if you ask him) some friends brought a picnic round to the house. They bought cheese, bread, fruit, crisps and wine.
We all sat in the bedroom, enjoying the picnic. Photos reveal that my son was unnecessarily close to the cheese knife, making him look a bit like a delicious suckling pig. We didn’t eat him, don’t worry (although I have been occasionally tempted to nibble a leg while he is asleep)
Whenever I think about this picnic, it makes me want to cry. The kindness of my friends, the relief that we didn’t have to worry about cooking that evening, the fact that they also washed up, put everything away then went home. How often do new parents end up having to entertain guests, meanwhile producing some sort of delicious cake whilst leaking from every orifice, trying to keep a small human alive and trying to resist the urge to wail PLEASE CAN SOMEONE ELSE CLEAN MY HOUSE.
During that picnic, I felt cared for, nurtured, calm and nourished. Afterwards, full of cheese, I feel enormously grateful for what that small gesture had meant to me.
Having trained as a birth and postnatal doula, two years after I gave birth to my son, I attended the birth of my next door neighbour and helped with the delivery of her daughter in her living room. She had heard my labour through the adjoining wall and asked me to come on board for hers. (she described the noises she heard as ’goat like’ but I have chosen to reframe those as ’primal warrior’) .
The morning after I attended her labour and her little girl had arrived, I dropped off breakfast on a tray on the doorstep. Knowing that I had taken pressure off that first meal after labour made me remember that picnic and what it had meant to me.
I have always loved cooking. As a child, I used to plan dinner parties for my parents (you’ve got to make your own fun in Lancashire). I would spend the whole day cooking, putting together a soundtrack and the presenting them with what they described as ’delicious’ and ’not all all strange or burnt’.
Now I am older, I am better at it and I still love it. Cooking for friends is my favourite thing to do, it fills both my flat and myself with joy. I also remember the effects of that picnic. And so, I set up a postnatal meals service. The care parcels, as I have named them, consist of casseroles, chillis, dahls, cakes, soups, brownies and flapjacks, catering for new parents who would benefit from a freshly stocked freezer. I deliver them in a basket, with some fresh seasonal flowers. I deliver to their house, or they can collect from me. Alternatively, I can deliver to a friend who takes it to them. It’s a bit like being Mary Poppins, without the thinly veiled passive aggression.
There are currently three different care parcels and I am always trying out new recipes, using seasonal ingredients and varying colours so that they look as nice as they taste. All the meals are vegetarian, meaning that they are easier to freeze and/or keep fresh. Knowing that there is a small way to be on someone’s team feels really important. The gift of food is not just about fulfilling a biological need; it’s about care and nurture, about recognising that sometimes, you need someone else on your team. And sometimes, you need someone to turn up at your house with a casserole, and then go away again.
Brighton | Hove | Portslade | Southwick | Shoreham | Falmer & Lewes.
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