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Casseroles heal all wounds

After two weeks here in Nebraska, hanging out both at the hospital in Omaha and in my hometown of Grand Island, the time has come for me return to Mexico City. I think the Carmann family is feeling a lot better now that we’ve had some time to gather more information & Mom is well on the road to recovery from the surgical procedures. Additionally, we’ve been super appreciative of the support from all our family & friends in words, thoughts and deeds.

Which brings me to a question I was thinking about last nite… What is the standard procedure in Mexico when a friend or neighbor is sick, or has received generally crappy news?

I am very familiar with the cultural norm in the Midwest– casseroles, casseroles and more casseroles! And perhaps a pie! And sure enough, our friends in Grand Island have not let us down. :)  In the 4 days we were home, we received one cherry pie, two freezable chicken/spaghetti-based casseroles (though I confess one did not make it to the freezer… too tasty to just wrap up and put away both of them!!), a bacon-wrapped chicken & dried beef casserole yesterday nite along with a potato casserole (and brownies!), and a promise for a macaroni-and-cheese casserole to arrive on Saturday. (As well as a dozen amazing cupcakes shipped in from friends in Texas.)

Casseroles are the Midwesterner’s way of saying, “I am thinking of you during this crappy time you are going through, and I know that you probably can’t be bothered to cook. So, I am bringing you this casserole that you can freeze, so that you’ll have it at the ready on whichever day your cooking motivation reaches an all-time low.” While they might not fall into the ‘health food’ category, they definitely fall into the “comfort, feel-better food” category.

You can peruse one of our family favorites, Swiss Cheese Green Bean Casserole, here.

Getting back to the question at hand, what is the similar cultural procedure in Mexico? Or even on the East Coast of the US?? (since we’re heading back to Washington DC soon-ish)  Is there a standard food or type of food that is the default option when a nearby friend or family member is in need?? I was laughing to myself, thinking of someone in Boston showing up at a sick neighbor’s door with a big bucket of clams…. or perhaps someone in Mexico hiring a tacos al pastor vendor to make a visit to a hospital. :)

Any insights are welcomed to add to my cultural intelligence… because I’m just not sure how well our Midwestern casseroles would be received in Mexico City…. 😉

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  1. Leah says:

    My only experience here in Veracruz was when my husband was hospitalized for over a month and then again after he had surgery. To be honest, I was disappointed in the lack of community/extended family support. The only person who brought meals outside of hubby’s parents was a neighbor, Judith, who brought a couple. Otherwise, everyone asked about him, but never sent cards, made food, or brought flowers. I thought maybe it was because we hadn’t been living in the neighborhood long, or that it’s b/c Veracruz is a big city, vs. smalltown, but in general, I have seen that Americans are far more responsive during times of crisis.

    Maybe one day I’ll be shown differently.

    Oh and Ohio is basically the same as everywhere else in the midwest – casseroles galore!

  2. lois mcshain says:

    In DF, anyway, you might take flowers to visit a newborn, and there are rather strict protocols for a wake, but it falls to the household of the sick or otherwise to attend to callers’ needs as well as everyone else’s. Back home dishes that can be served easily are common across the country. We’ve shared tons of casseroles, chicken and biscuits and messes of greens down south; barbequed briskets (and other large hunks of meat) in Texas, tamales in California and roast venison in Wyoming. Yankees do wierd things with macaroni and weiners. Pizzas, deli trays from supermarkets and cakes from bakeries show up too but homemade shows more thought. Visitors from abroad have been duly impressed by American thoughtfulness and concern, and we’re proud this custom from many years ago when it took the better part of a day to produce the daily bread.
    You have good friends and it is well that your mother is getting better.

  3. Dayna says:

    Hi Julie!
    I’m glad your mom is doing well. I hope she has a speedy and painless recovery. I’m sure she will win this fight!

    As for traditions, we Mexicans don’t do anything like you guys. It’s not that we don’t care or that we don’t love the person who’s going through a hard time, it’s simply not part of our culture.
    We’ll call to see how they’re doing, we’ll visit and maybe bring flowers but never food and very rarely do we send cards.
    Same thing goes for funerals. We would never even think about bringing food to someone’s house after a member of that family passed away.
    So, if you ever find yourself in a situation like that, a phone call here and there, some flowers and a visit will suffice.

    BTW, totally unrelated, but my best friend knows you! He went to TEC de Monterrey for his MBA (though he did it here in Guadalajara) and he met you in Phoenix right after you had just started it. Small world we live in!

  4. I can’t speak much for Mexico, but I can respond to your call for information concerning East Coast “Get Well Soon” protocol. Okay, well the Southern part of the East Coast. Much like Midwesterners, we instinctively bring food to anyone who is celebrating, mourning, or recovering. (Heck — we bring over food just because we feel like it!) In my Tennessee-raised family, the normal menu consists of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and some sort of veggie: green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, creamed spinach, or creamed corn. In addition, we always bring over a pitcher of sweet tea and a pie of some sort!

    I can attest to the difference between Mexican and American culture on this issue. When I was briefly hospitalized in Guanajuato a few years ago, not much special happened. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t well connected with neighbors, family, and friends. Just a unique cultural difference, I suppose.

    Hope your “Momma-n-them” are doing well! My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  5. Rosemary Cervantes says:

    Your mom is a friend from the days she worked at esu 10 and we miss her! She always brought a note of joy and a good sense of grounded cynicism to our meetings. I am so glad that you were able to spend some days with her and set up her care site. I have also followed your blog with great interest as I lived for 7 yrs, in the DF and 8 more in Cuernavaca. I just got back from Oaxaca 2 days ago for a first communion celebration that lasted from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Only in Mexico….. I am sad that you will be leaving Mexico soon,,, I am a Mexico junkie and so enjoyed your posts. I see your mother in your humor and intellect and find myself often saying “yep – Marcia’s daughter!”
    Did you get your undergrad degree in Boston?? Where? My beloved son got his masters at MIT.
    Today I got totally into your LAS POZAS report – great job. I had never even heard of it!! Thanks for such a great post and all the links. such great fotos too, What a talented young woman you are…. but of course – Marcia’s daughter – what more could I expect.

    Rosemary Cervantes

  6. Rosemary Cervantes says:

    sweetheart — your blog on asian food sent me over the edge. My daughter in law is from Toyko and makes the most awesome asian food. My grandsons LOVE the food (my daughter’s kids – Mexican – not from Japan but loved the food when they went to Japan) Oh yes — asian food done right. Yum.
    It just occurred to me — are you ready for reverse cultural shock??
    What we missed were: the food; our muchacha; the food; and our muchachacha ++++ the cultural values and the way of life. Oh my.
    Best of luck on your re-entry to the US of A.

  7. Julie says:

    Thanks to all for the various new cultural insights!!
    Leah– yeah, I am sure going from casseroles galore to zero foodstuffs during time-of-crisis is a strange transition
    Lois– I love the bbq-d brisket idea :)
    Dayna– good to know re. the phone call & flowers! & who is your best friend that knows me?? :)
    Taylor– yes, nothing will heal someone faster than fried chicken, eh?? 😉
    Rosemary– thanks so much for the kind words!! My job brought me to Boston for 4 years, what a great city. Yes, Las Pozas definitely merits a visit! And I don’t know how we’re going to adjust post-Mexico when we’re back in DC… It will be slow going!!

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