Strange & Lovely Words
5-Minute Writing Prompts
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A few years ago, The New York Times ran a short story about a company that branded their dried potato dish: Funeral Potatoes. The name had caused a bit of a ruckus. People were offended by it. Shocked right down to their little tater tots. Because I guess we aren’t supposed to say the words funeral and potatoes in the same breath. Or be able to buy it at our local grocery store. And this is exactly why I’m giving you this strangely delicious writing prompt.
When I read the story and saw this image of Funeral Potatoes? I laughed out loud. The company didn’t invent the name. It’s been used for years to describe the type of comfort food people bring to help the living while they are in a grieving fog.
If you’ve never eaten good funeral food – then you may have missed out on funerals but you also certainly missed out on delicious food too. I should know. I grew up in a peapod hamlet on the prairies. Good neighbors always brought comfort food when someone died. And I’ve eaten my share of funeral food at the local community hall/church. When you wait in line holding your plate at the buffet table, you’re also chatting with the people around you. You talk about the deceased person and how everyone’s holding up. And let me tell you this – funeral food brings people together and it helps soften the sharpness of the day.
Now – it’s not like you knock on a grieving person’s door and say, “Here you go, Mary – a nice heaping dish of funeral potatoes to comfort you in your time of need.”
Nooooo. It’s a phrase used behind the scenes by those doing the cooking and baking. And we probably left the meal on the front porch, wrapped up in a towel inside a box to keep it warm. With a love note attached telling them there was no rush to give the empty dish back.
Something else you may not know about funeral food? People who attend any good funeral lunch – know they are going to get the homemade comfort food they may not get at home. No Costco crap here. Funeral foods like egg salad/tuna salad sandwiches on really soft, white bread; scalloped/cheesy potatoes; tender dinner rolls; maybe a baked ham or two; and a dessert table no one can resist if they are human. (No, you probably will not find one gluten-free item.)
At my beloved aunt’s funeral – we put on a spread that people moaned with joy over. My aunt wanted people to be fed the best and she wanted a hot, delicious, home-cooked meal for everyone. She’d always say after she’d eaten something tasty, “I’m sufficiently suffonsified!”
So, that’s exactly what we did. Freshly barbequed hamburgers, salads, casseroles, baked beans – you name it, we had it. And the dessert table? You’ve never seen so much pie, tarts, and cake in your life. And right in the middle of the table, a sign said, “Sufficiently Suffonsified” because making people smile is another way of feeding them.
A middle-aged man walked up to me (I didn’t know him) and he said, “This is the best funeral I’ve ever been to. You can feel the love here – even in the food.”
And I knew in my heart, that my aunt was thrilled. Funeral food in all shapes and sizes had delivered comfort in more ways than one. She was sufficiently suffonsified.
Every culture has different funeral food. What’s your version of Funeral Potatoes? Have you ever made comfort food and brought it to the grieving? Have you ever been the recipient of it?
Write a serving of what funeral food means to you.
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