Monday, September 7, 2009

Funeral Food

Bringing food to neighbors or friends after a death is a custom still seen as a part of our grieving practices. It may have started with the ancient rituals of bringing food for the deceased. In Egyptian history it was expected that the dead were given bread, beer, birds and beef. Even now, in Tibet, at all the Buddhist monasteries you will find piles of food gifts for the former Lamas.

Or maybe the practice stems from the long distances people used to travel to attend funerals. Weary and hungry, food became abundant. One thing is certain, this practice has been a part of wakes for centuries.

Michael Lee West author of "Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life" writes, "When you bring food to a neighbor or friend, you are wisely letting the food fill in the gaps. Sometimes we say all the wrong things, but food knows all languages"

The cultural and regional differences abound for what people typically bring. Fried chicken in the South and Jello salad's in the North. There are even names associated with foods like funeral beans, funeral potatoes and funeral pie.

Wanting to be culturally sensitive? Try a book entitled "Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals and Customs from Around the World". This collection of 75 recipes by Lisa Rogak explores different funeral rituals of over a 100 ethnic groups.

Looking for some music on the subject? Kate Campbell actually wrote a folk song about funeral food. It's on her 2007 release "Sing Me Out". The lyrics are below with a link to a YouTube video of a live performance. I must say it's a very catchy song. The actual song starts about a minute and 34 seconds in, if you want to skip the talking... and as always you can go to the main pallimed site if the link doesn't show up.

Aunt Fidelia brought the rolls
With her green bean casserole
The widow Smith down the street
Dropped by a bowl of butter beans
Plastic cups and silverware
Lime green tupperware everywhere
Pass the chicken pass the pie
We sure eat good when someone dies

Funeral food,
It's so good
for the soul
Funeral food

Fills you up down to your toes
Funeral food, Funeral food

There sits mean ole Uncle Bob
Gnawing on a corn on the cob
And who's that walking through the door
I don't think I've ever seen him before
Isn't it a shame she passed away
She made the best chocolate cake
Let's hit the line a second time
We sure eat good when someone dies

Everybody's here for the feast
But come next week where will they be


2 Responses to “Funeral Food”

Frances Shani Parker said...
September 7, 2009 at 11:43 AM

This post is heartwarming. As a child, I loved funeral food. The funeral home had a room where mourners could eat free refreshments. This was after viewing the body at the wake. Chicken salad sandwiches cut in triangular shapes without the crusts were my favorites. As much as food costs, I couldn't believe people would cut the crusts from bread slices. But I guess that made them even more of a delicacy. Each morsel thrilled me!

To this day, I love chicken (and tuna) salad sandwiches. And when I cut any sandwich into triangular shapes, it goes up a few notches in enjoyment. But I eat the crusts! lol


Frances Shani Parker said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

This post is heartwarming. As a child, I loved funeral food. The funeral home had a room where mourners could eat free refreshments. This was after viewing the body at the wake. Chicken salad sandwiches cut in triangular shapes without the crusts were my favorites. As much as food costs, I couldn't believe people would cut the crusts from bread slices. But I guess that made them even more of a delicacy. Each morsel thrilled me!

To this day, I love chicken (and tuna) salad sandwiches. And when I cut any sandwich into triangular shapes, it goes up a few notches in enjoyment. But I eat the crusts! lol