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Food and Funerals


takomabaker
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My mother is Catholic, my father is Mormon, and any time a family member died, there was food.

When my father's mother died two years ago, the Relief Society (women's group) from his church provided food for after the funeral. When ny father's father died a month later, they did it again. But I don't know that every LDS church does that, though I'd imagine that most of them do.

As for my mother's side of the family, there is always food after a funeral. But I'm not sure who provides it. I know that when my Uncle Brian died, the church members did - but he was the priest's assistant at that church. I remember being amazed at how much food there was - but then, almost everybody who attended the church also attended his funeral, so I guess there had to be. There was food when my Aunt Anne died, too, but I was too young to know where it came from.

Misa

Sweet Misa

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I've read this thread, as well as several others on the subject matter for some information, but I still have a question: I'm trying to get prepared for the death of my grandmother. It may seem callous to prepare something in advance, but I'm usually the one who makes sure something is at the funeral whenever something like this happens with my whole extended family -- it just has never happened in my immediate family before.

While the women at church will prepare the food for after the burial (that's a tradition here), my question is at the wake. Having food at the wake is a tradition, but, unfortunately Wal-mart cookies and cakes have been making their way to the funeral home for a long time with nothing homemade. That's why I always make sure to bring a few things to the funeral home before the wake -- so there's good food and try to keep the tradition alive within our family's circle.

However, since it's my grandmother -- is it even appropriate for me to be the one making things? I would have them there before the funeral home opened for guests, so no one but immediate family would ever have to know.

And for anyone thinking about chastising me for trying to prepare in advance, save it. I have been at the hospital for days. Now, I'm helping my mother making the necessary funeral arrangements so we don't have to do them last minute under that much stress (and the stress now is more than enough). I'm doing what I can. A lot of people are letting the tradition fade, and I don't want the table in the coffee room to be (God forbid!) empty if I leave it up to people who come, or leave her with Walmart cakes in plastic boxes.

So, should I do it? If so, the wake is usually just sandwiches, cookes, cakes, etc. -- with coffee. If it's appropriate and I can do it, here's what I thought:

Asst. Finger Sandwiches (including roast beef / turkey / pimento cheese)

Homemade Rolls with Country Ham and Mustard (I thought homemade biscuits would get hard too fast -- they have to sit for about 4 hours.)

Deviled Eggs

Cookie Tray

Pound Cake Slices

Brownies and/or Fudge

Thanks in advance,

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And for anyone thinking about chastising me for trying to prepare in advance, save it.

Popsicle, no one will (or should) chastise you for that. In my work on a book on funeral food, one of the best stories was from Alicia Ross, who told me about her grandmother's "death shelf." It came from a time when women routinely kept spare casseroles and a spare coffee cake in a special area of the deep freezer, ready to go when someone needed it.

The act of making food now and tucking it away in the freezer might be a comfort to you. That's one of the biggest motivations behind funeral foods: They give us something to do, some concrete action, when our hearts are aching and we feel like life is out of our control.

So cook away. Make the food you want to be there. When my grandmother died, the grandchildren in her town, Atlanta, took great pleasure in making her special dishes so we'd be able to share them again as a family. When my dad died, my brother and I competed over making the deviled eggs. Of course other people brought them -- but making our own was an act of family solidarity.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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I've read this thread, as well as several others on the subject matter for some information, but I still have a question:  I'm trying to get prepared for the death of my grandmother.  It may seem callous to prepare something in advance, but I'm usually the one who makes sure something is at the funeral whenever something like this happens with my whole extended family -- it just has never happened in my immediate family before.

While the women at church will prepare the food for after the burial (that's a tradition here), my question is at the wake.  Having food at the wake is a tradition, but, unfortunately Wal-mart cookies and cakes have been making their way to the funeral home for a long time with nothing homemade.  That's why I always make sure to bring a few things to the funeral home before the wake -- so there's good food and try to keep the tradition alive within our family's circle.

However, since it's my grandmother -- is it even appropriate for me to be the one making things?  I would have them there before the funeral home opened for guests, so no one but immediate family would ever have to know. 

And for anyone thinking about chastising me for trying to prepare in advance, save it.  I have been at the hospital for days.  Now, I'm helping my mother making the necessary funeral arrangements so we don't have to do them last minute under that much stress (and the stress now is more than enough).  I'm doing what I can.  A lot of people are letting the tradition fade, and I don't want the table in the coffee room to be (God forbid!) empty if I leave it up to people who come, or leave her with Walmart cakes in plastic boxes.

So, should I do it?  If so, the wake is usually just sandwiches, cookes, cakes, etc. -- with coffee.  If it's appropriate and I can do it, here's what I thought:

Asst. Finger Sandwiches (including roast beef / turkey / pimento cheese)

Homemade Rolls with Country Ham and Mustard (I thought homemade biscuits would get hard too fast -- they have to sit for about 4 hours.)

Deviled Eggs

Cookie Tray

Pound Cake Slices

Brownies and/or Fudge

Thanks in advance,

First of all please know that you have our deepest sympathies concerning your grand mother. Cook & prepare to your hearts delight and if, Athens forbid, any one should say any thing crass then just remark w/ a smile on your face that you would delight in preparing a cake for their funeral.

Probably the best way to deter any possible awkward situation is to say some thing along the lines of, "the only thing that would relieve the stress was spending time in the kitchen; it was therapy for me" to any one and every one willing to listen. If that does not stop them cold then refer to the first paragraph and ask them what kind of cake they want. You might even hint that they should be much more comfortable w/ devil's food as opposed to angel's food.

It would be especially fitting if you prepare a favorite of your grand mother's and made it known that you did it to remember her.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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I'm trying to get prepared for the death of my grandmother. It may seem callous to prepare something in advance...

PopsicleToze, I salute you for making these preparations for the inevitable....indeed, even giving thought to said preparations. I made reference in an earlier post to the death of my 104 yr. old grandmother...even though she was in pretty good shape (for her age) until a few weeks before the end, there was NO advance planning for her funeral. I think the mindset of her children (my dad and his siblings) was that to actually make preparations would be akin to hastening the actual event...bizarro? Stress? Oh yeah, there was plenty of that when the time came to make the arrangements. As for food, I'm kicking myself now for NOT cooking/baking anything for the post-funeral reception. As it turned out, there was absolutely nothing homemade; all we had were trays picked up from the grocery store. If I were you, I wouldn't waste a minute worrying about what people think about your preparing food for your grandmother's wake/funeral. If anyone asks, just say it's Food of Love. I send my condolences to you and your family.

CBHall

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  • 3 weeks later...

When i lost my Dad and my Brother, truly the last thing on my mind was a potluck lunch from anyone. Kinda creepy imo.I was fully capable of eating when i was ready without everyone staring at my reaction.

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just an fyi.....

The "Center for Southern Literature" in association w/ the Margaret Mitchell House and the AHS and Historic Oakland Foundation is sponsoring Gayden Metcalfe author of "Being Dead is No Excuse: the Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral" on Tuesday, 26th July @ 6.00pm. Admission is free to members of any of the afore-mentioned groups but $8.00 for non-members.

Clicky-clicky for more information:

http://www.gwtw.org/csl.html#metcalfe

I am going to try to make it and hope fully will see some eG folks there.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My mother passed away on July 5th after a long, long illness.

I had been returning to Springfield from Chicago to visit her, and while there I was able to see some of my very, very large family. (My wife jokes that when she is introduced to someone in Springfield, she doesn't ask herself if they are related to me, rather how they are related.) But I had not seen everyone, and certainly not all at once. So returning for her funeral was overwhelming.

While Springfield remains below the Mason-Dixon Line geographically and, in many ways, philosophically, they no longer, alas, subscribe to the Southern Funeral. No pimento spread. None.

Before I left for Springfield, I made a double batch (4 loaves) of chocolate-walnut babka. I baked-off two to take with me and froze two unbaked to have when we got back. I took the babka to my brother's home, and it was greatly appreciated. Several people did bring food by their hose, but it was nothing akin to the stuff of childhood memories.

When we returned to Chicago to finish sitting shiva in our own home, we were overwhelmed. Absolutely. We had more food than we had refrigerator space -- and I had had the cleaning lady tackle the fridge while we were away! We ended up icing down food in coolers!

We had huge bowls of asian noodles, lox platters with cheeses and bagles, huge bowls and trays of fruit, 10 pounds of blueberries, cheeses and crackers, the best coffee cake I've ever tasted, homebaked mandlebrot warm from the oven, giant boxes of Fannie Mae Pixies, the best curried chicken salad I ever hope to eat (any better would have to be sinful), salads, tortes, potato salad, gazpacho, huge bowls of cherries -- more than I can list. I tear up when I think of the generosity of our community. Who would have expected a Southern Funeral to be so briliantly executed by a bunch of Yankee Jews?

We are so blessed to have such a wonderful community and humbled by their generosity.

I still, however, have a craving for pimento spread.

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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My mother passed away on July 5th after a long, long illness.

..........

I still, however, have a craving for pimento spread.

Please accept my condolences. If I could, I'd surely whip up some pimiento cheese and send it your way without delay.

Best Wishes....Cheryl

CBHall

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Y'all are so kind. I was at Trader Joes tonight and picked up some good cheddar cheese and a big jar of pimento. This weekend I'm going to sit myself down with a big bowl of pimento cheese and a box of Ritz crackers, and when I come out of that carbohydrate coma it'll be a brand new week.

G-d bless you all.

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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  • 2 weeks later...

We stopped in Shapiro's (huge, delightful Jewish deli) today for lunch. We took our usual table over by the big mirrored wall, and were just one table away from the private dining room, whose double doors were folded ALLLL the way back to spill out a crowd of laughing, talking, giggling, tickling flirting young people-- perhaps twenty teenagers, and a couple of younger kids. The noise level was at its peak when we sat down, and they mingled, filling the big doorway, but we could see a great crowd of adults laughing and talking inside.

They moved away from several of the tables, and there were trays of desserts and fruits, which all the young folks kept munching from. Hubby and I speculated that they must be a church group, in town on a museum tour or such, and then the adults began to make their slow way out of the dining room. All the kids were nicely dressed, in long-sleeved outfits, all the girls in dresses or skirts, and all the adults were wearing either black or gray ensembles.

They all kept up their mingling and laughing and eating, spilling out way into the area we were in, mixing amongst the tables of us locals, carrying their brownies and strawberries around the room, enjoying each others' company. Finally one young man filed past with a huge posterboard featuring pictures of a smiling couple in 40's attire, the shyly-smiling young woman in a neat hat, and the young soldier in uniform.

As we left, we were just behind a couple in the parking lot, who were still laughing and talking as they strolled hand in hand. She turned to us, and said, "I hope we didn't disturb your lunch." We reassured her that we had enjoyed all their enjoyment, with all the young folks having such a good time. Taking his cue from the poster and pictures, Hubby asked, "Was this an anniversary?"

"No," she replied. "A funeral." My only thought was, "Way to go!"

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My mother was the food "point man" for her small Presbyterian church in Winston-Salem, N.C. When she got a call from the minister about a death, she sprang into action and worked that phone like a cigar-chomping city editor. She had a system and stuck to it. First she'd find out how many people were expected at the house before/after the funeral. Then she'd call the other food ladies on her committee and, basically, tell them what to bring: "NO, Gladys, we've already got chicken. You need to bring a ham, and can you get it up there to the house by 5:30? All right, well, bring it here and I'll take it."

Mama also kept a canned ham in the back of the refrigerator at all times for emergency funeral food duty. All of her large platters and casserole dishes had a little piece of cloth tape on the back with her last name printed on it.

When she died in 2002, I was at the house and got a phone call from a woman at the church. The minister had asked her to see about food. "But I don't know what to do," she said, sheepishly. "Your mama always took care of it."

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  • 2 weeks later...

great article NY TIMES

He Would've Wanted Everyone to Eat

By ABE OPINCAR

Published: August 10, 2005

VERTAMAE GROSVENOR said she always wondered why she and her relatives ate so much after funerals.

"Even people on diets just ate plate after plate," Ms. Grosvenor, a cultural correspondent for National Public Radio, said about postfuneral meals in South Carolina, where she grew up. "My theory was, we ate so much because that's how we knew we were alive."

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/10/dining/1...ml?pagewanted=1

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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  • 2 weeks later...
...The viewing and funeral was held in a Catholic funeral home in Queens. I was shocked to find out that not only was no food allowed in the funeral home, but the concept of bringing food to a funeral was quite shocking to my in-laws. Afterwards, there was a "luncheon" at a local Italian restaurant that was arranged in advance and paid for by the family....

It is against the law in New York City for food to be sold, distributed or otherwise consumed in a funeral home.

I have never heard of people eating in a funeral home though. What typically happens is that friends and neighbors will bring food & desserts to the home of the deceased. Also, if the deceased was a member of a church, the church members will typically prepare a repast which will be held after the funeral service. This is often served in the church basement/hall.

In recent times, I have observed more families going to a restaurant for a catered funeral repast.

My grandmother died a week and a half ago. She was origianally from NY but relocated to the state of Delaware. She was living with my parents when she died and so a few family friends brought cake and desserts to their house. But the funeral repast was prepared by her religious congregation and held in a community center.

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I also want to add that since my parents are recently arrived in DE, they didn't receive any food from neighbors. So after my grandmother's viewing, we had food catered from a local BBQ joint. All of the relatives who came in from all over the country seemed to enjoy it though.

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All of her large platters and casserole dishes had a little piece of cloth tape on the back with her last name printed on it.

My own Mother was a lavish dispenser of casseroles, Jello salads, pimiento cheese-stuffed celery and devilled eggs at any time of stress, mourning or need. When we closed out their home several years ago, I found little bits of adhesive tape on the backs and bottoms of several pieces, with her name still legible after all the washings and returnings. And one dish, a rectangular piece of pottery which we were forbidden to touch, always with the caution that it was the "one thing I have left of all our wedding presents" also had its little faded bit of cloth tape adhered. I've always wondered what occasion, what person of stature or closeness or need-to-impressness led to that family heirloom's being pressed into service when all those other dishes and platters and bowls lay ready to hand.

It's a piece of painted pottery, not a chip nor a stain, and it stands propped on one of my hutches in the dining room, its garish maroon flowers shining in the sunlight. I wash it occasionally and return it to its slot, but have never had the heart to scrape off that little bit of memory from the back, her name emblazoned for the return of her dish, and my remembrance of a generous hand, a good cook, a kind neighbor who rushed to provide food and strength to the ailing and bereaved.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 years later...

My daughter is doing some writing and asked me if bringing food to the home when someone in the family has passed on is a "Southern" thing. I really didn't know since I've never really lived anywhere else, but offered to pass the question on to the experts! So - what is the tradition in your area?

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In Japan they give money. They do in Thailand, too. And the Philippines. Those are the all the cultures I'm familiar with, so that's as far as I can go.

(Yes, I realize the intent was to ask about American regional customs, but it wasn't specified and I want to answer!)

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I have relatives all over the US and this is common practice in my family. I don't think bringing food is a regional phenomenon, if it's anything it is probably more cultural.

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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I think it's more of a personal thing than anything else. There was a death in my neighborhood two weeks ago, we all sent a ton of food and home-made wine and beer to his family. That's the way he'd like it. It depends.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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It's sort of common here. A few years ago, a Jewish friend of mine passed away and their synagogue asked for volunteers to make meals for the family and set up a schedule for those who volunteered. I made one of those meals.

Conversely, when my brother and mother passed, I don't recall a single casserole making its way to my house.

Maybe it also depends on whether the funeral attendees are coming back to the bereaved's house?

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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