Archivist Finds Joy in Baking Headstone Recipes

In a recent TikTok video, Rosie Grant whips up “another recipe to die for.” This time, it’s Snickerdoodles.

Despite her dark humor, this archivist has a heartfelt connection to her subject matter, she explained.

Grant, posting on TikTok as @ghostlyarchive, has been discovering and baking recipes posted on headstones. So far, all are desserts, a sweet tribute to those who have gone.

“It is this very generous gift to the world. It is truly something to be shared with the living,” Grant said.

So how did Grant discover that headstone recipes were even a “thing”? Locked down by the pandemic, Grant found refuge by combining three popular activities: walking, baking and TikTok.

A recent graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant was working as an intern at the Congressional Cemetery where she learned more about the history of cemeteries and their records. “Cemeteries are an open-air museum,” Grant recently told the New York Times.

Her graduate program instructors encouraged students to get comfortable with posting on social media and there she found a supportive community of cemetery fans which eventually led her to the recipe phenomenon.

Among the recipes Grant has baked are Kay Andrew’s fudge from Salt Lake City and Naomi Miller-Dawson’s spritz cookies from Brooklyn. She also found recipes overseas like Ida’s Nut Roll from Israel.

Grant says her hobby has been a positive influence on conversations about death in her family including dealing with the loss of both of her grandmothers in the past couple of years.

“Being around it and just like acknowledging it has become so much more comfortable and my family talks about it a lot more. We’ve had the conversation about how do we want to be celebrated? How do we want to be memorialized? What kind of funeral do we want? It’s been very healthy for our family.”

Grant says people wonder if exploring cemeteries might be depressing. “I get a lot of comments that this is creepy or this is sad or depressing. I think we’re going to die someday, why not embrace it? I think it is so fascinating and I love it.”

As a “newby” cook and baker, Grant herself doesn’t have a beloved recipe that she would pick for a gravestone but she’s well aware of the power of food in connecting with lost loved ones. She remembers fondly her grandmother’s yellow cake. She says her family had it every birthday and holiday topped with chocolate icing and sprinkles. Even though it was made with a box mix, she says it was a powerful, emotional connection to her. “Your birthday was finalized once you had the yellow cake. We were laughing later that there was nothing special to it, but to us, it was so emotional. I had yellow cake the other day, I got so emotional with that food connection to her.”

All of the recipes she’s found so far have been on the gravestones of women. She says that by sharing these recipes, the dead are giving a gift to the living.

“There is a lot of women’s history embedded in these gravestones. There’s obviously a sadness and heaviness to death but there’s also a celebration of someone’s life all intertwined together. It’s been really cool seeing these women’s gravestones something very precious to them that they are sharing with other people. It’s just a gift.”

Now that she’s finished graduate school, she’s excited to explore more cemeteries in person and encourages crowdsourced tips to her accounts.

You can find Rosie Grant on TikTok at @ghostlyarchive or Instagram with the same @ghostly.archive handle.

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