Lynn Hummel: Funeral planning — what’s for lunch?
Advanced funeral planning has gotten to be a bigger and bigger thing in recent years. And it only makes sense, because sooner or later ... So why wait until the last minute to write your obituary, choose your pallbearers, pick your songs and lessons, find a picture when you were much younger and take care of the other details?
When we got to Bismarck last year for my Aunt Jo’s funeral, we were pleased with one bit of pre-planning that she did: for the funeral lunch we were all treated to hamburgers catered in from her favorite Bismarck hamburger joint. It was obvious to all of us why she loved those burgers — they were great. We all knew Jo had class, and she proved it to us one last time.
I believe in advance funeral planning too, but I’m going at it just one step at a time. And my first step will be selecting my funeral lunch, though I haven’t made a final decision yet — too many choices.
I love sauerkraut with pork or sausage just about as much as anything I ever eat. But I recognize that there are great numbers of folks — potential mourners — who intensely dislike that chopped cabbage pickled in brine because it’s an acquired taste and sometimes it riles up the stomach. I don’t want people leaving my funeral with an upset stomach. So, there won’t be any sauerkraut at my funeral. Besides, I won’t be eating lunch that day anyway.
Hey, I have nothing against the usual ham, ham salad, beef and turkey sandwiches, hotdish, potato salad, pickles, chips, cake and bars. I love it all and try to get seconds whenever I can. The Norwegians frequently add lefse and I love that too, but they must keep in mind that no matter how much the departed loved lutefisk, even fewer people eat that than sauerkraut. Besides, it smells up the place and could be mistaken for a decomposing body. The point is, as long as I’m planning in advance, I want to think of all the alternatives.
Is there anybody who doesn’t enjoy a good hotdog or two? I would be honored to have hotdogs served for my funeral lunch. Ketchup and mustard would have to be available of course, and even some relish or sauerkraut for those who want it. Baked beans would be a perfect compliment to hot dogs, and of course, pickles, chips, bars and cake. Personally, I prefer pie (or even kuchen — do you know what that is?) to cake, but we don’t want to bankrupt the estate on the funeral lunch do we?
There is a danger, of course, that if you serve hot dogs at your funeral, folks will say that is because you were a hot dog yourself, but they could (and probably will) say a lot worse things than that.
There is no rule that says if people attend your funeral, they are all entitled to a bite to eat, but a free lunch does encourage attendance, and it certainly is a gesture of hospitality to treat your mourners as guests. It’s part of our culture. Some opt for a change of venue and retire to a neighborhood tavern for some bar food and ... Pepsi. There are so many choices.
The food at your funeral depends on your “tribe”. Depending on your city and neighborhood, your tribe may be Jew, Italian, Irishman, Southern, White, Black, Chinese, Mexican, Scandinavian, German, etc.
In New York, 80 percent of funeral food is smoked fish. If you attend a funeral in the deep South, you may be eating jambalaya, Cajun potato salad and deviled eggs. If you mourn with black mourners, you could be lucky enough to get fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and black-eyed peas.