She cooks recipes she finds on tombstone epitaphs

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The first time Rosie Grant baked a recipe she found carved on a stranger’s tombstone, she made a batch of spritz cookies.

From his kitchen in Takoma Park, Maryland, Grant mixed the batter in a large bowl. There were no instructions to follow, only a list of simple ingredients: butter, sugar, vanilla, an egg, flour, baking powder and salt. The cookies were divine.

Since her first foray into baking this tombstone recipe a year ago, she’s made several other recipes she’s found in cemeteries across the country. The preparation of delicacies by the deceased became a hobby for Grant. It’s unusual, yes, but fulfilling.

“Cooking these recipes showed me another side of death,” said Grant, 33. “It’s a way to memorialize someone and celebrate their life.”

Before she came across her first recipe, she had never heard of grave cooking instructions. It’s not a trivial sentiment for a headstone, she says, but there are definitely a few there. And once she tasted it, she made it her mission to find more.

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When she baked the spritz cookies last October, Grant had recently completed an internship at the Congressional Cemetery in DC – as part of her coursework for the Masters of Library and Information Science program at the University of Maryland. , from which she graduated earlier this year.

In one of her classes, Grant was instructed to create a social media account. Her teacher suggested she use her new TikTok profile to document her internship at the cemetery. She liked the idea and decided to call her account “ghostly archive”.

At the time, “I was very new to the world of cemeteries,” she said, adding that her initial posts included detailing the five things she learned on the first day of her internship, and a another highlighting the LGBTQ section of the Congressional Cemetery.

“It was the best internship,” Grant said. “I never thought I would enjoy it so much.”

After the internship ended, she continued to chronicle the contents of the cemetery on her TikTok account. She quickly realized that she was not the only one with a fascination for cemeteries.

“I discovered the TikTok graveyard, which is its own gigantic niche,” Grant said, explaining that she dug up countless graveyard-themed accounts. “They call themselves ‘taphophiles'” — someone with a passion for cemeteries, funerals and headstones.

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As a new taphophile herself, Grant has spent much of her free time surfing the web for graveyard stories. Her research led her to an Atlas Obscura article about Naomi Odessa Miller-Dawson’s spritz cookie recipe, engraved on her gravestone in Brooklyn, NY.

“What a cool gift she put on her tombstone,” Grant recalled. “I will try to do it.”

She recorded the cooking process and posted it on TikTok, “and it exploded,” she said.

She ended her TikTok with, “They are to die for.”

Grant began looking for other tombstone recipes and “I learned there were several more,” she said, adding that she had found a few in the United States and two in Israel. “In North America, all have been women, and all but one have been desserts.”

She spent the last year looking up tombstone recipes online and cooking them all. The second she made was Martha Kathryn “Kay” Kirkham Andrews’ famous fudge – the recipe is carved on a tombstone in Logan, Utah. Grant shared a video of his fudge-making process on TikTok, and Andrews’ family discovered it.

“I think she would find it very comforting that her fudge recipe lives on,” said Natalie Andrews, the DC-based granddaughter of Kay Andrews. “My grandmother would have been delighted.”

Andrews described her grandmother – who died aged 97 – as ‘the happiest and most loving person’ and ‘a true grandmother’.

She always carried Tootsie Rolls in her purse as a gift, her granddaughter said, and she loved cooking and baking. She often delivered homemade treats to people’s homes.

“Fudge was his signature gift,” Andrews said. “She loved to give.”

“The food,” she continued, “is really how she showed her love.”

It was her grandmother’s idea to engrave the recipe on her own headstone, which she shares with her husband, Wade, who died in 2000. Kay Andrews – who died in 2019 – had the recipe engraved and installed after the death of her husband, giving her nearly two decades to watch strangers fall on her common stone and make her beloved caramel.

“She could see him becoming popular. She had a real kick,” Andrews said. The recipe for the tombstone “matched his sense of humor and his desire to give to others”.

She now ends her TikToks with, “Another recipe to die for.” She is always on the lookout for more epitaph dishes.

“There are more out there, and I’ll keep looking for them,” Grant said.

According to Loren Rhoads, lecturer on graveyard history and author of “Death’s Garden Revisited,” headstone recipes are relatively rare.

“In all the cemeteries I’ve seen, I’ve never seen a headstone with a recipe on it,” Rhoads said, adding that she’s visited “hundreds of cemeteries.”

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It’s a lovely concept, especially since, “in Victorian times, sometimes women didn’t even have their own names on their headstones,” Rhoads said. “To see women claiming this now, or to see families claiming this for their matriarch, I think that’s really cool.”

Recipe epitaphs actually make a lot of sense, Rhoads said, given the connection between food and death. In times of sadness and grief, food serves as comfort and a source of longing.

In his experience making tombstone recipes, Grant noticed the same connection.

“There’s this connection with food and death,” Grant said, adding that she lost both of her grandmothers during the pandemic, and every time she eats a meal they once cooked for her. , “it brings me all the closer to them”.

“Food is this weird doorway to talk about harder topics like death. We don’t want to think about our own mortality, but talking about food and memorializing is a bit more acceptable,” said Grant, who works as a librarian and recently moved to Los Angeles, “I’m extremely uncomfortable with death. This whole process has been a way for me to approach these more difficult subjects.”

Grant has prepared recipes from tombstones in New York, Iowa, Alaska, Louisiana, California, Utah, Washington, and Israel. Beyond making the recipes, she also hopes to visit the graves of all the people whose final resting place is beneath their favorite ingredients. So far, she has reached three, including that of Kay Andrews in Utah.

“My goal is to go to all of them,” she said. “I would love to cook the recipe and taste it at their grave as an encouragement to that person who gave this gift to me and everyone else.”

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