<b>It's a Southern thing: even death is a party</b> Southerners are known for many things gentle accents, salty food, devotion to football but it's hospitality that should be at the top of the list. In the South, it's all about good eating and good times, and wherever two or more natives are gathered, there's bound to be a party. We may talk your ear off, tell stories that last a half hour or more, but we're going to feed you and we're certainly going to ensure that our (ahem) eccentricities entertain you.

<b>Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral</b> by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays is tongue in cheek maybe even irreverent but it's certainly helpful. Witty, sharp and downright hilarious, it's the type of book you can't hang on to, for every copy you own will either be given away or pilfered by houseguests: your best friend just has to read it, as does your daughter, your neighbor and your husband's second cousin, once removed.

According to Metcalfe and Hays, people do more than die "tastefully" in the Mississippi Delta; they rise to the occasion, funerals being a time when the best is brought out in everyone. That best, however, might also be the result of one too many restorative cocktails, or return trips to the buffet spread back at the bereaved's house. Because "food is grief therapy" the authors include a plethora of recipes within each chapter. A mixture of both high and low, there's The Ladies of St. James' Cheese Straws on one page and Bing Cherry Salad with Coca-Cola on another. The importance of traditional Tomato Aspic with Homemade Mayonnaise is stressed, while at the same time much discussion is given over to the merits and healing powers of so many casseroles made with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. There are even six yes six versions of pimiento cheese offered (a dish also commonly referred to as Southern p‰tŽ).

Most impressive about <b>Being Dead Is No Excuse</b> is its ability to go beyond being just another regional book of local color and appeal to those born outside the South. The writing is tight, the humor flawless, so much so that you'll find yourself quoting this guide's advice and telling its stories long after the last chapter is through. Without a doubt, these authors have found an audience; let's just hope they won't keep us waiting too long for more. <i>Lacey Galbraith received her M.F.

A. from the University of Mississippi and lives in Nashville. Her fear of hostessing still sometimes leaves her feeling a little less than Southern.</i>

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