The meal after a funeral is a time for loved ones to gather and celebrate the life of the deceased. People likely will not remember the menu as much as they'll remember the comfort derived from being with family and friends. Strive to prepare a meal that is as easy to enjoy from a table as it is from plates balanced on laps. A buffet-style meal best accomplishes this.
Casseroles are an ideal post-funeral meal because they can be made ahead of time and quickly warmed. Pick casseroles that appeal to a wide range of people. Tuna or chicken casseroles generally have broad appeal. Provide vegetarian options, such as a broccoli and cheese, or roasted vegetable casserole, to ensure your non-meat eating guests are taken care of. Consider setting up chafing dishes to keep the casseroles warm throughout the post-funeral gathering.
Baked egg dishes, especially quiche and strata, are also ideal for post-funeral meals because they can be prepared ahead of time. For quiche, purchase pre-made pie crusts to cut down on preparation time. Prepare meat and vegetarian varieties. Strata is another easy egg dish that can serve many people; it is also versatile and can be made beforehand.
Avoid meat dishes that involve a lot of cutting -- such as steaks -- or leave a lot of waste, such as chicken legs. Instead, opt for meat dishes that are easily eaten and can serve a lot of people. For example, a tray of meatballs or sliced roast pork works well for a crowd. Serve rolls alongside the meat and set out bowls of creamy dressing so funeral guests can make their own sandwiches.
Traditional salads with greens and vegetables appeal to a broad spectrum of people; they are also inexpensive and quick to prepare. Toss the salad right before serving, and set out several types of dressing to give guests a choice. Include other types of salad, such as a three bean, cucumber, or cold pasta salad. You can use the same ingredients as in the main salad, plus the dressings, to save effort and money.
For Younger Guests
Make sure the kids don't feel like the forgotten guests at a post-funeral meal. Set up a mini-buffet just for them in a separate room, if possible. Add chicken tenders, pretzels and corn chips to a vegetable and dip platter. Set out sandwiches made on miniature hamburger buns spread with creamy dressing and topped with meat and cheese. Purchase drink boxes instead of soda to prevent spills, and fill small paper cups with sweet treats.
Tips for Planning
Minimize stress on the grieving family by taking over post-funeral meal coordination. If guests are bringing dishes, request that they use disposable containers, such as aluminum trays, so the grieving family does not have to track down owners. Assign family or friends with meal tasks, such as set up, cleanup, and wrapping leftovers, to make the post-funeral meal run smoothly. Keep a list of which guests brought food so the family can add them to their thank you card list.
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Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.