Recipe for Disaster

I wanted to share a special recipe with you today. I’ve compiled it from various family recipes over the years. I call it Catholic Calamity Casserole, however it works well for family gatherings or holidays for any religion. It is also know as Familial Foie Gras or South Asian Parivāra Pickle. 


  • 1 rich, dead grandmother
  • 3-4 siblings
  • 1 California Sister-in-Law
  • 4-5 Republican cousins
  • 1 lawyer
  • 1 priest
  • 1 liberal, Bohemian cousin/hot auntie
  • 1 sullen teenager
  • 1 single mother
  • 1 stay-at-home, long married, mother of four
  • 1 alcoholic uncle or cousin
  • 3 doz. other assorted cousins, second cousins and various family members
  • Alcohol
  • 1 family secret
  • A stressful, out of the way environment with extreme temperatures and a lack of facilities

Finding Quality Ingredients and Other Tips

The key to this recipe, as with any, is the quality of your ingredients. Your grandmother is one of the most important components. Try to pick a grandmother who has had a natural death. Unexpected tragedy can add a bitter flavor to your recipe. She should have wealth that is not easily divided such as homes, land or family heirlooms. A poor embalming job/lavish funeral will add aromatic qualities and visual sensations that will make this dish a hit every time.

The siblings should have minor personality disorders which have flavored the lives of their children. The unctuous personalities of a lawyer and a sullen teenager paired with the bright California sister-in-law provide a balanced palate, while the republican/bohemian combination make this recipe jump. Be sure that your California sister-in-law comes pre-prepared with multiple cosmetic surgery procedures and a small dog. Also, make sure that your lawyer is a long-time family friend with divided loyalties.

I prefer to let my alcoholic uncle ferment before adding him to the rest of the ingredients. I find out-patient programs and/or jail time provides the best container, allowing the uncle to absorb all the natural flavors of the environment like a well oaked wine. If you are lacking in alcoholics you can substitute a mildly acute mental illness in it’s place.

Planning a good variety in your cousins and other family members gives this recipe it’s spiciness. Flavors of income inequity, political dichotomy, differing food and lifestyle preferences, a generous amount of selfishness and a dash of jet lag are recommended. For a twist, you might try adding in a stranger or two. The teenage-to-twenty-something father of a young, un-wed second cousin’s baby or perhaps the hot auntie/Bohemia cousin’s foreign boyfriend/girlfriend. Other spices can include everything from stringently judgmental attitudes or extreme prejudice to overly-protective mothering.

Additional needs

Ideally, this recipe should be made in an out of the way place with poor facilities and extreme temperatures. For the European version of this mid-west states, small Hawaiian islands, as well as most of Canada works best. They can provide exactly the kind of temperature/poor-infrastructure ratio you are looking for. For a more international version make sure you have a poorly serviced airport, frequent transportation delays, and long flight times for many of the family ingredients.

Poor facilities should include shoddy hotels, a single hotel or over-crowded home-stays. Additionally, the actual funeral home will need to be extremely expensive, providing a grand assortment of ornate rituals, uncomfortable seating and poor temperature regulation or frequent power outages.


This recipe should be served hot and finished at a large table or dining hall with ample alcohol. A nice, cheap red wine will add color to your dish and provide a slow build up of tension, where as a hard alcohol such as Wild Turkey or Jack Daniels will give quicker results. I strongly suggest adding alcohol, even if and especially if, your family generally avoids it. It makes for a more memorable recipe. Paper plates will leave you open to flavor enhancing critique and fine family china will be ripe for breaking.


Only allow two or three people to actually plan the funeral proceedings. Family pictures, rituals and seating arrangements should be well biased. If you are making the casserole version of this, begin by dressing your ingredients with poorly chosen clothes for the deceased. Wrap your sullen-teenager in a black hoodie so that their face cannot be seen and make sure that at least two family members aren’t wearing black. Dressing the California daughter-in-law in something short and sparkly is a good choice. Make sure that all of your ingredients stay fairly separate until the actual mixing.

Next, give your priest a long, slow sermon, changing the position of the attendants often form kneeling, to sitting, to standing. Pray often. For the catholic version, make sure that all family ingredients are stuffed with communion, even if they are slightly or completely heretical. If you are making the Parivāra Pickle steep your more modern relatives well in your preferred archaic traditions until they begin to pop-off at the mouth.

Let your ingredients sit together in order to combine well. This is best done in the uncomfortable seating of your Wake. Now add your poor temperature regulation or frequent power outages. This should make the room temperature just slightly less unbearable than the outside temperature. Mix well and let sit again. Strain a variety of strangers and guest through the room, but don’t allow any family members to slip out. If you are making the traditional Parivāra Pickle the burning body should provide ample cooking.  If you are adding heat you should begin to notice the aroma of bodies in close proximity and the odors of the poor embalming job. Remove your ingredients from the frying pan and toss them into the fire for a bit. 

Before serving, top off your recipe with the Family Secret. I suggest you use a mild secret such as questionable paternity or marital fidelity rather than strong versions such as incest or other disagreeable flavors that can overwhelm the proceedings.

Serve up your ingredients at the table, mix often and add plenty of alcohol. You will know your recipe is success when you hear voices sizzling and feel temperatures rising. Harsh words should be hot on the tongue, some things should be hard to swallow and your recipe should leave a lingering bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.


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