welcome to the insta-hood: @ghostly.archive!

This week I interview an amazing ig account: @ghostly.archive

  1.  Tell me a little about yourself .

“I just moved to Los Angeles from Washington DC after graduating from the University of Maryland (UMD) in their MLIS program (Masters in Library and Information Science). My focus in their program was digital archives. I grew up in the DC area and always wanted to work in a library and this program started when doing a career change to study library science. It was there that I took a class on social media networks with Professor Jen Golbeck. The capstone project of the class was essentially to use network theory and make a piece of content go viral on a platform. While taking this class in summer 2021 I also had the challenge of needing to do a library or archives internship. I was working full time at UMD and needed something flexible, which is how I ended up interning at Congressional Cemetery as their digital archives intern. I essentially worked to create online exhibitions about their different residents in a Google Arts & Culture page.”

2. What made you interested in making food from recipes found on tombstone?

“This was how I started on #cemeterytiktok. My professor recommended I make a tiktok about the cemetery experience, so I started posting everyday about the things I learned. The cemetery’s archivist Dayle was full of stories and taught me a lot about the death industry and the unusual ways Congressional stayed connected to its local community (they have a very famous dog program as well as tours, movie nights, book clubs, and educational events). 

3. What was the first recipe you made from a recipe from on a tombstone?

“Since I had to post everyday I started looking at other cemeteries and making tiktoks about interesting graves I heard about. I loved old graves but the modern ones are especially interesting since people choose to be memorialized in so many different ways. This is how I first heard about Naomi Odessa Miller-Dawson’s grave. Atlas Obscura, a wonderful source on cemeteries in general, had a great post about the grave when I was looking for grave stories. Naomi’s grave is like an open cookbook with the ingredients for her spritz cookies in a cemetery in Brooklyn.

When I saw a photo of the grave I wanted to try the recipe for myself. I’d started learning how to cook during the pandemic and thought it would be interesting to try it. There weren’t any instructions so I made them completely wrong, but still when I posted it things kind of exploded (in a good way). I got so many questions about the grave, tips for how to make it right, or people commenting with what they’d put on their own gravestone. While looking into more about Naomi I stumbled across other recipe gravestones on Google, which pretty much solidified this new mission to find as many as I could.”

4. What was your favorite recipe you made and why ? What was the least favorite and why?

“At this point I’ve now found 17 recipes and think there could be even more out there. My favorite still might be Naomi’s just because it’s the cookie that started it all, and it’s really a wonderful recipe! I probably most often make the snickerdoodle cookies of Annabell Gunderson, buried in California, just because they’re a crowd pleaser with my family and make a lot of cookies. The recipe I’ve been requested the most to bring to gatherings might be Ida Kleinman’s jam nut roll recipe, from the grave of a woman in Israel. Honestly I haven’t tried a bad one yet; if they don’t work out the first few times it’s always because I’m still a new baker.”

5.  What state you have travel to have the most recipes on tombstones? Why do you think that state has so many?

“My goal is to visit all of the recipe gravestones and ideally meet with family members to cook them. A few of us have chatted online but there’s nothing like cooking and sharing memories in a kitchen. I think the hardest gravestones to visit are going to be the ones in Nome, Alaska and the two in Israel. Currently I’ve visited the two in New York, one in Logan, UT, and one in Washington State. So far the state with the most recipes have just been two: New York has spritz cookies and date and nut bread, Iowa has Christmas cookies and cheese dip, California has a carrot cake and snickerdoodles, and Arkansas actually has two sugar cookie recipes (one even of a woman who’s still alive). 

It’s hard to call this a trend. None of the families I’ve talked to seemed aware there were others out there. The women (all the graves in the US have been woman) all seemed to be known for these particular recipes at gatherings so it just made sense. When I talked to the woman in Arkansas, Peggy Neal, who’s still alive, about why she decided to include a recipe on her gravestone, she said it’s because people loved her cookies and she still gets requests for them. During the pandemic her granddaughter even called her up to learn how to make them, creating a special memory for them while separated in quarantine. 

If anything I guess the trend is that people are thinking about their own legacies in a new way and getting creative with how they want to be remembered. Pretty much anything goes for what you want memorialized on your gravestone. Recipes seems extra special since making and eating the food a loved one made during their lifetime connects to all the senses – you can smell and taste the cookie, remember telling stories while biting into a slice of cake, and fully remember a person with all your senses.”

If you like to learn more. The following contact information is below:

Instagram: @ghostly.archive

Until next time!!!

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