Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, USA
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      La Belle Cuisine

from our Food Feature Archives:

What to Eat When Tragedy Strikes
Comfort Food for Times of Loss (cont.)

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Fine Cuisine with Art Infusion

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~ Norman Kolpas

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Mixed Melted Chocolate
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Gareth Morgans
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The Sweet Potato
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Funeral March
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The Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze, c.1909
The Tree of Life,
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Klimt, Gustav
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Sweet Potato Queens' Field Guide to Men: Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay,
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 Cemetery at Sunset, New Orleans, Louisiana
Cemetery at Sunset, New Orleans, Louisiana
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Leigh, Kevin
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What to Eat When Tragedy Strikes
or Just for Entertainment

The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love:
A Fallen Southern Belle's Look at Love,
Life, Men, Marriage,

Copyright © 1999 by Jill Conner Browne (Three Rivers Press)

“All tragedy is relative, of course. It could be anything from a car or plumbing failure to the death of the only woman in the world who has ever been able to
give you a really great haircut. If you’re in any way upset by something – it’s a tragedy. A tragedy demands food, and lots of it. We Queens try to include items
from all four major food groups – sweet, salty, fried, and au gratin. Balance is
very important to us. You’ll also want to have friends on hand for the tragedy-thwarting feast. Under no circumstances, however, should you invite any of
the ******** who refuse to acknowledge the depths of your misery. They can
stay home and fill up on water for all we care.
Chocolate is the main staple of sedative food – the undisputed queen of all the comfort foods. I know this in my deepest heart. I frankly don’t understand how people who are genuinely allergic to chocolate manage to put one foot in front
of the other, day after day; I’d have to throw myself in front of a bus. [Amen,
Sister Tammy!] I thrive on chocolate. My system requires an abundance of it
every day, just to function normally.

Chocolate Stuff

The Sweet Potato Queens’ drug of choice is clearly my famous Chocolate Stuff.
I got the recipe from my mother, who called it something like ‘fudge pudding.’
None of my friends could remember the name, however; they’d simply beg me
to make them ‘some of that chocolate stuff.’ The biggest problem with the recipe
is that it doesn’t make very much. I’d recommend that you automatically double
the ingredients. Doubled, it will make three pans. This has proven to be just enough.
Unfortunately, it has to bake 40 to 50 minutes, which is a helluva long time
when you’re suffering. Good news: It’s really just as fine – some factions argue better – eaten raw as fully cooked! We’ve been known to eat entire batches of it right out of the mixing bowl, skipping the baking altogether. Usually we’re
content with leaving copious amounts of the precious goo in the bowl and
sticking our faces into the bowl while the oven works its magic on the major portion. When you make your personal judgment call, keep in mind that the
recipe contains eggs, at this point raw, and you may be risking your very life
in pursuit of instant gratification.
I’ve reduced the amount of flour by half and cooked it in the microwave for
just eight and a half minutes, but you sacrifice texture this way, and I don’t recommend it. One of the most important qualities of Chocolate Stuff is its
unique texture: really gooey on the bottom and sort of chewy, crunchy on the
top. Nuts are optional. We take our desire for nuts by spells, and this carries
over into many aspects of our lives.
I’ll tell you how to make my Chocolate Stuff, but your best option is to kiss my
ass six ways to Sunday and get ME to make it for you, because it’s always better when I make it myself. I don’t know why, I swear to God. The recipe I will give
you does not omit any ingredients or instructions to sabotage your efforts. It just seems to know me, and it performs better in my hands. I even make it better than
my mother, and it was her recipe to start with.

Here’s the deal: Beat two eggs with a cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of flour.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. In the microwave melt together 1 stick of real butter (I never use unsalted; I think it tastes flat) and 2 fairly heaping tablespoons of Hershey’s cocoa. Get regular Hershey’s in the dark
brown box – anything else is different and will screw it up. Dump the
butter-cocoa mixture into the other things, and stir it up good. Then add
a running-over teaspoon of vanilla. I use real vanilla, but the grocery
store kind won’t ruin it. Stir that up, too. If you decide to go for nuts,
use a whole bunch of pecans, chopped up fine.
Pour the Stuff into a greased loaf pan, set the loaf pan in a pan of water,
and stick the whole business in the oven set at about 300 degrees [F.] Depending on how your oven cooks, it needs to stay in there for 40 to
50 minutes. You can reach in there and tap on the top of it at 40 minutes.
If it seems crunchy, I’d take it out. You can’t really undercook it, since
it’s good raw, but you don’t want to overcook it and lose the gooey
bottom so crucial to the whole texture experience.

Trust me. This will be the best thing that has happened to you in a very long
time, possibly ever. From now on, for as long as you live, just the simple act of getting out the bowl to make Chocolate Stuff will have an incredibly assuaging effect on your psyche. I can say, without fear of contradiction, there is virtually nothing, not one situation, that can’t be faced with calm and grace and serenity
if you have Chocolate Stuff. You can eat it and feel better fast, and when it
wears off, you can just make another batch. Believe me, in no time at all,
you’ll be grinning like a mule eating briars.”

Chocolate Truffles and More Chocolate Gifts at


Okay. So now you know you love this book, right? Right! If you are at
all curious about the Sweet Potato Queens’ recipes for "Armadillo Dip",
"New Allison’s Mambo Margaritas", "Fat Mama’s Knock You Naked
Margaritas", "Absolut Fredo", "Oh, God!" or that indispensable
Southern standard, "Come Back Sauce", guess you’ll just have to
buy the book. Today!


Funeral Food ~ The Brighter Side of Death

“When someone dies in the South, it’s not altogether tragic. We always
like to think that death has its advantages for the departed one - journey’s
end, sweet chariots, unbroken circles, and all that. For everyone left behind
after the untimely passing, there’s the unmistakable comfort of funeral food.
When there’s a death in a Southern town, everybody who has ever known
anybody in the family has to take food to the home of the bereaved. It is
practically a law. [Amen! She kids you not. Both Marcelle Bienvenu and
I can vouch for this declaration based on years of personal experience.]
One of the Queens, Tammy, said there was a lady in her hometown who
got up every morning of the world and fried a chicken first thing so that
just in case somebody died that day, she could be on-the-spot with first-
class funeral food.
Most of us are not quite that obsessive about fixing funeral food, but it’s
a tradition we have no plans to give up. Granted, it’s a pain in the butt to
have to stop whatever you are doing and make a casserole to give away,
but we always remember that sooner or later some of our people will be
departing, and all the funeral food will come home to roost with us. ‘The
smaller the town, the better the food’ is a pretty good rule for assessing
funeral fare. In your bigger towns and cities, you might get the occa-
sional ready-made cold-cut platter and once in a while a store-bought
pie might slip in. [Gadzooks! Have these city folk no shame?] But in a
small town it’s like a baking competition. Everybody who brings some-
thing will be checking out what everybody else brought – and talking
about it, so one doesn’t offer anything not homemade.
Even the most anguished, devoted family member can find some shred
of consolation in funeral food. If there’s a balm in Gilead, I’d be willing
to bet it’s made with cream of mushroom soup, Velveeta, or Cool Whip.
Nearly all funeral food contains at least one of these staples. I don’t
care how fancy a gourmet cook you might think you are – you may not
even allow Velveeta in your own personal kitchen – but I’ve yet to meet
the palate too sophisticated for funeral food. [Once again, amen, Sister
Tammy!] In fact, I’ve observed that the snootier they are, the higher they
pile those plates up. Everybody loves funeral food; it’s a universal truth,
and this is easy to explain. There’s hardly anything quite as soothing as
a warm casserole – especially a warm casserole that someone else made.
That is, after all, one of the primary qualifications for good food:
Someone else prepared it.
When one of my very favorite mamas, Hazel Rubenstein, mother to two of
my favorite sons, Michael and Ted, died in Booneville, way up in north-
eastern Mississippi, we were all transported to a celestial apex by the stag-
gering quality and quantity of the funeral food. And let’s face it, as I’ve
earlier suggested, quantity is at least as important as quality. If it’s the
best morsel you ever put in your mouth but there’s just a little dab of it,
it will not satisfy as intended, but rather will serve as a major annoyance.
Well, at Hazel’s last hurrah, not only did we have a delightfully embarras-
sing abundance of food at the house, there was funeral food at the funeral
home as well. [Yes! My departed uncle’s wake, held at the funeral home,
was very well attended. The guests were well fed, in the New Orleans tra-
dition, not to mention that the booze and reminiscences flowed quite freely
as well…] The funeral home had a big room with long tables in it, and all
the friends of all the bereaved families could bring their food there for the
solace of the mourners. This way you can mingle with everybody and not
have to interrupt your grieving in order to have a snack. A fabulous inno-
vation; I hope it spreads. As I recall, they also had a TV room, and this
enabled the male mourners [God love 'em!] to grieve continually without
missing a single major sporting event. [The South. What can you say…]

Miss Lexie’s Pineapple Casserole

One of the very best things to come out of Hazel’s funeral – and it’s an ill
wind, after all, that blows nobody good – was an extraordinary pineapple
casserole brought by Hazel’s friend Miss Lexie. This is truly one of nature’s
perfect foods, not just combining, as it does, sweet and salty, which would
be enough of an accomplishment right there, but also having cheese in it.
Not many foods can satisfy the sweet, salty, and au gratin requirements at
the same time. This is a very special dish. We stood around the tables like
vultures (albeit Queenly vultures) and ate it straight out of the casserole
dish until it was gone. You couldn’t risk putting some on your plate and
going off somewhere to eat it before coming back for more. It was too good.
We knew it would soon be gone, and so we just made sure that it went to its
rightful diners, namely us. And since we were among family and our closest
friends, we could get away with wolfing down an entire casserole ourselves
and simply whisking the empty dish away out of sight before the other
mourners arrived.

When you make this dish, I strongly urge you to double, or better, triple
it; otherwise I can assure you there won’t be enough. You want to drain
a 20-ounce can of pineapple (in its own juice) chunks or tidbits. Save 3 tablespoons of the juice, and mix it with 1/2 cup of sugar and 3 table-
spoons of flour. Stir that mixture in with the pineapple and a cup of
sharp grated cheese. (I’ve never tried making this with fat-free cheese
and consider that blasphemous, but I have used some reduced-fat
cheese when it was all I had, and it came out okay.) Dump all that into
a greased casserole. Melt a stick of butter, and stir into it 1/2 cup of
Ritz cracker crumbs; put all that on top of the pineapple mixture. Bake
it at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, and prepare to be comforted.

Comfort Food for Times of Loss, Part 1

"Comfort food: quirky, quaint, quixotic. Personal patterns of consolation,
encoded on our taste buds past all forgetting, as unmistakable as greasy
fingerprints. When the miseries strike, and you’re down in the dumps,
food transformed by love and memory becomes therapy... When hearts
are heavy, they need gravitational and emotional equilibrium.
~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
(from Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy )

Featured Spice Cabinet Features:
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Comfort Food Revisited
More Comfort Food!
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to me in a cafe...

Nursery Food
So... what about your wake?


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