When I had my baby, after fifty hours of unbelievable labor, I came home to a kitchen that was not quite through a remodel and a pretty empty fridge.
Blissed out and hungry, we assumed there would be a parade of lasagna and casseroles — isn't that how it goes in the movies? — but alas, the goods never arrived. After that, I swore that from then on I would always cook for my friends when they had babies and that is how the Taco Box was born.
Last week when a very good friend had her second baby — a boy with the best shaggy hair and a perfect little mouth — I thought again about what a new family needs. They don't need advice about feeding on demand and diapering, but they need to be fed and good food goes a long way. No longer a new parent, I am still reminded of all the things that good food makes you feel in a time of need: loved, secure, warm, and considered.
How To Make a Taco Box
The wine-crate delivery vessel idea came about when a friend in the wine business had her son and I thought she'd appreciate the presentation. Now, when it's time for a Taco Box I ask a neighborhood wine shop or restaurant for a crate. For this last baby I decided to get fancy and bust out the spray paint and masking tape. In less than five minutes I had taped off the words Taco Box, sprayed the side, and set it to dry on my fire escape. I was on the train to Brooklyn in no time.
What To Put In a Taco Box
You can make your own Taco Box with anything you think a family needs. Fill it with baguettes, good mustard, ham, berries, and cream. Go the breakfast route and include bagels (with freezer bag!) smoked salmon, good coffee, and fresh fruit. Ask Mom what she's craving and spoil her with treats.
Why do I do tacos? What's with the six-pack of Guinness? Tacos, because it's what I crave, and I know when I make my tacos, pregnant, post-partum, or not, my friends usually like it. I know other relatives probably have the lasagnas and casseroles covered, even if mine didn't. Guinness, because where some of my ancestors come from, it's said that a dark lager helps milk production.* Tacos and stout are also my way of honoring my own Irish and Mexican heritage so it seems a fitting way to feed a new family.
It's not always chicken, sometimes it's pork butt or carne asada (steak) but it always includes guacamole, corn tortillas, and that six pack. Even if mom isn't craving a beer, dad might be.
I'd love to hear about what you make in your welcome package for new families. And if you've never done it, this is your chance to deliver your first Taco Box.
More Tips for Feeding a Family With a New Baby
Here are some tips on packing up food for a family with a new baby:
• Before planning the menu, ask about any restrictions and know they may have changed since the birth. Some moms need more of some things and less of others, especially if they are nursing.
• Prepare foods that can be frozen in case someone else brought food on the same day or some kind soul just did a big grocery run.
• If cooking a large quantity, pack the freezable foods into individual freezer bags. If there are two parents and an older sibling, pack the bags to have three servings' worth, etc.
• Write re-heating instructions on the bags or on a note in the box in case someone who isn't used to cooking is playing chef.
Great Recipes for Feeding a New Family
Here are some other recipes of mine that would be great for a new family:
• Slow Cooker Carnitas
• 30-Minute Coq au Vin
• Coconut Milk Chicken
• Smashed Potatoes with Crème Fraîche
• Cheddar and Leek Muffins
• Italian Wedding Soup
*This is not meant to spark a debate on drinking while nursing, though I will offer that my midwife and my pediatrician both encouraged a short beer at the end of the day.
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)