Funeral food

There are some rules everyone needs to understand about death and funerals. For starters, funerals call for a certain kind of food. There had better be chocolate cake involved, or the family is going to be left to scramble on their own for comfort foods.

We had an experience a few years ago with a death in the family, and all the food the widow’s friends brought to the house was health food. There was no green bean casserole, no fried chicken, no homemade rolls, no chocolate cake. Finally, someone in the family drove over to KFC to bring home the kind of food we all needed in the moment. And did I mention there wasn’t even a single piece of chocolate cake brought to the house?

Kate Campbell recorded a fantastic song a few years ago titled “Funeral Food.” Being a good Southern girl and the daughter of a Baptist pastor, she knows a thing or two about this subject. She says, “It’s so good for the soul, funeral food fills you up down to your toes.”

Of course, in reality, food brought to the house after a death or even the food served to the family before or after a funeral can’t cover the emotional loss felt at times like these. But funeral food does symbolize a more important point; it really is good for the soul.

What’s nutritious about funeral food is the love that’s cooked into it and the memories associated with it. Comfort foods like these recall family meals around the Thanksgiving table or birthday parties or family reunions.

And in Southern culture, to be sure, certain foods take on almost sacramental meaning. In Texas, we’re fond of a particular type of chocolate sheet cake that’s almost as common at church gatherings as communion elements.

Is it wrong of me to think of chocolate cake as heaven-sent? I don’t think so. Too often, we think of food for the soul as what’s bland or even bitter. The Bible says, though, that we are to “taste and see, the Lord is good.”

What families need at times of loss—and what all of us need in times of distress—is a portent of the goodness of God.

If the dinner table serves up a symbol of the heavenly banquet to come, we may draw strength in the reminder that there is comfort to be found as we gather around the heavenly host, whether in worship or in fellowship, whether in comfort or in sorrow.

Now, please pass the cake.

Mark Wingfield

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About the Author
Mark Wingfield is associate pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and author of the book, “Staying Alive: Why the Conventional Wisdom about Traditional Churches is Wrong.”

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  • patcurry3

    The only comfort foods you left out, Mark, was chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.  Those are not usually served at funerals, but they are for me comfort foods.  I hope your recent loss comes with chocolate cake and fried chicken with green been casserole.  Love and Blessings,  Pat Curry