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January 8, 2009

Bereavement food

peartart.jpgYesterday a dear friend at work brought me (OK, technically my husband, Gailor and me) four beautiful pastries from Stone Mill Bakery, each in its own little container: a fruit tart with pastry cream, a lemon bar, chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup, and a pear half in puff pastry (pictured just before being devoured).

After the other deaths in my family -- father, mother, stepmother and father-in-law -- I don't ever remember people bringing food, although they may have.  I know casseroles and such are more conventional, but that's usually when family has gathered, not when the service will be held at a later time, as my mother-in-law's will.

If you want to tell me about the best food anyone ever brought you, I'd love to hear about it; but next time there's a death in a friend's family, I'm taking luxury pastries to the bereaved.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:45 AM | | Comments (8)


When my grandmother passed away, food was sort of haphazard. She was a fantastic cook, and that couldn't be replaced. I remember the funny thing that everyone brought, Berger cookies!

I have a friend that shows up to our friends' homes when they've lost a loved one and gives a bottle of single malt scotch. He says they'll need it after putting up with the out-of-town relatives during the whole viewing, funeral and (if applicable) will/estate debacle that ensues.

I've always showed up with casseroles or pot roast or a brisket, but if you aren't having 400 people coming from out of town for the funeral, the fancy pastries would be so much better.

That was a very thoughtful gift.

I'm from East Texas, where chocolate pie (with MERINGUE!) is what you take when someone dies. My grandmother died in October. There were only 3 chocolate pies (because the ladies that used to make all of them died already...). My cousin ate a whole pie himself.

I actually have the recipe for the "death pie" but the only time you can serve it unrelated to a funeral is on a holiday. The last time I made it on a whim for my birthday, somebody died. I didn't know the person, but it was a big deal.... and to me it meant I caused it to happen by making the pie.

I'm only crazy on occasion.

One of my very favorite books is "The Pat Conroy Cookbook." He writes about all sorts of occasions and the chapter about funeral food is especially poignant. It references something called Newberry macaroni and barbequed shrimp. There are other chapters about oyster roasts and wedding food and much more. The stories that go with the recipes are familiar to anyone who grew up on the south.

Mary Roby, I'm a Yankee born and bred, and I was raised to take food, too.

We have manners in the North, too.

Lissa - I don't think Mary Roby was saying anything about northerners' manners; it seems to me she was only noting that Southerners will appreciate the stories that go along with the recipies in the book she mentioned, the stories being something they would recognize from their life/time in The South, in the same way midwesterners would appreciate stories from Garrison Keillor.

I am from the midwest and the south. People take food in both places. I imagine people take food everywhere all over the world.

I love the idea of the original post, though - it seems more comfort food for the grieving than the usual large amount of food to help serve visiting family, etc. Thanks to EL's colleague for a great idea about how to be of good service to a grieving friend.

I love that you are exploring brokenness and faith in this site. We all need this authenticity. Food is the focal point of many family gatherings. A place of sharing, celebration, and even in times of saying goodbye. It is a gift when the past can serve to give future generations a legacy of wonderful memories with a recipe that continues to be served around another table of memory generation.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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