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Mrs. Sundberg's Recipe Collection - 12 tried-and-true--one for each month of the year--featuring an introduction and tips from Mrs. Sundberg herself

I'm not put off by the thought of my own funeral

January 17, 2013

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was one of those inside days, so cold and grey, and I was baking chocolate white chip cookies when the phone call came, an hour after the show ended. It was my mother, telling me my grandmother had died within the hour. She had lived nearly a century, and fell down on December 2 just after church on her way out to lunch with some friends. She never really rose up. Her hip was broken in four places. Pneumonia, bleeding, infection. All that.

When she died, though, it was perfect, really. Death can be that way. A Saturday night, Amazing Grace playing in the background, just Grandma and her daughter -- my mom -- holding hands. Grandma just sighed, and was gone. Her husband died at 52; he's been waiting a long time for his gentle, elegant bride to join him. She grew up Methodist and played hymns on the organ like no one else. She gave birth to four children. She loved flowers and canning and chocolate and pie.

Mom cried on the phone. I cried, too. Not so much for my Grandmother's passing, but for myself. It's like that. Suddenly someone dies and we want them back. I think I cried for time passing, too, and for how we each will, at some point, have said goodbye to everyone in our lives. We planned Grandma's funeral on Tuesday. There will be hymns on Saturday afternoon, and a loud organ, and purple and pink and blue flowers, and ham sandwiches and bars. I will be delivering her eulogy, wearing one of the scarves I chose from her collection. It smells like her.

I'm not put off by the thought of my own funeral. I've always regarded it as down the road, not an event as much as the next thing sometime in my 90s, if I am so blessed. I'm not so concerned with the details. I'm sure the kids will get it all right: a trampoline aisle in the church, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", bowls of peanut butter M&Ms here and there, some poetry and some good words. Homemade pizza, perhaps, and some rice pudding. Lilies of the Valley. Laughter.

I'm all for comfort food these weeks of January, and this one will work for watching football or for an afterschool snack. Serve it with cornbread, and a big glass of milk.

Cheesy Chili Hash Brown Bake

4 cups chili, canned or homemade (ought to be thick)
1 bag (16-ounce) fresh or frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed if frozen
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425, with rack set in upper third. Divide chili among four individual baking dishes (10 to 12 ounces each) and set aside.

Place potatoes in a double layer of paper towels; squeeze out as much liquid as possible. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cheese, and cilantro; season with salt and pepper. Scatter potato mixture over chili. Place baking dishes and bake about 20 minutes until potatoes are golden brown and chili is bubbling.

Enjoy!

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