Sustainability Becoming a Part of Mourning Meals
- Monday, 14 June 2010
Despite amazing advances in medical science and technology, the mortality rate for human beings stands at 100 percent. It's a fact: All of us are going to die some day. Yet, in the face of this statistical reality, death still manages to come as a shock, leaving rattled relatives, friends, and coworkers wondering what to say and do in response.
When the crowds come to show their respect, they descend upon the grieving household, their favorite recipe prepared in a dish that need not be returned—even if it is vintage Pyrex in avocado green or tangerine orange.
I take soup. A big pot of nutritious vegetable soup. Or a chowder or stew. That way, they can leave it simmering on the stove and dip into it when the mood suits. It's good with a sandwich or by itself. You can make a meal of it, or just have a 'little something' to tide you over.
The only drawback is that you do have to take it in a nice big stewpot or Dutch oven, which means someone has to deal with it. I've always been in a position to be able to take care of the pot myself, but if you're not, then a disposable container is preferred by most people. But what if green living (and dying) is your bread and butter? I can't really advocate disposable containers.
Sustainable Mourning Meals
Luckily, I've found a go-to guide to champion my concerns. Lisa Rogak, author of Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals & Customs from Around the World (2004), penned a collection of 75 recipes explores different funeral rituals of more than a 100 ethnic groups. Arranging her odd collection alphabetically by culture-from "African American" to "Zoroastrianism"—Rogak gives a one-page explanation and a recipe for each culture. Rogak sums up her focus, writing, "At weddings, they drink more. At funerals, they eat more." And she believes in sustainability.
Years ago, women prepared funeral feasts that made the day—great amounts of soup-laden casseroles, aspics, and pound cakes, each named for the originator of the recipe or for the woman in whose kitchen the food was prepared.
Women are natural collaborators; the sustainable food and farming movement would not be where it is today without a lot of collaboration. Women are also innate nurturers—we take care of our families and often show our love through food, by cooking and preparing meals. We make a lot of the household decisions and have a huge impact on what items move off the shelves at the grocery stores. As decision makers and as food providers, we have changed the commerce of food and have told the food industry that we want more organic food on the shelves.
The concept of regional mourning meals is quickly becoming a thing of the past. At one time, biscuits filled with Virginia ham were a staple of Southern funeral buffets. For East Coasters, large platters of delicious Austrian and German cold cuts and cured meats, cheeses, pickled herring, and pickled or deviled eggs were the norm. Now celebrations of life have environmental signage to help take the confusion out of what's recyclable, what's reusable, and what's compostable. Things change, but food remains a comfort.