As some of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook will know I lost my husband suddenly three weeks ago. It’s obviously hard to write about it while it's still so raw but I wanted to tell you about something quite unexpected that has helped - and is helping - to heal the pain.
A couple of nights after he died a chef friend, Chris Wicks, turned up with an absolutely magnificent fish pie. “I just thought you’d have family round you’d need to feed and you wouldn’t feel like cooking.” Or eating, he could have said. So true. The very thought made me feel nauseous but we needed to eat, all of us - and the amazing thing was - the pie was so delicious - luxuriant, creamy, stuffed with seafood - that we actually tucked in and enjoyed it.
Another chef friend, Stephen Markwick, heard about this and brought his own equally amazing pie - this time chicken and tarragon - a few days later which I shared with my husband’s and my oldest friends one memorable evening when we talked endlessly about Trevor and joyously remembered him. It reminded me that it was still possible to laugh.
Since then there have been other food offerings. Supplies of Spanish jamon and a homemade tortilla from my beautiful Menorcan daugher-in-law, Maria (plus a mac and cheese which I’ve just happily remembered I stashed away in the freezer). A great hunk of creamy Gorwydd Caerphilly from cheesemaker friends Trethowan's Dairy. Some fresh farm eggs, laid that day, from a neighbour, a box of indulgently chocolatey muffins from an American friend (which our youngest son managed to squirrel away) and a box of Hotel Chocolat chocolate fingers which popped through the letterbox from a new friend, Nicky. They got rapidly scoffed by our youngest too. Choc therapy.
Others have offered to come over and cook. Lovely idea - more intimate, less stressful than a restaurant although I have had a couple of great meals at our local, Wallfish, in the past 10 days. (They also offered to let me use the restaurant as an office in between services if I was finding it difficult or depressing to work from home. I wasn't doing much work at all to be honest but it was an incredibly kind thought.) Local feels good right now.
Finally this week we held a magnificent Irish-style wake for Trevor at his much-loved Bell’s Diner where we sat round big tables and shared incredible food and wine. Nothing fussy - clams and beans, rabbit stew - his favourite kind of food. It’s all been about comfort this past couple of weeks.
How useful is this to you? Maybe you’re not as obsessed with food as I am or lucky enough - I know I am - to have friends who are chefs but everyone can provide food of some sort: a pan (or even a couple of cartons) of soup, a homemade pasta sauce, a quiche or some cold ham and tubs of salads, even a pack of porridge - I treated myself to Rude Health’s Fruity Date porridge the other day. Someone told me a friend had provided her with a side of smoked salmon. Healthy food to pick at is especially welcome. You don't want to be living off toast.
I hadn’t really thought what people need when they're bereaved. Flowers seem obvious and they’re beautiful but they die and you don’t need a reminder of death*. But food is comforting, sustaining and nourishing: something that literally keeps body and soul together. Don’t ask whether the person wants it - they’ll more than likely say "no, I’m not hungry, please don’t go to the trouble" but they'll welcome it, believe me. Make it perishable so they can't just put away it in a cupboard.
Be a feeder.
*Another good friend send a couple of light-hearted books to read “for those moments you wake up in the middle of the night” So right. I can recommend The Red Notebook to fellow insomniacs. And from another, a bath oil called Inner Strength. We all need it.