'These recipes feel like a more tactile, all-senses-included way to remember someone rather than only using your memory.'
Rosie Grant never imagined her TikTok account @ghostlyarchive would gain much attention online. It started off as a school project while studying library science at the University of Maryland to learn firsthand how networks work. As she was also interning in the archives of the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.—the final resting place of historic figures such as J. Edgar Hoover, John Philip Sousa and a whole lot of senators—a professor suggested that she combine the two and post about her internship and other cemetery facts through the account. Over time, as she broadened her horizons and made her content slightly more lighthearted, Grant started posting regularly and researching topics she could talk about.
According to Good Morning America, it was during one such research session that Grant stumbled across the gravestone of a woman named Naomi Odessa Miller-Dawson, who had been buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, since her death in 2008 at 79 years of age. The etching of a simple recipe for spritz cookies on the gravestone intrigued the digital librarian and although the recipe included seven ingredients and left no instructions, temperature or time in the oven, the idea of baking the dessert herself appealed to Grant. "I'm going to start making recipes from gravestones," she captioned the TikTok video—the first in what has since become a series—which garnered 1.3 million views. "There's no instructions so I'm guessing a lot / if a sugar cookie and a shortbread cookie had a baby / they’re to die for."
Grant explained that since she’s new to baking, the process of making something based on cryptic recipes engraved onto someone's final resting place has involved a lot of troubleshooting and learning as she goes. "I didn't know what a spritz cookie was at first, so I cooked it kind of like a sugar cookie," she shared, adding that commenters on her video recommended that she invest in a spritz press. "People were recommending different ways to make the cookies, so I read through all the comments to understand how to make the cookies correctly and made it again and again."
Grant soon discovered that Miller-Dawson's recipe gravestone wasn't an anomaly. Through some research, she came across the gravesite of Kay Andrews, which features her fudge recipe engraved on a tablet in Utah, and that of another woman named Ida Kleinman in Israel who left her signature nut rolls emblazoned on her tomb. "Just a few weeks ago, a woman reached out and her mother has a savory cheese dip recipe on her gravestone, which is so good," Grant shared, adding that although she tried cooking it once, her followers swiftly told her followers that she made it incorrectly. "I've gotten the ingredients to do it again, which is all part of learning how to cook."
So far, Grant has made around 13 of these gravestone recipes and plans on documenting her journey in making as many as she can. "People will comment what they would want to put on their gravestone if they had to pick a recipe, or some people say things like, 'Oh, snickerdoodles, my mom made it this way.' And so there's just this whole nostalgic connection, which has been really cool," she said. "When we're in mourning, food is very comforting to us. These recipes feel like a more tactile, all-senses-included way to remember someone rather than only using your memory. But when you're eating grandma's special cake or cookie or whatever it is, you feel a little bit more connected to her."