The Art of Making Funeral Sandwiches

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As a fulltime teacher and mom of two social and sporty teens who keep me ‘taxiing’ them to events and activities I rarely commit when our church social committee calls me to ask for a contribution of baking or sandwiches for church functions. I’m blessed to belong to a church family who understands during the school year I simply don’t have time to ‘serve’ in this way. This week I received call and request to contribute sandwiches for a reception after a funeral at our church. This being my second week into summer vacation I was delighted to contribute.

I woke up early this morning whipped up the filler for cream cheese and cherry finger sandwiches and happily assembled them. I don’t know why I chose to make cream cheese and cherry. I don’t even like cream cheese and cherry sandwiches. I smiled as while spreading the smooth pink mixture across each soft slice of white bread. Little did I know making these sandwiches for a funeral would bless my heart today. As I worked my grandmother’s voice whispered in my ear, “Be generous with the spread because God is generous with us.” Nanny, as I called her went home to be with the Lord over twenty years ago yet from time to time its as though she’s mentoring me in my kitchen. I topped each sandwich and proceeded to cut the crusts off each one with my electric knife the way I’d seen my grandmother do so many times. As I did this a conversation a friend and co-worker and I had came to mind.

When the father of a mutual friend of ours passed away a year ago we both made sandwiches to contribute to the reception after his funeral. This spurred a conversation between the two of us about the ‘art of funeral sandwiches’. We both remarked about how we’d witnessed our mothers and grandmothers prepare and fuss over the delicate sandwiches for countless family and community events like bridal showers, baby showers, anniversary parties and funerals. We shared similar stories of unwritten ‘sandwich etiquette’ for preparation and presentation.

Each sandwich was to have generous amount of filler, spread to the very edge of each slice of white bread. The sandwiches are expected to be as delicious as they are delicate. All crusts are to be neatly trimmed away, piled on the counter as each remaining pristine white square was cut into cute triangles or rectangles. As a little girl I can recall standing eye level to the kitchen counter along side my grandmother as she trimmed each sandwich knowing if I kept my hands to myself while she worked I’d be rewarded with a lunch of the filling laden crusts forming a small mountain on the counter in front of me.

When the sandwich assembly was complete each one was either tucked into a container lined with wax paper or displayed on a serving plate covered with a dampened cup towel or wrapped in Saran Wrap until serving time. I looked at the mountain of crusts, the pretty pink finger sandwiches on my counter this morning, thought of my nan and how proud she’d be of them. Then, grabbed my iPhone, snapped a photo and texted it to my friend to share my morning’s work. She replied, “You made my day! And they’re even Cream Cheese and Cherry!” I tucked the dainty cherry fingers into a recycled plastic cake container and transported them to the church where they would be welcomed by the social committee and displayed on trays for the mourners and visitors to peruse, make their selection and set on their paper plates next to pickles and cubes of cheddar cheese.

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