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Saturday, June 03, 2006

SATURDAY BOOK BLOG

Christina Dodd declares BEING DEAD IS NO EXCUSE


I lived in Texas for twenty-one years, and while there is some discussion about whether Texas is the South. Some people think it’s the West, although my friends who were born and bred in Texas declare it is *Texas!*, a separate entity entirely. I tend to agree with the Texans — but then, it’s safer that way.

Anyway, Texas has enough Southern attributes that when I was poking around Amazon and found a little book called BEING DEAD IS NO EXCUSE – The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral, I ordered it without delay. Because funerals in the South are different from the West Coast (before Texas I lived in California, Oregon and Idaho) and, I suspect, different from anywhere else in the world. It’s called “funeralizing” where a whole day (or two) is spent cooking a dish, delivering it to the family, attending the funeral, and going to the reception afterward. The only way out is if you’re the corpse.

BEING DEAD IS NO EXCUSE by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays is a fascinating mixture of tongue-in-cheek suggestions for a successful funeral, acerbic observations, and traditional Southern funeral recipes (cream of mushroom soup casserole, anyone?) Another subtitle could be, “When the Grim Reaper visits, here’s what to feed him.”

I LOLed over and over as I read this book (ask Connie — I kept calling her, half-crying with laughter, and reading her passages). I did, however, frequently glance at the ceiling to check for lightning bolts.


For example:
“The last time someone was cremated, his ashes were sprinkled from a crop duster. We all ran for cover. We liked him fine, but we didn’t want him all over our good clothes.”
And:
“We’d better warn you not to put too much credence in the dates carved on the headstones. We Southern women tend to lie about our age — even when we’re dead.”
And:
“Ladies from the altar guild have been known to visit the Vatican only to sniff, ‘That’s not how it’s done at St. James.’”
And:
“Episcopalians are sensitive enough to know that simply being dead doesn’t mean you no longer care about social status. Nobody wants an ill-attended funeral. St. James turns out in full force for its own … for a really big funeral, dual membership — in St. James and Alcoholics Anonymous — is the ticket. Episcopalians who have belonged to AA attract a standing room only crowd, without increasing the liquor bill at the reception.” (In case you’re Episcopalian, never fear — they whack the Methodists, the Catholics, the Baptists … Misses Metcalfe and Hays are equal opportunity wits.)

As for the recipes — I can’t wait to dive in (hey! I like cream of mushroom soup!) There is a recipe for cheese straws, those absolutely divine, buttery, cheese sticks with a hint of a kick. There’s Can’t-Die-Without-It-Caramel Cake, Hot Feta Artichoke Dip, Liketa Died Potatoes (with cornflakes, hash browns, cheddar cheese soup, and sour cream — if you’re not already the corpse, this will help you on your way), and of course, Pimento Cheese, a heavenly Southern delicacy I’d never heard of before I got to Texas.

Soooo … does this book make you squirm? Make you laugh? What kind of really bad-for-you foods do you take to funerals -- or make secretly for yourself? Let me know. I’m just sitting here eating homemade cheese straws!
Christina Dodd, 11:12 AM
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