I should mention that funeral food isn’t actually served at the funeral. You bring it to the home of the deceased, so the grieving family members and the people who drop by to pay their respects have something to eat. When Southerners lose a loved one, they rarely lose their appetite, but almost always lose the desire to cook.
Of course, you needn’t only bring savory sustenance. Sweets are an essential part of a Southern mourner’s diet. And for the love of all that’s holy, do not make funeral sweets with Splenda, people! Grief and dieting go together like…like…ok, they just don’t go together AT ALL.
If you want to bring over some meat-flavored vegetables, that’s great. But a salad probably isn’t your best bet. No, not even a congealed “salad.” Especially if the recently departed had been hospitalized for any length of time before their departure. Nobody wants to be reminded of institutional gelatin, even in the best of times.
In case you’re in a quandary about what to bring, consult this handy guide:Great Southern Funeral Food:
Casseroles (anything made with cream of something soup is most welcome)
Chicken ‘n dumplings
Potatoes (preferably mashed or au gratin)
Homemade mac ‘n cheese
Ham (spiral sliced preferred, but not required)
Chili or hearty soup (Not chicken noodle; no one’s getting better anytime soon…)
Homemade sweets of any variety (remember, no Splenda!)
Suitable Southern Funeral Food
Cold cuts and sandwich fixings
Store-bought sweets (think Sara Lee, not Little Debbie)
Ill-advised Southern Funeral Food
Low-cal frozen entreés
Tofu of any variety
If you can’t get over to the home of the deceased right away, don’t despair. In fact, I’d recommend avoiding the rush and swinging by with snacks a few days later. Trust me, the bereaved will appreciate a fresh supply of comfort food.
When my mom died, I can’t remember eating much else but cold fried chicken and some kind of cake (caramel, maybe?). But I do remember my relief at not having to think about fixing something to eat.
I don’t know much about funeral customs for non-Southern folks, but I will always be thankful for the ginormous basket of cookies my decidedly non-Southern friend Karen sent over when I got back to Seattle after my mom’s funeral. I reckon everyone knows that while food isn’t a panacea for grief, it does serve as a small island of pleasure in an ocean of pain.
This one goes out to my friend Beth, who just lost her Aunt Sue. Hugs to you…and lots of homemade Dixie delicacies, darling.
What’s your all-time favorite funeral food?