What to Eat at a Funeral

As much as food is a part of life it is also a part of death. A patient passed away here in the hospital earlier this week. I went to the room where the motionless body was lying with a crisp white sheet up to her neck, eyes closed, toothless mouth open. My intention was to simply pop in and offer the daughter my condolences on the passing of her mother as they were waiting for a priest to arrive. The daughter wanted me to sit down and talk. So there we were sitting, next to the dead body, chatting. Believe me this is not an everyday occurrence for me. Out of the corner of my eye I kept expecting the sheet to rise and fall with breathing but that didn't happen. It's hard to focus when there is a dead body next to you.

I asked if the family would have a wake, the daughter replied that she didn't know if it was a wake or not but that people would drop by and bring food to share. I have never been to something like that but all night I thought about the importance of food in life and around death. How comforting it is to people, how it feels caring and gives us a space to eat and talk about an important person who has passed. I also painstakingly wondered what I would bring to such an event. Would I cook up a lasagna? Potato salad? Cheese plate? Surely, I could be more creative than that. Fellow cooks, have you ever shared in this after death ritual? What would you bring and why? Does time of day play into what you would bring?

Nigella Lawson has a cookbook called Feast: Food to Celebrate Life. In it there is a chapter called Funeral Feast. The recipes include Sweet Lamb Tagine, Lentil Soup-easy to transport and reheat as well as sustaining, Meatloaf-a comfort food which can also be used later for sandwiches, Heavenly Potatoes, a Mormon specialty also called Funeral Potatoes made with sourcream and using cornflakes for a crusty topping, Rosemary Remembrance Cake and Hamine Eggs-boiled eggs are a traditional Jewish food for mourning and are died dark using teabags-quite lovely really. I like the soup idea, you could bring it in a crockpot. I am also thinking about a pie, this time of year an apple pie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i don't think the food is so much about time of day as it is something that the family can eat in the upcoming weeks while they're too depressed and overwhelmed to cook. something casserole-like that can be reheated easily is a good choice.