Funerals and Food
Funerals and food have had very strong ties to each other for as long as we can remember. Although it is completely up to the family to choose how to remember the life of their loved one, most choose to provide a meal after the funeral service or celebration. Many mourners find this comforting, a time to join together and enjoy some favourite foods. In fact, most caterers will tell you that funeral goers eat much more than wedding guests. What is served, as well as how and why, varies greatly from region to country to culture. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular funeral food traditions around the world.
Most North Americans associate potluck style lunches or spreads with a funeral or celebration of life. Often the family, community or religious organization will band together to provide casseroles, salads, dessert trays and the ubiquitous “funeral sandwiches” … an assortment of cold cuts or meat salads on bread and cut into triangles. Mourners in the Southern US states are generally treated to a spread of fried chicken with mac and cheese and other traditional sides. The Midwest is heavy into creamy salads and potato dishes while many urban areas lean towards catered deli trays.
The English tend to hold a Funeral Tea at a local pub or home right after the service and almost always include ham on the menu. In fact, it has become so common that people will ask if the deceased is “being buried with ham”.
Families in this Northern European country will serve pastries, bread and vodka directly to mourners at the gravesite. Any leftover food and drink will remain, as to bring it home would be to welcome more death into the house. A more substantial feast is served later in the day with cabbage rolls, roasted pork and other local staples.
Centuries ago, Hawaiians wrapped their dead for burial in banana, taro, and mulberry leaves. This is the origin of Lau Lau, a mix of spicy pork, chicken, fish or vegetables wrapped in taro leaves, and then steamed. It can also contain SPAM, as Islanders are huge fans of the canned meat product.
An Irish wake is generally known more for its consumption of alcohol than food but Irish Wake Cake is a popular option to help fill stomachs and soak up some booze. You can find the recipe for this dense, rich cake HERE.
What types of food do you typically see when you attend a service? Does your family have any traditions surrounding the food that’s served when someone passes?