Bread, Wine, and Potatoes
My uncle passed away recently. He was a wonderful, gentle man. I was not able to attend the Idaho funeral service, but nearly 100 relatives did. This weekend, while pouring over the photos from the event, and I found this picture comforting.
We may not have many food traditions as a people, but this meal qualifies – at least in the Intermountain West. I know those potatoes. Growing up, my ward boundaries included a large retirement community. My mother, who seemed to live in the Relief Society presidency, found herself coordinating the food for at least a funeral a month. If her kids smelled a chocolate sheet cake, we were trained to ask, “Did someone die?” before diving in. As a teenager, I spent a lot of hours setting up the cultural hall for these post-funeral meals, and the menu rarely varied: ham, funeral potatoes, rolls, simple green salad, jello. Why these foods? Economy, probably. I’m sure there must be a history to this tradition, but I don’t know what it is.
It’s easy to poke fun at the cuisine (“green jello with shredded carrots”), but it somehow feels fitting that this is how my family broke bread after my uncle’s service. And it feels fitting that it was prepared and served by the women of the Relief Society. It feels something like a sacrament.