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Food to make someone whose relative has just passed

  • c

What foods would you appreciate getting in a similar situation? I'm thinking casserole, because you can always freeze it if you get too much -- but that also seems a little mundane and bland. Any ideas?

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  1. Once when we had a particularly difficult death in the family a friend brought a really nice
    platter of vegetables, fruits and dips. When you just don't feel like eating you may at least snack with something like this there. I'm sure it helped us all get a little nourishment when we may not have otherwise. It was very thoughtful and, at least for us, practical.

    Another time someone brought Italian beef and bags of nice rolls and a salad. We could heat it up or freeze it, except for the salad, of course.

    Still, I think that a tasty casserole-type dish is never bad. Comfort food. If you have a recipe you really like I wouldn't worry about it seeming dull. Good is good.

    Good of you to do it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: xena

      This is another case where ethnicity and tradition would play a part in your decision. A good friend of mine brought a ring of cooked shrimp to a third friend's house after her father had passed away. The problem was it was a Jewish shiva (condolence) call and it was just not the thing to do.the bereaved probably have other callers to serve and so a fruit bowl or cookie platter may be appreciated.

    2. Definitely take into account cultural traditions/requirements. Assuming you can cook for them, my vote is something yummy and carb heavy like homemade mac and cheese, lasagna, etc.

      1. Things to make sandwiches with are really helpful. If people are in and out, or someone is hungry, a hot meal is not always the best option. We have had people bring sandwich ingredients and bread or a ham or turkey breast and rolls to the house and everything was always consumed with appreciation. Part of the issue is the size of the family and if there are a lot of people from out of town. Casseroles are good if you know there is a large group.

        1 Reply
        1. re: WCchopper

          I agree with WCchopper. I went to a friend's father's funeral earlier this year, and while everyone brought lots and lots of cakes to the wake, the most comforting, popular thing there was a simple platter of bagels, with mayo, salt and hard boiled eggs on the side.

        2. Thank you so much for the suggestions, all. My friend is eastern european (Georgian). No taboo foods--unless maybe green vegetables. =)

          3 Replies
          1. re: cimui

            I agree with the comfort food recommendations. I live in SW Florida, so people are dying all the time, high age population. I either do a relatively mild, cheesy baked ziti; a pasta salad with lots of cheese, meats (salami, soppresata, etc.) veggies and a vinaigrette so it can sit out without spoiling; or a baked ham or roast beef (Jewish or not) with rolls and sauces. Anything that makes it easy for the grieving and lets them keep fueled.

            1. re: phneale

              You wrote "I do...or a baked ham or roast beef (Jewish or not) with rolls and sauces." Are you really saying that you bring a ham to a Jewish home of mourning? If so, I hope you understand that your choice is a risky one.

              Many Jews who do not keep kosher and may even eat ham on other occasions are often likely to want to stick to tradition during a period of mourning. Even if you're completely confident about the feelings of your immediate friends, you are likely to be unaware of the feelings of every Jewish member of the family in mourning. Since your objective is to "...make it easy for the grieving" avoiding a food like ham seems like an easy and desirable thing to do.

              1. re: Indy 67

                I'm thinking that what phneale meant was that he/she brings ham to non-jewish families and roast beef to jewish families. The syntax just got a little bit screwed up.

          2. I recently experienced a death in the family, and honestly, by the end of the week there was one thing we would have appreciated. A gift certificate to a local pizzeria. People sent us meat platters, fruit baskets, and enough junky food to make us sick; and while it was greatly appreciated by everyone, if there are several days of funeral events, then the main family that is together all the time would definitely appreciate a gift certificate for pizza. (Often just as cheap or cheaper than a meat platter, or fruit basket)

            2 Replies
            1. re: milkyway4679

              Agreed. The other thing that is important is to check in a couple of weeks later with the survivor. Everyone is great the first week and then they all move on to their regular lives. That is when an invitation to come over for dinner or go out together is most appreciated. It is also when the loss hits the hardest.

              1. re: milkyway4679

                We were flooded with wonderful good food after my aunt's funeral. After three days of rich good food, a friend made a White Castle run for us. We just needed junk food at that point. And my aunt would have loved the White Castles.

                One main thing on taking food is put it in a throw away pan. The family does not need to be tracking owners of dishes and returning them.

              2. When my grandpa died lots of people brought lots of food; but one I won't forget was the lady who showed up with a grocery sack filled with disposable plates, silverware, cups, and napkins.

                1. We have experienced several deaths in our family in the past three years. Following each death, friends and neighbors overloaded us with meat trays, fried chicken, congeled salads, and desserts. The things that were in low supply (and the things that we most craved) were the veggies, fruits, and salad greens.

                  One thing that was brought that really stands out in my mind was a basket of breakfast foods --- good bread for toast, homemade jelly, a coffee cake, a pound of bacon, a dozen eggs, a pound of butter, coffee, and orange juice. I have since done the same thing for friends who have lost loved ones. Other ideas for breakfast could include a cheese-grit casserole, frozen biscuits, bagels, fresh fruits, sliced country ham, etc .

                  1. Not to be vague, but if there's something you make really well, send that. So much thought went into re-heat-ability when my mom had surgery (which i know is different) that we ended up eating what tasted like bad leftovers for weeks. We're Italian, so we esp. appreciated a really good eggplant parm. Otherwise gift cards to a local take-out place are also nice.

                    1. My grandfather passed away in December. I remember realizing that for two days, not including travel cross-country, all I had to drink was coffee and alcoholic beverages: a jolt in the morning and then a steady flow of caffeine all day followed by a few drinks at night. Some people brought food and someone even sent an edible cut-up fruit bouquet, both of which were appreciated. However, we really could have used some nice non-alcoholic beverages... juices, sparkling water, nice bottled herbal teas without too much sugar, that kind of thing. Just an idea. You could make a beverage basket...

                      1. My father died a few months ago.. regardless of how bland or mundane the food we were sent was, it was all so very much appreciated... There is so much to do and feel after a death, that ANYTHING you don't have to do is very appreciated.

                        So may people drop in after a death, that sometimes there is nothing in the house to offer them (shopping takes a back seat), and it's nice to have a packet of biscuits, or some fresh fruit, that you can quickly plate up.

                        The best thing I got was coming home after a particularly stressful meeting with my mother and the funeral director, and finding my GF's had been in an cleaned my house, stocked the fridge with fruit and dips and crackers, and left a "we're thinking of you.. call us when you feel up to it" note on the fridge.

                        Another wonderful gift was a friend who organized to pick up my kids after school, while the whole surreal week between his death and his funeral unfolded..

                        THAT was a great gift.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: purple goddess

                          I agree with purple goddess, anything is appreciated. This is not a feasting time. It is a time for recollection and mourning. The food really is for the other visitors.

                        2. A lot of people brought food trays that first day- which was nice, but by the time of the funeral, the remaining meats were slimy, the edges of pre-sliced cheese were dry and hard, the muffins, pastries and donuts were stale and the bread needed toasting.

                          When a neighbor died, we took packaged meats and cheeses, chips, new condiments, some pre-cut cookie dough packages and three loaves of resealable breads. That way they did not have to eat our stuff right away, could use up the fresh trays that were brought over and then if anyone wanted anything fresh in a few days, or even weeks, they could have it then.

                          1. homemade soup. the family can serve drop-in relatives for lunch or dinner with it & stretch it to feed more people with some bread or other starch. if there are leftovers a person can freeze single portions. when the dust clears after a death and the funeral is over, a person can want something warm, healthy and made with love when all alone, and not have the emotional strength to cook for themselves.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: soupkitten

                              soupkitten,
                              I second your vote for homemade soups. Having been the recipient of wonderful, comforting soup, I have, in turn, brought healthful and delicious lentil soups, etc. to my friends.
                              Soup is so helpful, because the recipient can heat just a bowlful in the microwave for a hungry child, or themselves. It is easy to swallow, and comforting. No cleanup.
                              I also recommend fresh seasonal fruits, vegetable salads (tabouli), and spreads (hummos). Deviled eggs, cheeses, etc. can provide easy protein fixes.

                              I have found that if I can eat nutritious foods, I am less likely to sit around eating cake and cookies all week, and feeling surgared out. Definitely better for the morale.

                              It is a good idea to designate someone (son or daughter-in-law, good friend) to run the kitchen, coordinating deliveries, answering questions. Keeping a list of what is coming, and who is bringing each meal is helpful. Don't be afraid to ask people to bring food later (in a week or 2), if you already have enough.

                              When close friends sit shiva, I like to help out with serving and cleanup at the end of each evening, so the family does not have to do that. p.j.

                            2. Is it for the wake or just for general? Different cultures and different parts of the country have different traditions. So it is important to be sensitive to past practices.

                              1. One of mrs jfoods best friends passed away suddenly a few years ago and the first round was a sandwich platter to handle the first wave. Then there is the main wave of people visiting and there seems to be lots of food available. The one area of consideration to take into account is refrigerator space. Too many dishes and not enough room.

                                Mrs jfood came up with an idea in conjunction with a friend of hers to help the immediate family over a longer period. The two of them set up a food chain for the first few weeks after the death. Various people were assigned a day to bring a meal for the family as the father was not up to it. It was probably the best idea for a few weeks and we all knew that t he father and the kids had hot meals for all of them for some time.

                                1. I think you have lots of good responses here, but I'll throw in a couple of ideas. My father passed a way a couple of years ago. Like others have pointed out, we appreciated all of the thoughtfulness. We devoured the breakfast pastries and the fresh fruit.

                                  You might also want to see if anyone is coordinating food for the family. My parents' church has a system set up for coordinating meals for a week or two after a death, depending on the family's needs. We had a different hot meal each night for that difficult week.

                                  1. If they're not vegetarians, arroz con pollo makes a nice tasty but comforting food that lasts and that (I at least) don't get tired of over a couple days. Saute chicken (skinless if you want the dish less greasy), add onions, garlic, rice (brown is good too but then you should precook it at least halfway), saute all of that awhile, then add chicken broth (2x the volume of the rice) and a can or two of good tomatoes, with juice. Oregano, marjoram, salt, pepper, paprika. The cook (on stovetop, low heat or in oven) for about twice as long as most recipes will tell you--probably an hour? It's a really warming dish.

                                    1. I suggest a cooler filled with bottled water, juice, soda, and ice. Often people have lots of food, but no drinks to offer people that come to the house.

                                      1. I agree about the soup. When my dad died unexpectedly (many years ago), we didn't feel much like eating. Soup and cookies were the most appreciated. Deli Trays and cookies were also handy for visitors.

                                        1. Thank you all so much for the great ideas! I know my friend will very much appreciate these.

                                          1. For future reference, there is a wonderful cookbook/sociology study called "Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, & Customs from Around the World" by Lisa Rogak. It explains customs and gives recipes for something like 100 different cultures/religions/ethnic groups. I regret to say that it has come in very handy several times in the last year alone.

                                            That being said, I guess it would make a difference if you are intending your dish for the post funeral wake/grief buffet, or if you want to bring food to the home so that the immediate family doesnt have to worry about cooking for themselves or sudden drop-ins. My wife's gravlox has always been welcome for the former, corned beef, pastrami, and rye bread for the latter.

                                            When my father passed away, his favourite Chinese restaurant sent over huge amounts of fried rice, egg rolls, appetizers, and many of Dad's favourite dishes, and it worked out splendidly for all of us.

                                            I think it was George Carlin who observed that a wake is a really great party that someone throws for you on the one day you cant attend.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: Fydeaux

                                                Well, in the olden days, many people observed the wake with the coffin & body open right in the house or parlor, so is that technically attending?

                                              2. Casseroles are always good, but make them in a disposable aluminum pan, so the receivers don't feel rushed to have to give back the container.

                                                When my now mother-in-law's mother died a few years ago, I went out and bought a bunch of quick breakfast breads (bagels, crumpets, scones, etc.) and some spreads for people to put on them. She really appreciated it since there were lots of people at her house early in the morning.

                                                Non-perishable, quick foods are good.

                                                I also agree with the Purple Goddess's suggestion of offering to do a task to help the griever out.

                                                1. We had a death in my family when I was 19 and a neighbor brought breakfast supplies- eggs, bacon, juice and sourdough bread. My Mom appreciated it so much that it became her standard contribution to other bereaved families and now it is what I take along when visiting someone whose lost a loved one, too. It is especially helpful to families that are hosting out of town people who've come for the funeral- so many times you get plenty of entrees and sweets from people who stop by to pay their respects, but still end up running to the store to get stuff for breakfast.

                                                  Another idea is homemade soup. As long as they're not cream based, they freeze well, too and seem to be one of those dishes that most everyone likes.

                                                  1. One time I brought over a chafing dish filled with meatballs from Costco and a bottle of KC Masterpiece. Its smells great and is very easy...