Food for the grieving?

A close friend of mine recently lost his grandmother. (And by extension, his mother, whom I’m also well acquainted with, lost her mother.) Neither of them cook- at all- and tend to rely on fast food/tale out most of the time. I’d like to make a few things to take to them, so that they don’t have to worry about running out for dinner in the middle of everything they’re dealing with: who wants to be on the couch, wracked with grief, and then realize there’s no dinner in the house? I’m thinking homemade chicken pot pie and some sort of cake? I don’t want anything too casserole-y, as a lot of casseroles tend to be an acquired taste sort of thing. (They’re also a bit cliche as far as death in the family goes.) So what other ideas can you give me?


Anything that can be heated and served in a single dish (which can be thrown away afterward.) Lasagna is good, although it falls into the category of Italian casserole. Picnic type foods, like ham and chicken with a side dish, also good ideas. For dessert, any of the classic comfort foods will be fine: cake, pie, cookies, brownies, etc.

Someone sent a basket of dried fruit to my mother when my father died. It was very much appreciated – you could grab something at any time and snack on it.

Other people brought home made soup. It wasn’t very good (I never saw clear pea soup before), but the idea was – you can heat it in a minute in the microwave.

No offense, but, I mean, a funeral isn’t exactly the place to be broadening culinary horizons or knocking anyone’s socks off with something creative. Of course casseroles are cliche at funerals (as is crying, telling old stories, fighting with estranged family members, and drinking heavily). My family has over time hit for that entire cycle. Casseroles and other simple dishes are cliche because they are: relatively easy to make with ingredients many households likely have sitting around; easily transported (generally carry them over wrapped in foil in the dish you made them in, which can then be washed and returned at convenience); bland enough to be within a wide range of taste buds, yet flavorful enough to taste like a real meal, for old and young; contrary to your suggestion, IMHO, not really an acquired taste, as most middle class people (unless born in a very different culture) almost certainly ate some form of casserole, hamburger helper, scallopped potatoes, etc. etc. sometimes, or very often, at some point in their upbringing. It may not be fancy food or your everyday urban adult food, but I can’t imagine many Americans who haven’t had hamburger helper or tuna casserole or funeral-type potatoes as staple food at some point. They taste pretty good and fill you up fast. Plus, casseroles can be shuttled in and out of the fridge, easily slopped onto individual plates, and many eat just as well cold as microwaved.

Something to be said for not reinventing the wheel.

I recently took several sandwiches … chicken/swill cheese/ Kraft’s sandwich spread on 10 grain bread for an 85 year old man who just came home from the hospital. He loved the tangyness of the spread. I halved each sandwich and put in zip lock sandwich bags which stayed fresh in the refrigerator. He was eating his last half sandwich on the 4th day.

Instead of making home made soup for him, I combined two large cambell soup beef and veg soup plus a can of tomato soup to get it to more of a tomato base which he loved. So, that was very easy, and he loved it.

Sandwiches and chips are great and also some peach flavored tea is something differnt to take.

I served him everything in paper bowls, with plastic spoons and plenty of napkins.
That way, no mess, no clean up…just throw in trash.

A big favorite is brownies. I buy Betty Crocker Brownies for around 2.25 per box.
Easy mix, put in 9X13 pan and bake. I cut them hot which makes no less than 24. and put on a plastic plate and cover with foil. Chocolate is super for grieving and for recovering.

Keep it simple…preferrably easy finger food, and easy salads.

Easy slaw: one pkg of shredded slaw, dressing: vinegar, sugar, mayo mixed and it you really want to make it great…put in some of the Kraft Sandwich spread.

Another easy throw together salad: black beans, navy beans, frozen corn, cut up red onion, green, yellow, red/ orange peppers for crunch. Make an easy vinegrette: red wine vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt, mix…marinate and it gets better the more it is left in the referator for days. Take paper plates and plastic forks…throw away…

I hope this is easy and helps you.
Grandmama Janet

I’m with Huerta88 on this one - this isn’t time to reinvent the wheel. There are reasons why casseroles appear during these times.

A few thoughts:

  • If they don’t cook, make sure whatever you take is already cooked and just needs reheating
  • Use disposable dishes to take things over, or semi-disposable, They’ll be getting lots of things brought over. If they don’t have to keep track of which baking dish is yours, that’s one less thing they have to worry about.
  • If you’re really set on taking something less casserole-ish but which still has some of the advantages of a casserole, some ideas could be: a vat of pulled pork and a bag of buns ; pot roast ; curried chicken salad and fancy rolls ; chili and cornbread ; corn chowder. Snacky things: deviled eggs ; pigs in blankets ; cookies.

When my brother died, our friend brought over a large tray of sandwich meat, various kinds, and slices of cheese, so we could make our own sandwiches. The guy that brought it went even higher in my book…
Another brought KFC.
Also, at another funerary event, somebody brought a rum cake. A thousand times better than the ordinary kind of cake!

Another time, somebody had spaghetti in one container, and the sauce in the other. Again, their stock with me went way up…

Easily impressed, i guess.

Bucket o’ chicken. We joke that that should just be called the funeral bucket at KFC. Casseroles are always good, we call them “disasteroles.” cake, pie, cookies,jello salad, anything that holds well and can be reheated if it is meant to be a hot food. Remember, your friends are also probably feeding out-of-town extended family as well as themselves.

In addition to putting the food in a disposable dish, send along some paper plates, napkins, and disposable eating utensils. Nobody is going to feel like doing dishes either.

A canned ham can be eaten cold or reheated. My mother makes a jello salad with fruit in it. Maybe bring a bag of premixed salad or one of baby carrots?