579 – Gorch • 06


So I have been trying to grieve the loss of my grandmother, but I have discovered that this is not always as easy as it might seem. There is something blocking me (Lena is sure it is something stupid and male) from working through my feelings. When people ask how I am doing I either tell them “fine”, if I just want to keep the conversation moving, or “I don’t know”, if I’m feeling particularly honest.

Last night Lena and I went out to eat at a local seafood place and both of us thought about getting shrimp, and then discarded the idea. Shrimp was my grandmother’s favorite and we were worried we would start crying in the restaurant. So clearly there is grief here to be worked through.

I thought that perhaps the problem was the lack of proper ritual. Attendant to every death I have ever been part of, there was a particular ritualistic dish prepared for the mourners that has been notably absent from this grieving. I speak of course of Broccoli Casserole, the Casserole of Death.

Thinking to jump-start my process and escape the pall of numbness and distraction that clouds my brain, I made my own broccoli casserole. It seemed good at first, but then as it cooled it became more and more brick-like, until it resembled nothing so much as a pleasant smelling slab of rubber-coated terra cotta. Now it is sitting in the kitchen while I decide whether to try and fix it with water or maybe another can of mushroom soup… or to make Lena help me carry it to the trash can and let the garbage men sort it out.

The point of all this was that I was wondering what other Death Foods folks in other parts of the country and the world bring to people who have lost loved ones. Broccoli casserole seems like it might be a southern thing, and I’m curious what everyone else gives and expects.

Failing that maybe someone has a better recipe for my casserole.

36 Responses to 579 – Gorch • 06

  1. Sorry, no recipe.

    I can’t recall for my grandparents (I was too young), or at least, I don’t remember anything special, but, when my father died, we ate nothing special. I just went and cried and that’s all.

  2. For my family it’s always been green bean casserole. Real easy- can of french style green beans, can of mushroom soup, and toasted onions on top, baked at 350 for about half an hour. This invariably shows up at every family gathering reguardless of occasion.
    Personally, I go for spiced cheese fries. Even easier, and taste really good. Guaranteed to lift the spirits. Losing someone is always a little easier if you have spicy cheese fries to get your mind off things.

    • Same here. Green bean casserole is pretty much brought to any gathering of more than 10 people. And what’s worse is that I hate it (mostly for the cream of mushroom soup — leave that out, and I’d eat the rest).

        • The place that served the best ones went out of business sadly, but they can be replicated fairly easily. Any thick-cut fries (deep fried preferrably), nacho cheese sauce (they used canned restraunt stuff, but any jar of plain queso would do), and a special spice mix. From what I’ve been able to tell, the mix is likely 10 parts season salt, 2 to 3 parts sugar, and 1 part cayenne powder for a bit of zing. Sprinkle liberally on the fries while fresh and greasy right out of the fryer, and drizzle the heap with heated queso, and start gnoshing. Have lotsa napkins handy. You can adjust the cayenne up a notch or two and blame the tears on the fries- no one will know if it’s bliss or sadness or pepper in your eye. May be all three.

  3. Depends on who passes away. I usually try to make a dish that everyone will like and was a favorite of who passed away . I like to cook, so I have made everything from Dill potato salad to Braised buffalo roast to BBQ Salmon. I made chicken salad finger sandwiches for one of my great aunt’s wake.

  4. Ice cream. Lots of ice cream. The bonus to this is that, being lactose intolerant, I feel a lot closer to death just after finishing off a pint.

  5. Hmm, not only don’t I have any food to suggest, the actual existance of such a food had never even entered my radar. So while I can’t make any positive suggestions it does make me wonder if this is part of why lots of American TV shows that deal with the occasional death then show a stream of people bringing over food to whichever family has suffered it. I’d always assumed it was because people felt cooking might be too much strain for the grieving family and so it was something practical to help out, but now I have to wonder if it’s lots of people bringing their own personal ‘death food’ in to the house in the belief that it will help to solve things.

    In the UK the only food tradition tends to be going back to the bereaved families house after the funeral to stand around awkwardly and eat small and rather insipid sandwiches.

    • Ostensibly you’re right. The basic idea is that all those people want to do something to help, but they all feel pretty useless. So they reason that the person’s grief will cause them to lose weight unless rescued by dishes of broccoli, rice, and Velveeta. Seeing an opening, they cook up a storm, and block the mourner’s arteries bringing him back to his loved one.

      I’m pretty sure that’s the theory.

      • When I was 17 my friend’s mom died. He said it was weird cause suddenly people he hadn’t seen in like twelve years were bringing over food cause his dad wasn’t much of a cook so they didn’t want the kids to go hungry. He said he hadn’t eaten that good in years. It was a shame his mom had to die for it to happen. She was a cool lady too. Sigh.

  6. When it rains, it pours. And the forecast is looking pretty cloudy for you, Kevin.
    Letting go of a beloved one is never easy, just give yourself time to adjust to this new picture of your life. You managed it in regards to your grandfather, I am certain you will manage this one as well.

    As for the recipe thing, I’m gonna have to drop that ball man. The best I can do in the kitchen is the dish washing, and even that’s sorta… you know, insufficient. But if you’re looking to replace a taste of sour, I sure as hell wouldn’t recommend broccoli! Go Macadamia Brittle Häagen-Dazs FTW! 8)

    • See everyone, that is a helpful suggestion! (Not to take anything away from you, XionFyre.)

      Granddad was actually a little bit easier, maybe just because I was in the room with him when he died. I don’t know what my damage is here. It’s very much like a door in my head slams shut every time the thinking gets too painful. And it seems totally outside of my control. However, I have scheduled some time for me to sit and talk to Lena about everything and hopefully wedge that door open a bit. I haven’t been very easy to live with the past week and it’s high time I moved on with this.

      • The talking thing sounds like the cure to me. You know it’s a problem, you know it needs to be dealt with and you know it’s causing problems of its own not being dealt with. So giving it some specific time and then just sitting down and talking about it sounds fine. You might want to get out a photo album or something so you have a focal point to start talking around feelings and all that stuff in case it needs kickstarting.

        • I can usually (as in this case) tell the thing I ought to be doing by what seems like the thing I want least to do. However, I do agree. Time to yank off the band-aid.

  7. I feel the urge to suggest fish ‘n’ chips, and do not know why.

    Maybe I just crave fish ‘n’ chips.

    Anyways, I don’t have any real death foods. The only deaths I’ve been related to have not been… particularly close. Maybe I am just a cold and horrible person?

    At least you know you cared about her. That is something good.

    • There is a restaurant at the end of my street that serves the best fish ‘n chips I’ve ever had. But… I was able to fix the casserole with a little bit of cream and several cups of hot water. Yay!

  8. Our family always had pulled pork – a BIG batch of it from the local bbq place, with buns and sauce and coleslaw … dunno why, but I remember from both my gparents in KY, and stopping off to pickup the bbq when my great gm died in Fla … and baked beans … lots of baked beans …

    • No recipes to give cause I don’t really cook. Sorry. I don’t know about death foods. I’ve not really had to deal with much death in my family or my close friends either. My Grandma and Grandpa on my dad’s side died when I was young so I wasn’t really involved in any of that, then my mom’s dad died but we already covered that. Then my uncle Warren not too long ago, but even then I wasn’t really close to him so I don’t feel much about it. The only food that I recall is when my mom’s dad died there was a lot of food because the whole fam showed up for about a week at his house to sort through his stuff and just sort of console one another. My aunts and mom are fantastic cooks so they kept everyone fat and happy the whole time, but the dishes varied a bit. Then at uncle Warren’s funeral my aunt had a spread but I don’t even remember what was there. I guess food just isn’t important to me when someone dies. Sorry I’m not being more helpful.

  9. Of course, what you seem to actually be looking for is why you aren’t more emotional. Guys are taught not to be that way. At my grandfather’s funeral, the only person my father would cry around was me and that was because he needed me for physical support (both of them were in the accident that killed my grandfather). We waited until we were the last ones there. Personally, I have about a 2 minute crying phase then it’s weeks or even months later when everything comes out. While most of the others are mourning, it all stays locked away and I feel a void. But that also means I can stay useful and steady when most of the ladies in my family are not. I hope this helps. =)

  10. my grandfather died the day before my 30th b-day in 1996. i had to play a show the next night (on my b-day).my grandparents bought me my first instrument (bass guitar) when i was 14. i grieved playing death metal. when my grandmother died in 2007 at the ripe old age of 94 we cried and ate my grandmothers enchiladas (which my mother made). id give yall the recipe but i dont have it my sister got that when we split the inheritence. my mother said they werent as good if my grandmother would have made them anyways. grieving and getting over the loss of a loved one is not easy but it does get easier as time goes by.there are still times when i cry over their loss. but then i try to remember all the fun i had with them and thats what makes me smile afterward. i remember my grandmother every time i see my middle daughter we named her after my grandmother (i dont have any boys so my grandfather didnt get a namesake in my family) i feel good about the fact that my grandmother got to see my kids (all my kids) and got to know them as people before she died. my grandfather only got to see my oldest kid she was 6 when he died. and to add one more thing my grandfather waited along time for his wife to come home. and now they are together forever so i take comfort in that as well.

  11. Westerners want to force things like grief to meet a schedule, so we try to structure it into rituals, funerals, etc. And while it sometimes works the truth is that you just have to let it go at it’s own pace. Personally I like anything deep fried, Calimari is my fav.

  12. In my family (Boston area) it is always platters of those little finger rolls stuffed with tuna or chicken salad and big pans of lasagna. Lasagna turns up at just about any big family event; birthdays, holidays, graduations,births, deaths– even the ones who are not Italian bring it.

  13. Sorry to hear about your grandmother. I’d offer words of comfort but I don’t know if you wanna hear the nonsense than a XTIAN has to offer.

    In other news, I’m loving the most recent developments of the comic. Go Violet, evil!Martin (as if there was another kind), troll-form Morty, and still-female Enkidu. 🙂

    • Thanks for the well wishes. It’s enough to know you care, regardless of your beliefs. (Though this is supposed to be about Death Foods, not me… thanks anyway!)

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the comic! There’s a twist coming up next week, so stay tuned!

  14. Between the age of 8 and 15 I lost 13 close friends an family members. I want to start by saying that I’m sorry for your loss, though by now I’m sure you’ve moved at least a step or two through the grieving process. Two things that always helped me, both sound disgusting, but trust me, try it and you’ll also swear by them.
    Neither is good for you.
    Fried Chicken and waffles.
    Penut butter and jelly sandwich with turkey and ham in the middle on toasted White Mountain bread from Publix.

    you are welcome. 😉