A Woman Has Been Baking Recipes Carved Into Gravestones & It’s Changed The Way She Thinks About Death

The little known tradition gives a glimpse into how food ties into our memories and helps us remember those who are gone.

screenshots from woman's tiktoks about recipes carved into gravestones @ghostlyarchive / TikTok

A TikToker has been on a mission to recreate a series of dishes she's discovered in a most unlikely place: from recipes carved into gravestones. 

There are myriad ways to remember and honor our passed-on loved ones, but food is arguably among the most evocative. Nothing can quite transport you back to a time and place like a bite of food that instantly conjures a memory.

Rosie Grant has no memories of the people's recipes she's making — they're strangers, after all. But the impact their foods have made has been no less poignant.


RELATED: Teacher Fired After Putting Student Who Hit Him In A Headlock Gets Praised By People Who Say Kids Need To Learn 'Respect'

Rosie Grant says making recipes carved into gravestones has changed the way she thinks about death.

Grant's TikTok account, @ghostlyarchives, has always focused on cemeteries and the glimpses into history that can be found inside them. She's visited the graves of everyone from the creator of Wonder Bread to the man credited with first forming the CIA. But in 2021, she noticed something that shifted her focus entirely.

"Two years ago [I] learned people left recipes on their gravestones," she wrote in a recent TikTok. "[I] have learned about 22 people who left a special recipe on their epitaph," she went on to say, noting that most of the gravestones with recipes etched into them are from women sharing dessert recipes.




RELATED: A Mom Went To Visit Her Son At Lunch & Caught Him Receiving An Unusual Punishment For Being 'One Minute Late' To School

Having recipes carved into gravestones seems to be a fairly recent tradition started as a way to memorialize recipes often lost to time when someone passes away.

The exact origins of the tradition aren't known, but Grant says the oldest recipe gravestone she's found was from 1994. But it's certainly not limited just to the cemeteries of Northern California, where Grant has been exploring. Recipe gravestones have been found in other states like Alaska and as far away as Israel. 

TikToker enjoying one of the many recipes carved into gravestones she's foundPhoto: @ghostlyarchives / TikTok


It's a way to prevent an experience you've likely had yourself if you've ever lost a beloved relative — when they leave us, they often take their traditional recipes with them. Preserving these recipes does more than just give us a keepsake, though.

RELATED: Why Tom Cruise 'Chooses Not To See' His Daughter 11 Years After Their Last Sighting Together

There's actual real psychology behind the connection between food, death, grief and memory.

There's a reason funerals are usually accompanied by a meal, in other words, a practice that dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. In part, it's because psychologists say food memories are among the strongest our brains can make, because food involves all five of our senses.

There really is a reason why the taste of certain foods can instantly take us back in time.


RELATED: Father Criticized For Donating 9-Year-Old Daughter's Birthday Presents After She Died Of Cancer

In the past 18 months, my family has had a lot of grief going around, with three elderly family members passing and a near-death scare in a fourth. One of these relatives, my Aunt Kris, was a prolific cook, like her mother, my Nana, before her. I have lost count at this point of how many times over the past year and a half I have wondered how to make a certain family dish and reflexively thought, "I should call Aunt Kris, she'd know," only to then remember the obvious — I can't call her anymore. 

Thankfully, I had the presence of mind a few years ago to ask her for the most famous item in her repertoire, her molasses cookies, a family recipe that goes back centuries. I made them this past Christmas, and sure enough, they took me right back to being at her house as a kid.


And in an equal parts cruel and beautiful twist of fate, I was able to send some to her widower, my Uncle Jim. He got them just days before he, too, passed away, nearly a year to the day after my aunt. "You don't know what those cookies meant to him," my cousin told me in the days after he passed. 

RELATED: Owen Wilson Allegedly Still Refuses To Meet His 4-Year-Old Daughter — Her Mom Says She 'Needs A Father

Gravestone recipes have changed Grant's perception of death.

screenshot from video about recipes carved into gravestonesPhoto: @ghostlyarchives / TikTok


"Gravestone recipes changed how I thought about death and ways to be memorialized, so I started making the recipes and bringing them to their gravesites," Grant wrote in one of her TikTok videos.

Since starting her exploration of recipes carved into gravestones, she's had graveside buffets of everything from fudge to "Annabel's famous snickerdoodle cookies" to a cake titled simply, "A Good Carrot Cake" from a departed woman named Christine. Perhaps Annabel and Christine are looking on from wherever they are, thrilled that their classic recipes are living on in a whole new way long after they've left this world. 

screenshot from video about recipes carved into gravestones Photo: @ghostlyarchives / TikTok


RELATED: Dad Fakes His Own Death Then Shows Up To His Funeral — 'I Never Get Invited To Anything & Felt Unappreciated'

John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.