food for a funeral

rosemary & marmalade glazed ham  

One of the things that I love about life is that no matter how bad things get, there are always little surprises that keep you going and help restore your faith. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been constantly amazed and uplifted by the kindness and thoughtfulness of everyone who has surrounded my family at this very sad time.

From our neighbours, the Hewitts, dropping in to help my dad fix a leaking water pipe the day after Mum’s death to the ladies who organized the tea and scones for everyone after the funeral, to my gorgeous Aunt Margaret who made light work of decorating the church with a floral symphony just as my Mum used to do whenever there was a funeral or a wedding on the horizon, to the many thoughtful people who sent flowers, cards and phoned and of course to my blogging friends who have left such touching messages. A very big THANKYOU to you all.

I was in two minds as to whether I should write this post. I mean it’s a pretty morbid thing to be talking about funerals and there’s nothing like the thought of death to ruin your appetite. But the whole organizing a funeral in less than a week experience got me thinking that it’s such a shame that we spend so much time in life preparing celebrations for birthdays and weddings but when it comes to celebrating a life we fast track things as much as possible.

Although it would have been lovely to have everyone back to Mount View after the funeral our distance from town made it not the most practical of choices so we opted for a two pronged approach. Tea and coffee with scones (watch this space for the family scone recipe) and my Mum’s legendary plum jam at the church hall provided the first round of refreshments. Thanks to the local ladies who baked and served and generally made things go as seamlessly as possible.

Back to the farm with our family and close friends for the ‘after party’ or ham fest (as my snow bunny sister kept referring to it), I wanted things that could be prepared ahead and served without fuss. Things that my Mum used to love like smoked salmon mousse and white bean humous for pass-the-plate starters.

And then there was the ham. My Mum has always been a big ham fan and every Christmas without fail she would whip one up. This was my first encounter with a whole leg of ham and while seven kilos of pork may be daunting to some, I must say it is the perfect way to feed a crowd. Especially when you have a stock of my Mum’s chutney, relish and green tomato pickles, a healthy supply of sourdough baguettes from the lovely Silo bakery in Canberra (Thanks Di for the courier job & essential bread knife). Add in a couple of legume based salads and plenty of Champagne and my friends, you’ll have your selves a mighty fine wake for a mighty fine lady….all good things.

funeral afternoon tea
scones
June’s jam & cream
tea & coffee

the funeral after party (aka the ham fest)
white bean hummous with pita bread
smoked salmon mousse with celery & crackers
rosemary & marmalade glazed ham with june’s chutney & relish
crusty Sourdough baguettes
green lentil & baby spinach salad
chickpea & celery heart salad

Note. I used the lentil salad recipe found here but omitted the roasted onions and tossed the warm lentils with the dressing then allowed to cool. Just before serving I tossed through about twice as much baby spinach as listed in the recipe to make for a lighter, more leafy, less lentily salad.

For the chickpea salad, I followed the basic recipe here but left out the spinach herbs and tossed though mint leaves and the finely sliced heart of two bunches of celery at the last minute.

7kg ham ready for the oven
my mum would have loved seeing her flowering rosemary put to good use

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{ 8 comments }

Casey September 3, 2007 at 3:08 pm

My very favorite part of this post is the little line: my mumwould have loved seeig her flowering rosemary put to good use.” somehow those few words spoke volumes to me about your mother.

deborah September 4, 2007 at 1:11 am

you are so right jules, about things not slowing down, but in fact getting fast tracked when we lose someone. i think a celebration is the most beautiful way to say good bye. the way you and your family have for your mum is really very moving. i hope you are well, and that your mum has found the peace she deserves.

Julia September 4, 2007 at 2:25 am

This is a beautiful celebration and such a moving post. You’ve put your love into this feast and I’m sure that has been felt by everyone. I hope you are doing ok.

Ellie September 4, 2007 at 3:18 am

Death is a part of life, and not one we should eschew. The dinner sounds like a beautiful way to remember and enjoy your mothers memory, and I’m glad that you have been surrounded by loving people with which to share these recent times.

Thank you for sharing this moment with us :)

barbara September 4, 2007 at 5:13 am

Thank you for sharing this day Jules. It sounds like it was a very special goodbye to your Mum.

katie September 4, 2007 at 9:26 am

i feel like a guilty intruder reading your blog at the moment; it is so raw, so touching, and so real and yet I feel the necessity to pass comment to you and say thank you for sharing it, because it’s nice to know that other people are out there thinking, suffering, celebrating, sharing and living.

Zarah Maria September 4, 2007 at 2:59 pm

I’m glad you decided to post this – I remember seeing the chapter on funerals in Nigella Lawson’s Feast, thinking it was quite bizarre. And then, as I thought about it, it was actually, just like you said, why shouldn’t we have mighty fine wakes for the mighty fine people we’ve met in our lifes, and who we treasured? It only seems right.

Hope you’re doing okay, and am glad to know you’re surrounded by people you love.

alice August 26, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Nice article!!! I glad to you that this is my favorite post. I hope you are doing very well. Good Luck………

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