Funeral Food

Lisa and I attended two funerals in as many week-ends. Funerals are at best bittersweet and always sad even when the service is a celebration of life. After the service, there is typically a time of fellowship and-a funeral meal.

Funeral hotdish, some coffee or kool-aid, a bun and, with a final flourish, the Rice Crispy bar-that is the after funeral meal. It is second only in great taste to post-operative coffee and peanut butter toast.

A funeral meal has taken many forms over the years. Last Saturday we shared some memories about funeral food we had eaten and found memories as diverse as the foods presented to mourners. One dessert that cropped up pretty often was Jell-o. Jell-o with fruit and whipped cream was pretty popular while the combination of Jell-o and shredded carrots, in comparison, made death seem like a sweet relief. Another odd combination which I could never try myself was Jell-o and mayonnaise. This is a combination that doesn’t seem right on a much deeper, moral level than just eye or taste bud appeal. It just tastes wrong.

As I remember, the buns at most funerals were white bread until somewhere in the eighties. White bread is sweet and soft however I enjoy a more toothsome and dark whole wheat bun. It also makes me feel like I am doing something healthy.

Kool-aid or coffee are the main beverages at area funerals although I’ve also seen milk or water. I’m not sure if people serve Kool-aid anymore although writing about it makes me thirsty for lemon-lime or purple. I plan at my own funeral (long, long from now) to serve cold beer, it will be a nice way to get rid of all of those leftover partial six-packs.

The main course is-the hot dish. Oh man, hot dish is a food tour de force of flavor combinations and comfort. Tomato hot dish with the macaroni and beef is a favorite although tater tot hot dish can turn my head with enough vigor to make my neck ache. I haven’t seen rice hot dish lately although I don’t get out that much and I rely mostly on the obituaries when I make a weekly meal plan. Anything with cream-of-something soup and a little sour cream mixed in is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

I had little fun this week with a serious occasion, our personal ending and the final meal eaten in our honor. I hope I didn’t offend any cooks and please remember, I was just having a little fun.When I think about the true draw of the funeral meal it is probably not the food so much as a time to speak with others who are also hurting. Sometimes, the meal might even be based on a recipe enjoyed by many friends and family of the decedent-perhaps at their own kitchen table. The person who passed maybe showed us their love through good food and the hope it would draw us close so they could visit with us and cherish the moment. I guess that is really what tastes so good.

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