Top | First Person

Eating for three

(article, Jamie Passaro)

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[%pageBreakSettings maxWords=550] I vaguely remember someone walking around during our baby shower with a clipboard. People were signing something? Signing up for something, maybe? I was busy soliciting advice on childbirth and unwrapping so many soft, pale-colored things. Eight months pregnant, I could focus on only two questions: When would the baby arrive, and how much would it hurt?

After she did arrive, on a sunny August morning, and the labor pains were quickly replaced with euphoria and a hunger like I’d never known, I was thrilled to discover that the clipboard had indeed been a sign-up sheet. Our friends had organized dinners for us for the next three weeks. 

Meals delivered to our house every day meant that my husband, Bob, and I got to spend whole days in bed with this wondrous new member of our family. They meant we felt taken care of, and we got to pass those warm feelings on to our daughter, Olive. They meant we didn’t go to the grocery store once during Olive’s first month. 

Meals for three weeks also meant we got to introduce Olive to a new friend almost every day. This was mostly great; at its best, we got to look forward each day to a visit with someone from the Land of A Full Night’s Sleep. But I have to admit that there were days when we didn’t want to share Olive, when all we wanted to do was eat dinner, go to bed, and stare at her some more. 

[%image "jamieandolive" credit="Photo courtesy Jamie Passaro" float="left" caption="The author and her baby."] 

Our need to spend time with just the three of us was surprisingly fierce. I realize now that this was normal, and no one expected anything different. Except maybe us. We’d always had an open-house policy for friends. And now there was a beautiful baby to show off, celebrating to do, and so much good food to share. Seeing friends to the door before 10 p.m. – friends who were used to staying until all of the bottles were empty and the hours got small again – was new for us.

During Olive’s first weeks, I wanted to memorize everything. In a small notebook, I scribbled down every first, every visitor, every meal. Everyone interpreted the concept of delivering dinner a little differently, and the notebook documents both what we ate and how each meal reflected each friend.

Melissa and Joel brought the first meal: a Southwestern-style quiche, a loaf of locally made bread, a salad with goat cheese, pears, and pecans, two cans of Guinness, two bottles of sparkling water, and chocolate-chip cookies. 

Melissa had organized all of the meals; she also patiently rescheduled when I needed to slow them down after our refrigerator became too full (thanks in part to Grandma the Grocery Fairy, who left us jars of olives, jugs of juice, and Ziploc bags full of treats almost daily). This is the same Melissa who works 40 hours a week outside the home and is mom to Milo and Liam and giver of many parties. Did I mention her cookies were homemade? 

Like Melissa and Joel, most friends visited with us for half an hour or so and left their food. They brought dishes like spinach torta, lentil soup, and enchiladas, all of which could be eaten right away or frozen for later. Sometimes dinner included dessert, like Ann’s cornmeal cake with rosemary syrup and fresh strawberries. (Granted, I was awash in happy hormones at the time, but this was one of the yummiest cakes I’d ever tasted.) Pastries and fruit made a great breakfast the next morning. Brian brought fondue, perfect for Olive’s first rainy night. Doe brought fruits and vegetables from her garden, along with marinated tofu for grilling and homemade berry cordial. 

On Olive’s third night, our superfoodie friends Jess and Mark came over and cooked a big batch of corn chowder with avocado salsa. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with many people clanging around our kitchen during those first few days, but Jess cooks with such care and ease, and eating with friends is so integral to Jess and our relationship with her, I didn’t mind. Bob and I padded around the kitchen, drinking rosé, eating cheese, and taking turns holding Olive, while Jess cooked and caught us up on what was happening in the world outside our house. Later, by candlelight, we toasted to Olive’s first dinner party. It wasn't the usual half-hour visit and bestowal of a pan of food, but when Bob and I look back on the meals, it was one of the most memorable. 

[%image "party" credit="Photo: iStockphoto/sjlocke" float="right" caption="Celebrating on a summer evening."] 

The night our friend Emily was to bring us dinner, around Olive’s three-week birthday, we’d invited a couple of friends over for after-work drinks on the front porch. One friend had invited another friend, whom we were glad to see. Another’s spouse showed up with cheese and crackers. Soon the porch was crammed with chairs, and someone had to run to the neighborhood market for more wine. 

It was fun to watch our friends laughing and swapping stories like we had on so many other summer nights, and it was the scene we’d imagined when we thought about bringing up a child among our friends. But by the time Emily showed up with a pizza and salad, it was getting dark. Olive was getting fussy. And I was ready for the party to end.

I took Olive inside to nurse in the quiet, and the laughter on the front porch sounded distant and strangely annoying. After our other friends went home, Emily came inside to eat dinner with us as she always had; we’d once joked that our dinners with her were so amiable she should join our household. It was her night with us, after all. But we were tired. I scarfed down a piece of pizza and told Emily we needed to get to bed. She was gracious, of course, and I remember feeling both awkward and relieved as we hugged goodbye. It was 10:15 p.m.  

That night was a great introduction to negotiating two of the most important aspects of our lives – food and friends – as a family of three. Though the pre-Olive us had always said we wouldn’t let a baby come between us and our social lives, Olive changed everything, literally overnight. Like most new parents we know, we’re still figuring out how to balance good friends, good food, early bedtimes, and just-us-three time. 


h1.Featured recipes


We ate the last of the meals from our freezer – mac-and-cheese dolled up à la Martha Stewart by our friend Megan – around Olive’s three-month birthday. Olive nursed at the table while we ate and marveled at how good pasta and cheese can taste, especially when prepared by someone else. By then, Olive’s cheeks were so big and round they looked like they were stuffed with Kalamata olives. (We made up a little song about it, but I’ll spare you the lyrics.) Big and round because of the milk she drank from me. Because of the food our friends fed us.

p(bio). [ "Jamie Passaro"] is a writer based in Eugene, Oregon.

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