Surgery Suppers

There are certain times in life when I’m especially thankful that I’m a chef and able to help others in times when they need it most.

As a personal chef, I’ve had clients contact me for a variety of reasons: to help with senior parents who find it difficult to cook for themselves anymore, a single commuter who doesn’t have the time to prepare proper meals at the end of a long day, or families with a child facing a new food allergy or special diet. Whatever the reason, it feels good to be able to help them and their loved ones get through a tough situation.

But the one situation I can relate to, and that touches me most, is the call to help someone who is facing a surgery and a lengthy recovery period. This is what I began to call my ‘Surgery Suppers’ service. I’ve had to put this service to the test on myself and for my family more than once, so maybe that’s why it touches me more than any other service.

Planning Ahead

So what exactly is Surgery Suppers? It’s a meal plan that lays out weeknight dinners, with daily instructions on not only what’s for dinner, but how to cook it, thaw it, heat it, serve it…whatever the client needs. It can simply be supplying a binder with a personal plan of recipes for the client to prepare ahead of the surgery date, or it can mean having me cook the dishes and stock the clients refrigerator and/or freezer before the big day.

Thai-Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Orange Curry Sauce

In our situation, it’s been me as the patient and my husband and kids as the clients. Because my girls were quite small when this happened to us the first time, I put together a binder with a monthly calendar in the front that had nightly meals listed on it for each day so they could see meals-at-a-glance. Then, a section behind that gave detailed instructions for each day. If something needed to be pulled from the freezer and thawed, those instructions appeared in red as a gentle reminder. Instructions for thawing and cooking appeared below that. Everything was spelled out to make the process as easy as possible for my husband. I had filled the refrigerator with several days of fresh meals, and stocked the freezer with enough food to keep them going for about three weeks. Honestly, it was the one thing that allowed me to rest easy and focus on my recovery.

I tend to just focus on dinners for the meal plan, but I did also prepare muffins, scones, pancakes, and other items, and had them in the freezer for my family. My kids were taking their lunches to school, so this was again one less stressor for everyone – they could just grab something from the freezer and throw it in their lunch bags.

Sadly, we had to go through it again a couple years later, but this time the girls were older and able to help, so the meals could be a little more complex. Many of the meals this time meant just having the ingredients on-hand so the girls could start cooking dinner themselves while they waited for my husband to finish work each day.

Every client and every situation is different, but the feeling of knowing something big has been taken care of is the same.

It doesn’t have to be a surgery…maybe you’re undergoing a kitchen renovation, or it’s final exams coming up and you don’t have a lot of time. Whatever the occasion, how do you prepare? How do you plan ahead to keep you or your loved ones on track and eating well?

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