Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Being Dead is No Excuse (copy)

Years ago, I attended the funeral for my childhood babysitter. A next-door neighbor to my grandparents since 1945, Mrs. Baber was always eager to keep us. She possessed many talents like doodling on paper and gossiping on the phone simultaneously while my brother and I banged away on her sturdy upright piano. Only one rule was strictly enforced. We had to be quiet when As the World Turns came on.

It was a rather lovely service, loads of flowers and tasteful music, plus an enthusiastic new Church of Christ minister. As the minister spoke eloquently of Mrs. Baber I must have looked slightly confused. “Sweetheart,” my grandmother leaned over to me and asked, “Who is he talking about?” Our tears were a respectful yet guilty pleasure.

This is how I feel about the book, Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays. It is a guilty pleasure we all need to read. Had Mrs. Baber received traditional burial in the Mississippi Delta by a St. James rector, we may have missed the “nudge-producing eulogy” on page 30.

Although the title hints at advice for planning a funeral “to die for” it is really a “learn from our mistakes” and laugh book. Don’t be “caught dead” with lackluster flowers and dull dirges. Let the authors suggest a song from the “Delta Funeral Hit Parade” or staples for the well-stocked “Eternal Pantry”.

Recipes to enhance any after-funeral buffet table follow each chapter. Included are comfort foods like Healing Cheese Grits, Liketa Died Potatoes, and Tomato Aspic with homemade mayonnaise. If you are reading the book just for fun, don’t skip over the recipes. The authors have included fun jabs at the Methodist cooks whom enhance their specialties with canned soup.

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