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gravestone epitaphs

Gravestone Epitaphs Reveal Recipes

Ever wandered through a cemetery and wondered what the text on the gravestones means? Gravestone epitaphs, as they’re called, carry a world of significance and history, both in the U.S. and around the world.

Gravestone epitaphs do more than record the deceased’s name and dates—they paint a picture of a life lived. Whether a touching personal tribute or a record of achievements, it offers a peek into the individual’s journey.

A casual stroll through a serene cemetery might even reveal something unexpected and delightful such as gravestone recipes! Case in point is Bonnie Johnson’s beloved and renowned no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies.

Bonnie’s No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cocoa (preferably Swiss Miss)
  • 1/4 cup margarine (1 stick)

Additional Ingredients:

  • 3 cups quick oats
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the Mixture:
    • In a saucepan, combine sugar, milk, cocoa, and margarine.
    • Bring the mixture to a full boil. Ensure that all ingredients are well combined and the sugar is fully dissolved.
  2. Let it Stand:
    • Once the mixture has reached a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat.
    • Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, allowing it to cool slightly and the flavors to meld.
  3. Add Final Ingredients:
    • After the mixture has cooled for 5 minutes, stir in the quick oats, peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Mix well until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  4. Form the Cookies:
    • Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto wax paper.
    • Allow the cookies to set until they are firm and cooled. This may take some time depending on the room temperature.

Bonnie’s family ensured her recipe would live on forever—and be easily shared with anyone who visits the cemetery, or from those who take a photo of the recipe and share it on social media. 

What is the historical significance of gravestone epitaphs?

The historical significance of text on gravestones is multifaceted. First, gravestones serve as tangible historical artifacts that provide valuable insights into the lives and experiences of deceased individuals. The inscriptions on gravestones often include names, dates of birth and death, and sometimes additional information about the person’s occupation, family and/or achievements. This information helps researchers and historians piece together the social, cultural and demographic aspects of a particular time period.

Further, gravestone epitaphs can offer glimpses into the religious and spiritual beliefs of the deceased and their community. Epitaphs and symbols found on gravestones may reflect religious affiliations, beliefs about the afterlife, or cultural customs related to death and mourning. These inscriptions can shed light on the religious and cultural diversity of a given region or era, providing valuable historical context.

The Global Reach of Recipe Gravestones 

Dotted across the world, from the stretch of Seattle to the hills of an Israeli kibbutz, individuals have their favorite recipes etched into their gravestones as a lasting tribute to their culinary flair. This tradition is a testament to the global power of food and its capacity to bind us, even in the face of death. These unique epitaphs are a remarkable representation of the diversity in recipes and cultures, lending a treasure trove of culinary heritage and stories waiting to be discovered and honored. 

Recipe gravestone epitaphs symbolize the love, care and community the deceased once nurtured through their cooking. 

Historical Context of Culinary Memorials 

The tomb of Eurysaces, the Roman baker, stands 30-feet tall, and while it does not include recipes, it does narrate the art of baking bread, which is how Eurysaces made his fortune. 

In the midst of the 1st century B.C., Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces, a prosperous commercial baker and bread distributor, established his own burial monument, now known as the Baker’s Tomb. This cubical edifice was situated amidst numerous other funerary monuments. 

Eurysaces, who accrued wealth from his bread-making business, is thought to have been a freedman and a Roman citizen. His name suggests Greek ancestry and a former enslaved status. The connection of Eurysaces to this tomb is confirmed by two inscriptions with his name on the exterior of the monument.

This is in stark contrast with the modern, personalized recipe tributes we can now encounter. These gravestone epitaphs embody a shift from public professional recognition to a more intimate nod to an individual’s personal legacy. 

Modern Recipe Graves and Personal Identity 

Gravestone epitaphs have had a discernible shift toward individual identity over the generations. The trend is particularly evident in how women are celebrated via these recipe gravestone epitaphs—a remarkable transformation in memorialization patterns. 

Consider Ida Kleinman’s grave in Israel, adorned with her much-loved nut roll recipe. Each gravestone recipe serves as a unique testament to a person’s life and legacy, presenting a taste of what they held close to their heart. 

Rosie Grant’s @ghostlyarchive Project 

TikToker Rosie Grant documents and personalizes recipes she finds on gravestones. Her work has uncovered charming tales intricately woven at the intersection of food, memory and death. 

“Food was obviously important to all of them; they were all good cooks who had their favorite recipes,” Grant said in a Salon article. “Also with that, they were very giving — the matriarchs and food heads of their families. They hosted holidays and celebrations and fed everyone. When people think about big, important family memories, they’re at the center.”

Personal Connection and Continuing Legacies 

The historical significance of text on gravestones lies in their ability to provide insights into individual lives, social and cultural practices, religious beliefs, historical events, and linguistic aspects of a particular time period. They contribute to our understanding of history in a unique and personal way.

Gravestone recipes are much more than culinary tips scribbled in stone. They’re rich personal histories, precious reminders of lived experiences, and unique expressions of identity. Next time you find yourself in a cemetery, take a moment to appreciate these shared memorials.

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