Southern funerals: Somber but with a good spread

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I have another new cookbook to add to my collection. My sister just returned home from her vacation and brought me back a cookbook from Charleston, S.C. It is so unusual and funny I just had to share it with you. "Being Dead is No Excuse; The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral" is filled with stories and tales of Southern funerals, and the recipes from foods fixed for Southern funerals. The book addresses how it is an ongoing competition between the Methodist Ladies and the Episcopal Ladies, and other churches for having the best food. This book not only contains great recipes, but is an easy and fun read. You just might want to add it to your collection.

The Methodist Ladies' Chicken Lasagna Florentine

"For once, we're at a loss for words. Pecans and lasagna? But this is the quintessential Methodist death dish, and it's so good it'll kill you."

6 lasagna noodles, uncooked

1 (10-ounce) package chopped frozen spinach, thawed

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken, about 3 medium breasts

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons white pepper

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream

1/3 cup homemade mayonnaise

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste

Butter pecan topping (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside. Drain the spinach well, pressing between layers of paper towels. Combine the spinach, chicken, cheddar cheese, onion, nutmeg, salt, pepper, soy sauce, soup, sour cream and mayonnaise in a large bowl. Stir well to blend. Arrange half the noodles in a lightly greased 11-by-7-by-1 1/2-inch baking dish. Spread half the chicken mixture over the noodles. Repeat this procedure with the remaining chicken mixture and noodles. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Butter Pecan Topping. Bake, covered, for 55 to 60 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Serves eight.

Butter Pecan Topping

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 cup chopped pecans

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat; add the pecans and cook for 3 minutes. Cool completely.

Methodist Party Potatoes

"Party Potatoes might sound a bit jolly for a funeral, but no self-respecting delta Methodist is buried without them. Note to purists: If you refuse to cook with corn flakes, skip this recipe."

1 (2-pound) package hash browns

10 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 pint sour cream

1 can cheddar cheese soup, not diluted

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pepper, coarsely ground

Topping:

2 cups corn flakes

1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the hash browns according to the package directions. Combine the cooked hash browns with the other ingredients and place in a buttered 13-by-9-inch casserole dish. Top the casserole with corn flakes and dot with butter. Bake 40 minutes, or until golden, crisp and bubbly. After you've eaten your fill, ask your doctor to add Lipitor. Serves eight.

Martha Jane Howell's Pineapple Casserole

"Yes, you read that right; pineapple casserole. This is a wonderful and easy-to-make dish that goes especially well with baked ham or a green bean casserole."

2 cans (20 ounces) crushed pineapple

5 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup grated sharp cheese

Ritz crackers

1 stick real butter

Drain the pineapple. Grease a 2-quart oblong casserole dish and put the pineapple in the bottom. Sift the flour and sugar together, blend it with the cheese and then sprinkle on top of the pineapple. Cover with crushed Ritz crackers, a tube or a tube and a half will do nicely. Melt the butter and pour over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Serves eight.

Mint and Almond Teas

"Think of these teas as Methodist chardonnay. Methodists rarely drown their grief in anything stronger than flavored tea. Mint tea and almond tea are refreshing in the Delta summer and won't cause you to say things you regret later. The mint tea is a legacy of a long-gone minister."

Almond Tea

4 cups strongly brewed tea

3/4 cup water

1 can (60 ounces) frozen lemonade, thawed

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons almond extract, a little goes a long way

Combine all ingredients. Stir it until the sugar is dissolved, and serve over ice. Makes about twelve cups.

Mint Tea

16 cups water (1 gallon)

7 tea bags

7 sprigs fresh mint

Rind of 3 lemons

Juice of 7 lemons

2 cups sugar

Bring half the water to a boil. Add the tea bags, mint and lemon rinds. Steep for 12 minutes. Add the lemon juice and sugar to the remaining 8 cups of water. Mix with the tea and serve over ice. For funeral purposes, I wouldn't garnish each glass with mint, though that's a nice touch for less-somber occasions. Serve it from a glass pitcher.

Bing Cherry Salad with Coca-Cola

"I think that ladies of a certain age must have believed that bing cherries were that last word in elegance. There is an entire page in one of my mother's recipe books devoted to variations on the bing cherry salad. We have insisted that only bottled Coca-Cola be used, canned Coke is heresy."

2 (3-ounce) boxes cherry gelatin

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 (15-ounce) can black cherries, drained

2 cups juice, reserved from pineapple and cherries, heated

2 (8-ounce) bottles Coca-Cola

1 cup pecans

Dissolve the gelatin in the hot juice, then add the Coca-Cola and pour into a dish. When gelatin starts to congeal, stir in the pineapple, quartered cherries, and pecans. Chill until firm. Serves sixteen.

There are so many cute little quips before each recipe, that I had a hard time choosing which ones to include here today. I hope you enjoyed this quick little book review and the recipes.

Once again, I am out of room, so will wish you a great week, and until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at smcclanahan@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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