Saturday, March 21, 2009

Funeral Foods Around the World

Jon Magee

Section 4

Funerals and Culture

• Every culture has different traditions and customs when it comes to funerals.

• With those differences, also brings a an array of foods.

The Greeks

• Priests were presented with a dish of corn cooked with sugar (the corn they say was for resurrection and the sugar….heavenly bliss)



The Irish

• One of the more eventful wakes, in which prayers are often exchanged for whiskey, snuff, and tobacco.

• The Irish Church tried to ban alcohol from wakes but was unsuccessful.

• Friends and neighbors bring a cake or a plate of sandwiches.

East Africa

• Require lots of Food (Because lots of family members)

• Funerals a huge expense

• Most East Africans only make $1 a day. Funerals are a Major Financial Burden.

• Interesting to note, in another community in Central Province, those attending a funeral take food with them and the mourners have to pay to eat. This is seen as a contribution , rather than a financial transaction of buying and selling of goods.

North America

Funeral Foods in America:

• Southern Funerals: Funeral Fried Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese.

• Funeral Potatoes: a cheesy hash browns casserole. Funeral Potatoes are so common at Mormon Funerals in Utah that they are commonly called Mormon Potatoes.

• In Wisconsin Jell-O salads, potato salads, relish trays and meat and cheese sandwich trays.

• The Amish prepare a funeral pie with raisins.

Flanders (Dutch: Belgium, France, Netherlands)

• Very Salty and Plain Funeral Food.

• Mourners eat Pistolets with butter and slices of cheese, coffee and tea.

Flander- Pistolets

• The Dutch also have a Funeral Cake, with the initial of the deceased person on it.
• Made from Caraway and Molasses

• Google Earth


  1. I think the Irish traditions are the most interesting. Prayers exchanged for whiskey, snuff, and tobacco?? Also, it's almost funny that the Irish church tried to ban alcohol from the wakes but was unsuccessful. It seems like kind of a bad thing to serve at wakes. I would never think about going to a funeral and getting alcohol they just don't really go together!

  2. I think that the Irish traditions were the most interesting as well, but I would have to disagree with you on the fact that you think its a bad thing to serve at a wake. Although I do see your point I think that sad things like this do make people want to drink alcohol and I think that them serving them this during a wake can be a comforting thing. Just like at our wakes in the Southern United States we eat the foods that comfort us, fried chicken and casseroles.

  3. For the Irish, alcohol can be so intertwined within their culture and even their church life. Growing up in a fairly strict protestant family, my husband and I moved to St. Louis (a big Irish and Italian Catholic city). When my son attended a Catholic school, there was a bier garden at the school fair and at the little league games, the parents could order pitchers of beer. It would seem difficult for them in a time of sadness to abstain from alcohol when it is a big part of their culture

  4. I personally would want the American friend chicken and macaroni served at my wedding. I never knew that about the "Mormon potatoes", I thought that was interesting!

  5. I found the Dutch's funeral cake made from caraway and molasses, and then with the deceased person's initial on top, very interesting. I would like to know if it tastes good or not. It makes you wonder how they come up with these kinds of traditions.

  6. I thought this topic might be a little macabre, but then I realized that food is a comforting and familiar part of the funeral process. It still shocks me to realize how ingrained food is in every part of our culture. This was a very great and unique report. Thanks!

  7. That is very interesting! I never knew there was so many different food for wakes. I always assumed the comfort food like fried chicken, potatoes and mac and cheese but some traditions surprised me.

  8. I think that the African part of your report was interesting. We see funeral cost as a burden in the US but it seems that in this culture they could almost work a lifetime just to pay for ones funeral!

  9. You know, it seems like the US have very fatty funeral foods compared to the other countries, especially in the South (fried chicken and mac & cheese). I suppose this is how we deal with death- eat some "comfort food" and it's all better.

  10. I find the Irish tradition interesting as well, but hey whats wrong with with this? I assume that it would generally be moderate amount, and comforting to some mourners. I don't thing there's much difference in having such things as alcohol and stuffing your self with as much fried chicken as possible for comfort. Personally I love funeral food traditions here in the "bible belt." When a member of my community passes away, the family doesn't have to worry about feeding their children or putting dinner on the table for at least a week. When a loved one passes on, you can bet that everyone you know is going to pitch in and churches will organize meals to be brought to you. It has been done for me, and I have cooked meals for others.

  11. Again, I thought the Irish were the most interesting. But us North Americans prove how fat we really are with funeral potatoes and southern fried foods.

  12. I love that the Dutch put the initials of the deceased on their bread. That's a wonderful way to honor that person, even with the food! I was also interested to learn that in East Africa, donations for the family are associated with the food. Though I understand donating money, that really does seem like they're paying to eat!

  13. I never really thought about people making certain foods for a funeral ceremony, so this paper was extra interesting. I've heard of people cooking for the family in mourning after the funeral and burial, but normally it's just pot luck or something someone picks up at the nearest KFC or K&W Cafeteria. People in my family usually make traditional foods like beans, mac n cheese, potatoes, chicken or roast and a pie and takes it to the family. It was really cool learning that certain cultures have certain things they offer.

  14. I find it very interesting the different customs present in different countries for a funeral. It seems like each country or region inside the country has their own food dishes brought to funerals. I think to most it is a comfort food that they can enjoy in a time of mourning. I think many of us think more about different foods that people may share at their wedding but we dont often think about foods for funerals.

  15. Yeah, food culture of funerals is a really interesting topic. I cam to understand that the foods were typically comfort foods. This makes sense.

  16. I never thought about funeral foods before. I did not know certain foods are customary. I really liked learning about the different dishes throughout the world that are customary funeral foods.

  17. Wow, you covered alot of differing cultures, you did great, I really learned a great deal about what is expected and traditional in reagrds to funeral's, and I am Irish, both my grandparents came over from Cork, and we have always had a "few" cocktails at wakes. Irish wakes are infamous, because where there are large families, drinking, and Irishmen... Take a seat and enjoy the show, I can't speak for all Iirsh wakes, but in Boston they are interesting and eventful.