Comfort Food or (A Southerner’s Guide To A Funeral)

Hey Sundy-Besters! Corey here.

 

Gave the boys a break this Sunday so that I could hop on here and ramble about a few things that have happened in the past week. First off, would like to say that we are still deeply saddened by the events that transpired in Orlando. This is a tragedy that had a ripple effect throughout our country for many different reasons. Of course it was immediately politicized. Of course there was continued bigotry from religious nutbags. Of course there was a litany of facebook arguments – and look, most of that is to be expected, and for the most part, is (unfortunately) quite natural for us here in the good ole United States.

 

I’m not even going to act like I didn’t participate in my normal back and forth with my gun-crazy friends on social media. I did. That all changed for me, however, when I saw Anderson Cooper’s piece on the tragedy (watch it here). Anderson did what no one else covering the story had yet to do; he mentioned their names, he showed their faces, and he told their stories. It was as powerful as it was sensitive. It served to remind us that when something like this happens, before we start politicizing, before we jump down someone’s throat on Facebook for promoting a different agenda than ours, before we write our congressman, we need to take a step back and remember that these are people just like us. These are people who loved and were loved.

 

I find it a bit easier to keep that in perspective this week because I have also faced a personal loss: my cousin. Well, ok… before I get ahead of myself… he wasn’t really my cousin.. But y’all know how the South is… his family has treated me like family my whole life and then his first cousin married my sister, so yeah.. we were cousins. Well, my cousin passed away last week. He was only 24 years old. Whenever something goes down like this – at least in the South – two things happen:

1.) Everyone cries and asks God why this has happened.

2.) Every woman in town preheats her oven and gets to whooping up a casserole.

 

I got the call at around 6:45 AM. It was my sister calling, so as soon as I noted the time, I was very aware that something was wrong (the last time my sister was up before 11 am on a weekend was to watch the Royal Wedding). I answered the phone like I always do when I get an unexpected call from someone in my family: “Is it granny?”. Holding back tears she said, “No, it’s Joey.” I threw my britches on (ok, squeezed into them), brushed my teeth, and headed to Mama’s house (I went upstairs). By the time I got home, my sister was already in the kitchen with a cake in the oven and sausage dip on the stove top. A few hours and coffees later, we made it over to Joey’s mama’s house. There was banana nut bread in the oven and all sorts of snack trays laid out on the kitchen island for the family. Death is the only factor in a situation like this that could prevent me from skeew-ing* out of pure food joy. Cars pulled in and cars pulled out, offering condolences and pies. Half the women in the family were busy for most of the day huddled around the stove. I expect partly for necessity (grief begets calories), but perhaps a large part for comfort themselves (it’s harder to cry around gravy).

 

Billy Keith
*What a man looks like trying to hold in a “Skeeeew”

 

The way we handle funerals in a small southern town is something else. The entire community comes together in a swarm of pot pies, chicken fingers, crock pot dishes, and tears (or as we call it, “boo hooing”). It’s amazing how organized it all becomes in a manner of hours. It’s almost as if there is a secret Mamaw meeting every week where they plan for it like a fire drill. If you are not from the south and would like some tips on how to handle a funeral like us slack-jawed simpletons, I have gone out of my way this week to list a few things you will need:

 

  1. A whole mess of them tin foil 9”x12” casserole pans: If the mourning festivities are going down at your house, you can just use your Fiestaware or Le Creuset; but if you are traveling with it you really don’t want to risk it getting lifted by Meemaw Doris and having her plead ignorance when you call her up a week later to ask for it back… I’ve been there far too many times.
  2. LOCATE THE CRAZY AUNT: Really can’t stress this one enough. A death, and subsequently, the funeral can be a very difficult thing. In the south, we are not ashamed to admit that we are drinkers. However, it remains uncouth in the land of Baptists and fried chicken to rock up to a memorial service with a 30 rack of ice cold beer. No worries.. Your crazy aunt will have a flask. And Drugs. Drugs hit when you’re sad (tell your kids).
  3. The “friend” who everyone is pretty sure only came because they are an attention whore: As disrespectful as someone who barely knew the deceased parading themselves around the funeral home making everything about themselves can seem, it’s actually a necessary evil for the southern funeral. You see, if there is one thing southerners like more than pork chop biscuits and pissing on a tree, it’s talking shit about people (this applies double to southern women). Standing in the back of the funeral home near the kitchen while eating those damp-ass ham sandwiches that have been left in a bag in the fridge since the visitation, it’s not uncommon to hear things such as, “Who the fuck does she think she is?” or, “She aint know him like that!” or even more often, “I don’t give a shit what she says, that aint his god damn baby!”. Outbursts like this can be very cathartic and provide a much needed distraction. A brief respite from your agony.
  4. The kid you ain’t seen since he was 9 who is now 14 and just fucking sucks: Ain’t nothing throws a stick in ya spokes when you are trying to have an adult conversation quite like a smelly, pizza-faced, 8th grader coming up to the cool kids corner trying to brag about how he smokes cigarettes now. Hell, we know, Bryson… you stole em from momma’s make up bag… we seen ya. Now go home and try something else for the first time – deodorant! But before your sorry ass leaves, let’s get a few things straight: Jordan is better than Lebron, your rap music sucks, Michael Keaton is fucking Batman, and no one gives a shit about your god damn SnapChat. Now run along and get bit by something.
  5. The Uncle wearing a two toned Garth Brooks shirt and Bolo Tie: Here’s a guy whose idea of dressing up is throwing a coat of shine on his snakeskin boots and tucking his shirt into his black jeans… often accidentally into his underwear, as well (which we forgive, shit like that requires practice). Smelling of full-flavored cigarettes and Mennen’s ‘Lectric Shave”, he walks his bowlegged ass straight to the plethora of grieving women sitting cross legged on the decorative funeral home couches and in a brief moment of lust, completely forgets he is related to them. Between bragging about the fish he (allegedly) caught yesterday, and contemplating aloud which Keith Whitley song he will be soaking panties with at karaoke this weekend, he steps outside to smoke a cigarette and finds time to give all the boys valuable life advice on how to crush ass and what they ourt do in order to make a little extra scratch. This coming from a guy whose divorces are only outnumbered by how many times he has been laid off…. this year. But as he repeatedly told us, that’s Obama’s fault.

 

There are several other things I could list here, but sometimes it’s best to find them out organically. Also, don’t say the word “organically” at a southern funeral… or just in the south as a rule. People will think you are a super-barista trying to take their guns and force their daughters to date black guys.

 

I mentioned food several times there, so it would be rude of me to leave you hanging without tossing y’uns a couple of foolproof recipes to be used in the event of a funeral, or just anytime you have to toss something together real quick. These are from my mama, Laura Lou:

 

Laura Lou’s Pimento Cheese –

 

pimento cheese
HITS

This was a staple at my family bakery back in the day and something I still find myself throwing together at least once or twice a month (Quit dying, yall).

 

What you will need:

 

  1. A pound of shredded sharp cheddar (You can grate it yourself, but hell, you’re grieving. Don’t feel obligated)
  2. 8 oz of cream cheese (softened at room temperature for a bit)
  3. One a them little jars of diced Pimentos
  4. A couple peppadew peppers (minced)
  5. Mayonnaise (Dukes or GTFO. Also, they ain’t really a need for measurements here… this is all contingent on the consistency you prefer)  
  6. Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Celery Salt, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, Sea salt, Cracked Black Pepper, Sriracha, Honey (didn’t see a reason to list these all individually, and again, ain’t no measurements… do it to taste…skeew)

 

Directions: Mix all that shit in a bowl and throw it on a sandwich. Croissants hit, but it’s whatever bread y’all want.

 

Laura Lou’s Chicken Casserole-

 

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This is obviously not the 9×12 pan.. but I made it and it was cute AF

 

I can’t recall a time in my life before Momma’s Chicken Casserole. It has always been there and it has always been my favorite thing. When I was 9, Daddy took me to Hooters for my birthday. Momma didn’t like that nary a bit so the next year she made me stay at home and fixed me Chicken Casserole, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, crescent rolls, and coconut cake. I have had that same meal every single year on my birthday ever since. I even flew home from New York once just so I could eat it. A 19-year tradition that I can assure you will continue come December 11 (I’m a large in t-shirts, and I collect vinyl.. Private message me for shipping address).

 

What you will need:

  1. A rotisserie chicken (You can cook individual breasts if you want, but this is easier and I am a fan of both white meat and dark meat….ladies?)
  2. 1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup (Campbell’s is my choice)
  3. 1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup w/ Herbs (Again, Campbell’s is the only brand I’ve seen of this and it hits)
  4. 12 0z of sour cream.
  5. 2 sleeves of Town House Crackers (Yes, it has to be Town House.. I fux wit them elves bayba)
  6. A stick of Butter
  7. Salt and Pepper to taste
  8. Love (if ya got it)

 

Directions:

  1. Get ya a 9”x12” casserole dish and tear the chicken apart in it.. As good and shredded as you can. No knives, use your hands.. Lick em afterwards. (as a treat for myself, I eat all the chicken skin as I go. Hits)
  2. Now that you’ve got the chicken in it’s home, take everything EXCEPT the crackers and the butter and toss that mess in the dish. Mix at sumbitch up real good and then smooth it out on the bottom of the casserole pan.
  3. Smoosh them crackers up in the sleeve and then spread em out over the (what now looks like) chicken pudding. Don’t crush them up to much though, it don’t need to be cracker powder (Though if it was, you can bet money I’d snort a line of it and go to the dog track)
  4. Slice the stick of butter up into little thin squares.. Divy it up amongst the tops of the crackers.
  5. Bake at 425 until the crackers are golden brown, then cover with aluminum foil and continue to cook until bubbly.
  6. Let it cool and dive smooth in… you bout to be in a food coma dreckly. Be near a couch.

 

There ya have it, folks. My definitive guide to a Southern funeral. I could go on for a few days, but this is a blog, not a book.

 

Hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them even when you don’t feel like it. Go see your Meemaw.

 

Bye. Love yuns.

 

‘COFO


31 thoughts on “Comfort Food or (A Southerner’s Guide To A Funeral)

  1. I think it’s time for me to find a grad student to study the possible common ancestry of community mourning in the Southern US and the Northeastern Irish. (#TeamShanty) You have the auntie with that flask, and we have the uncle with spare tents to share for when we start passing out on the lawn.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My daughters love to talk about my crazy Aunt, their Great-Aunt, who always travels, even if it’s just next door, with her “special iced tea.” It’s about 90 proof.

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  3. I would only say that my Mama’s Puminta(you know that’s the way it’s pernounced!) Cheese was very good too, and it only had Cheese, Pumintas, Big Sweet Pickles, and Salad Dressing. We had a universal meat grinder that never saw any meat. The first three ingredients got ground thru the grinder and then the Salad Dressing was stirred into that. It was really good. And of course Rainbo White Bread was the only thing it got spread on! That Chicken Casserole sounds so great!

    Also, thanks for your right on assessment of the Orlando tragedy and the following week with all the politics which followed on. And I am so sorry to hear about your cousin. As we say in my church, May he rest in peace and rise in glory, Amen.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This ain’t a blog; it’s vital literature. Truly. I’m forwarding this from coast to coast but first aiming it to cousins in Charleston SC. Keep up the fine work.

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  5. Now, if they’re good neighbors,or kin but heathern-like (never seen the inside of a church since the Second Baptist picked ’em up for Sunday School that one time), you’re still obligated to feed ’em. White bread, lunch meat and ‘Merican cheese & store bought pickles. God don’t expect name brand for heatherns-Always Save is plenty good enough for ’em. Maybe when they get stuck trying to find a preacher they’ll learn & then their church will fix a proper dinner.
    Bless their hearts…

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  6. One thing you missed was postin’ a pic of the dearly departed. It could be the vodka talikin’, but I do try and raise a glass in memory of those who have passed, whether I knew them or not. My condolences.

    P.S. I couldn’t help reading this story in a thick southern accent.

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    1. OMG! I grew up in South Georgia. My Daddy was from South Georgia and my Mama was from East Tennessee and I had never heard of taking pictures of the dearly departed in the coffin until I was dating my husband. We were at the funeral home when his grandmother died and one of his cousins asked him to help her get pictures. I like to died.

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  7. We must be related somehow because you described every family member and event in my life! You are a gifted writer and lifted my spirits today. Thank you and God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve got to try those receipts … but you also need to mention another staple, banana pudding. I’ve never been to a funeral (and I’m from the south too) that didn’t feature a big bowl of that wonderful stuff.

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  9. Thanks, Corey! Great post. I would add that one of the crazy aunts will either have hysterics during the service or will actually faint beside (or on) the casket. It would embarrass me to tell you how many times that’s happened at our family funerals, but let’s just say Grandad was one of 12 kids and Grandmother was one of seven.

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  10. I make that same casserole, sometimes it varies a bit. I’ve been known to throw in some cream cheese and I got drunk on white Zinfandel one night and mixed it all up with some spaghetti noodles. Anyway, we actually call it Funeral Casserole and its the one thing all my youngins have called me asking how to make since they moved out of the house.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Those sound like some good recipes! Funerals! My sister and I literally busted out laughing at our mother’s funeral! The preacher didn’t really know her, so she described my mother as “bubbly” and that was so far from the truth that I snorted. That just set us both off and we could not stop,laughing! Laughing at your mother’s funeral? Generally frowned upon. It was awful. And hilarious. Hilariously awful. We would settle down, then look at each other and start laughing again. It was horrible!

    We had both taken care of her for the last several years of her life so if anyone deserved to laugh it was us, but you are really not supposed to laugh at your mother’s funeral! It was appalling. And hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You have my condolences. Made the pimintoe cheese last night, and it’s been the center of two meals so far.. It’ll get madw weekly this summer. Thanks!. Thinking about that chicken casserole right now.

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