The graveside gourmet - Spear's Magazine

The graveside gourmet

William Sitwell considers the morality of ranking funeral food.

William Sitwell considers the morality of ranking funeral food.

It might be vulgar to ponder on the catering at a recent funeral but as I am not aware of many precedents I’m willing to take a chance.

The occasion I’m pondering on was to mark the sad passing of Johnny Hesketh, known as The Captain or just Cappy. He was only 55 but owing to the fact that he liked to live life to the full he wasn’t able to live it quite long enough.

A man who, as The Daily Telegraph noted had friendship among his talents, he was an entrepreneur, an aesthete, a wit and, far more importantly, understood the importance of a good lunch.

Which is why he would have approved of the food at his wake at Towcester racecourse. It reflected the spirit of a remark his elder brother Lord Hesketh made at the start of the service in the pretty and ancient church of Easton Neston.

‘The caterers asked me why I hadn’t ticked the box for ‘vegetarian’, he said from the pulpit at the start of an hour and a half of full Catholic Mass. ‘I told them that if they had known my brother they wouldn’t have asked the question.’

And thus the tables of food heaved with roasted duck, carpaccio of venison, cold and tender roast beef and other wonderful cured meats. Friends clustered around a central island that offered langoustine and prawns. There was delicious bread and cheese and copious amounts of wine.

It was very good fun. And it made me consider the last gloomy funeral I went to. After the service we repaired to the house of the deceased and stood around whispering as we sipped thimblefuls of sherry and stale sandwiches.

There was gloom and doom all around. At Cappy’s party – dare I call it that – there was every generation, browsing and sluicing. As quite befitted a man who said to his wife during one period of restraint, ‘Right I’ve done the diet – now bring on the grouse.’