Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Time and the Eating is Good

As I read Marian’s blog on Monday, I got to thinking about the upcoming Easter festivities that will take place here this coming Sunday. We do the eggs, too, but rather than eat them and enjoy them with the meal, we’ll color them, hide them, stick them in the refrigerator after they’re found, and eventually, make egg salad in a week or so when it becomes apparent that nobody who unearthed an egg would ever eat it unless I doctored it up with mayonnaise, salt and pepper.

And while I’m sure there are some wonderful culinary traditions for Easter that exist in many families, we don’t have one that I recall. Which is why I’ll be crashing Marian’s Passover dinner. (Just kidding. You can’t write about food like that and not expect me to covet an invitation.) Our family thought we had the tradition of roasted spring lamb but apparently it was a culinary tradition that left some family members cold. Sure, Mom would roast a leg of lamb when we were children, but it has come to light that many of the family members do not like leg of lamb with the exception of me and Mom, and most would prefer something else. This became apparent ten years ago on Easter Sunday when I gave birth to Patrick, child number two. Although I expected to be with the family around the table for the celebration, I was in labor. Mom had bought the biggest leg of lamb she could find—just for me (!) as I’m constantly reminded—and then I didn’t attend, having a baby taking precedent over my dining on lamb with mint jelly. (Which, I assure you, was so much better than the post-labor ziti and ginger ale I was served by a very surly orderly who wondered why I was so hungry at seven in the morning.) So, I find myself with the task of having to make up for the Easter where “we had to eat lamb and you weren’t even there.” Remember, we’re Irish Catholics. We hold grudges.

This year, Dad wants filet mignon. Mom wants lamb. Husband will eat whatever I serve. We have an assortment of children between the ages of two and fifteen who have their own mealtime idiosyncrasies with at least one vegetarian and one chocoholic in the mix and another who joneses for Diet Coke like it’s nobody’s business and would eschew food in favor of carbonated beverages. Henceforth, I’ve decided to go with what we affectionately call the “combination plate” here at Chez Barbieri: filet mignon, lamb chops, mashed potatoes, a variety of vegetables, a meatless ziti, and a lasagna. Oh, and bread! Because if there is nothing that pleases this crowd more, it’s bread, more bread, and lots of butter.

See, here’s the thing: we’ve all supposed to have been doing some sort of fasting and abstinence for the last forty days of Lent, the holy season that precedes Easter. Sunday’s upcoming Bacchanalian festival of eating, otherwise known as a very holy day in the Christian faith, is intended to make up for how hungry you ostensibly are or should be. This tradition dates back to ancient times and is supposed to usher in our season of planting and harvest (did I get that right?). But let’s face it—how many of us are ever truly hungry? We may get a hunger pang that indicates “oh, it’s lunch time” but for many of us, true hunger is not something we experience on a regular basis. That’s something I’ll think about as I serve more food than my ten guests could ever eat and give thanks for the bounty that our country affords us.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone should just be happy with the spread, and I promise you, they will be. If they know what’s good for them.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Two words: BRUNCH BUFFET.

    Mark and I started doing these a few years ago, inviting people who felt like joining in, but going it alone at times and I LOVE IT.

    It's easy, it's really not much more expensive than when we host at home and over-buy and over-prepare. The assortment of potables is incredible and everyone finds plenty to gobble up. It requires NO HOUSE CLEANING. The hotel or restaurant we go to (we change venues some years) usually has some poor sap stuffed into a funny bunny suit handing out cute crap and posing for pictures. The tables are pretty and have flowers and there's pleasant music and happy people (for the most part) buzzing around.

    Afterward, if the weather is good, we just leave the table and head to Morton Arboretum or some nice park district trail and walk or bike some of this big food off. A tie-in to the "no house-cleaning" benefit is the NO AFTERWARD DISHES AND HOUSE RESTORATION. And, no packing up leftovers and making to-go plates and having to eat my Easter dinner over and over for the next four days.

    I'm telling you, even if your not a child-free Atheist like me, it's a great alternative.

  2. I love leg of lamb, but same problem too few do anymore. I make do with a lamb chop now and then--if I can find one.

    Despite all my protests about cooking, I'm doing a ham, potato salad, macaroni salad, asparagus and rolls.

    We have a sunrise service at 6:30 with a continental breakfast after, then I'll go home and get things ready for the dinner before I go back for the regular Easter service.

    The only hard boiled eggs I'm doing will be in the potato salad.

    I don't even know who'll come to eat with us--but I like leftovers.

    Heard from my sis and she has 57 coming for dinner and she hides eggs and has a basket each for all her grandkids and greats. Glad I never started that tradition.

    Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

  3. Okay, you have me hungry now. And I don't get why so many people don't like lamb. My husband and kids fall into that category.

    Fortunately I'm not actually hosting Easter dinner, but I'll be contributing deserts. And I'll have the added task of accommodating food allergies. I swear, it seems like we have people in the extended family who are allergic to just about everything that tastes good.

    But maybe I'll get lucky and everyone will have filled up on all the hypoallergenic stuff my mother-in-law serves during the main part of the meal!

  4. Vicky, we're doing brunch buffet, too! We started doing that awhile back, and it works great. This year, it'll be my family and Ed's combined, which is very convenient. We're all bringing something so my mom doesn't have to make EVERYTHING. I've volunteered to pick up an ice cream cake (well, no one actually wants me cooking). My little niece will hunt eggs first; then we'll eat and head on our merry ways (which means back to the computer for me). Perfection!

  5. I forgot to mention that I'm big on lamb, too. Not only do I not understand not liking it, I used to date someone who SWORE that there was no difference between the taste of lamb and beef!?! AND, he thought olive oil didn't taste any different than corn oil!

    Clearly, there was a sensory impairment that I dismissed as ordinary jerkiness.