The Funeral Luncheon

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My grandfather died on New Year’s Eve. It’s ok. He’s at peace now.

Ever notice how food plays a part in the mourning process? We cook to keep busy. We eat to comfort ourselves. The neighbors bring over a consolation casserole. I think a lot about the post-funeral luncheon scene in Garden State where everyone is eating and Andrew receives a shirt matching his late mother's bathroom, which ironically reminds me a lot of my late grandfather’s bathroom, except his was pink.

So naturally, I made a casserole on the night I went home for the funeral.

It’s actually pretty easy to make a vegan green bean casserole. I bought frozen cut green beans and the “Imagine” brand’s Cream of Portobello Mushroom soup that comes in a tetrapak. I combined them in a casserole dish along with french fried onions, because those are “accidentally vegan,” and some actual onion pieces for good measure. I also ate an exorbitant amount of Triscuits that night because stress-eating crackers is one of my talents.

The next day we had two viewings. In between them, my extended family ate together as a sort of potluck. We had several different soups. Everybody likes soup when they’re grieving. Through some sort of divine intervention, a lot of Triscuits were there too.

On the third day, after the funeral, we gathered yet again to eat. This time we went to an Inn down the street. They provided food for us, none of it vegan except for the salad. I’m comfortable with this- I don’t expect public places to accommodate me. However, one of my aunts told the cook that I didn’t eat meat, and she graciously sautéed a portobello mushroom which she placed on top of my salad. I was touched. This simple, what-would-in-any-other-context-be-stupid mushroom helped to console me. I think that’s kind of profound.

Accommodation is a delicate thing. Some people expect it, others don’t. Either way, it’s really nice. It’s nice to be cared about by a complete stranger who probably doesn’t want to be working on a Sunday afternoon and probably isn’t sure what it means to be vegan but who gives enough of a damn to sauté you a mushroom and make sure the balsamic dressing is dairy and egg free. It’s one thing for someone to do this on any old day. But on a day where you’re forced to stare at the lifeless body of a loved one, that accommodation means the world.

Danielle Kocher