Last weekend, the town of Otley, England held its all-day Food and Drink Festival, which featured cooking demonstrations, a kids’ area, and more than 45 vendors selling locally produced foods and brews. The Otley Pub Club was there too, pulling pints of its limited edition Chippend’Ale, which has to be the world’s only beer brewed for 18th-century furniture maker Thomas Chippendale. So yeah, there was a lot going on, even before a group of people started grilling meats in the church cemetery.
According to the Yorkshire Post, Peter Howard and his wife were on their way home from the festival when they saw smoke in the Otley Parish Church cemetery. “Imagine the surprise to find 3 adults with about 7 children enjoying a barbeque,” he wrote on Facebook. “The cooking was being done on the raised tombstone.”
Huh. We’ve never considered that a flat gravestone makes an excellent impromptu kitchen island, probably because we’re not heathens. (Well, not that kind of heathen). Howard said that his wife complained to the group about their questionable choice of grilling location, and the ‘chef’ told her, “Thank you for your input, I've taken note.”
Howard snapped a couple of pics, and then a member of the grilling party told him that he had to delete them, as taking photos of children was illegal. Howard said nuh-uh, and explained that he wasn’t snapping the kids, he was “taking photos of him barbecuing on a tomb in sacred ground.” (In the comments, Howard said that he’s since learned that the group “were not strangers” to the town, but they also weren’t family members of the people buried beneath their barbecue lunch. “The matter is being taken up by the Church Authority,” he said, which sounds ominous.)
This group is not the only one who have carried a cooler and charcoal into a cemetery. In December, the mayor of a small town in Sicily said that he was “indignant and mortified” after a widely shared (and now deleted) Facebook photo showed several men grilling and eating beside a wall of, uh, the cemetery’s residents.
“We have learned that cemetery employees are in the habit of cooking on the premises during their lunch break and that grieves me greatly,” mayor Giuseppe Carta said, according to The Local. “I'm sorry for what happened and, though it's not the town's responsibility, I have asked the company for an explanation."
In 2012, a New Jersey cemetery held a $40-per-person “Graveyard Barbecue Bash” to raise money for its restorations. Chef Ramon Ruiz de los Santos was grilling steak kabobs and chicken breasts when inspectors from the Jersey City Health Department stepped around the graves, found Ruiz and shut his little party down. He was charged with charged with selling food without a license and for preparing food for sale—the side dishes that accompanied the grillables—in his own residential kitchen. The inspectors loaded all of the food into wheelbarrows and carted it away.
“It was a huge drama,” Eileen Markenstein, the president of the cemetery’s Board of Trustees, told NJ.com. “It was just unfortunate for a poor little cemetery that is trying so hard to survive.”
Gives a whole new meaning to bone apple tea.