Friday, 20 May 2016

Regarding Grief and Cooking

I was in second grade the first time I attended a funeral.

There was a sweet little boy named Andrew in my class, and he was often absent from school for reasons that were never divulged to us; we only received the platitude that he wasn't feeling well, but he would be back with us soon. It turns out that he had leukemia, and that illness claimed him shortly before the school year ended.

I attended a Catholic school, and our entire class marched to the nearby church in neat rows, clad in our navy and white uniforms, to wish Andrew farewell. Being a large group of seven-year-old children who had no real concept of death, we were quite loud and rowdy and were reprimanded sharply by the teary-eyed teachers who accompanied us. I'll refrain from details about the funeral itself, but suffice it to say we were all very quiet and subdued on the walk back to school, lost as we were in what was for most of us our first experience with real grief and loss.

We were all allowed to go home early, and as soon as I walked through my front door, my mother ushered me into the kitchen and sat me down with a large bowl of potato salad and a spoon. Never an emotional eater, I've always been the type to lose my appetite when upset, but I was encouraged to have “just one bite”, which I managed, although I didn't really taste much of it. Another followed, and I was both soothed emotionally and nourished physically by this familiar dish of pickle-laden potatoes as my small self tried to make sense of the enormous emotions roiling through me.

I've been to nearly 40 funerals (far more than the number of weddings I've attended), and it has always struck me how, after the dead have been buried, those left behind gather together to talk, and to eat. Around the world, burial customs invariably involve food of some sort, whether it's the items served at the funeral reception, or the meals that friends and family prepare for those in mourning while they take time to grieve, and to heal.

This blog is an exploration of the foods we turn to and share with one another during times of mourning. It's about providing real nourishment to both body and soul, and sharing solace with the very essence of that which sustains us.

Blessings to you.


  1. The amount of funerals that you've attended is remarkable. I read somewhere, a long time ago, that the average number of funerals a person goes to during their entire lives is somewhere around 25-30, though of course, there are massive discrepancies depending on which community, culture, and region of the world one lives in.
    I look forward to seeing more coming out of this blog. It's an interesting project and I wish it success!

    1. Thank you for your kind words!
      My extended family is rather massive, and there have been many friends of the family whose funerals I've attended, as well as those of friends and acquaintances. Each one is different, depending on the person's cultural background and religion, of course. <3

  2. This is an intensely fascinating collision of worlds - but makes so much sense. In grief and loss sometimes words fail us but the desire to connect and to be able to do something persists and handing over something made by ones own two hands and that can offer nourishment is found in many cultures the world over. I'm looking forward to more insight and further recipes.

    1. Thank you. <3
      It's exactly that desire to do "something" (...anything...) when someone is grieving and words are trite that inspired me to create this blog. It's wonderful to know that some folks out there appreciate it! ;)

  3. This is a very interesting project. I have been working on a course on Food & Culture and will be following!

    1. Thank you! I'd love to be kept in the loop about your course as well, if you're at all inclined to share. :)