A reader named mimatz wrote to describe a quandary: “After a stay in the hospital, a neighbor dropped off dinner. They recently had a bout of flu in their household. I'm wary of serving it. What do I say to my neighbor when they ask how we enjoyed it?”
When you return your neighbor’s (clean) dishes, just say, “Thank you so much. That was so thoughtful of you to go to the trouble to make us a home-cooked meal, and it really made us feel loved during this difficult time.”
Why would you say anything else? There’s no need to make her feel like Typhoid Mary after she cooked you a whole meal, out of kindness.
However, there’s a bigger picture to keep in mind. The issue isn’t really whether the food was full of flu-spreading germs or not. It’s this. If you don’t want to eat something someone offers you, you shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter what the reason is—maybe you are allergic to mushrooms, or you don’t like lemon, or eating brussels sprouts reminds you of the last time you were sick—because when it comes to food, people have strong, instinctive reactions. Eat what you like, stay away from what you don’t, and you will feel happy. And if you manage to be gracious about refusing something (see above), everyone else will be happy too.
Are there other ways to deal with this? What would you do with your neighbor's home-cooked casserole if you didn't want to eat it?