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A Short Course in Southern Grieving


My aunt died this week.  She was older, but still it was unexpected.  And complicated.  As most Southern things are. 

The first thing I did when I got the call was to start thinking about food.  Not eating it, cooking it.  All of my childhood memories of funerals are centered around food.  Huge, groaning tables of fried chicken, deviled eggs, potato salad, tuna salad, congeled salad, biscuits, rolls, cakes, cookies….each lovingly homemade and delivered on plates with the owners name written on masking tape underneath. 

Now that I am older and have been through the grieving process more times than I care to count, I really understand the connection between preparing food and emotional comfort that it brings. 

First, there is an emotional steadying that happens when I cook.  It is hard to think about much else if I am going to make Miss P.’s sour cream pound cake from scratch and not ruin it.  I have to pay attention to the small details.  ” 3 ‘scant’ cups of sugar” for example is very different than “3 c. sugar”.  Whipping egg whites into stiff peaks requires concentration and patience.  Folding them into the cake batter forces me into a soft, gentle place.

And delivering a homemade something to a heartbroken daughter says more to here about my love and concern than any words I could possibly think up to offer.  Feeding the body with food lovingly prepared often winds up feeding the spirit – of the cook and the recipient.  These are the times I am grateful for my southern lessons in grieving.


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