The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral


Can you be buried without tomato aspic? Not in the Mississippi Delta, you can’t. We’ve never been to a funeral where homemade aspic wasn’t served. Store-bought aspic is available, but no self-respecting Southerner would be caught dead—sorry—eating it. If you’ve never had real tomato aspic, you’re in for a treat.

This is the recipe Gayden uses most often because it is equally delicious with just mayonnaise, or with pickled shrimp, avocado slices, and other trimmings.


4 cups tomato juice
6 slices lemon
3 slices yellow onion, separated into rings
2 bay leaves
Tops of one bunch of celery
Several whole cloves
3 tablespoons horseradish
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins)
4 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
½ cup apple cider vinegar

Put the tomato juice, lemon slices, onion slices, bay leaves, celery tops, and cloves in a heavy pot and simmer for 20 minutes, more or less. While this simmers, mix together the gelatin and vinegar. Strain the tomato juice mixture and ad the gelatin mixture. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved. No lumps! Add horseradish, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Taste and correct seasoning.

Lightly oil a 6-cup mold. Pour the mixture into the mold and chill until firm, several hours or overnight. Overnight is best. Unmold on a bed of greens. If the aspic will not come out of the pan easily, run a knife around the edge or dip the pan into a sink of hot water—just for a second!

Serves ten.

Gayden likes to double this recipe. In that case, use a 10-cup bundt pan.


People act as if it takes an act of God to make homemade mayonnaise. It doesn’t. But there is a real debate in Gayden’s family as to whether homemade mayonnaise should be thick or thin. Her mother swears by runny, but Gayden’s tends to be a little more firm. Of course, her mother makes hers by hand or with an old-fashioned Wesson oil-plunger contraption. This is now a collector’s item, and Gayden uses a food processor. Here’s her version:


1 large egg
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper

Assemble all ingredients. Put the egg in the food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds, and then add the oil slowly, while pulsing. When the desired consistency is reached, add the other ingredients until they are blended. This doesn’t take very long! Of course, taste and adjust seasonings. But know: If you blend too long you will get a version that is too thick. Thin seems to be the preferred lady consistency.

Refrigerate for at least an hour, as the taste improves. We always have a jar of this in the icebox, and it hasn’t killed us yet.

Makes about two cups.