23

MONDAY

In the South, all rites of passage are marked by the presence of ham biscuits. My husband and I had them at our wedding reception, and they also appeared after a recent family funeral, circulated, still warm from the oven, in a napkin-lined dish. It’s puzzling, then, that this essential is missing from Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays’ Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral. Possibly the omission is due to the book’s focus on the social customs and recipes of the Mississippi Delta. Nonetheless, I recognize a few parallels from my Virginia upbringing: the Episcopalians’ over-reliance on alcohol to get through the ordeal; the fetishistic need to polish and use every piece of silver in the house; the feigned scorn over Methodist casseroles made with cream-of-mushroom soup, grated cheddar cheese, and crushed Ritz crackers. Really, how do you think poor ol’ Aunt Prentiss developed heart disease in the first place? Hays reads at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books and Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Hetty Lipscomb)