Funerals & Food

Let's Eat! | March 15, 2016 | By

As we all know, with life comes death. And death never seems to occur at a ‘good time’…

Everyone handles death differently. You may have only attended your first funeral. Or, maybe, you’ve attended several in your lifetime.

There are some common customs that I’ve noticed over the years as I’ve witnessed the passing of family, friends, and friends’ family. First, is the visitation or wake. Then, the funeral itself. Afterwards, the grave visit and the plucking of flowers from the coffin for pressing. Finally, sharing a meal with family and friends to celebrate the life of the person who passed.

These customs often occur over just a two day period…and you may have only been a part of these proceedings. But, when someone passes, there are a ton of items to iron out within a very short time frame before the actual day of the funeral. This can get really overwhelming. During this time, not only do you have to organize the funeral proceedings but, you probably have family in town to ‘entertain’ and you have to continue providing your body with some of it’s basic needs: food, water, and sleep. It’s really easy to make poor food decisions when you’re running around trying to organize everything. This is why I think the custom of providing a meal for the mourning family is the most thoughtful one.

I’ve read a few articles claiming that offering food at a time of mourning encourages unhealthy coping habits. But, I tend to disagree. I think one of the best things you can do to offer your condolences and support is to provide a meal for the family in mourning either before or after a funeral.

Here are some simple meal ideas that you can provide someone when they’re dealing with a death:

  • Casseroles. This could be a lasagna, chicken and rice, enchiladas, a breakfast casserole, etc. Remember to put it in a disposable dish and to provide re-heating directions.
  • Easy Snacks. When you’re running around from meeting to meeting, it’s nice to have something you can throw in your bag to munch on while you’re out and about. Think granola bars, pretzels, string cheese, etc.
  • Baked Potatoes. They’re a simple, inexpensive, customizable meal for a group of people with different tastes. Don’t forget to provide crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, butter, broccoli or whatever else you think they’d enjoy putting on their potato.
  • Taco Bar. A taco bar is a really simple meal to share with a group. Provide a cooked seasoned meat (shredded chicken, ground beef, carnitas), a jar of salsa, tortillas, chips, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, guacamole, et cetera, et cetera. Have it so that someone could make themselves a salad, a couple of tacos, or maybe even some nachos or a quesadilla.

Keep in mind that the people you’re giving the food to may be in, what I call, ‘auto-pilot mode’. They are soo focused on what they have to get done to say their final good-byes to their loved one that they aren’t thinking about whether they need to return a dish to you later. Honestly, they may not even remember who gave them which casserole. Please don’t take offense to this, they are just in another world at the moment. Keep it as simple as possible for them: disposable baggies, microwave-safe plastic containers, and recyclable metal pans. Make it the easiest thing they’ve done all week.

Providing a meal for a family in mourning may seem like a strange (or even outdated) custom but, I believe that it’s an important one. When you’re dealing with a death, the last thing you want to think about is: what’s for dinner?

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