Deathly Delicious: Your New Favorite Recipe Might Be on a Stranger’s Epitaph
One way to immortalize family recipes.
Eating is one of the most wonderful things you can do. But because you have to do it so often, you also have to do a lot of cooking — which can get tedious. You might have grown tired of the same dishes and recipes, day after day. And while you can leaf through cookbooks or scour the internet for your next new favorite, we’ve got an even better solution: Head to the cemetery. That’s right; some people put beloved family recipes on their epitaphs (“recitaphs?”), to continue their cooking legacies long after death. Keep reading to learn more about graveyard recipes, plus discover one woman who has made it her mission to collect and recreate these meals.
Rosie Grant and The Recipes To Die For
According to Today, Rosie Grant interned as an archivist at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC while she was a library science student at University of Maryland. She started a TikTok account called @ghostlyarchive to document her archival adventures and share historical facts about cemeteries, often traveling to different ones across the country.
She eventually went viral after making a TikTok about a unique headstone in Greenwood Cemetery of Brooklyn, NY. Naomi Miller-Dawson, who passed away in 2008, included her famous recipe for spritz cookies on her epitaph; and Grant, who had no previous baking experience, decided to honor Miller-Dawson and try the recipe for herself. She then took the cookies to the gravesite to enjoy them alongside the deceased. See Grant’s TikTok below.
Through her archival research, Grant learned that these cookies (which she claimed were “to die for” — pun intended) were something Miller-Dawson would make, but not share the recipe for. “While Miller-Dawson was on her deathbed, her daughter came up with the idea of like, ‘Hey, let’s put your spritz cookie recipe on the gravestone,’ so she basically took it to the grave,” Grant told Insider.
Do other people share recipes on headstones?
Ms. Miller-Dawson wasn’t the only one sharing recipes posthumously. Maxine Menster of Cascade, Iowa shared a recipe for her Christmas cookies. Margaret Davis of Seattle shared her glazed blueberry pie. And Kathryn Andrews, who passed in 2019, has the recipe for her famous fudge — ”Kay’s Fudge” — engraved on her headstone in Utah, along with the sentiment, “Where she goes, there’s laughter.” “She really loved people…she would take fudge whenever people got together,” said her daughter, Janice Johnson, when asked about the headstone. See Rosie Grant’s video of making Kay’s Fudge below.
Grant told Today that more family members of the dearly departed have since reached out and requested she visit their family’s recipe headstones — and she does visit, making the recipes with care and documenting the process on her TikTok account.
While Grant has only archived graveyard recipes in the US so far, the custom is international, too. Ida Kleinman, laid to rest in 2010 at Rehovot Cemetery in Israel, had the recipe for her famous nut rolls inscribed on her tombstone. Beloved family recipes are truly a global tradition.
Why do people put recipes on their headstones?
Some people may find this practice morbid or flippant. Eating is often the last thing on your mind when you’re grieving or experiencing the loss of a loved one, and headstones are there to commemorate and honor their lives. Recipes seem so trivial in contrast with the sentiments others choose to immortalize their legacy on their headstones.
But when you think about it, food is integral to remembrance. Breaking bread together, eating something special that a loved one made just for you — these are the moments where memories are born. Being able to recreate a small part of these memories by making a recipe in someone’s honor can keep peoples’ spirits alive in our minds and hearts.
“These recipes feel like a more tactile, all-senses-included way to remember someone rather than only using your memory. When you’re eating grandma’s special cake or cookie or whatever it is, you feel a little bit more connected to her,” Grant told Today.
So why present it so publicly — on a headstone? Because sharing these graveyard recipes with the general public enables others to discover previously secret dishes and make these nostalgic foods for themselves. After all, exchanging recipes can make you feel like part of a warm, loving family. And we could all use a little familial warmth and comfort — especially those people who are wandering around a graveyard.
Would you share a special family recipe on your own headstone? There’s no better time to consider it than now, since April 6 is “Plan Your Epitaph Day.”