1. When did you last give (or serve) something you cooked to someone not in your residence?
That would be the last time I went to an extended family potluck ... or maybe not! Now that I think about it, I believe I brought a big tossed salad to the most recent one (July 4th), and my awesome fruit salad to the one before that (Memorial Day), and neither of those dishes is cooked! Wow. You know, I do cook, really, but evidently only for myself and the Boy. I mean, I can't even recall the last time I made holiday cookies and gifted them to someone!
Oh, wait! One of the dumb things I *still* do, eleven years on, is share food now and then with the Man (i.e., the Ex). In the early years of the split, he was at the house frequently for kid-pick-up, while I, meanwhile, had not yet weaned myself of the desire to cook those same big casserole meals that we had formerly enjoyed together. Sharing made sense: sometimes it was spontaneous; other times, pre-planned (the recipe divided into two smaller vessels so I could hand one to him at the door). Number Three Son having turned 18, however, the whole cycle of scheduled visits has ended, and the Man has made himself scarce ... but, should he be happen to be here for some home co-owner-ish purpose on a day when I happen to have cooked a big batch of something, he'll usually get a plate of it on the spot, and will definitely get a nice-sized container to take home.
Why? I don't know. In the beginning, I was probably motivated by a weird combination of straightforward love and the desire to, Biblically speaking, "heap burning coals upon his head." These days, there's no conscious motive, but I guess I must on some level believe that, having deprived me of a regular appreciative audience for my cooking (Three's palate is abysmally juvenile), the Man owes me the courtesy of enjoying my food when chance puts him in its path.
And this last happened ... in early June of 2020. I wanted to try a new recipe, a version of Chicken Paprikash that called for 2.5 pounds of meat. I suppose I could have scaled down said recipe, but on a first attempt you kinda like to do things to the letter. Thus, I was delighted when Mr. Ex happened to show up on Paprikash day to do some home repair or other, and I could both serve him a plateful of the stuff and send him home with another.
Could it really be the case that I haven't cooked for a non-household-member since June 2020? Let me think. My extended family's 2020 Christmas party wasn't very extended (thanks, COVID), but we did have one, and my contribution was ... a charcuterie board. No cooking there. And 2021's Easter dinner was ... hey, we didn't do an Easter dinner this year! (COVID!) We did do some birthdays over the course of the second half of '20 and the first half of '21, but the eats, more often than not, came from Pizza Hut rather than anyone's kitchen.
Oh, wait! Three and I spent Thanksgiving 2020 as Two's guests, and he & his spouse cooked everything except the rolls, which they assigned to me. For the occasion, I made a batch (a really good batch) of "my" famous from-scratch crescent rolls (okay, they're my mother-in-law's famous from-scratch crescent rolls, but my family loves them no matter who does the baking), and not only did I bring them to that meal at Two's, but I also stopped at my brother's house on the way to leave a dozen for my parents. I guess THAT was the last time I cooked something for others...
No, wait! In late April 2021, my neighbors held an outdoor (distanced & masked, but probably still unwise) gathering to celebrate one neighbor's mega-milestone birthday. My contribution was a big decorated cake, which I baked and frosted myself (and it was a hit -- Lawnmower Man being the b-day boy, I made a lawnmower cake topper out of a Rice Krispie treat & frosting and nestled it in among icing-tube-#233 strands of grass). So THAT was the last time I cooked something for others.
But I think the Paprikash story is better.
2. When did someone — not a restaurant or takeout spot or housemate! — last prepare a dish for you?
No one cooks for me in particular. But I was a guest at the home of Number Two Son & his wife for a family dinner on, hmmm, August 3rd (so, about two weeks ago). The guest of honor was Number One Son, who was visiting from Nashville, so I guess they were really cooking for him ... but Three and I were included, and Two did seem to care most about my opinion of the meal (plus, he made a big effort to accommodate my work schedule), so I'll count it. Two (for he is the head chef of the home) prepared a pork loin sous vide, with roasted potato wedges and some kind of reduction for gravy ... and it was delicious!
3. When did you last reach out to someone who could use some company?
I went (with Three in tow) to visit my Dad last week when my brother (with whom Dad lives) was out of town.
4. When did someone last reach out to you for similar reasons?
Well, I don't know. A friend and I have gone to lunch a few times this summer, usually at his instigation, but I don't think he's been reaching out for my sake (it's more mutual). And Number Two Son invites me over a lot "just to hang," but there is almost always a babysitting-related ulterior motive (not that I mind).
But, you know, there is someone who periodically texts me purely to see how I'm doing, and I do appreciate the effort and the motivation behind it. It's the minister at my old church -- not the guy from when I actually attended, but the young man who took the job shortly after I'd left to start my organist job at the "new" church (almost a decade ago). Anyhow, this young man befriended my sons (Two and Three), who were still attending the old church without me, and via that connection he eventually became my friend, as well (or maybe we have more of an aunt-nephew vibe). He knows my situation and that I struggle with sadness, and he was the one who recommended the really good therapist I saw a few years ago. Being a minister, Nephew-ish Friend is much better at checking in on sad old ladies than my actual sons are -- but there's no reason he should feel obliged to do it in my case, since I'm not in his flock, so it means something to me that he does. And it last happened ... oh, a week/ten days ago (give or take).
5. How good a listener are you when someone needs to talk it out?
Scale of 1-10? I'm gonna say somewhere between 7.5 and 8. I actually care, and I know to try not to make it about me, but I'm sure I could do better. Of course, I don't exactly attract gratuitous confidences, possibly because of my aura of sadness (no one thinks, "Wow, she's clearly got it together Maybe she can help me!").