Sunday, March 11, 2012

In the Know: In the Wake of the Wake

It was impossible to read the second annual care giving issue of Woman's Day without considering what lies in the aftermath. It may sound morbid that the pink and flowered casserole tote, intended to celebrate tuna surprise and family gatherings, reminded me of  book famous in my own hometown. Food to Die For: A Book of Funeral Food, Tips, and Tales from the Old City Cemetery reminds Southerners like me of little blue haired ladies from a small country church bringing over Big Ma's macaroni and cheese in a tin pan. These times are generally few and far between when we're younger and grow closer together as the years pass and we accrue a wider array of friendships and connections. And, of course, we age.

I have unfortunately suffered through more than a few premature deaths in the last few years, but the book is comforting in it's humor, it's familiarity, and the acknowledgement that in times of mourning we all share from a common plate and that plate is the desire to know and to be known: we need intimacy, community, and communion through food and drink.

There are few things more comforting than enjoying good food in the company of good friends. I am certain that no one in the United States realizes this better than Southerners. Our fried foods, our cheesy casseroles, our greens and okra--they are our celebratory delights--misunderstood by California health nuts, condemned by the National Health Association, replicated unsuccessfully by reality show chefs.

As convenience becomes more of a priority I wonder if this tradition of wake food will, er, die out. We eat out more, dine in less, and invite others to dine with us even more infrequently. Is this a tradition my generation or the generation after me will leave behind? Do we know the recipes of our mothers and grandmothers? Is a better question this: do we celebrate the fact that we know them and that we can reproduce them?

For me, the answer is yes. I know my Grandma Tinsley's macaroni and cheese recipe. I made it this Thanksgiving along with most everything else. I still have a grandmother to tell me what I'm doing wrong and who will fix the "turkey balls" during the holiday preparation reminding me for the umpeenth time that she won't be here next year to help.

One year she'll be right.

The same blue haired ladies I remember from childhood won't be there with their Liz Taylor perfume and support hose. Will I be able to depend upon my peers to tote the casserole and buckets of chicken--even if it's from KFC?

I make a quick laundry list of close friends in my head and I am relieved to hear my internal response answer "yes."

My desire for everyone reading this blog is that you'll prioritize the communal opportunities in your life and share your traditions with others.

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