Our family lost a good friend to cancer last week at the young age of 48; Jim Townsend. Jim lived and most of his family live in or near the Alabama town in which I have deep roots. Although I left the area almost forty years ago, I have maintained close ties with friends there who are more family than friends. I have traveled back to visit at least once a year, and at other times for important events. I just returned from Jim’s service, and spent several days with his mother, Judy, my dearest and longest friend. We talked, cried, and laughed, and ate wonderful food prepared and delivered by many friends. I was awe struck by the volume and quality of the food. I think people in the deep south show their love and support through food like no others do. Perhaps there are lessons in this for others of us.
Food was provided to four main homes; Jim’s home, for his wife, Tammy, and 3 teenage girls; his mother, Judy’s; his sister, Patti Anne’s; and his brother, Lee’s; and (I think) on a smaller scale, to other family members. Volumes of food supplies were also given, including paper products, and soft drinks and sweetened and unsweetened iced tea. In the six days that I was there, we never had to cook or purchase anything that was needed; it had all been provided and was so appreciated. The graciousness of friends was present all around us. As I reviewed the “spread,” I took note of the food, amazed at the variety, quality, and quantity. I also noted what food was able to be easily frozen and enjoyed later, and even when the food arrived, noticing that it was not all sent at the beginning, but spread out over several days.
Most of the food was home cooked. There were a few exceptions to this. There was a large Honey Baked Ham and a spread of pizzas. Both of these are food items enjoyed by most people. Ham is able to be eaten for more than a week. It doesn’t, however, freeze well, unless it is used in a casserole. (I made a Ham and Wild Rice Casserole for the family the night before I left.) There was loaf bread and brioche rolls, good for a sandwich of honey baked ham. The pizza was sent by Lee’s work family to Tammy’s home soon after Jim’s death, and was important nourishment for the teenagers and others. There was also a large cold cut tray of sandwich meats and vegetables, which was good pick up food for a variety of tastes.
The chicken casseroles and chicken and rice dishes were also enjoyed by many and were able to be eaten several days after given. Ribs and barbecue were finished off before their shelf life became an issue! Crock pots of roast and vegetables were a complete and easy meal. There was also fried chicken, baked beans, and potato salad.
Vegetables were varied and plentiful. There were several pots of fresh green beans and bowls of macaroni and cheese. There was mashed potatoes, lentils and rice, squash casserole, purple hull peas, cole slaw, and broccoli salad. There was also a Greek salad and pita bread.
Other meals were provided at different times, all of which could be eaten for a few days and also frozen to be enjoyed later. One was an egg and sausage casserole that provided nourishment the morning of the funeral, and some of it was frozen in squares for later. Another was lasagna and garlic bread, which was sent to Patti Anne’s. If there is anything left of the lasagna, it can easily be cut in squares and frozen. There was also a tray of chocolate/peanut butter squares, cheesecake bars and tubs of chicken salad and pimento cheese delivered to Patti Anne several days after the funeral, just when something different was needed and at a time that most of the other food had been eaten and/or frozen.
Desserts were abundant, and included pound cakes, chocolate layer cake, caramel cake and squares, pecan pies, chocolate pie, lemon pound cakes, peanut butter cake, brownies, cheesecake bars, lemon bars, muffins, and cinnamon rolls. While all of the dessert was enjoyed, and of course, it was all appreciated, the lemon pound cakes and pecan pies were eaten the most and finished first. That is, those were what some of us saw and enjoyed. Lee did not share the banana pudding that was at his house, saying it was the best he has ever tasted! A big bag of cheese straws was kept out on the kitchen counter at Judy’s and gradually disappeared over the days I was there.
It is easy to understand how I gained four pounds in six days! Food is comfort and saying goodbye to Jim Townsend needed some comfort. I ate without worrying about the pounds, knowing that they should come off quickly now that I am back in NC, away from the volume and quality of delicious southern food. Hopefully the pounds will come off quickly, that is; that remains to be seen!
To friends of the Townsends who provided such love and nourishment in their time of need, thank you. Your example of southern hospitality was so appreciated by them and those others of us who enjoyed the fruits of your labor. Bless you.
If anyone reading this provided food or food products that isn’t mentioned, the error is all mine, and I sincerely apologize. Flowers and memorial contributions were also provided by many people, and are also very appreciated by the family.
Jim Townsend, you were sent home in fine fashion, and leave behind a loving family and good friends to cherish your memory. Your light will shine forever, and you live forever in our hearts.