Funeral food is probably some of the best there is — it represents church lady cooking at its best. I know that sounds kind of weird. I’m not sure where the whole tradition started with people taking food to the home of the bereaved during a death in the family. I say “during” because this isn’t a little one day, let’s-get-it-over affair. A funeral or time of mourning can be drawn out over several days if you do it right. All the aunts, uncles, in laws and a few outlaws will be there – with food. Then it’s time for church food! Every congregation connected to the family will take turns providing a meal. Chicken takes center stage, along with macaroni and cheese, roast beef, mashed potatoes, potato salad, green beans, a sweet potato dish or two and there’s always something with gravy in it or on it. You’re really riding “high cotton” if somebody just brings a big ‘ol pot of homemade gravy. (it has to be homemade — I tried the stuff in the packets that you make with milk and/or water…. use only in emergencies).
I didn’t even mention the desserts. Big cakes slathered with icing and pies of all kinds stacked high with meringue will be delivered direct to your door as soon as friends and neighbors find out someone has passed. I guess they figure that a good hunk of chocolate cake or a piece of coconut pie is just the thing to provide comfort in the time of need.
I’ve been on the receiving end of the food and I’ve taken food to someone’s home before. Funeral food is supposed to be homemade, but since our days are filled with jobs outside the home and running everywhere else, it’s ok to buy your banana pudding at Winn Dixie. Nobody’s going to hold it against you if there’s a price tag stuck on the side of the plastic container. (It’s also quite alright to put your store bought dish in a bowl, cover it with a nice lid, write your name on a piece of masking tape stuck to the bowl, and deliver it to the bereaved).
Now I’m not trying to make fun of a sad occasion. It’s not nice to laugh during a time of mourning. Although some of funniest things happen during and at funerals. I just started thinking about our traditions and how each generation has sure done it’s part to uphold the ones involving food, and I had to write about it. I’m going to do some research to see how this all started. Stay tuned for part 2!
There’s one thing about it no matter where you are – food brings people together. I’ve been to many funerals that turned into more of a family reunion. After the service several of the family members will always gather at the home with the most food, and sit around eating and talking about old times. Then the photo albums come out and you’re there till midnight. After that, everybody gathers up their paper plate full of food for the road and heads home. The next morning you get up and have butterscotch pie and coffee for breakfast before heading out to the cemetery.
All in all, I’d say we have it down pat below the Mason-Dixon Line. I would love to hear from my northern readers, though. Tell me about funeral time in your neck of the woods! I know this is gonna be good.