Some of you are probably saying to yourselves, "What in the HECK are funeral potatoes?" If you do a google search you'll find all sorts of recipes for funeral potatoes, but if you do a search for cheesy potatoes, you probably won't find anything!
Funeral potatoes are a traditional dish typically served at a Latter-day Saint luncheon after a funeral. They are also known as a dish served during the Christmas holidays. Personally, you could serve me funeral potatoes any day of the week and I'd be a happy camper.
Today marked the 17th funeral in three years since I've been the Ward Relief Society President. And I'm afraid that we're going to have more before too long. We have several older brothers and sisters in the ward who are their late 80's and 90's and their health is failing fast. I feel so sorry for their burdens and struggles that their little bodies have to endure.
I'm telling you about my cheesy potatoes for Dawn Rapsas' benefit and anyone else who would like to be enlightened in the ways of the LDS culture. I think it's a beautiful service that we offer to our fellow members. When a member passes away the Relief Society President is notified (me) and then I make a phone call to my Compassionate Service Leader who in turn notifies our funeral chair. If the funeral will take place after a Sunday they will pass around a sign up list during services on Sunday for brothers and sisters to cook funeral potatoes, make salads, bring fruit plates and dessert. The ward budget provides the meat for the funeral and mostly the sisters in the ward provide the additional dishes of food. If the funeral will before Sunday, then a food sign-up e-mail list is sent around. We have the most AMAZING ward! Our members are so caring and giving of their time, talents, and energies. These are just four of the most amazing members of our ward. Rachel, on the left, is our Compassionate Service Leader, Shelli next to her is our funeral chair, and Rachel's parents Lee and Carol do MORE for the ward members that almost anyone I know. They are always the first to volunteer, the first to arrive to help, and the last to leave the church. Carol and Gus are just like Carol and Lee! They will help and assist anyone in need.
I picked up 20 pounds of beef and Carol and Gus cooked it, plus added a roast of their own, sliced it and simmered it in Au Jus. It was to 'die for'. Funny pun, don't you think? Considering this was for a funeral. I'm on a roll! Oh .... speaking of rolls .... we have another couple, Peggy and Marloe who bake and donate all of the rolls for every funeral, and they're delicious and Peg is legally blind!
I'm so grateful to be living in this wonderful neighborhood. They truly are my brothers and sisters and indeed angels. I had to be over to the church by 8:30 a.m. There were tables to set for 60 people, windows and floors to be washed, drinking fountains shined, floors mopped .... yes the ward members do all of the church cleaning. It's all volunteer. Isn't that amazing? No one gets paid for their service, only in spiritual blessings! Not even our clergy are paid.
Then the food started arriving. Dawn, I remember you asking me if the ladies really came walking down the street carrying their funeral potatoes and salads and desserts for the luncheon. And, yes ... you are absolutely correct! Food just magically starts to appear and yes ... all of the pans and bowls have a piece of masking tape with their name on it so we can hand-deliver the pans and bowls back to the owners after being washed and dried! Some of the younger sisters have learned how to etch their names onto their glass dishes. That's a lot nicer looking than a burned old yellow piece of masking tape. You ladies know what I'm talking about, and I can hear you laughing!
There's a lot to do for a funeral. We arrange with the family to bring special mementos which we put on the tables for centerpieces. Today's theme was Africa. Marjorie and Rex served a mission in Botswana, Africa and there was a hint of Africa everywhere. It was beautiful. Marjorie will be missed. She was my mother's first cousin and I loved her dearly. I visited in her home monthly for over a year and just a week before she died we had a wonderful visit just days before Christmas. We talked about death. Marj had been diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few weeks prior. She was given about 6 months to live. She looked beautiful the day of our visit. She had been wrapping Christmas presents for her grand kids. She was a little breathless and mentioned that she had some fluid on her lungs. But she had done her own laundry that day.
She never complained about her illness and had a positive attitude about life. She mentioned that it would be wonderful if the Lord would let her go to sleep and her heart would just stop. Well, that's exactly what happened. I was surprised to get the Bishop's call telling me that she had passed away in her sleep.
Shortly after her diagnosis I found the cutest, cheetah, fuzzy, warm pajamas that I bought for her. I enclosed a card telling her that as she wore the cheetahs to remember what a fighter my mother was with her illness and that she too could fight the cancer that was taking over her body. Marjorie was such a lady, so proper and prim, and cheetah print probably really wasn't her style. But you know Linda ... I LOVE anything on the sassy side and I just HAD to get them for her. I wondered if she would ever wear them. This morning her daughter-in-law came up to me and with tears in her eyes said that Marjorie was wearing her cheetah pajamas the morning she passed away.
I'm so thankful for the promptings of the spirit. I felt prompted to visit Marjorie. Although Christmas rush was upon me, I felt that it was most important. I'm so thankful that I followed those promptings and was able to visit with her and give her a kiss on the cheek, one last time. Little did I know that she was very close to the other side.
Well, it's been a long day, but wonderful. I love working with these wonderful sisters and brothers! I love them for their dedication, hard work, and service and love for the Lord. The funeral was beautiful, the speakers were inspirational and the music was a gift from heaven!
After the family left, we boxed up the remainder of the food and ran it around to our shut-ins and elderly brothers and sisters in the ward. And I forgot, there were dishes to wash and dry, return to the owners, tables and chairs to be put away, floors to be swept and mopped, and doors and lights to be checked. Other than that ... a funeral is a breeze!
So here's the simple recipe I use for "Funeral Potatoes". If you have a better recipe, please post. We'd love to try it!
- (1) Pkg. Frozen Hash Browns or Cubed O'Brian Potatoes
- (1) Can Cream of Chicken Soup
- (1) Carton Sour Cream
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- Salt and Pepper
- Potato Chips, Corn Flakes, or Ritz Crackers
- Melted Butter
Mix soup with sour cream. Add shredded cheese. (As much as you'd like!) Stir until blended. Pour over frozen potatoes and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with more shredded cheese. Crush potato chips, corn flakes, or Ritz Crackers and place on top. Drizzle with melted butter. (About a half of a cube.) Place in 350 degree oven til hot and bubbly.
Enjoy! Hugs to you all!!