Ms. Dee Ann, currently being revised as Murder in Narrow Creek or Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder (maybe I should take a vote for which title to choose) uses Southern life in a small town in 1979 as its setting.
And what could be more Southern than “funeral food”? In one chapter, an elderly member of Dee Ann’s church, Miss Annabelle Jenkins, has died and Elizabeth, Dee Ann’s friend and fellow church member, calls to ask for Dee Ann’s help with the meal to be served to the family in the fellowship hall. Here’s how the conversation goes:
“Listen,” Elizabeth announced, “I’m in charge of the bereavement meal that will be served before the funeral. We’ll do the cool weather menu, although at the first of October there are still some warm days and who knows whether people will want green bean casserole or marinated vegetable salad.”
I [Dee Ann] knew enough about funeral food to recognize that green bean casserole was cool weather food and marinated vegetable salad was warm weather….
“Can you make a nine by thirteen sheet cake?” Elizabeth asked. “You know, just get a box of Betty Crocker yellow cake mix and a can of chocolate frosting. You don’t have to make a cake from scratch—we working women don’t have time for that anymore—but at least mix up and bake a boxed batter.
“We don’t want to buy a Pepperidge Farm cake to use for a bereavement meal. That would seem uncaring. Although I do love that chocolate layered cake they make.”
“I’ll be glad to make a sheet cake, Elizabeth,” I interjected before she went off on a tangent about all the different varieties of frozen desserts.
Southern funeral food has always eased the pain of death.
BEREAVEMENT MEALS (List Used by West Haven Presbyterian Church, Rocky Mount, NC)
Cool Weather Menu Warm Weather Menu
Fried Chicken or Ham Fried Chicken or Ham
Potato Casserole Potato Casserole
Green Bean Casserole Marinated Vegetable Salad
Cranberry Salad Deviled Eggs
Sheet Cake Sheet Cake
“These are basic menus to use but do not have to be followed exactly. Butter beans are a nice addition to either menu.”