"We discovered some great heretofore unresearched funeral food phenomena," Gayden Metcalf, author of Being Dead Is No Excuse, told a crowd of about 200 who gathered at Broadmeadow United Methodist Church earlier this month. The crowd joined her for some tasteful funeral fare done up right by church members, headed by food chairwoman Regina Boyles.
"No one eats better than a bereaved Southerner," Metcalf said. "When there's a death, it's time to open a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and get busy." It was "through our experiences and the experiences of our mothers and our friends this book was crafted," she said. "I am a cradle Deltan. I've spent my entire life eating, drinking and writing thank-you notes. This book grew from that lifestyle."
Experience like this qualifies Metcalf to share a few rules of bereavement not to be broken at a Southern funeral. Among them: If ever there was a time to put out your finest tableware, this is it. "What is the first thing a Southern lady does when someone in the family dies?" Metcalf asked. "She polishes the silver. It's the Southern lady's version of grief therapy."
Metcalf said the book has been embraced in other parts of the country beyond the South. "Everyone dies differently in different parts of the country, but no one dies better than someone behind the magnolia curtain," Metcalf said.
Mason-Dixon Curried Chicken Salad
4-5 pounds chicken breasts
2 1/2 cups homemade mayonnaise
2 T. soy sauce
1/4 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 1 / 2 to 3 T. curry powder
1 (10-ounce) package slivered almonds
2 cups sliced celery
1 (5-ounce) cans sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
White seedless grapes, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wipe chicken with butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly in foil; place in shallow pan. Bake about 1 hour. Cool. Cube the chicken. Mix mayonnaise, soy sauce, juice of lemon, salt, pepper. Add curry powder to taste. On a baking sheet, spread almonds in single layer. Coat with butter. Toast until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add mayonnaise mixture, water chestnuts, sliced grapes and almonds to cubed chicken. Chill well. Serves 10.
Can't-Die-Without-It Caramel Cake
1 box Duncan Hines cake mix
1 stick butter
2/3 cup water
3 cups sugar
1 cup Pet milk
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 stick butter
Follow package directions for cake; allow to cool. In top of double boiler, mix 2 1/2 cups of sugar with the milk. Add salt. Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 1 / 2 cup sugar into black iron skillet and caramelize it. (Melt sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until the syrup turns golden brown. Be careful not to burn.) Pour milk mixture into the skillet; mix well. Transfer back to double boiler. Add butter and vanilla. Put top of the double boiler in a cold water bath; stir mixture until cold and thick. Spread on cake. Serves 12.